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

For sponsorships and advertising opportunities, send e-mail to:

Back to This Week's Parsha Previous Issues

subscribe.gif (2332 bytes)

Vol. 11   No. 19

This issue is sponsored by
Mr. & Mrs. Y. Fuchs n.y.
in honour of their new granddaughter
Yael Wieden n.y.
May she always be a source of much nachas
to her parents and grandparents.

Parshas Terumah

The Mishkan
and the Golden Calf

Part 1

There is no strict chronological order in the Torah, Rashi postulates. Despite the fact that the Torah records the Parshah of the Mishkan in Terumah (and again, close to the beginning of Ki Sisa), and the sin of the Golden Calf in Ki Sisa (after the Parshah of the Mishkan), in fact, the episode of the Golden Calf preceded the command to build the Mishkan by some three months (the former in Tamuz, the latter in Tishri).

Rashi presumes that the Mishkan came to atone for the Golden Calf. It was on Yom Kipur that G-d forgave Yisrael for the sin of the Golden Calf, and it was only after that, that Moshe conveyed to Yisrael the Parshah of the Mishkan, indeed it was only after that, that it became relevant. Rabeinu Bachye conforms with this opinion, which he cites in the name of the Medrash Tanchuma, and which he connects with the half-Shekel which they donated for the building of the Mishkan, precisely for that reason, to atone for the sin of the Golden Calf (see beginning of Ki Sisa).


The question arises why the Torah inverts the chronological order of events, placing the Parshah of the Mishkan first? Rabeinu Bachye deals with this question. He first explains why, in spite of the principle that the prosecutor cannot act as a defense counsel ('Ein Kategor na'aseh sanegor'), the Torah, listing the various commodities that the people donated towards the building of the Mishkan, begins with gold, to teach us that G-d had forgiven them for the sin of the Golden Calf (much in the same way and for the same reason as in Emor, in connection with the Korbanos, it writes "an ox, or a lamb or a goat ... ", placing the ox before the lamb and the goat).

And he then goes on to explain that it is because "the ways of the Torah are pleasant" that it prefers to first present the Parshah that comes as an atonement, before presenting the sin for which it atones. For such is the way of the Merciful G-d to 'preempt the stroke with the cure'.


The note in Rashi cites the Zohar, who considers all the Parshiyos to be in the right order. The Parshiyos of Terumah and Tetzaveh record what G-d said to Moshe when he was on Har Sinai, whereas those of Vayakhel and Pikudei record Moshe's command to Yisrael, and their response. Indeed, the Zohar points out, this explains why the earlier Parshiyos speak about taking donations from anybody (even the Eirev-Rav, who had not yet sinned) whereas the later ones refer to taking from "them", the B'nei Yisrael (to the exclusion of the Eirev-Rav, who had been responsible for the sin of the Eigel ha'Zahav). And he asks what prompts Rashi to say otherwise.


Initially, it appears that the Zohar disagrees with Rashi's interpretation. It considers building a Mishkan an intrinsic Mitzvah, one which is not connected with the sin of the Golden Calf. The construction of the Mishkan, the Zohar maintains, was an independent Mitzvah, which they would have had to fulfill whether they had sinned by the Golden Calf or not. Rashi however holds that had Yisrael not sinned, G-d would not have commanded them to build a Mishkan, in which case recording it before it fell due would have been premature.

According to the explanation of Rabeinu Bachye however, the Zohar may well agree that the Mishkan was a Kaporah for the Eigel; yet the question on Rashi remains justifiable. Even if the Mishkan was premature, G-d inserted it in Terumah, informing Moshe in advance of what He knew would occur later, in order to present 'the cure before the stroke'. To be sure, he did not tell this to the B'nei Yisrael directly, only to Moshe, knowing that he would only pass on the information after Yom Kipur, after it became relevant.


Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos and the Rosh on the Chumash)

The Four Kingdoms

"And this is the separation which you shall take from them - gold, silver and copper" (25:3).

Correspondingly, says the Rosh, there are three levels of Tzedakah in the world. There are those who give when they are wealthy and in good health, That is the most valuable Tzedakah of all, like gold, which can be compared to giving a ruler bribery before one actually needs him. The second, which is like silver, constitutes giving Tzedakah from one's sick-bed. Such Tzedakah, which one gives at a time when one already needs him, is of a lower level. The least meaningful of the three, is one who gives when he is dangerously ill, where he is fighting for his life. According to the Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos, it refers to the money that one bequeaths to Tzedakah after one's death. Either way, it is compared to copper.


The Da'as Zekeinim M.T. cites a second explanation from the Medrash. Gold, says the Medrash, corresponds to the Kingdom of Bavel (which the Pasuk in Daniel [2:38] compares to gold).

Silver corresponds to the Kingdom of Persia (in whose connection the Pasuk in Megilas Esther refers to ten thousand Kikar of silver). Whereas copper, which is the least valuable of them all, refers to the Kingdom of Greece. And the ram's skins dyed red, mentioned two Pesukim later, refers to the kingdom of Edom, the Medrash concludes Presumably, the reference to the four Kingdoms here is a hint that the Avodah in the Beis Hamikdash is the greatest antidote to our oppression at the hand of the nations. And it was only when the Avodah was lax, that they were able to defeat us.


