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The tale of the holy vestments

By Rabbi Mashiach Kelaty

In this week’s parasha there is a narrative that includes two

verses that seem superfluous. The Torah, in reintroducing

Aharon and Moshe to us as they emerge as leaders of

Klal Yisrael, also de‑ nes their lineage. While tracing their

heritage, the Torah also enumerates the descendants of

all the tribes, starting from the oldest, Reuven. It eventually

reaches Amram, the grandson of Levi and tells us that he

married Yocheved who bore Moshe and Aharon. The Torah

continues with Aharon’s wife, descendants, and others

from the tribe of Levi. Then the Torah stops the listings.

The rest of the tribes are enumerated later.

 

However, the Torah identifies Moshe and Aharon with

two verses. “This was the Moshe and Aharon to whom

Hashem commanded “take the Children of Israel out of

Egypt. They were the ones that spoke to Pharaoh telling

him to send the children of Israel out of Egypt; that was

Moshe and Aharon” (Exodus 6:26-27). We are talking

Moshe and Aharon! Doesn’t everyone who reads the Torah

know that they are the ones that led the Jews out of Egypt?

The details of their encounters with Pharaoh are clearly

appraised throughout the first three portions of the Book of

Shemot. Why then does the Torah, in two succinct verses,

tell us that these are the Moshe and Aharon that were sent

on a Divine mission – these are the same pair that told

Pharaoh to let the Jews go?

 

Rabbi Chaim of Sanz was once walking in a small shtetl

with his shammash. Suddenly he stopped in front of the

home of a simple Jew. “There is a certain spirituality that I

sense here. I’d like to stop by this man’s home.”

 

His shammash knocked on the door, and as it opened the

holy Rebbe exclaimed, “There is a smell in this home that

must be from the Garden of Eden. It is sweet and pure.

Pray tell me, where does it come from?”

 

The simple Jew did not know what to answer, but allowed

the Rebbe to roam freely through his humble abode and

open any door he chose. Suddenly the Rebbe pointed to a

closet. “What is in that closet? The holiness comes from

within.” The man was reluctant to open the door, but the

Rebbe urged him. The man opened the door and in the

closet hung the vestments of a priest! The Rebbe turned

to the man once again and asked. “Please tell me. What

is a holy Jew doing with those clothing?”

 

The poor Jew told his tale: “Years ago, I was asked to

help raise money for a family thrown into jail by a poritz

(landowner) to whom they owed rent. My Rebbe asked

me to raise the funds, and I immediately agreed. After

all, I thought, with the Rebbe’s wishes it would be an easy

task. Everyone would give to save a Jewish family! I was

wrong. Everyone in town had an excuse not to give. There

was a deadline approaching, and I had no choice but to

approach the wealthiest Jew in town who was known for

his malevolence toward Chassidim. “The man told me he

would give me the entire sum that day on one condition. I

must parade through the town, dressed as a priest singing

psalms in Hebrew and asking for tzedaka (charity) in

Yiddish. At the end of the day, he would pay the ransom.

“I did what I had to do, while a group of his friends followed

me around, laughing and mocking me wherever I walked.

I got the money and I never returned the vestments he

gave me.”

 

The Rebbe turned and said, “Yes. These clothes are truly

holy. They are the source of the spirituality I sense.”

Legend has it that the Rebbe told the man to be buried

in those clothes.

 

The Torah sums up the mission and job of Moshe and

Aharon in two verses. They were the ones enthusiastically

sent to redeem the Jews. Then it tells us that they were the

ones that had to deal with Pharaoh. They were mocked with

the words, “who is this Hashem that I shall listen to Him?”

(Exodus 5:2). They were the ones who were threatened

by Pharaoh that “the day you return to see me you will

die! (Exodus 10:27). But they did not back down. The

suffered the threats, the humiliation, the skepticism, and

the failures with strength and fortitude. We may remember

them as the ones who were told to take the Children out of

Egypt but the Torah reminds us in the ensuing verse that

we should never forget the difficult process that led to their

great accomplishments.

 

For in order to fulfil what one hears from G-d, he or she

must also be ready to hear from Him.

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