Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 7   No. 23

Parshas Pikudei


Based on R. Bachye's introduction to the parshah

"A little with the fear of Hashem is better than a large treasure, where there is confusion. A meal of vegetables where there is love is better than a fattened ox where there is hatred" (Mishlei 15:16-17).

Shlomoh ha'Melech mentions these two pesukim with regard to the characteristic of making do with a little, and at the same time, as a warning against theft. And one can explain them in three ways, according to the simple explanation, according to the Medrash and according to logic.


According to the simple explanation - "A little with the fear of Hashem is better ... " Shlomoh warns us about stealing, because not to steal is a logical mitzvah, which is why theft is the worst of the sins, as Chazal said in a Medrash 'In a so'oh full of sins, it is theft which will prosecute the perpetrator'. Indeed, the generation of the flood's fate was sealed because of theft, as the Torah writes explicitly in No'ach. And we see that someone who fails to return what he stole will never receive pardon for his sin, which is why it is a more serious sin than any other.

Therefore, Shlomoh said "A little with the fear of G-d is better ... " meaning that a little which is legally gained, is better than a lot which one came by illegally. This comes to warn a person to return what he has stolen, that he should not feel bad about parting with the silver and gold that is not lawfully his, saying 'How can I part with my fortune?'. The little that remains with him in righteousness is better than an abundance of produce that is in his possession unjustly. That is why it says "A little with the fear of Hashem and with His love is better than lots of storehouses and treasures of silver and gold where there is confusion".

And as proof of this, he continues "A meal of vegetables where there is love ... ", because after warning about theft, which is a logical issue, he brings a natural parable in support. Because it is natural for a person to prefer eating a light snack of vegetables, but in the company of friends, rather than a meal of fat oxen in the company of enemies. And it stands to reason that if a person would choose to eat a light meal in the company of friends rather than a sumptuous meal together with people whom he hates, then how much more so should one choose the fear of G-d and His love, which are better for him than the love of any human being, and than all the treasures of this world. This teaches us that one should not train oneself to covet money, and that one should neither place one's faith in one's silver and gold, nor one's strength in one's possessions.

That is why Shlomoh writes in Mishlei (18:11) "The rich man's wealth is his fortified town; it is like a strong wall in his mind". He is saying that, just as it is the nature of a man to place his trust in a fortified town which has a wall and a tower, so too, does the rich man place his trust in his wealth. This posuk is a warning not to take our cue from the rich man, but rather that the Name of Hashem alone should be our wealth and our fortification. In fact, this posuk is connected to what Shlomoh wrote in the previous one: "The Name of Hashem is a strong fortress, in it the tzadik runs and he is strengthened".

What the posuk means is that the tzadikim dedicate their silver and gold to the service of Torah and mitzvos, whilst the resho'im render Torah and mitzvos subservient to their silver and gold. That is why a person should place his faith and hope in Hashem, and in Hashem alone; and that is the advice that Elifaz ha'Teimoni (Iyov's friend) told Iyov.


According to the Medrash, "A little with the fear of Hashem is better" - Yisroel, about whom the Torah writes " ... because you are the smallest of all the nations", are good before Hashem "with the fear of Hashem" - because they received the Torah in order that they should fear Hashem, as the Torah writes "because G-d came in order to test you, and in order that His fear be on your faces so that you should not sin" (Sh'mos 20:20).

"than a large treasure" - this refers to the seventy nations, who are compared to a store-house of wine, for so Chazal have explained the posuk in Shir ha'Shirim (2:4) "He brought me to the house of wine" - these are the seventy nations. "when there is confusion there" - because Hashem is going to confuse them and punish them on the day of judgement.

"A meal of vegetables where there is love" - the meal of vegetables that Shlomoh ha'Melech ate by the poor man, was more beneficial than the fattened ox that he ate by the rich one. The Medrash relates how, after Shlomoh's dethronement, he went from door to door, announcing that he, Koheles, had been King in Yerusholayim, when he met two men who recognised him. The first one fell at his feet, and invited him to his house for a meal. He took him up to his attic, and served him a meal of fattened ox and many tasty dishes, but during the course of the meal, he reminded him of what he used to do when he was king. The mention of his kingdom caused Shlomoh to burst into tears, depriving him of his appetite, and he left the table without eating, overcome with crying.


That was when he met the second man, who, it turned out, was a poor man, who invited him to share with him the little vegetables that he had. He took him to his house, washed his hands and his feet, and brought him a portion of vegetables, but as they ate, he began to console him. He reminded him how G-d had sworn to Dovid that the Kingdom would never depart from his children; how it is Hashem's way to rebuke man but then to be reconciled with him; how He reproves those whom He loves, but like a father, He ultimately accepts them. And in the end, he concluded, Hashem would return Shlomoh to his throne.

