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 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.
Vaye'tzapeihu zahav tahor mi'bayis u'michutz (37:2)
Rav Chaim Volozhiner once asked his teacher, the Vilna Gaon, to help him
understand a difficult passage in the Zohar HaKadosh. The Gaon responded by
noting that with regard to the Aron, which was made of wood, the Torah writes
that it should be covered with gold on the inside and on the outside.
However, Rashi explains (25:11) that first the wooden box was placed inside the
larger golden box, and the smaller golden box was then placed inside of both of
them. According to Rashi, the Aron was first covered on the outside (by the
larger golden box) and only afterward on the inside (by the smaller golden box).
If so, why did the Torah reverse the order, instructing that it should be
covered first on the inside?
Rather, we must reinterpret our verse as referring not to the wooden Aron but to
the golden coverings. With respect to the golden boxes, the covering occurred in
the order prescribed by the Torah, as the wooden Aron first covered the inner
walls of the larger outer box and subsequently covered the outer walls of
smaller inner box. However, we now must understand why the Torah chose to write
the instructions in such a convoluted manner.
The Gaon proceeded to explain that the wooden Aron symbolizes man, who is
compared to a tree, and the two golden boxes represent the Torah, the outer one
corresponding to the revealed Torah and the inner one to the mystical secrets of
Kabbalah. The Torah wrote our verse in this confusing way to hint to us that
just as the revealed Torah is covered by the Aron (representing man) on its
inside, so too are we able and expected to penetrate to its deepest depths of
However, when it comes to the hidden areas of the Torah, the Aron only covers
the external side to teach that it is impossible to completely plumb its
innermost secrets, and we sometimes must content ourselves with whatever
superficial understanding we are able to attain. With that, the Vilna Gaon
dismissed his surprised student to reflect upon this unexpected “answer” to his
question regarding the esoteric Kabbalistic passage.
U’Betzalel ben Uri ben Chur l’mateh Yehuda asah es kol asher tzivah Hashem es
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
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
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 u'keshartem - 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 u'keshartem 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.
Answers to the weekly Points to Ponder are now available!
To receive the full version with answers email the author at
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 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,
3) The Gemora in Menachos (99a) derives from 40:18 that 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)
4) Parshas HaChodesh contains the mitzvah of sanctifying the new moon (12:2). We
cannot do this mitzvah today, but we commemorate it by saying Kiddush Levanah.
Why is no Shehechiyanu blessing said when reciting Kiddush Levanah? (Eliyah
Rabbah O. C. 426:1, Shu”t K’sav Sofer O. C. 34)
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