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

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Vol. 4 No. 22

Parshas Va'Yakheil

Collective Participation

When the Torah first orders the construction of the Mishkon, it makes no mention of the Shabbos, nor does it necessitate a public gathering of all Jews, as it does in the opening paragraph of this Parshah.

The Sheim mi'Sh'muel, in conjunction with his father, the Sochatshover Gaon, ascribes this discrepancy to the two different periods in which the two commands were issued. The Torah first mentions the Mishkon (in Parshas Terumah) before the sin of the Eigel ha'Zohov, (in Parshas Ki Sisso) has been perpetrated. At that time, he writes, each individual had the right to build his bomoh wherever he wished, and to sacrifice on it to Hashem.

This changed, however, with the sin of the Golden Calf. From then onwards, it was no longer permitted to build individual bomos, sacrifices were from now on restricted to the one communal Mizbei'ach - in the one communal Beis Ha'mikdosh.

Before the sin, the Torah wrote "Take my voluntary gift from any man whose heart is willing", inferring that each Jew, as an individual, had the power to build the Mishkon, and it is for that very reason that the Torah did not deem it necessary to make a public gathering on that occasion, nor is that episode linked with the Shabbos. In this week's Parshah, however, the Torah changes its attitude towards the Mishkon (and indeed its very concept of Mishkon takes on different ramifications). From now on, the individual can play no major role in the construction of, or the running of, the Mishkon, since it has now become a communal undertaking. And it is to stress this point that the Torah does two things: it links the Mishkon to the Shabbos and it opens the Parshah with the order to gather all the people together.

There are some who connect this command to the mitzvah of Shabbos, when it is a mitzvah to gather in groups to study the laws of Shabbos - since people are free from their mundane activities of the week, and therefore have time to sit down together to study, or to hear a droshoh from the Rov.

The Sochatshover Gaon and his son, the Sheim mi'Sh'muel, however, take the opposite view. It was because the Mishkon now functioned as a house of worship and that, in that capacity, it had now become the exclusive location of true successful worship of G-d, that the Torah now commands Moshe Rabbeinu to present the Parshah of the Mishkon in front of the entire nation, when they were all gathered together before Hashem. And that it is only because Shabbos, too, serves the purpose of uniting Klal Yisroel ("They all unite [on Shabbos] in the mystic secret of one" [Rozo de'Shabbos]), that the Torah inserts the Parshah of Shabbos here (i.e. incidentally to the Parshah of the Mishkon).

The reason for the change from individual power to collective responsibility would appear to be a classical example of "midoh ke'negged midoh". If, before the sin of the Eigel, each Jew had the power to serve Hashem on his own altar, whereas, after the sin of the Eigel, that power was withdrawn from the individual, to be granted only to the community as a unit, then, no doubt, that restriction was not incidental to the sin of the Eigel, but was directly linked to it. In fact, it was because the B'nei Yisroel gathered before Aharon, as described by the Torah in Ki Sisso (21:1) to make them a golden calf, that the Torah instructed the Mishkon to be presented in its new format of collective participation.

And no doubt, it is for the same reason that, nowadays, the power of prayer lies exclusively with the community. It may well be that, before the sin of the Eigel ha'Zohov, each individual member of Klal Yisroel could penetrate the Heavens and attain his goal through his own individual prayers. But, with the sin of the Eigel, which was performed communally, a dramatic change took place. From then on, the only way to break through the iron wall, created by the sin of the Eigel Ha'zohov to divide between Hashem and ourselves, was by serving Hashem (Tefillah) communally - i.e. we united to serve the Golden Calf, we must now unite to serve Hashem. It will no longer work individually.


Adapted from the Gro

The Half Shekel

The Gemoro in Menochos (29a) cites a B'rayso, in which Tana de'Bei R. Yishmoel lists three things which Moshe found difficult to understand, and which the Torah therefore describes with the word "zeh", to indicate that Hashem showed Moshe with His finger: 1. The Menorah; 2. Rosh Chodesh (the New Moon); 3. The eight forbidden shrotzim (rodents).

Tosfos there explains that the B'rayso omits the list of wild beasts with which Moshe also had difficulty, and by which the Torah therefore writes "zos ha'chayoh" etc. Again, the Torah is inferring that Hashem needed to point with His finger, as it were, to clarify to Moshe exactly what He meant. However, the B'rayso only listed those things where the Torah used the word "zeh", not "zos".

This answer does at first, appear a little feeble. What is the difference as to whether the Torah uses the word "zeh" or "zos"? (Zu hi shiyvah, zu hi bi'ah!) We do find however, that Chazal very often convey lists in threes, and it may well be that they will use the slightest pretext to exclude a fourth object from the list.

Be that as it may, Tosfos then goes on to ask about the half-Shekel, by which the Torah does write "zeh yitnu", yet the B'rayso fails to include it in its list. Why is that? He gives two answers:

1. With the half-shekel, it was not just a matter of Moshe finding it difficult to understand exactly what Hashem meant, but rather that it would have been impossible for Moshe to have known the exact shape and size of the coin without being down the coin directly.

Presumably, what Tosfos means is that Moshe was being told to mint a new coin, something which it is impossible to do to exact specifications, unless one first sees a picture of the coin in question.

However, it is not at all clear how a new coin will differ from a new Menorah, which would appear to be equally impossible for Moshe to understand, yet it is included in the B'rayso.