Acacia Wood

" ... and acacia wood (Atzei Shitim)" 25:5.

The word "Shitim" is the acronym of 'Sholom, Tovah, Yeshu'ah, Mechilah', indicating that the Mishkan is the source of peace, goodness, salvation and forgiveness, says the Da'as Zekeinim M.T.

And he goes on to explain how they obtained the Shitim wood from forests that grew in the desert, as the Navi writes in Yehoshua (2:1) "And Yehoshua ... sent spies from Shitim". In fact, it is due to these acacia forests that the place was called 'Shitim', as the Pasuk writes in Yeshayah (41:19) "I will place in the desert, cedars, Shitah and Hadas trees".


Rashi, however, is of the opinion that the planks were manufactured from the cedars (of which acacia is a species) that Ya'akov had planted in Egypt, and which, in anticipation of the Mishkan that they would build, he commanded them to cut down and take with them when they left Egypt.

Another Medrash maintains that the middle bolt that ran through three sides of the Mishkan, was made from Ya'akov's staff (as the Pasuk writes in Vayishlach "because with my staff I crossed this Yarden"), which Ya'akov brought with him to Mitzrayim, and which Yisrael took with them when they left.


Acacia wood is extremely light, which is evident from the fact that the forty-eight planks, with their ninety-six sockets, each one ten Amos tall, one and a half wide and one Amah thick were transported by only four wagons, drawn by eight bulls. Add to that the pillars of the Chatzer (the Courtyard) with their sockets, and the five pillars at the entrance to the Chatzer, and four at the entrance of the Kodesh Kodshim, on which the Paroches hung (all with their copper pegs and sockets). Given this tremendous load, the wood must have been extremely light, as we explained.


All Part of the Building

"Oil for the Lamp, spices for the anointing oil, and for the burning of the Incense" (25:6).

This Parshah, comments the Da'as Zekeinim M.T., deals with the construction of the Mishkan and the 'pieces of furniture' that it contained. It does not mention the wheat from which they produced the flour to manufacture the Lechem ha'Panim, lambs for the Korban Tamid, or wood for the Ma'arachah, because they belong to the realm of Korbanos. By the same token then, why does it insert the commodities mentioned in this Pasuk, which one would think, belong to the realm of Korbanos, too?

The truth of the matter is however, he replies, that all three commodities mentioned here are intrinsically connected with the actual construction of the Mishkan.

The Anointing Oil was certainly part and parcel of the Vessels of the Mishkan, since it was used to anoint and sanctify them.

The Ketores too, was an intrinsic part of the Mishkan, since it is the done thing to place incense in the King's Palace, prior to his entry, all the more so, G-d. Indeed, on a number of occasions in the desert, it was through the Ketores that the Shechinah rested in Yisrael.

And as for the light for the lamp, there too, it is the done thing to illuminate in front of the king, so that he may enter by means of the lit torch. The fact that G-d did not need the light is irrelevant. It is something that is done to kings, and doing so before G-d, constitutes Kavod Shamayim.

In effect, the Mishkan was only considered complete once it had been anointed, the Ketores was burning and the Lamp was kindled.


The Sanctity of the Aron

"The poles shall be placed in the rings of the Aron, they shall not be removed" (25:15).

Due to the sanctity of the Aron, explains the Rosh, G-d did not want those who carried it to linger by it for a moment longer than usual. Had the poles been detachable, they would inevitably have had to spend time, arranging them in the rings before traveling and taking them out after traveling. So He ordered Moshe to make sure that the poles were initially fitted in such a way that they could not be removed. Consequently, all they needed to do was to pick up the poles and travel, and, upon arrival at one's destination, put the Aron in its place and leave immediately. No arranging was necessary.


The Avos - G-d's Chariot

"And I will speak with you from on the lid from between the two Keruvim" (25:22)

On the one hand, says the Rosh, the first letters of "Mi'Bein Sh'nei Ha'Keruvim" spell 'Moshe', on the other, "sh'nei ha'K'ruvim" has the same numerical value as "Avraham, Yitzchak ve'Ya'akov". It is hardly surprising that Moshe's name is hinted here, particularly when one bears in mind the special role that Moshe played in building the Mishkan.

As for the hint to the Avos, that can be understood with the Chazal, who have stated that the Avos constitute Hashem's Chariot, just like the Keruvim in the Kodesh Kodshim.


Taryag Mitzvos

" ... all that I am commanding you (es kol asher atzaveh oscho)" ibid.

"es kol asher atzaveh oscho", says the Rosh, has the same numerical value as 'Taryag Mitzvos'.


The Ten Menoros of Sh'lomoh

"The Menorah shall be made ('te'aseh ha'Menorah)" 25:31.

The word "te'aseh" contains an extra 'Yud', a hint to the ten extra Menoros that Shlomoh would later construct when he built the Beis-Hamikdash.


Lighting up the Shulchan

"And you shall make its seven lamps ... and it shall light up opposite it" (25:37).

