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Parshas Vayakhel - Vol.
3, Issue 18
Compiled by Oizer Alport
Vayakhel Moshe es kol adas b’nei Yisroel vayomer aleihem ... vayeitzu kol adas b’nei Yisroel milifnei Moshe (35:1, 20)
Parshas Vayakhel begins by relating that Moshe gathered together all of the Jews to instruct them about observing Shabbos and building the Mishkan. Nineteen verses later, after he concluded his instructions, the Torah relates that the Jews left “from in front of Moshe.” As the Torah doesn’t write an unnecessary letter, why was it necessary to emphasize a fact that should have been obvious, as Moshe gathered them together at the beginning of the parsha and they hadn’t gone anywhere in the interim?
Rav Eliyahu Lopian explains that when encountering a person in the street, it is generally impossible to discern from his appearance and actions where he is coming from. The apparently superfluous wording is coming to indicate that in this case, it was clear to any passerby that the Jews had just left the presence of Moshe.
In what way was this recognizable? Although they had just spent time learning about Shabbos and the Mishkan, this factual knowledge wasn’t discernible to the naked eye. Rather, their conduct with other people was on such a lofty level that it was apparent that they had just been studying Torah.
The Gemora in Yoma (86a) teaches that part of the mitzvah to love Hashem is to cause Him to be loved and praised through our actions. The Jews who merited learning Torah directly from the mouth of Moshe reached such levels in sensitivity and caring that anybody who saw them would immediately understand from where it originated and would bless Hashem and His Torah for producing such conduct.
This lesson is illustrated in a story about the Brisker Rav, who was renowned for his diligence and toil in the study of Torah. When his daughter once returned home with an axe that she found, he realized that this was a golden and rare opportunity to fulfill the mitzvah of returning a lost object to its owner (Devorim 22:1-3). The Brisker Rav recognized that it belonged to a man who lived several miles away on the edge of the forest. He took his daughter and the axe and set out on the long, arduous journey. They finally arrived at the owner’s home and knocked on his door.
The Brisker Rav assumed that the owner would express his gratitude for their efforts and exertion in returning his axe to him, but he was taken by surprise by what happened next. When the man answered his door and realized what had transpired, he was so moved by the Rav’s actions that he literally bowed and prostrated himself on the ground, exclaiming, “Blessed is the Jewish G-d Who has given His people a Torah which causes them to act with such compassion and mercy!”
The message of Parshas Vayakhel is that we should conduct ourselves in a manner which loudly declares that we study the Torah and are elevated by it. The typical person with whom we interact will not be able to discern this from the number of penetrating insights we deliver into the words of the Ketzos or the weekly Torah portion, but rather through our acts of kindness and exemplary interpersonal conduct, which will sanctify the name of Hashem and His Holy Torah.
Vayavo’u ha’anashim al ha’nashim (35:22)
The Daas Z’keinim writes that in the merit of the women’s joyful and generous contribution of their jewelry to the Mishkan, which stood in sharp contrast to their refusal to donate their jewelry for the building of the golden calf (32:2-3), they merited a personal holiday on Rosh Chodesh, on which they are accustomed not to do work. Why is Rosh Chodesh uniquely suited as a reward for their pious actions?
The Shemen HaTov explains that the women in that generation repeatedly excelled in their solid trust in Hashem and failure to give up hope even in the darkest moments. In Egypt, the men succumbed to the back-breaking labor and diabolical decrees of Pharaoh to kill their sons and despaired of the future. Nevertheless, the women continued to hope, skillfully enticing their husbands to help them bring more children into a world of pain and uncertainty. They invoked this merit when they joyfully contributed the mirrors which they had used for this purpose to the construction of the Mishkan (Rashi 38:8).
Similarly, when the men miscalculated Moshe’s return from Mount Sinai and fell prey to the Satan’s argument that Moshe had died, the women held out hope and refused to take part in the sin of the golden calf. After this tremendous national sin, it would have been easy and natural to give up hope. Yet the Mishkan offered a new prospect for Divine closeness even in this dark post-sin era, and it also represented Hashem’s forgiveness of the sin of the golden calf (Rashi 38:21). Recognizing this tremendous and unique opportunity to inject new life into the crestfallen and forlorn nation, the women leaped into action to donate to the cause with great joy and enthusiasm.