When Shlomoh heard that, he felt reassured, and he got up from that meal of vegetables satisfied, happy and good-hearted. That is why, when he was reinstated, he wrote in his wisdom "A meal of vegetables where there is love is better than a fattened ox where there is hatred" - 'the meal of vegetables which that poor man fed me was better than the fattened ox which the wealthy man fed me - whilst he reminded me of my anguish'.


According to logic: "A little with the fear of Hashem" - Shlomoh is warning us here to reflect on matters of wisdom to the extent that lies within the limits of human understanding, and not to try and fathom that which is unfathomable, about which the posuk writes "Don't be too clever" (Koheles 7:16), because "A little with the fear fo G-d is better ... " - it is better to grasp a little with the fear of G-d than a large treasure of wisdom that is beyond one's comprehension, which only leads to much confusion and perplexity because with a little, one grows and derives untold pleasure in the process, whereas with too much one perishes and derives much frustration, driving oneself away from the eternal life. It can be compared to honey, which is pleasant when one eats a little of it, but harmful when taken in large quantities - just as Shlomoh wrote in Mishlei (25:15) "If you found honey, eat just what you need, lest you are satisfied from it and vomit it ... " - even the little that you initially needed. That is what happens to someone who tries to attain that which is unattainable. His intention is to move forward, but in reality, he moves backwards.

Chazal in Sanhedrin (106a), referring to Bil'om, who went to Midyon to receive remuneration for the twenty-four thousand whose deaths he had caused, compare it to the camel who demanded horns; not only did they not give him horns, but they took away And so it was with Bil'om. Not only did he not receive his remuneration, but "Bil'om ben Be'or the sorcerer they killed by the sword" (Yehoshua 13:22). And that is what Chazal darshen in Chagigah (14a) regarding wisdom: "If you found honey, eat just what you need" - this refers to Rebbi Akiva; "lest you become satisfied from it and vomit" - to Ben Zoma (see footnote).


After teaching us the necessity to delve into those sections that are accessible, and warning us not to delve into those sections that are unattainable, Shlomoh discusses the concept of attainment - warning us that our depth of understanding should be rectified and purified without dross. That is why he continues "A meal of vegetables where there is love" - he means that it is better to possess a shallow understanding with faith in the Shechinah, which is called 'Love', as it is written "If you will arouse and if you will awaken the Love until you desire it" (Shir ha'Shirim 2:7), and it is written "If a man will give all the treasures of his house for the Love" (ibid. 8:7).

" ... is better than a fattened ox" - than a deep understanding which leads a person astray, like the understanding which Yisroel attained in the desert, that caused them to make the Golden Calf, when they exchanged their glory for that of the image of a calf.

" ... where there is hatred" - this refers to the quality of judgement, to which Moshe referred when he said "Why Hashem does Your anger burn against Your people?"

And the Torah here, at one and the same time, is praising the service of the Shechinah and discredits the sin of the Golden Calf. However, because their intention was not to serve idols, only to serve as a leader, their sin was forgiven. The proof that the sin was immediately forgiven, lies in the fact that the Shechinah rested in the Mishkon. That is why the Ohel Mo'ed in the desert was called the Mishkon - from the loshon 'Shechinah'. And the Mishkon was called 'the Mishkon of Testimony (see Rashi Sh'mos 38:21). Chazal also darshened 'They sinned with the word "Eileh"("Eileh elohecho Yisroel") and they were forgiven with the word "Eileh" ("Eileh pikudei ha'Mishkon ...").


Parshah Pearls


The Three Eras

"These are the countings of the Mishkon, the Mishkon of testimony " (37:21). "Ha'Mishkon", points out Rabeinu Bachye (together with the five letters), equals 420; "Mishkon" equals 410 and "ho'eidus" (which is missing a 'vov'), 479, an amazing hint to the era of the second Beis ha'Mikdosh, the first Beis ha'Mikdosh and the Mishkon, respectively.

Why does the word "ha'Mishkon" need to be five short, so that it becomes necessary to add the letters to make up the deficiency, asks the Chasam Sofer? It is a hint, he replies, to the five things that were missing in the second Beis ha'Mikdosh - the Oron, the heavenly fire, the Shechinah, Ru'ach ha'Kodesh and the Urim ve'Tumim.


The Lions

"And Betzalel the son of Uri the son of Chur from the tribe of Yehudah did all that G-d commanded Moshe. And with him was Oholi'ov the son of Achisomoch from the tribe of Don ... " (37:22-23).