'It' refers to the Shulchan in the north, which was situated exactly opposite the Menorah in the south (both close to the centre of the Mishkan).

In fact, says the Da'as Zekeinim M.T, this was the main objective of the Menorah, and it is repeated in Beha'aloscha. However, this only goes with those who hold that the Menorah was facing east to west, in which case all seven lamps did indeed illuminate the Table. But according to those who maintain the lamps were facing north to south, it seems unlikely that the Menorah would have been meant to light up the Shulchan, seeing as only one lamp would actually have shone on it. In that case, we will have to explain the Pasuk under discussion to mean that the six lamps, three on either side, shall shine towards the lamp in the middle.


Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch

Mitzvah 3: Not to Eat the Gid ha'Nasheh

The only Mitzvah in 'Vayishlach' is that of Gid ha'Nasheh (not to eat the sciatic nerve), as the Torah writes "Therefore the B'nei Yisrael shall not eat the Gid ha'Nasheh" (Bereishis 32:33). The Torah is not merely informing us here that because of the episode that took place with their father, Ya'akov, his children willingly refrain from eating the Gid ha'Nasheh, but that they are forbidden to do so.


This Mitzvah serves as a hint to Yisrael that whatever the extent of their suffering at the hands of the nations, and above all, the sons of Eisav, they should know that they will not perish. They will always retain their identity, until eventually; someone will arise and redeem them from their oppressors. This is based on the tradition that the angel who fought with Ya'akov Avinu was none other than the angel of Eisav. He came to exterminate Ya'akov and his children, but all he succeeded in doing was making him lame by touching his thigh.

And in the same way, his descendents cause the descendents of Ya'akov constant pain and anguish. But in the end, the salvation will arrive. Just as with their father Ya'akov, the sun shone and cured him from his limp, so too will the sun of Mashi'ach eventually shine, and cure us from our ailments and redeem us. May it happen speedily in our days.


This Mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to men and women alike. Whoever transgresses and eats a Gid ha'Nasheh, even if it is less than a k'Zayis (an olive-volume), or who eats a k'Zayis of a large Gid ha'Nasheh, is due to receive Malkos (thirty-nine lashes).


Mitzvah 4: Kidush ha'Chodesh

It is a Mitzvah incumbent upon the senior Beis-Din of Semuchim to sanctify the months and to declare leap-years (when they fall due), and to fix the Yamim-Tovim accordingly, as the Torah writes in Bo (12:2) "This month shall be for you the head of the months". The Pasuk means that when you see the new moon, you shall fix Rosh Chodesh, or even if you don't see it, if you know that it is due to be seen according to the reckoning that was handed down at Sinai (which is known as the 'Sod ha'Ibur'). And this Mitzvah incorporates that of Ibur Shanim (declaring a leap year), since both aspects share the same objective of fixing the Yamim-Tovim in their right time.

However, there are two other sources that indicate the Mitzvah of 'Ibur Shanim'; one in Bo (13:10) "And you shall observe this statute in its time", and the other in Re'ei (16:1) "Observe the month of spring, and make the Pesach".

The above is the opinion of the Rambam. The Ramban however, based on the Pesukim in Bo and Re'ei (that we just quoted) list Ibur Shanim as an independent Mitzvah. And that is also the opinion of the Ba'al Halachos Gedolos.


The procedure of Kidush ha'Chodesh is as follows. Two Kasher witnesses appear in front of Beis-Din and testify that they saw the new moon in such and such a position. Beis-Din for their part, after cross-examining them, fix Rosh Chodesh by their testimony, and declare that day to be Rosh Chodesh.

The reason that the Mitzvah requires Semuchin, is because, as the Chazal explain, the words "This month shall be for you ... " imply that the Chachamim who will later fix Rosh Chodesh must be people of the caliber of Moshe and Aharon (to whom G-d was speaking), such as the Beis-Din ha'Gadol.

Furthermore, Chazal derive from the ensuing words "Speak to the congregation of Yisrael", that the Beis-Din must represent the whole of Yisrael, implying that they are the wisest men in Yisrael, which is again a reference to the Beis-Din ha'Gadol.

A great Chacham, who received Semichah in Eretz Yisrael, has the authority to declare Rosh Chodesh even in Chutz la'Aretz, provided he left nobody like him in Eretz Yisrael, as indeed, Chananyah the nephew of Rebbi Yehoshua, and Rebbi Akiva ben Yosef respectively, did in their time.

Unless the above conditions are fulfilled, nobody has the right to declare Rosh Chodesh or to fix leap-years.

In that case, you may well ask, seeing as nowadays there are no Semuchim, how do we arrange our calendar?

The answer is that we rely on Hillel ha'Nasi, the son of Rebbi Yehudah Nesi'ah (grandson of Rebbi), who was the greatest in his generation, and who was conversant with the 'Sod ha'Ibur'. He fixed the calendar, and sanctified, in advance, the months and the years until the arrival of Eliyahu ha'Navi, who will herald the coming of Mashi'ach.


For sponsorships and adverts call 651 9502

Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues

This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper,
provided that this notice is included intact.

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
For information on subscriptions, archives, and
other Shema Yisrael Classes,
send mail to
Jerusalem, Israel