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PARSHAS VAYAKHEL-PEKUDEI | 27 ADAR 5770 | 13 MARCH 2010

ParshaPerspectives

RABBI BINYOMIN ADLER

Apparently, while he was dozing in the cubicle, his yarmulke had fallen off his head. “Oh no!” he thought to himself. “What did I do? I made a blessing and slaughtered without a yarmulke, and I didn’t even know it.”

The hallmark of a professional slaughterer is that he has the requisite sensitivity and focus that allow him to detect even the slightest jerk in the chicken’s neck during the slaughtering process. One who does not wear a yarmulke while slaughtering has not invalidated the act of slaughtering. Nonetheless, the lack of proper sensitivity could render the chicken not kosher.

Reb Mendel said to himself, “If I couldn’t

feel whether or not I was

yarmulke,

slaughtered the chickens properly?”

A lesser man may have hesitated, but Reb Mendel was a chassid through and through. He walked straight back to the cubicle, laid down his knife, and told his startled boss that he was resigning from his position. When his boss questioned him regarding his plan for earning a livelihood, Reb Mendel responded that he would find a different way to earn a living. Reb Mendel ultimately found a job which paid him handsomely.

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The construction of the Tabernacle was a microcosm for the life of a devout Jew. Uncompromising attention to the little details is what sets the standard for true devotion and is what allows the Divine Presence to rest on our homes.

Rabbi Adler can be reached at:

rabbiadler@partnersintorah.org

דעומ להא ןכשמ תדבע לכ לכתו ושע ןכ השמ תא 'ה הוצ רשא לככ לארשי ינב ושעיו

“All the work of the Tabernacle, the Tent of Meeting, was completed, and the Children of Israel had done everything that G-d commanded Moses , so did they do.” (Exodus 39:32)

I n this week’s parshas, Vayakhel and Pekudei, the Torah repeats the entire process

mentioned earlier in Parashas Terumah and Tetzaveh, detailing the construction of

the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, and the fashioning of the vestments of the Kohen

Gadol, the High Priest. Surprisingly enough, the Midrash and the commentators do not address why it was necessary for the Torah to expend numerous verses in what appears at first glance to be unnecessary repetition. What could be the reason for this redundancy?

In his introduction to the Book of Exodus, Nachmanides explains that prior to the construction of the Tabernacle, there was a void among the Jewish people. G-d’s Divine presence, which existed to such a high degree during the time of the Patriarchs, was no longer present. A primary goal of building the Tabernacle, he explains, was to restore this lofty level that had existed during the time of the Patriarchs. The Patriarchs, through selfless devotion to G-d and uncompromising beliefs, merited to having the Divine Presence resting on their tents. The Torah therefore repeats many of the details of the Tabernacle’s construction to reinforce the idea that the Tabernacle was meant to be exact to the last detail – that there’s no such thing as, “it’s just a detail.”

Rabbi Yitzchok Levi Horowitz (otherwise known as the The Bostoner Rebbe), of blessed memory, recalled an incident with Reb Mendel, a chassid from Jerusalem, who came to America and worked as a ritual slaughterer in New York. His job was particularly hard during the freezing winters,

as the slaughterhouse where he worked was open and unheated. However, the slaughterhouse had a small cubicle where one or two people could sit and warm themselves by a small stove. The slaughterers would go out to work, but they would hurry back as soon as they could to avoid frostbite.

One cold winter evening, while he was waiting in the cubicle for the truck to come in, Reb Mendel dozed off. When it finally arrived, the air was filled with the wake-up call for the slaughterer. Reb Mendel jumped up and ran to his place. The boss and six or seven workers were already there and ready to start.

Reb Mendel quickly recited the blessing and

began to slaughter the chickens, one

three. He then checked his knife to make sure that it was still perfectly sharp and free

from nicks. As he was getting ready for the next batch of chickens, he happened to run his hand across his head and was stunned to discover that he was not wearing a yarmulke!