Rosh Chodesh symbolizes the concept that when all appears bleak, one can trust in a brighter future. Just when the moon disappears and the night sky seems dark, the process of rebirth and renewal continues as the moon returns and grows larger, reminding us of the lesson that the women always knew.
Vaya’as Betzalel es ha’Aron atzei shitim amasayim va’chetzi arko (37:1)
The Gemora in Sanhedrin (29a) seeks a source for the claim that “whoever adds to something actually takes away from it.” One opinion claims that this statement may be derived from the Torah’s commandment to make the Aron 2.5 cubits long. However, the Gemora is cryptically terse; how does one sees from here that something which was added had the net effect of detracting from the original amount?
Rashi explains that the Torah requires the Ark to be amasayim va’chetzi arko – 2.5 cubits in length. However, if the letter aleph wasn’t present, the Ark would need to be masayim va’chetzi arko – 200.5 cubits – significantly longer. Therefore, by adding the letter aleph, the overall size of the Ark was actually reduced!
However, the Maharsha challenges Rashi’s explanation by pointing out that if the letter aleph is removed, the Torah no longer specifies to which units of measurement it refers. The verse would require the Ark to be 200.5 long, but there would be no way of knowing with which units this should be measured. It would be quite possible that it would be measured using a smaller unit than cubits, such that 200.5 of the smaller units would actually be less than 2.5 cubits. In this case, adding the letter aleph would have the effect of increasing the size of the Ark, and the Gemora’s claim couldn’t be derived from here.
The Vilna Gaon brilliantly suggests an alternative understanding of the Gemora’s derivation. Unlike Rashi, he explains that the Gemora refers to the addition of the letter vov at the beginning of the word va’chetzi. In the absence of this letter, the verse would read amasayim chetzi arko – two cubits is half of the length of the Ark. In other words, the Ark would have been four cubits long, but by adding the letter vov, its length was reduced to 2.5 cubits, thereby providing an ideal source for the Gemora’s claim that adding on to something actually takes away from it!
the weekly Points to Ponder are now available!
Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) The Torah records (35:10) that Moshe commanded the “wise of heart” to make everything necessary for the Mishkan. Hashem earlier told Moshe (31:6) that He had placed wisdom into the hearts of those are wise to allow them to do so. From this latter verse the Gemora in Berachos (55a) derives that Hashem only gives wisdom to one who already possesses it. How did these wise-hearted individuals escape the apparent catch-22, and from where did they attain their initial wisdom? (Baal HaTurim 28:3, Nefesh HaChaim 4:5, Sichos Mussar, Atarah L’Melech pg. 133)
2) Rashi writes (35:27) that the ðùéàéí – tribal leaders – were punished by the removal of the letter “yud” from their titles. They decided that after the people had completed their contributions for the building of the Mishkan, they would donate whatever was missing. Why wasn’t Moshe similarly punished for his lack of contribution to the Mishkan (see Vayikra Rabba 1:6), and to the contrary, Rashi writes (39:33) that because Moshe hadn’t participated in the Mishkan, Hashem miraculously arranged that nobody should be able to erect it except for Moshe in order to give him a part in its construction? (Mishmeres Ariel and Tal’lei Oros Parshas Vayikra)
3) Rashi writes (35:27) that the ðùéàéí – tribal leaders – were punished by the removal of the letter “yud” from their titles. They decided that after the people completed their contributions for the Mishkan, they would donate whatever was missing. Why did they specifically lose the letter “yud?”? (Kli Yakar, Chiddushei HaRim, Emunas Itecha, Outlooks and Insights Parshas Terumah)
4) As the Mishkan is considered to be a microcosm of the entire universe, its building and assembly should be similar to the creation of the world in Parshas Bereishis. What parallels can you find between the two? (Ohr Gedalyahu)
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