Rabeinu Bachye quotes a Medrash that Betzalel and Oholi'ov were the greatest experts of all those who worked on the construction of the Mishkon. Betzalel was from the tribe of Yehudah, who is called a lion-whelp (Bereishis 49:9), and Oholi'ov from the tribe of Don, who is also called a lion- whelp (Devorim 33:22).

The Mikdosh too, was similar to a lion, as we see in Yeshayah writes (29:1) "Hoy Ariel Ariel the encampment of Dovid". This is because the Heichol was narrow at the back and wide at the front, like a lion.

And it was through a lion that the Beis ha'Mikdosh was destroyed, as Yirmiyoh writes (4:7) "The lion came out of the thicket" (referring to Nevuchadnetzar).

In the time of Moshi'ach, Yisroel will be compared to a lion, as it is written in Michoh (5:7) "And the remnant of Ya'akov among the nations will be like a lion among the animals of the forest."

Rabeinu Bachye's explanation is enhanced by that of the Kli Yokor, who describes the combination of Betzalel and Oholi'ov in the following manner:


Betzalel and Oholi'ov

"See, Hashem called by name, Betzalel ... " (35:30-34), because, at the outset, Hashem gave them names indicating the role that they would play in the holy work.

Betzalel (be'tzel keil' - in the shadow of G-d) was so called as a hint that he would construct the Mishkon and the Oron, a dwelling for the Shechinah which came 'in the shadow of G-d's beams' (see Tehillim 91:1), and it is also written in Shir ha'Shirim (1:13), "Between my breasts He will sleep" - which Chazal explain to mean that G-d reduces His Shechinah to fit the space between the poles of the Oron, and between the Keruvim, whose wings covered over the Oron (casting over it the 'Shadow of G-d').

"The son of Uri "- because of the light of the Torah, since he would build a location for the Torah which is described as a light.

"Ben Chur" - to demonstrate his worthiness to be chosen for this work, since Chur his grandfather sacrificed his life by the Golden Calf, which caused the breaking of the Luchos. (Alternatively, one might explain that 'Chur' contains the same letters as 'chiver' (white), a hint to the power of the Mishkon to achieve pardon for Yisroel's sins - just as the Beis ha'Mikdosh was called 'Levonon' (from the word 'lovon' - white) for the very same reason.

"To the Tribe of Yehudah" - who is compared to a lion ...

"He and Oholi'ov" - who was so called because he would construct the Ohel Mo'ed for our Father in Heaven ('Ohel-Ov').

"Ben Achisomoch" - because it was the place where the brothers came close ('Achi somach'), the Shechinah with Yisroel ...

"To the Tribe of Don", who is also compared to a lion ...


This analogy to a lion becomes more meaningful when one bears in mind that the lion is a symbol of fear (indeed the letters of 'aryeh' - lion - are synonymous with those of 'yir'oh' - fear) and that the Beis ha'Mikdosh was the centre from which the Fear of G-d emanated.


Rachamim and Din

And Yehudah and Don hint to the two Names of G-d, the Kli Yokor continues: Hashem (the Name that denotes rachamim) and Elokim (that denotes din), which G-d combined when He created the world. So too, the role that Yehudah (whose name contains Hashem's full Name of Mercy) played in the construction of the Mishkon (which reflects the image of all the worlds that G-d created) correponds to the Name 'Hashem'; whereas Don (whose name represents the midas ha'Din), corresponds to the Name 'Elokim'. The two together constructed the Mishkon in the same way as G-d created the world with the Names 'Hashem' and 'Elokim'.



(The Mitzvos Lo Sa'aseh)
Adapted from the Seifer ha'Mitzvos ha'Kotzer of the Chofetz Chayim.

A57. Not to claim a debt, once the Sh'mittah-year has passed - as the Torah writes in Re'ei (15:2) "One may not claim from one's friend or one's brother, because the Beis-din announced the Sh'mittah for Hashem".

This la'av only applies at the time when there is no Yovel. Nowadays, when the Yovel does not apply, the releasing of debts is only mi'de'Rabbonon.


58. Not to take as collateral against a loan, vessels that are used for preparing one's food - as the Torah writes in Ki Seitzei (24:6) "Do not take as security an upper or a lower millstone, because that is like taking his (the debtor's) soul". This is forbidden, irrespective of whether the security is taken at the time of the loan or whether it is taken afterwards; whether the creditor himself takes the article or whether it is the messenger of Beis-din.

In any event, it is forbidden to enter the debtor's house to take any form of security, even if it is not a vessel that is used for preparing food. Someone who takes both millstones transgresses two la'avin (since the Torah mentions them individually), and that is the case with any two vessels that work in conjunction with each other.

This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to men and women alike.

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