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

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Vol. 5 No. 22

Parshas Vayakhel-Pikudey
(Parshas Poroh)

The Three Worlds

The Mishkon was divided into three sections, each with its own distinctive character - the Courtyard, which housed the copper altar, on which most of the sacrifices were offered, the Kodesh, where the Menorah, the table and the golden altar stood, and the Kodesh Kodshim, the home of the Oron ha'Kodesh

Rabeinu Bachye explains that these three areas resembled the three worlds leading up to G-d's Throne - this world, the world of the sun, moon, stars and planets and the world of the angels (which in turn, correspond to the three sections of Tefilah: Birchas ha'Shachar, Pesukei de'Zimra and Shema and its B'rochos).

The Mishkon in fact, is a microcosm of the universe, and demonstrates the manner in which G-d governs the world, as He already demonstrated to Ya'akov Ovinu, when Ya'akov, on his way to Choron, dreamt of the ladder. There the Torah speaks of "a ladder placed on the ground, with its top reaching the sky, and behold angels of G-d ascending and descending it. And behold Hashem was standing over him."

Everything that happens in this world, happens via the medium of the heavenly bodies (as is born out by the science of astrology).

The Heavenly bodies themselves have no mind of their own. Their power to influence this world and to dictate its course is dependent entirely upon the influence that they receive from the world of the angels who, in turn, pass on to them the instructions that they have received from Hashem Himself. To understand this just a little, is to gain a better understanding of G-d's power, magnificence and omnipotence - and must fill a person with deep awe before His Majesty.

This is similar, explains Rabeinu Bachye, to the composition of man, whose three parts, the head, which houses the brain (which he refers to as the world of speech), the heart and the lower body, correspond to the above three words: the brain - to the world of the angels; the heart (which pumps life to all the limbs) - to that of the sun and the moon (which also supplies life to the animal and plant worlds); the lower body - to the physical world in which we live. And in the same way as the Shechinah rested on the ladder - symbolising the tzadikim's direct access to G-d, so too, does man merit that the Shechinah rests on him through the Tefilin, which he wears on his arm next to his heart, and on his head (corresponding to the two Cherubs).

And these are the three worlds of the three sections of the Mishkon: the Courtyard corresponds to the physical world, depicted by the animals with which the avodah is performed, the Kodesh, which houses the holy vessels that portray the glory of G-d - like the heavenly bodies, about whom Dovid ha'Melech wrote in Tehilim (19:2) "The Heaven tells Hashem's glory". And the Kodesh Kodshim, where the Oron, the Luchos and the Keruvim are situated - unseen but seeing - resembles the world of the angels, the world of speech and the Divine Throne above it.

Here was the focal point of the entire Mishkon. This was where G-d descended to supervise his people and to tend to all their needs. Like the Torah wrote by the ladder, immediately after its reference to the world of the angels "And behold Hashem stood over him". Here too, it was from between the two Cherubs, from the lid of the Oron that Hashem spoke to Moshe. There was the centre of Divine communication.

The Kodesh Kodshim may have been the most silent and unused spot in the Beis-ha'Mikdosh, but that was not due to its insignificance, but rather to the fact that it was the centre of activity. It was the most hallowed and the most powerful spot in the world. It was the point where Hashem and Yisroel became one. (Sequel to ‘The Great Illusion’ Parshas Terumah)

(Parshas Poroh)
(Yechezkel 36: 16-38)

The tum'as mes which the ashes of the Poroh Adumah came to purify, was a physical one, not directly connected with sin. If anything, the opposite is true, since burying one's dead is a mitzvah which renders one tomei, and, notwithstanding the mitzvah, the tum'ah requires purification.

On the other hand, the theme of tum'ah, which recurs in the Haftorah again and again, has a connotation of sin. The connection between the two connotations becomes clear, when we bear in mind that the source of death, which in turn, is the cause of tum'as mes, for which the ashes of the Poroh Adumoh were needed, is the sin of Odom and Chavah. Consequently, even if tum'ah per se, is not directly connected with sin, it nevertheless symbolises sin, inasmuch as, as well as being the direct result of the first sin, it also bears an inherent reminder of its ominous character, by rendering the tomei person something of an outcast, and by radically affecting his powers of reasoning, which traditionally we know to be a fact.

The Haftorah begins by comparing Yisroel to a nidah. Just as a nidah is only temporarily temei'oh, and her husband distances her only for the period of her tum'ah, but gladly welcomes her back when this period terminates, so too has G-d sent Yisroel into exile only for the period of their tum'ah. This is an assurance that the time will come when Yisroel will become purified from their sins, and Hashem will gladly return them from their lands of exile (Redak). (See also Rashi at the end of Eichoh 1:1).

The Novi then describes how Yisroel rendered the land impure with its abominations, and how G-d responded by sending them into exile. However, their extended stay in exile was a desecration of G-d's Holy Name, due to their enemies' claim that they had defeated Yisroel and sent them into exile, and that G-d was powerless to prevent it. And what's more, the longer the golus lasted, the greater the chillul Hashem, since the gentiles then argued that, not only was Hashem unable to prevent the exile from taking place, but He was also unable to redeem them from golus.

Consequently, when G-d decids to take Yisroel out of golus, it will not be because they deserved it, but rather in order to spare His Name further degradation. In order that the nations of the world will know and acknowledge His greatness, so the Chillul Hashem should turn into a Kiddush Hashem.

When that happens, G-d will gather us from the nations, and bring us back to Eretz Yisroel, He will purify us from our sins and give us a new heart and a new spirit - a heart and a spirit that will ensure our loyalty to Hashem and adherence to his Torah. We will once again be His people, and He, our G-d. There will be an abundance of food, so that we need never again suffer the shame of famine.

