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Parshas Vayakhel-Pekudei

Vayakheil Moshe es kola das B’nei Yisroel vayomer aleihem …
vayeitzu kol adas B’nei Yisroel mi’lifnei Moshe (35:1, 20)

            Our parsha begins by relating that Moshe Rabbeinu gathered together all of the Jews to instruct them about keeping Shabbos and building the Mishkan. Nineteen verses later, he has concluded his instructions, and the Torah relates that the Jews left “from in front of Moshe.” As we know that the Torah doesn’t waste even a letter, why was it necessary to clarify or emphasize this fact that should be obvious, as he gathered them together at the beginning of the parsha and they hadn’t gone anywhere in the interim?

            The Alter from Kelm (as quoted in Darkei Mussar) and Rav Eliyahu Lopian explain that in general, when encountering a person on the street, it is impossible to discern from his appearance and actions from where he is coming. In this case, the apparently superfluous wording is coming to indicate that it was clear to any passerby that the Jews had just left the presence of Moshe Rabbeinu. In what way was this recognizable? Although they had just spent time learning about Shabbos and the Mishkan from Moshe, this factual knowledge wasn’t discernible to the naked eye. Rather, their conduct and interactions with other people were on such a lofty level that it was apparent that they had just been learning Torah. The Gemora in Yoma (86a) writes that part of the mitzvah to love Hashem is to cause Hashem to be loved and praised through our actions. The Jews who merited to learn Torah directly from the mouth of Moshe Rabbeinu reached such levels in 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.

            Our parsha is traditionally read at the end of the winter z’man in yeshivos, just before students customarily return home for intersession to spend Pesach with their families. Specifically at this time, the Torah advises us to conduct ourselves in a manner which proudly declares, “We just spent 5 months learning Hashem’s Torah in yeshiva.” The typical person with whom we interact won’t be able to discern this from the number of penetrating insights we deliver into the words of the Rashba and Rav Chaim Soloveitchik, 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, they merited a personal holiday of Rosh Chodesh, on which they are accustomed not to do work. Why is Rosh Chodesh uniquely suited to women as a reward for their piety?

            The Shemen HaTov suggests that these women 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 Paroh to kill their sons and despaired for 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 (Rashi 38:8). When the men miscalculated Moshe’s return from Mount Sinai and then 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. Similarly, Rosh Chodesh symbolizes the concept that when all appears bleak, one must hang on and trust in a brighter future. Just when the moon disappears and the night sky seems totally dark, the process of rebirth and renewal continues as the moon returns and grows larger, reminding us of the lesson the women always knew.

V’ham’lacha haysa dayam l’kol ham’lacha la’asos osah v’hosar (36:7)

There seems to be an internal inconsistency in our verse which a number of commentators grapple with. The Torah states simultaneously that the communal work toward the Mishkan was both sufficient, which would seem to imply that it was exactly enough, and that there remained extra. The Ohr HaChayim HaKadosh answers that in reality, the Jews enthusiastically gave so much so quickly that the total contributions were actually more than was necessary for the building of the Mishkan. Hashem was afraid that if there would be leftovers after the Mishkan was complete, some Jews may be saddened at the prospects that there contribution hadn’t been used, so He made a miracle and arranged that everything should be put to use, causing the excessive donations to appear to be just right.

The Manchester Rosh Yeshiva suggests that this lesson applies to all matters of spirituality. Even if it appears to have yielded no practical results, no pure action performed for Hashem’s sake ever goes to waste. For example, at the time of the sin of the golden calf, Chur attempted to protest their sinful actions and was killed. However, the Daas Z’keinim writes (31:2) that Betzalel was chosen as the primary builder of the Mishkan specifically in the merit of the actions of his grandfather Chur, as one of the purposes of the Mishkan was to atone for the sin of the golden calf. Although the society by which we are surrounded attempts to convince us that nothing matters but the bottom line, the Torah teaches us that Hashem cares about our sincere intentions and desires to increase His glory, and that they will never go to waste.


Eileh p’kudei ha’Mishkan Mishkan ha’eidus (38:21)
Ha’Mishkan Mishkan – shnei p’amim remez l’Mikdash she’nismashkein
b’shnei churbanin al avonoseihen shel Yisroel (Rashi)

            Rashi explains that the apparent repetition of the word “Mishkan” is coming to hint to the fact that the Holy Temple was taken from us by Hashem as collateral (“mashkon” in Hebrew) for our sins. However, regarding a human creditor, we find that the law is (22:25) that if he takes an item from the borrower, such as an item of his clothing, to secure the payment of the loan, he is required to return it before sunset so that the borrower may use it. If so, why we have remained in exile without the Beis HaMikdash for almost 2,000 years? Why hasn’t Hashem honored the legal requirement to return our collateral to us the same way that we are required to do so for others?

            Rav Zalmeleh Volozhiner (as quoted in Aleinu L’shabeiach) and Rav Yosef Chaim Zonnenfeld answer with a powerful lesson. The Torah explains that the lender is required to return the item because it is critical to the debtor. As he has no replacement for this garment, he will be left with nothing in which to sleep at night, and he will cry out in his pain to Hashem, Who will listen in His infinite compassion. If so, we must conclude that the reason why we remain bereft of our Holy Temple after so many years can only be that we don’t assign it the same significance that the borrow does to his clothing. We don’t feel lost and hopeless without it, having found other acceptable substitutes throughout the generations, and because we don’t truly cry out for the return of our collateral, Hashem has yet to return it to us. Rav Zalmeleh adds, however, that any individual who is genuinely pained at its absence and emotionally implores Hashem to give it back will merit a Heavenly gift of the exact same blessing and Divine presence in his life that he would receive if the Beis HaMikdash were actually extant!


