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Parshas Vayakhel - Vol. 11, Issue 22
Compiled by Oizer Alport
At first glance, Parshas Vayakhel and Parshas Pekudei appear to essentially be a lengthy repetition of Parshas Terumah and Parshas Tetzaveh, detailing how all of the vessels for the Mishkan and vestments for the Kohanim were crafted and assembled, which is difficult to understand. Chazal teach us that every letter in the Torah contains vital lessons, and the Gemora is replete with legal derivations based on a single seemingly superfluous letter. If so, how could the Torah effectively repeat two entire portions?
Rav Avrohom Yaakov Pam explains the need for Parshas Vayakhel and Parshas Pekudei based on one key difference between them and the preceding portions which also discuss these topics. In Parshas Terumah and Parshas Tetzaveh, the operative verb in the discussion of each of the vessels and vestments is v'asisa - you shall make, while in the latter portions it is va'ya'as - and he (Betzalel) made.
Rav Pam explains that there are many people who make elaborate plans to build a house or building, but when the time to actually execute those plans arrives, they discover that the project takes far longer and costs far more than anticipated, and when they're finally done, they often find that the final product bears little resemblance to the original blueprint, as anybody who has ever built a house can testify. Therefore, in the case of the Mishkan, the Torah stresses that every single detail of this magnificent edifice was carried out exactly as Hashem had commanded Moshe. The concept of following through on one's plans is so fundamental and such a chiddush (novelty) that the Torah essentially dedicates two entire portions to teach us this idea.
Rav Pam adds that this insight doesn't only apply to constructing a physical structure. During the Aseres Y'mei Teshuvah (10 Days of Repentance) and at other inspiring times throughout the year, we get motivated to make grandiose plans about building our spiritual "houses," only to unfortunately discover that the end product doesn't bear any resemblance to our blueprints.
One example Rav Pam gives is that every 7.5 years, there is a gala celebration of the Siyum HaShas, the completion of the entire Talmud by those who participate in the Daf Yomi program of learning one page of Gemora each day. Many people who observe and experience the excitement are moved to accept upon themselves to join in the next cycle, and for the next nine weeks their new undertaking goes relatively smoothly, as the first tractate of the Talmud is Berachos, which discusses many practical laws and interesting stories, and it is relatively easy to understand.
However, Berachos is immediately followed by the far lengthier and more intricate Shabbos, leading Rav Gedaliah Schorr to pithily remark Ba Shabbos ba menucha - when Shabbos comes, it's time to rest, which literally refers to the respite we enjoy on the seventh day of the week, but in a play on words, can also refer to aborting one's Daf Yomi plans when tractate Shabbos arrives.
Rav Simcha Sheps uses this concept to explain why after the Mishkan was finally built and assembled for the first time, Moshe blessed the Jewish people that the Shechinah (Divine Presence) should rest on their handiwork (Rashi 39:43). Wouldn't it seemingly have been more logical to give this blessing at the outset of the project, as they began to collect donations or when they started the actual construction? Why did Moshe specifically wait until the end to bless them with success?
Dovid HaMelech writes in Tehillim (24:3) Mi ya'aleh b'har Hashem u'mi yakum bim'kom Kadsho - Who will ascend the mountain of Hashem, and who will stand in the place of His sanctity? Rav Sheps explains that Dovid is teaching us that there are two different challenges in life. The first test is Mi ya'aleh b'har Hashem - Who is strong and determined enough to make it all the way up the mountain of Hashem? This is one level of difficulty. However, there is an even bigger challenge: Mi yakum bim'kom kadsho - After managing to ascend the mountain, who is able to maintain his spiritual level and remain there? After a person makes it to the top of the mountain, the adrenaline begins to wear off, and boredom and monotony slowly creep in, making it much harder to remain on the mountaintop than it was to reach there in the first place.
When the Jewish people began the project of building the Mishkan, they were naturally quite enthusiastic. Despite the sin of the golden calf, Hashem had not only agreed to forgive them, but he also gave Moshe a second set of Luchos (Tablets) and instructions to build a dwelling place for Him. They immediately began the phase of ascending the mountain with tremendous fervor and passion. When Moshe saw that they successfully carried out the project and utilized their enthusiasm to transform ועשית into ויעש, he decided to bless them that after the excitement dissipated and the daily routine set in, they should still maintain their initial enthusiasm, and in that merit, the Shechinah should rest on their creation.