'And you will remember your evil ways' writes the Novi, 'and your bad deeds, and you will be deeply embarrassed by your sins and abominations' - when you realise how you paid Hashem with bad in exchange for the good that He constantly performs with you. It is not for your sake that I am redeeming you,' the Novi stresses. 'Be ashamed and embarrassed' - the very fact that the redemption takes place despite the fact that you don't deserve it, is enough reason to feel ashamed and embarrassed - and shame and embarrassment are among the first stages of teshuvah.

When the time arrives, Hashem promises, He will purify us from all our sins, inhabit the cities, and rebuild all the ruins. The desolate land will once again be tilled - it will become like Gan Eden. And the gentile nations will know that it is I who am building up the ruins. At that time, Hashem will listen to our prayers and multiply us like sheep - like the holy sheep which were brought to Yerusholayim on Pesach, and on all the Yomim-tovim. He will increase us like sheep, and bless us with an abundance of cattle, "and they will know that I am Hashem".

About The Mitzvos

Our sages have said that if someone sits and refrains from doing a sin, he receives reward as if he had actually performed a mitzvah (Makos 23b). This does not mean that one receives reward for not killing, not stealing and not committing adultery as many times in the day as there are seconds. Why not? Because that would make a mockery of Divine justice and would diminish the value of mitzvos to the point that they would hardly be worth striving to perform. What Chazal do however mean, is that every time one is faced with the temptation to sin, and one withstands the temptation and refrains from sinning, that effort is considered a mitzvah and earns one no less a reward than someone who has actually performed one

This being the case, one is well advised, upon feeling the urge to sin, to refrain from doing so, having specifically in mind because that is what G-d commanded us to do, rather than because someone is watching, or because it does not seem right, or because of some other ulterior motive. Why is that? Because to desist from sin is a mitzvah, as we just explained, and 'mitzvos require specific kavonoh' (the intent to perform them - see 'About the Mitzvos' Parshas Vayeishev).

(The Mitzvos Asei)
Adapted from the Seifer ha'Mitzvos ha'Kotzer of the Chofetz Chayim.

21. To rejoice on the Yomim-Tovim - as the Torah writes in Re’ei ‘and you shall rejoice on your chag" (16:14). When the Beis Hamikdosh stood, the mitzvah to rejoice comprised bringing peace-offerings, over and above the ‘Shalmei Chagigah’ that one brought - these were called ‘Shalmei Simchah’. A woman was also obliged to fulfill this mitzvah and bring Shalmei Simchah ( or to share them with her husband or with someone else).

Nowadays, the mitzvah is confined to meat and wine (for men) - and every man is obliged to make his wife happy on Yom-tov by buying her new clothes, and by distributing sweet things to his children (many sages have been known to stress that this obligation takes priority over spending more money for superior matzos or a more beautiful esrog.) One must also make sure that the poor are happy. In fact, someone who ignores the poor, is not performing a simchah of mitzvah, but one of his stomach - and such a simchah is a disgrace, as the possuk writes in Mal’achi "And I will scatter the dung on your faces, the faces of your chag."

Even though eating and drinking on Yom-tov is a mitzvah, this does not mean that one should indulge in drinking wine, jesting and light-headedness, because that is just wild behaviour and foolishness. The simchah that we have been commanded is one of G-d - worship, and it is impossible to serve G-d through jokes, light-headedness and drunkenness, only through the joy of a mitzvah. In fact, the simchah that a person develops through the fulfillment of a mitzvah is in itself, a tremendous act of G-d - worship.

Our sages have taught in Beitzah (15b) that Yom-tov should be ‘half for Hashem (davening and learning) and half for you’(eating and drinking)

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

22. To destroy the chometz on the fourteenth of Nissan - as the Torah writes in Bo (12:15) "But on the first day you shall destroy the yeast from your houses". And our sages had a tradition that ‘the first day’ in this instance means the day before - the fourteenth of Nissan, before the time that the chometz may no longer be eaten. The destruction comprises destroying all known chometz from one’s possession ( though this is a Rabbinical obligation, not a Torah one ) ; chometz that is not known, should be nullified in one’s heart and considered as if it did not exist - as if he had no need for it (which is the basic Torah requirement, even regarding Chometz of which one is aware).

It is a Rabbinical obligation to search for Chometz by candle-light, because on the eve of the fourteenth of Nissan - specifically then, and not by day - everyone is at home, and also because candle-light is better for searching than the light of the sun.

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

23. To eat matzoh on the first night of Pesach - as the Torah writes in Sh’mos (12) " the night you shall eat matzos."

Matzoh must comprise one of the five species of grain: wheat, barley, spelt, oats and rye.

A child who is able to eat matzoh should be educated to eat a kezayis of matzoh at the Seder.

It is a Rabbinical prohibition to eat Matzoh on erev Pesach, in order to eat it at the Seder with an appetite. Morror is only a mitzvah de’Rabbonon, which nevertheless requires a b’rochoh. Charoses is also a mitzvah de’Rabbonon, but it requires no b’rochoh, since it is not an intrinsic mitzvah, but subsidiary to the morror.

The mitzvah applies eveywhere, and at all times, to men and women alike.

(The reason that women are obliged to eat matzoh, despite the fact that it is a positive mitzvah that is connected with time [ a category of mitzvah from which women are normally exempt], is because the Torah compares eating matzoh to not eating chometz. Consequently, whoever is included in the latter is also included in the former.)

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