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TalkingPoints

VAYAKHEL-PEKUDEI

RABBI ELAZAR MEISELS

1. PERFECTLY GENEROUS

“And the entire congregation of Israel went out from before Moses. And every man whose heart uplifted him came, and all whose generous spirit impelled him to donate, brought their donations for the work on the Tabernacle… And they came, the men together with the women, all who were generous of heart brought bracelets, nose rings, finger rings, and buckles…”

35:20-22

And the entire congregation of Israel went out – What is the point of telling us that they went out from before him if we already knew that they were gathered before to hear him implore them to donate? How else would they donate if they didn’t go out from before him? Moses feared that the people who had been overworked and underpaid slaves up to this point were unused to giving, and he therefore gathered them together en masse in the hopes that peer pressure would inspire them to give generously. The verse tells us however that the people did not need that added pressure. Instead, they disbanded and each man brought his own donation without seeking honor from others who would not be aware of his generosity. – Sifsei Kohen

And the entire congregation of Israel went out – This indicates that they didn’t just donate, but they did so enthusiastically and with great haste. – Rabbeinu Bachya

The men together with the women – This term implies that the women were first to donate and the men followed their lead. This is particularly noteworthy because during the sin of the Golden Calf, the same items were requested for use in creating it, and in that instance, the women refused to donate or partake in its construction in any manner. One reason was because women are generally loathe to part with their jewelry, but their actions when it came to constructing a Tabernacle lay that claim to rest, since in that instance, they were the first to do so. Rabbeinu Bachya

Rabbeinu Bachya adds that the women were highly praised for their righteousness in both situations and were richly rewarded both in this world and in the World to

Come. The holiday of Rosh Chodesh was granted to them as a holiday which they would celebrate even more so than men, a practice that continues in modern times as well.

2. SCOFFERS AND MOCKERS

“He made the Menorah out of pure gold, by hammering its form out (of a solid piece of gold), its base, its shaft, its cups, its knobs, and its flowers were of it.” 37:17

Menorah out of pure gold – Generally, when describing how they fulfilled their instructions, the Torah uses identical terms to describe the instructions and their fulfillment. The only exception is in the discrepancy between the instructions of the Menorah’s construction (“And you shall make a golden Menorah”) and their fulfillment (“the Menorah”). What does the deviation intend to teach us? The law is that the Menorah need not be made of gold, as it may also be made of other metals too. Calling it a “golden Menorah” initially limited this dispensation only for future generations. The Menorah of the Tabernacle, however, had to be made of gold. Therefore, in one place it speaks of it as the “golden Menorah,” whereas in the other it only refers to it as “the Menorah.” – Ohr HaChaim

3. STONED TO LIFE

“The amount of gold donated as a wave offering was 29 talents and 730 shekels…The silver census money collected from the community came out to 100 talents and 1775 shekels…The 100 talents were used to cast the bases for the sanctuary and the cloth partition…The 1775 shekels were used for the hooks, caps and inlaid

hoops for the pillars were made

38:24-28

The 1775 shekels – Why does it refer to these shekels in the definitive form? When Moses was giving an accounting for the gold donated by the community, he found himself unable to recall how the 1,775 shekels had been used. This caused him great anguish, as he feared that the people would grow suspicious of his handling of the communal funds. A heavenly voice then emerged and declared, “The 1775 shekels were used for the hooks, caps and inlaid hoops for the pillars were made etc.” This is the reason it is spoken of in the

definitive form. – Midrash Rabbah

R’ Meir Shapiro zt”l was wont to remark in regard to this Midrash that it is amazing to comprehend how human beings act under different situations. When creating the Golden Calf, the people donated immense amounts of gold and received only a miniature calf in return. Yet, no one thought to demand an accounting of how the funds were used. Yet when it came to building a holy sanctuary, where numerous rich and impressive objects were fashioned, everything had to be accounted for and only a heavenly voice could silence the rumor mongers among them. Such is human nature that when money is donated for a holy cause, every penny had better be accounted for, yet when spent on frivolous causes, huge sums can be frittered away without thought given to the bottom line.