U’Btzalel ben Uri ben Chur l’mate Yehuda asa es kol asher tziva Hashem es Moshe (40:22)

            Rashi quotes the Gemora in Berachos (55a), in which Moshe initially opined that the vessels for the Mishkan should be built before the Mishkan itself, while Betzalel maintained that the structure should be constructed before its contents so that the utensils should have a place to rest upon their completion, a position to which Moshe acquiesced. Tosefos notes that the wording of the verses in Parshas Terumah seems to support Moshe’s opinion, while that of Parshas Ki Sisa is in accord with Betzalel’s position.

I once heard a beautiful explanation of their dispute based on a comparison to a similar disagreement. The Gemora in Chagiga (12a) records that Beis Hillel held that the earth was created before the heavens, while Beis Shammai maintained the opposite. Beis Hillel issued a challenge strikingly similar to that of Betzalel, asking Beis Shammai whether it is customary for a person to first build an attic (heavens) and only afterward the house (earth).

The Rogatchover Gaon explains that the dispute between Beis Hillel and Beis Shammai was actually over a much more profound question – which has more importance, the means to accomplish a goal or the goal itself? The ultimate purpose of our life is to earn a portion in the World to Come, yet the mechanism for doing so is the performance of mitzvos in this world. Beis Shammai focused on the true goal and therefore held that the heavens were created first, while Beis Hillel maintained that because it is impossible to get there without the proper channels, therefore the earth was created first.

            Similarly, the focus of our lives is to elevate and perfect our souls, but the mechanism for doing so is the observance of the Torah with our bodies. Initially, a person’s soul was dominant, although after the sin of Adam and Chava, the body became superior. The mystics write that although the Gemora generally rules in accordance with the opinion of Beis Hillel, in the Messianic era, the halacha will be in accordance with the position of Beis Shammai. We may symbolically explain that at present, the body (means) prevails and we therefore follow the rulings of Beis Hillel, but when Moshiach comes, the soul (purpose) will once again be dominant as it initially was, and we will again conduct ourselves according to Beis Shammai’s opinions. When the Jewish people unanimously and enthusiastically accepted the Torah at Mount Sinai, they purified themselves to reach the pre-sin level, which was unfortunately brief in duration as they lost it when they sinned with the golden calf.

            The purpose of the Mishkan was the Divine Service which took place inside through its various utensils, while the Mishkan itself merely represented the means to accomplish this goal. Moshe wasn’t present during the sin of the golden calf and didn’t recognize the spiritual decline which had befallen the people. As such, he instructed Betzalel to make the vessels and then the Mishkan as he had been instructed in Parshas Terumah before the sin of the golden calf, when they were on a level to follow the opinion of Beis Shammai. Betzalel, on the other hand, recognized what had transpired and knew that they were no longer able to conduct themselves on such a lofty plane, and therefore suggested following the order of Parshas Ki Sisa, which Rashi writes (31:18) was given after the sin of the golden calf. Moshe recognized the unfortunate truth behind Betzalel’s logic conceded that his opinion was to be followed, remarking that “You were in the shadow of Hashem.” Moshe hinted to the fact that Betzalel had witnessed the collective downfall during the sin of the golden calf, when the people returned to living in Hashem’s “shadow,” without a soul-dominated clarity of understanding, and therefore Beis Hillel’s logic once again prevailed!


Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):

1)     The Rambam (Beis HaBechira 1:20) rules that any item which was utilized for mundane personal use may no longer be used for any Divine purpose. If so, how were the women permitted to donate their jewelry (35:22) and mirrors (38:8) for use in the Mishkan?

2)     The Mishkan is considered to be a microcosm of the universe. If so, its building and erecting should be similar to the creation of the world. What parallels exist between them? (Ohr Gedalyahu)

3)     Rashi records (38:22) a dispute between Moshe Rabbeinu and Betzalel regarding the proper order for the building of the Mishkan. Moshe instructed Betzalel to make the vessels and only afterward to build the Mishkan itself. Betzalel suggested that it is customary to begin with the dwelling and then proceed to its contents, so that they won’t be left without a place to put them, to which Moshe agreed. However, the Tur writes (Orach Chaim 684) that the vessels for the Mishkan were completed on Chanuka, yet the Mishkan itself wasn’t actually erected until Rosh Chodesh Nissan (Taz 684:1), some three months later. If so, the vessels remained idle and unused for this entire period, so what practical relevance did the dispute between Moshe and Betzalel regarding the order of their construction actually make? (Shu”t Chasam Sofer Orach Chaim 188 quoting Rav Nosson Adler, P’nei Yehoshua Berachos 55a, Shu”t Tzitz Eliezer 14:62)

4)     Why throughout Parshas Pekudei (e.g. 39:5) does the Torah repeatedly emphasize regarding each of the Kohen’s garments that it was made “just as Hashem had commanded Moshe,” yet it makes no such similar mention in Parshas Vayakhel regarding the construction of the various vessels for the Mishkan? (Meshech Chochma)

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