Acting in Public by Jesse Nowlin


Towards the end of Parashat Tetzaveh, Bnei Yisrael received the instructions for anointing the Mizbeach and thus completing the ceremony for the inauguration of the Mishkan.  Rav Moshe Feinstein points out that, in Shemot 29:37 and 40:10, the Mizbeach HaOlah is called Kodesh Kadashim, holy of holies.  Shemot 40:9 labels the inner Mizbeach (which is really of greater Kedushah) just Kodesh, holy.  Why does the Torah call the holier Mizbeach Kodesh, and the less holy Mizbeach Kodesh Kadashim? 

These references demonstrate for us how a Talmid Chacham who studies all day must act when he is outside the Beit Midrash.  He needs to model himself after the Torah’s concept of proper Middot.  When he goes outside, he must be Kodesh; others should be impressed by his behavior.  Even greater is the Talmid Chacham considered holy by his peers, who, when he goes outside, is considered Kodesh Kadashim is looked upon with utmost awe.  The public watches his every move, paying attention to the slightest details, to see how a true man of Hashem acts.

This can be related to the story of Purim.  In that generation, the Jews were already disliked by the public.  Mordechai, the holiest Jew at that time, was watched by all to see how a man of Hashem acts.  His patience and tolerance were put to the ultimate test when dealing with Haman, the man who wanted to destroy his nation.  We should learn from this that even though we are not all the most learned in all areas, we are still watched by those who know less than us, and we must do our best to be positive role models for them. 

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