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Parshas Pekudei - Vol. 11, Issue 23
Compiled by Oizer Alport
In discussing the construction and assembly of the Mishkan and its vessels with Betzalel, Rashi writes that Moshe initially suggested that the vessels should be built before the Mishkan itself. Betzalel disagreed and maintained that the structure should be constructed before its contents so that the utensils would have a place to rest upon their completion, a position to which Moshe subsequently acquiesced.
Rav Nachman Shmuel Yaakov Miodoser wrote a commentary on the Torah called Amudei Shmuel and published it together with a sefer called Amudei Yehonason by Rav Yonason Eibeshutz, from whom Rav Miodoser was descended. The work contains a letter of approbation from Rav Chaim Soloveitchik, but interestingly, the author writes that after Rav Chaim reviewed the manuscript, he requested that the first piece in the sefer be removed from the work.
In the piece in question, Rav Miodoser suggested that the dispute between Moshe and Betzalel is connected to the argument between Beis Hillel and Beis Shammai (Chagigah 12a) about which was created first, the earth or the heavens, and used this concept to explain a perplexing Medrash. Rav Chaim maintained that this interpretation is problematic, as it would mean that there are legitimate opinions that disagree with Moshe, but no human being has the ability to argue with him.
Rav Miodoser attempted to defend himself by noting that the renowned Panim Yafos gives a similar explanation, but even so, Rav Chaim requested that it not be included. The author promised that he would do his utmost to remove the controversial piece, but when he arrived at the printer in Warsaw, he discovered that it had already been printed. As nothing could be done at that point to remove the section from the sefer, the author instead appended a note recording this exchange in order to make Rav Chaim's opinion known.
Similarly, two of the Baalei Tosefos, Rabbeinu Tam and Rav Eliyahu of Paris, disagreed whether the correct interpretation of the Torah's command (Devorim 6:8) regarding tefillin וקשרתם - you shall bind them - is that a person must tie anew the knot on his tefillin each day, or whether it is sufficient to bind the tefillin to one's arm via its straps (see Tosefos Chullin 9a d.h. v'idach). The Seder HaDoros (4930) cites the sefer Shalsheles HaKabbalah, which records that Moshe was mystically asked to clarify the issue. Moshe responded that there is indeed an obligation to tie a new knot in one's tefillin each day, in accordance with the opinion of Rav Eliyahu, at which point Rabbeinu Tam rejected Moshe's opinion by bringing proofs to his position that a new knot is not required, and he said that Moshe was in error.
Rav Chaim commented that this story is considered heretical and it is forbidden to believe it. He explained that the Torah is referred to as "Toras Moshe," and if in fact Moshe said that the true understanding of the word וקשרתם is that one must tie a new knot daily, there is no way to disagree with him and it is therefore impossible that this story is accurate, as Rabbeinu Tam never would have said that Moshe was mistaken.
Hashem commanded Moshe (25:16) to place in the Ark the "testimony" which Hashem would give him. Rashi explains that this is a reference to the Torah and the Tablets which bear witness to the fact that Hashem commanded us regarding the mitzvos which are contained therein. Rav Zalman Sorotzkin questions the value of having a Sefer Torah placed in the Aron in the Kodesh Kodashim, a place where it would never be used or even seen as nobody but the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur was allowed to enter there.
The Medrash explains (Devorim Rabbah 9:9) that the public awareness that hidden deep in the inner recesses of the Beis HaMikdash was a 100% authentic Sefer Torah written by Moshe himself acted as a powerful deterrent to any would-be forger. Anybody who entertained the possibility of denying some of the mitzvos and supporting his claims by writing a falsified Sefer Torah which omits them would refrain due to the recognition that if he did so, it would be possible to bring out Moshe's authentic Torah from the Aron to compare, thereby proving him wrong and exposing his malicious intent.
In a eulogy on the great Brisker Rav, Rav Yitzchok Zev Soloveitchik, Rav Sorotzkin suggested that the Brisker Rav had similarly isolated himself from most of the world, confining himself all day to the learning and teaching of Torah to a few select students in his house. Although he eschewed a public and social role, his value as the last remaining vestige of the Torah-true Judaism of Brisk was inestimable. As long as the Brisker Rav was alive, anybody who dared question the smallest custom and attempted to alter the mesorah (tradition) from Europe knew that his claims would be immediately and sharply rebuffed by the Brisker Rav, the authentic Sefer Torah who was no longer.