2. With the Menorah, the new moon and the rodents, it was the physical shape that Moshe had difficulty in understanding, whereas with the half-shekel it was not the shape that bothered him, but how it was possible for such a small coin to atone for a sin as large as that of the Golden Calf.

The New Coin

Rabeinu Bachye (following in the footsteps of the Ramban) writes that since Moshe had become King of Yisroel, he minted a new coin, which he called a Shekel because its intrinsic value tallied with its weight ("mishkol" means weight). In other words, it contained no impurities.

And he called it a holy Shekel because it was to be used for many mitzvos (such as Pidyon ha'ben and Erchon) - and the essence of sanctity lies in the mitzvos (just as the Torah writes in the Parshah of tzitzis, "In order that you shall remember and perform all of My mitzvos, and you will be holy to your G-d).

The Four Parshiyos

The four Parshiyos are based fairly and squarely on the Mishnah in Megilloh (3:4), and virtually all the information is to be found there in the Bartenura and the Meforshei ha'Mishnah.

As far as the order of the four Parshiyos goes, there are two or three main criteria upon which everything depends.

1. Parshas Shekolim falls on Shabbos Rosh Chodesh Adar or on the Shabbos before (never on the Shabbos after).

2. Parshas Zochor always falls on the Shabbos before Purim, and Parshas ha'Chodesh the Shabbos before Adar or that of Rosh Chodesh Adar.

3. Parshas Poroh always falls on the Shabbos before Parshas ha'Chodesh. Consequently, there is always a break between Parshas Shekolim and Parshas Zochor, unless Parshas Shekolim falls on Rosh Chodesh.

Consequently,Parshas Zochor is always read on the Shabbos before Purim, Parshas ha'Chodesh is right at the end of Adar, or on Rosh Chodesh Nissan. And Parshas Poroh always falls on the Shabbos after Parshas Zochor, unless Rosh Chodesh Nissan falls on Shabbos, when there is a break between Parshas Zochor and Parshas Poroh. The reason for postponing Parshas Poroh is so that it should fall as close to Nissan as possible, in order to place the warning to those who are Tomei Meis to become Tehor, closer to Pesach.


(Va'Yakheil) like the Minhag of the Ashkenazim (Melochim I 7:1-11)

The Novi records how Chirom, King of Tzor (Tyre), constructed some of the holy vessels that were used in the Beis Ha'mikdosh. They have already been described in the previous chapter, and the possuk repeats their specifications after their completion, in the same way as, in the Parshah, the Torah describes the manner in which Betzalel and his team built the Mishkan, although we were already given the same descriptions in Terumah and Tetzaveh.

Among the vessels that Sh'lomoh had built was one known as the "Yam shel Sh'lomoh". This was a huge round copper basin, ten amos in diameter, and five amos tall, which rested on twelve crouching copper bulls, three facing the North, three facing the South, three the East and three the West - although the top of the basin was round, the bottom three amos were square. The basin itself, which served as a mikveh for the Cohanim, was situated in the Azoroh. To prevent the water from becoming possul because of "mayim she'uvim" (drawn-water), its water was connected to the water of the "Mei Shilo'ach" (the stream of water that passed through the Azoroh), by means of holes the size of pomegranates, in the feet of the bulls. (Eiruvin 14) (See Rashi Melochim I 7:24 and Redak ibid. 26)

It is interesting to note that whereas Sh'lomoh Ha'melech accepted the invaluable assistance of the non-Jewish King Chirom in the manufacture of the earthenware vessels, and other metal accessories, he did not do so in the case of the "Klei Shoreis". The manufacture of the Altar, the Table, etc., which contained gold and which were holy, he reserved for himself, or at least for his own Jewish "shluchim". This distinction emerges clearly from the first section of the Haftorah, which deals with the earthenware and copper vessels, which are ascribed to the work of Chirom, whilst the last three pesukim describe how Sh'lomoh made the golden "Klei Shores".

Two final observations that emerge from this unusually short Haftorah (ten pesukim, instead of the usual minimum of twenty-one - three for each aliyah): one concerns the work of Chirom, the other that of Sh'lomoh:

Chirom cast the various copper basins, including the Yam shel Sh'lomoh, in underground clay kilns. The best quality clay for that purpose was to be found in the Jordan Valley, and that is where the vessels were manufactured.

Among the vessels that Sh'lomoh constructed were the Menoros. He actually constructed ten Menoros, which flanked the Menorah made by Moshe Rabeinu and which was originally used in the Mishkon - five on the right and five on the left, with Moshe's Menorah in the middle.

Chirom, King of Tzor, was a good friend of Sh'lomoh Ha'melech. He sent Sh'lomoh Broshim-wood (a type of cedar) as well as a huge amount of silver for the Beis Ha'mikdosh, in addition to the assistance mentioned earlier. The Seder Ha'doros writes that Chirom was alias Chiroh ho'Adulomi, father-in-law of Yehudah ben Ya'akov. This would make him twelve hundred years old. And, quoting a Medrash, he adds that Chirom was the Father of Nevuchadnetzar's mother. There is also a Medrash which lists Chirom, King of Tzor as one of the nine people who went alive into Gan Eden. Considering the role that Chirom played in the construction of the Beis Ha'mikdosh, it would be more than likely that it is this Chirom to which the Medrash refers. (See also Haftorah, Parshas Terumah, 2nd paragraph)

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