The next time we find ourselves inspired to grow in our mitzvah performance and our relationship to Hashem, it is essential to remind ourselves that these plans are an essential prerequisite, but they are only a first step. We must not allow the yetzer hara (evil inclination) to distract us and cause our dreams and aspirations to remain stuck in the planning stage. Only after the plans have been successfully carried out can they truly be considered as accomplishments and even then, we must not allow ourselves to rest on our laurels, but must remain cognizant that ascending the mountain is only the first stage, and we must work equally as hard to preserve and maintain our hard-earned achievements.
There seems to be an internal inconsistency in our verse with which a number of commentators grapple. The Torah says simultaneously that the communal work for the Mishkan was both sufficient, which would seem to imply that it was exactly enough, and that there remained leftovers. How can these two apparently contradictory statements be resolved?
Rav Mordechai Kamenetzky relates that a small town once held a tightly-contested election for mayor. After all of the ballots were counted, a victor emerged by a narrow margin of one vote. His initial joy over winning the election quickly dissipated when every person he encountered claimed that the vote which represented the winning margin was his, and demanded that the new mayor remain indebted to him throughout his term in office.
Similarly, the Sichos Tzaddikim suggests that if the donations for the Mishkan had been precisely sufficient, every contributor would claim that the success of the Mishkan was dependent upon his personal contribution, without which the entire project would have failed. This would result in tremendous communal conceit, and the Gemora in Sotah (5a) teaches that arrogant people prevent the presence of the Shechinah. As the entire purpose of the Mishkan was to create a place for Hashem's Presence to rest, it was necessary that the donations be slightly more than required in order to be considered sufficient.
The Torah specifies that the Table in the Mishkan was to be made specifically from atzei shittim - acacia wood. Why was this specific type of wood chosen for this purpose?
Rabbeinu Bechaye explains that the letters spelling the word shittim are an acronym for the words Shalom, Tova, Yeshua, and Mechila - peace, goodness, salvation, and forgiveness. This type of wood was also used in the Ark and the Altar, hinting that the Divine Service performed through these vessels was the source of bringing all of these blessings to the world. In our day, however, when we unfortunately lack these vessels, what do we have in their stead through which we may merit the rewards and bounty that they brought? The Gemora in Chagigah (27a) derives from a verse in Yechezkel that in the absence of the Beis HaMikdash, the generous opening up of a person's table to serve the poor and other guests serves in lieu of the Altar. The Gemora in Berachos (54b) adds that doing so is a merit for long life.
Rabbeinu Bechaye mentions the fascinating custom of the pious men of France who had their burial caskets built from the wood of their tables. This symbolizes their recognition that upon dying, none of their earthly possessions would be accompanying them. The only item they could take with them was the merit of the charity and hosting of guests that they performed in their lifetimes. In fact, the Minchas Cohen suggests that the letters in the word Shulchan (Table) are abbreviations for Shomer l'kevurah chesed nedivosayich - preserving for burial the kindness of your giving.
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Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) Parshas Vayakhel begins with a commandment not to do work on Shabbos (35:2). The Shulchan Aruch rules (Orach Chaim 306:4) that it is prohibited to pay somebody for permissible work that is done on Shabbos. Is the prohibition on the person who pays the money, on the worker who receives the money, or on both of them? (Tehila L'Dovid 306:7, Chayei Odom 60:8, Shu"t Hisorerus Teshuva Orach Chaim 149:3, Menorah HaTehora 247:2, Ma'adanei Asher 5769)
2) Rashi explains (35:2) that the Torah preceded the commandment to keep Shabbos to the requirement to build the Mishkan to teach us that its construction doesn't take precedence over observing Shabbos, and it may only be built during the six days of the week. If the primary focus of this section is the laws of the Mishkan, why did the Torah repeat the mitzvah of Shabbos at such length to teach this lesson in such a roundabout manner instead of succinctly and directly commanding, "You shall not build the Mishkan on Shabbos?" (Yishm'ru Daas)
3) The Torah emphasizes (35:21) that the artisans who assisted in the construction of the Mishkan were those whose hearts inspired them. Why was this necessary for their success, and what lesson is it coming to teach us? (Ramban, Daas Torah)
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