Rabbi Meisels can be reached at:

rabbimeisels@partnersintorah.org

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FREEDOM OF SPEECH

RABBI ELAZAR MEISELS

Dear Rabbi Meisels, Forgive me for asking a question that doesn’t pertain to the current Torah portion, but I’m troubled by something in the story of Joseph. After he was reunited with his father, it seems like the two never discussed what transpired between him and his brothers. Why didn’t Jacob ask Joseph about this, or did he ask and not receive a response? BTW, I look forward to this column every week. Thank you for this great service! Ilya

Dear Ilya,

Your question is one that has bothered me in the past as well, and I’ll share with you what I have discovered in my research on the subject.

One approach taken by some of the commentators [Chizkuni, Daas Zekeinim, 48:1] is that Joseph understood that this was a question that Jacob was likely to have raised when they would have had a few moments together in private. Therefore, although Joseph had a burning desire to spend private time with his beloved father after so many years of separation, he refrained from doing so lest he be forced to share the truth and provoke Jacob’s wrath against his brothers. Throughout the last seventeen years of Jacob’s life, Joseph never allowed himself to be secluded with his father as a result. Such was his love and concern for his brothers that he abstained from his own needs so as not to cause them harm, although he would have been completely justified had he chosen to do so.

Support for this explanation can be derived from the fact that the Torah tells us that toward the end of Jacob’s life, he summoned Joseph to his bedside and instructed him to bury him in Canaan. Following that, the verse writes, “And it was after these things that someone said to Joseph, ‘Behold, your father is ill, so he took his two sons, Menashe and Ephraim, with him.’” How could it be that Joseph would not have known that his father was ill

without being told by a messenger? Did he not spend time with him as one would expect of a son who knew that his father would soon pass on? After all, Joseph was in the perfect position to do so, given his exalted position. What could have prevented him from being there around the clock toward the end of his father’s life? His absence points to the fact that Joseph feared his father’s wrath toward his brothers and therefore abstained from visiting unless absolutely necessary and then, only in the presence of others. Therefore, the verse explicitly mentions that he took his two sons along with him.

This approach reflects unbelievably well on the exalted character of Joseph, who not only had no need to seek vengeance against his brothers, but also sacrificed rather mightily to protect them against his father’s wrath. We would all do well to emulate his approach in our own lives.

There is however another approach to this question, which in my opinion is even more penetrating and thought-provoking.

The famed Rabbi Pinchas of Koretz zt”l in his seminal work Imrei Pinchas, cites Rabbi Chaim Krasiner zt”l, who explains that it was Jacob, not Joseph, who avoided all mention of the subject. Moreover, he explains, Jacob’s reason for doing so was not because he was afraid to hear the answer, but because he was simply not given to indulging his curiosity and valued his words too much to engage in thoughtless conversation. The Patriarchs, explains Rabbi

Pinchas, understood that the power of speech was too valuable to fritter away on mere conversation. Rather, their every word was measured, and other than conversation which was absolutely essential, they spoke only for the purpose of increasing their knowledge of Torah. Anything else was deemed frivolous and useless. They understood that it is the power of speech that differentiates a man from all other living creatures, and that proper use of this power is what elevates man above all. While they without question appreciated man’s freedom of speech, they had an even greater appreciation for his freedom to remain silent.

Other than to satisfy his curiosity, for Jacob to inquire about what happened would have served no useful purpose, and it therefore never occurred to him to ask. His mastery over his mouth was to such an extent that he refused to use the most precious gift granted to mankind - the power to formulate and articulate thoughts, the crowning glory of mankind – simply to satisfy his curiosity. Exercising one’s rights is not just a wise legal policy, but sometimes it is the hallmark of a great person as well.

