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 Parshas Vayakhel-Pekudei - Vol. 5, Issue 22
Compiled by Oizer Alport


Vayavo’u ha’anashim al hanashim (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 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 ever larger, reminding us of the lesson that the women always knew.


Vayavey es ha’Aron el ha’Mishkan vayasem eis Paroches hamasach vayasech al Aron ha’Eidus ka’asher tzivah Hashem es Moshe (40:21)

            In his commentary on our verse, the Baal HaTurim points out that the Torah emphasizes that every aspect of the construction and assembly of the Mishkan was done precisely as Hashem commanded Moshe. In fact, the phrase “as Hashem commanded Moshe” is used 18 times in Parshas Pekudei. As there are no coincidences in the Torah, the Baal HaTurim explains that this number alludes to the 18 blessings recited thrice-daily in the prayers known as Shemoneh Esrei.

            I once heard a beautiful and profound insight into the comment of the Baal HaTurim. Hashem told Moshe (31:1-5) that Betzalel should be in charge of building the Mishkan and its vessels, for He had imbued him with Divine wisdom and with expert craftsmanship skills. We are accustomed to viewing artists as free-thinking and creative spirits, valuing self-expression over adherence to strict guidelines.

As many of the specifications for the Mishkan weren’t absolute and even numerous deviations wouldn’t invalidate it, one might have expected Betzalel, with his “artistic spirit,” to improvise and attempt to “improve” upon Hashem’s blueprint. Therefore, the Torah stresses that he followed each and every instruction down to the smallest detail.

            Similarly, many people today complain that they feel constrained by the standard text of our daily prayers, which was established almost 2000 years ago. They feel that as our daily needs change, so too should our expression of them. However, based on the Baal HaTurim’s comparison of the daily prayers to the construction of the Mishkan and its vessels, we may suggest that on a deeper level, he is hinting to us that we need not feel stifled by the repeated expression of our needs and entreaties using identical phrases, as illustrated by the following story.

A close disciple of Rav Yechezkel Abramsky once mentioned that an acquaintance of his had recently undergone a difficult kidney transplant. Rav Abramsky sighed, feeling the other Jew’s pain, and then remarked, “I pray every day that I shouldn’t be forced to undergo such a procedure.” The surprised student questioned why he made a special point of reciting this unique prayer daily. Rav Abramsky responded that this request is included in the standard wording of Birkas HaMazon, in which we request that we not come to need “matnas basar v’dam” – gifts of flesh and blood (e.g. transplants).

The student challenged this explanation, as the simple understanding of the words is that we shouldn’t need monetary gifts from other humans (“flesh and blood”). Rav Abramsky smiled and explained that the Sages incorporated every need we may have into the text of the standard prayers. Any place we find in which we are able to “read in” a special request we have into the words is also included in the original intention of that prayer.

Just as Betzalel followed Hashem’s precise guidelines for the creation of the Mishkan and still found room for creative expression by doing so with his own unique intentions and insights, so too our Sages established the standard wording of the prayers with Divine Inspiration, articulating within them every feeling we may wish to express. Many times, in the midst of a difficult situation, we begin the standard prayers with a heavy heart, only to find a new interpretation of the words which we have recited thousands of times jump out at us. This newfound understanding, which has been there all along waiting for us to discover it in our time of need, is perfectly fit to the sentiments we wish to convey, if we will only open our eyes to see it and use our Sages’ foresight to express ourselves.


Vayavey es ha’Aron el ha’Mishkan vayasem eis Paroches hamasach vayasech al Aron ha’Eidus ka’asher tzivah Hashem es Moshe (40:21)

            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.


Answers to the weekly Points to Ponder are now available!
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Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):

1)     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)

2)     The Gemora in Menachos (99a) derives from 40:18 that it is permitted to increase an item’s level of holiness, such as selling books and using the proceeds to purchase a Sefer Torah, but not to decrease it, such as selling a Sefer Torah to buy books. 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)

3)     In Parshas HaChodesh, we read about the first mitzvah given to the Jews as a nation, sanctifying the new moon (12:2). If two boys, both of whom were born 13 years ago today (e.g. 1 Nissan), come before the Beis Din to testify that they saw the new moon, is their testimony valid and acceptable, as if they are accepted as witnesses and as a result today is declared to be a new month (i.e. Nissan), they will retroactively have been legal adults who were eligible to be witnesses, but at the time that they come before the judges, they are only 12 years old and disqualified to be witnesses, and if their testimony is rejected, today will remain 30 Adar and it will be revealed retroactively that they were unacceptable to testify? (Minchas Chinuch 4:14)

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