Behind the Mask

An oft repeated and common phrase in the world is that “the clothes make the man”. The headlines in the world poured out rivers of words describing the clothing of the rich and famous at international events. People are judged by the fit of the suit and the cut of shirt.

Yet the word for clothing in Hebrew is “Beged” and its root is connected to the Hebrew word for betrayal and deception, Bagad. After everything is said and done the role of clothing is to hide and conceal. We are living in a time and in a world where falsehood and evil is dressed up in pretty clothing and flourishes unchallenged.

Man must define himself by what he does and for what purpose he does it and not by what he wears. Only then can the clothes serve Man’s higher calling rather than Man being enslaved to the image the clothes are meant to convey.

It is for this reason that Torah demands that we take that external “beged” and elevate it into a vessel of holiness. This is true in the concern Judaism places on how one is to dress in public and the modicums of modesty to be attained. It is true of the laws related to the tzitzit on the corners of the garments. It is a also clearly evident in the detailed description of the priestly garments in the Parsha of Tetzaveh.At its deepest level clothing is language and we and our leadership are commanded to ensure that our “language” is holy.

On this Shabbat ,before the festival of Purim we will be reading Parshat Tetzaveh which describes in detail the garments of the Priests and we will also be reading the torah verses found in Deuteronomy, 25:17 which describes the attack of Amalek on the Israelites after Exodus . The Haftarah of this special Shabbat reading is taken from the Book of Samuel I and describes the continuing battle with Amalek.It is important to remember that every Haftara is thematically connected to the Torah portion and an exploration of that linkage reveals greater insight into the text of the torah portion describing the priestly garments.

Evil can be also be “dressed up”. In fact it can be done in two different forms. It can dress up in face-covering turbans and suicide bomber vests or it can dress up in a suit and tie. In the book of Genesis ,Yaacov is about to confront his estranged brother Esav( Esau). Esav has sworn to kill Jacob and Jacob prepares the camp , sends out feelers for peace and offers up a prayer to Hashem ( Genesis 32:10) .In his prayer, he says, “Rescue me, please, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esav, for I fear him lest he come and strike me down, mother and children.”There seems to be a redundancy in the words of this prayer: Why did it not simply say “Rescue me, please, from the hand of my brother, Esav as opposed to the words “from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esav”?

Both Rabbi Yosef Dov Halevi Soloveitchik( zt’l,), and the Ben Ish Hai (zt’l), explain that Yaakov, as he awaits the meeting with his brother, faces two possible scenarios: Either Esav will pursue war and try to kill Yaakov, or he will seem to “pursue peace and show brotherly love” for him. Both encounters can prove to be fatal.

The enemies of Israel can in fact adopt the approach of the descendants of Esav called Amalek. That has been the experience of history including Haman the descendant of Amalek . Yet the descendants of Jacob have been threatened throughout the generations by the other type of Esav, clothed in the garments of a friend and sometimes even as an ally. More importantly the “spirit” of Amalek can confuse and misguide even well intentioned people.

One then begins to wonder about members of the current American administration. While it is true that the American people stand firmly behind Israel and its struggle for survival in a sea of hatred, that has not always been the case with past American administrations Recently several spokespeople of the present Obama administration have been making it very clear that this administration see Israel as a pesky bothersome little child and do not want the Israelis to be rocking the boat of the world’s seemingly stable existence.

.“I don’t think a wise thing at this moment is for Israel to launch a military attack on Iran,” Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey told CNN, and explained that such a strike “would be destabilizing” and “not prudent.” U.S. National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon was in the region to express the concern that Israel may be acting “prematurely”.

One wonders what “prematurely” might mean. It is clear to any student of Iranian intentions and of Shiite “end time” thinking ,that Iran will attempt to use the nuclear capability as soon as it can despite the fears of retribution or the collateral damage to all the Muslims in the area. This is so since this apocalyptic scenario fits directly with the Shiite understanding that the “Hidden Imam” can only reappear after such a ”conflagration” erupts in the land of Israel.

Perhaps the term ” prematurely” actually refers to the concern that an Israeli pre-emptive strike might harm this administration’s chances in the upcoming elections. Perhaps it is a concern for the price of automobile gas. It may even be based on a simple calculation of six million Jews in Israel as against billions of Muslims in the world. The spirit of Amalek thinking is seductive and can infect and affect even well meaning people.

The leadership of our allies and our enemies may be seduced and guided by Amalekite thinking and logic .Yet the self serving arrogance and hatred of Amalek will eventually implode and self destruct as it always does, no matter how you try to dress it up.

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