Wishing you all the best, Rabbi Elazar Meisels

Rabbi Meisels can be reached at:

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TABLE TALK

FOR DISCUSSION AROUND THE SHABBAT TABLE RABBI LABEL LAM

Vayakhel, this week’s first Torah portion, essentially reviews many of the instructions noted in the three previous Torah portions regarding the construction of the Tabernacle, a tangible place for G-d’s Divine Presence. Earlier on (Chapter 26), we read that individual contributions were requested towards the construction of the Tabernacle and for its various components. In contrast to the mandatory half-shekel contribution (Chapter 30:13-15), whose amount was fixed and whose funds were used for communal offerings, the donation of materials requested for the Tabernacle were not fixed. Moses simply specified the materials that were needed, and the people gave, each according to the generosity of his own heart. In this week’s Torah portion, we read (36:2-7):

All the wise people … performing the sacred work came… from the work they were doing, and said to Moses as follows, “The people are bringing more than enough for the labor of the work that G-d has commanded to perform.” Moses commanded… “Man and woman shall not do more work for the sacred contribution!” And the people were restrained from bringing. But the work had been enough for all the necessary work, and there was extra.

א) What significance could there be in the fact that “all”

those doing the work gave the report that enough

donations had been received? Also, what idea is

being conveyed by the phrase that they came “from the work

they were doing”?

ב) It would seem from the wording of the verse (26:6) that the people wished to continue giving – even after they were told that no more contributions were

needed – but they were restrained from giving any more. If

they genuinely wanted to give, why were they restrained? Couldn’t their donations be accepted and stored away for later use?

ג) The verse (26:7) cryptically says that “the work had

been enough… and there was extra.” How could there

be “extra” if there was (just) “enough”?

Rabbi Lam can be reached at: rabbilam@partnersintorah.org

Parsha At-A-Glance

VAYAKHEL

Moses assembled the entire nation to reiterate the sanctity of Shabbat. He announced that those whose hearts felt motivated could contribute materials (gold, silver, copper, wools in red, purple and blue, linen, goats’ hair, wood, oil, spices, and precious stones) to the building of the Mishkan (Tabernacle). He invited them to involve themselves in the actual construction as well.

The people immediately approached with the necessary materials. The women (who had refused to bring gold for the golden calf) now came forward to donate their jewelry and their weaving skills. The parsha singles out the leaders, who gave precious stones for the ephod and the choshen mishpat (the breastplate of judgment) worn by the Kohen Gadol (High Priest). The Torah details the materials that the Jewish people contributed.

Betzalel and Oholiav, both highly skilled and learned, were designated as the overseers of the entire construction. After two days, so much wealth and so many skills had been donated that Moses informed the people that there was no longer any need for skilled craftsmen.

The parsha details the construction. It specifies the measurements of the curtains and beams, which formed the inner and outer structures. It also describes the material of the cover, the planks, the parochet (partition), and the screen. Betzalel constructed the Ark, its cover, the table, the menorah, incense altar, elevation-offering altar, washing basin, courtyard, and screen of the gate of the courtyard.

PEKUDEI

Isamar, a son of Aaron the Kohen, oversaw the Levites’ work on the Mishkan (Tabernacle). The parsha then gives an accounting of the quantities of the materials – gold, silver, and copper – donated by the Jewish people for the construction of the Mishkan. The parts of the structure, the utensils, and the clothing of the kohanim are listed. After each description, the Torah states that the item was made according to the command of G-d to Moses. After the work of the Mishkan was completed, the Jewish people consulted Moses, who inspected and verified that everything was indeed made according to G-d’s command. Moses blessed them.

G-d told Moses that the dedication of the Mishkan would take place on the first of the month of Nissan, in the second year of the Jewish people’s travels in the desert. He then gave him instructions in placement of the utensils and the order of the Mishkan’s establishment.

On the first of Nissan, Moses erected the entire Mishkan himself. He did exactly as G-d had commanded.

The Cloud of Glory covered the Tent of Meeting, and His Glory filled the Mishkan. Whenever the Cloud lifted, Moses could enter to speak with G-d. The Cloud served during the years in the desert as a signal for the Jewish people to travel to a new location. A fire indicated G-d’s presence at night. The entire Jewish people witnessed this miracle throughout their journeys.

A fire indicated G-d’s presence at night. The entire Jewish people witnessed this miracle throughout their