June 14, 2024
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June 14, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

When I was in 12th grade, some classmates and I went to the Upper West Side on Purim to collect money for our yeshiva. We were dressed up as army cadets, walking through the streets of Manhattan with people saluting us. No wonder…we were wearing real cadet uniforms. We looked like we were from West Point!

There is a saying, “Clothing makes a man.” Clothing creates an image, and can accord the wearer honor and prestige. In Parshas Tetzaveh, the Torah instructs us to weave special bigdei kehuna, clothing for the Kohen Gadol, which were “lechavod ulsifares” (for honor and splendor) of the Kohen Gadol.

The Gemara tells us that at the beginning of Megillas Esther when Achashverosh held a big party for his entire kingdom, he donned the special garments of the Kohen Gadol which had been stolen from the Beis HaMikdash that was destroyed! He even used the utensils of the Beis HaMikdash to serve and impress the guests of his lavish party. To Achashverosh, kavod, honor, was everything.

The Vilna Gaon says that the word “kavod” in the Torah is occasionally spelled without a vav, which can allow it to be pronounced as “kaveid,” heavy. This indicates that honor and prestige can weigh a person down.

There are two types of honor. One is the honor which one receives from others. This external honor weighs a person down. Another type of honor is an inner feeling of self-value, or self-worth. Honor based on the view of others is difficult to manage, whereas honor one feels based on objective qualities or accomplishments has true value.

Self-value and self-esteem are indeed critical. Rabbeinu Yonah says that self-worth is the key to any success, and a lack of self-worth is the source of sin. If people don’t think they have value, then their lower standards will deprive them of the inner strength to withstand temptations.

In the Purim story, the contrasting themes of outside honor and inherent honor are central. Haman required everyone to bow down before him. Everyone complied…except Mordechai. Haman said, “If Mordechai does not bow to me, then everything I have is worthless!” Why was all the honor he received worthless?

Haman lacked a sense of inner value. His entire feeling of honor came from fame and recognition—external honor. His kavod was entirely based on the opinions and actions of others. Therefore, if even one person denied him honor, he had nothing. Mordechai was the exact opposite: Mordechai understood his true intrinsic value; therefore, he would not bow down to Haman, an action which would acknowledge Haman’s superiority.

We find another example of Haman’s thirst for honor in the first chapter of Megillas Esther. Queen Vashti didn’t appear in front of Achashverosh, so Haman advised him to have her executed. Haman claimed that Vashti’s disobedience wasn’t just a personal offense, but rather allowing a wife to disobey her husband was a national disaster! As such, an edict was sent out that all wives must give honor and prestige to their husbands. Of course, that was meant to include Haman’s wife, who accorded him no respect.

All the honor that Haman received—being promoted to the highest position next to the king and everyone bowing in front of him—was fake, and subsequently was transferred to Mordechai! Haman ended up parading Mordechai around the entire city, announcing, “This is the honor the king accords to the person whom he wants to honor.” And in the end, Haman was publicly hanged on the 50-amos tall gallows on which he had prepared to hang Mordechai. Everything Haman had…possessions and honor…eventually passed to his enemy, the righteous Mordechai.

This Friday and Shabbos is Purim Katan, a time of simcha. One of the greatest joys one can experience is giving joy to others. This week was also the yahrzeit my mother, Mrs. Miriam Bodenheim, Miriam Mirel bas Shalom a”h. Parents’ greatest gift to their children is to cause them to feel a sense of their true inner value. All the love, care and words of encouragement are what build self-worth inside a child. I was blessed with a mother who recognized my talents and my potential and encouraged me to utilize them.

Similarly in marriage, there will be bliss and harmony when each spouse focuses on giving honor to the other. It’s a formula that works! Use it with your spouse, your family members, and your friends and neighbors. Focusing on making others feel good and valued will make you shine to others, and in turn, make you feel happy that you are carrying out Hashem’s will.


Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim is the associate rosh yeshiva of Passaic Torah Institute (PTI)/Yeshiva Ner Boruch. Rabbi Bodenheim can be reached at [email protected]. For more info about PTI and its Torah classes, visit www.pti.shulcloud.com

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