Along these lines, at the end of the sheloshim (30-day mourning period after someone has died) for the Brisker Rav, Rav Chatzkel Levenstein eulogized him in the Ponovezh yeshiva. Rav Chatzkel commented that throughout his life, he had interacted with numerous Rosh Yeshivos and Rabbonim, but he never experienced any fear of any of them or any discomfort when he was in their presence, no matter how great they may have been. However, when he went in to visit the Brisker Rav in his home in Yerushalayim, he immediately felt a tremendous sense of trepidation. Upon further reflection, he understood that when one is in the presence of someone who literally lives with a constant pachad (fear) of Hashem, that pachad accompanies and surrounds him wherever he goes, and that is what Rav Chatzkel felt when he entered the Brisker Rav's house.
The Mishnah in Shekalim (8:5) teaches that the Paroches (Partition) was 40 cubits long and 20 cubits wide. It required 82,000 women to weave it and 300 Kohanim to immerse it in the mikvah if it became ritually impure. Why did it require so many Kohanim to submerge it in the mikvah?
The Vilna Gaon calculates that if it was 40 cubits by 20 cubits, its total perimeter was 120 cubits. The Mishnah in Keilim (17:10) teaches that the cubit which was used to measure items in the Beis HaMikdash was five hands-breadths long, which means that 120 cubits was 600 hands-breadths. As every Kohen would want to take part in the mitzvah of immersing the Paroches to purify it, it is reasonable to assume that the entire perimeter was covered by the hands of the Kohanim. As each Kohen had two hands, the 600 hands-breadths of the perimeter required precisely 300 Kohanim to carry it and immerse it. As brilliant as the Vilna Gaon's calculation is, the Tiferes Yisroel notes that it seems to be completely unnecessary. The Gemora in Chullin (90b) teaches that there are three numbers mentioned throughout the Gemora which are exaggerations, and names this Mishnah as one of the three. Although there are those who answer that the exaggeration in the Mishnah is the number of women needed to weave the Paroches (82,000), this explanation is difficult in light of the fact that the other two exaggerations mentioned by the Gemora both involve the number 300.
Some suggest that while the Vilna Gaon's calculation is valid, the exaggeration lies in the fact that there weren't always 300 Kohanim involved in the immersion of the Paroches. However, the Ein Yaakov suggests that the Gaon's line of reasoning is correct, yet it still represents an exaggeration. According to his calculation, the corners of the Paroches would be covered by two hands, one from each Kohen at the end of each of the sides which meet at the corner. These four extra and unneeded hands translate into two additional people, which means that only 298 were needed to immerse it and 300 is clearly an exaggeration.
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Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) The Medrash explains (Tanchuma 7) that Moshe made an accounting for the use of the various materials which were donated for the Mishkan (38:27-28, 30-31) because there were Jews who questioned where all of their donations had gone and whether Moshe had kept any of them for himself. Why didn't they similarly demand an accounting from Aharon, who collected a large amount of gold from them and managed to produce from it only one small golden calf (32:3-4)? (Oznayim L'Torah, Rav Meir Shapiro quoted in Bishvilei HaParsha)
2) Why throughout Parshas Pekudei does the Torah repeatedly emphasize that each of the garments of the Kohanim was made "just as Hashem commanded Moshe," yet no such mention is made in Parshas Vayakhel about the construction of the vessels for the Mishkan? (Meshech Chochmah)
3) The Gemora in Menachos (99a) derives from 40:18 that ma'alin b'kodesh v'ein moridin - it is permitted to increase an item's level of holiness, but not to decrease it. Is it permissible to transfer an object in a manner that preserves it in its original level of holiness, such as selling one Sefer Torah in order to purchase another one, or is it forbidden to do anything to it which doesn't result in an actual increase in its holiness? (Ran and Meiri Megillah 25b, Bach Orach Chaim 153, Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 153:4, Magen Avrohom 153:4)
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