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

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Vol. 7   No. 22

Parshas Vayakhel

Reflections on Parshas Shekolim

Adapted from the Torah Temimah

Why A Half? There is a discussion in the Yerushalmi in Shekolim (2:3) as to why the Torah prescribed a half-shekel for the mitzvah of machtzis ha'shekel. Both opinions ascribe it to the fact that it came to atone for the sin of the Golden Calf; according to one, it was because they sinned at mid-day (half way through the day); according to the other, because they sinned after six hours - and half a shekel is the equivalent of six garmisin (a coin of that time). And a third opinion cited there (Rebbi Nechemyah quoting Rebbi Yochanan ben Zakai) ascribes it to the fact that they had violated the ten commandments. They therefore had to give half a shekel, the equivalent of ten geiroh (another coin of that time) towards the construction of the Mishkan, which came to atone for the sin of the Golden Calf.

Yet a fourth reason is given by Resh Lokish in the Medrash Tanchuma: because the ten brothers sold Yosef for twenty silver pieces, and each brother received one silver coin, which was the equivalent of half a shekel. (According to Resh Lakish, the half-shekel which was used to construct the silver sockets of the Mishkon(if not the entire Mishkon) came to atone for the sale if Yosef).


The Half-Shekel and the Yam Suf

"All those who 'pass by the counting' from twenty years and onwards ... ". The Yerushalmi in Shekolim (1:3) extrapolates from the words "Kol ho'over" ('all who pass' which can also mean 'all who cross'), that whoever crossed the Yam-Suf was obligated to donate the half-shekel - even Kohanim and Levi'im, who did not 'pass by the counting' (since it was Moshe who went to their tents to count them), nor were they counted from the age of twenty (but from thirty).


It's a Man's Mitzvah!

The Torah Temimah also uses this last d'roshoh to explain why the Yerushalmi there needs to preclude women from the mitzvah of machtzis ha'shekel (from the posuk "and each man shall give the ransom of his soul"). After all, he points out, the women were not counted (the main purpose of the half-shekel donation - nor, one may add, did they participate in the sin of the Golden Calf, for which the half-shekel atoned)? So why should it even be necessary to preclude them?

But they did cross the Yam Suf, which explains why.


But Not Today, it Isn't!

Regarding the minhag of giving a half coin before Purim, the Mogen Avrohom in Siman 694 questions the Hagohos Mordechai, who includes women and children in the obligation to participate, seeing as women and children were not obligated to participate in the original mitzvah.

The Torah Temimah suggests that, even though the current custom to give half a shekel before Purim is linked to the original donation of a half-shekel, from which women and children were exempt (because they were not counted), the real reason behind the donation before Purim is to commemorate the miracle of Purim, as the Gemoro in Megilah (13b) hints when it writes: 'Hashem, knowing full well that Homon was going to give Achashveirosh all those shekolim to destroy Yisroel, pre-empted that with the mitzvah of Machtzis ha'Shekel.'

Consequently, just as women and children are obliged to fulfill the other mitzvos of Purim, so too, must they fulfill this one.


Wot, No Fiery Shekel?

The Yerushalmi (6:4) also quotes Rebbi Meir, who learns from the posuk "This is what they shall give", that Hashem showed Moshe a half-shekel of fire. Rebbi Meir is of the opinion that since Hashem made a point of showing Moshe the coin of fire and saying to him "Like this you shall give!", one may never donate a coin worth less than the value of the half-shekel of those days.

The halochoh however, is not like Rebbi Meir, and one may donate the half-shekel of that time, even if it is worth less than the half-shekel of Moshe's time.

With this, we can resolve a difficulty posed by Tosfos in Menochos (29a). Tosfos comments on the B'raysa there, which lists three things that Moshe found difficult, and which therefore Hashem found necessary to point at with the finger (because by all of them the Torah writes "This ..." ["zeh"]: the Menorah, the New moon and the forbidden insects). Why, asks Tosfos, does the Tana not include the half-shekel (see also Rashi - Ki Siso 30:13)?

According to what we just wrote, explains the Torah Temimah, the kashya of Tosfos is easily resolved - because that is the opinion of Rebbi Meir, which is not the accepted one.


Thirteen or Twenty

The Rambam and the Ramban maintain that the obligation to donate the half shekel begins from the age of thirteen. True, the posuk here (30:14) gives the age as twenty, but that posuk refers to the half-shekel that they donated for the construction of the silver sockets. In the previous posuk, which refers to the half-shekel with which they purchased the sacrifices, this is not mentioned.

The Bartenura however (Shekolim 1:3), the Seifer ha'Chinuch and others give the starting age for the half-shekel donation as twenty, since the twenty-year age limit appears to pertain to the entire parshah (and this is also the opinion of the Gro).


Exempt From Musaf

The Torah Temimah quotes the Besomim Rosh, who exempts women from davening Musaf, because the chief source for tefilas Musaf is the Korban Musaf which was bought with the half-shekolim, which women did not donate. Based on that Besomim Rosh, he extrapolates that, according to the opinion of the Bartenura that we just cited, (who maintains that anyone under twenty is exempt from donating the half-shekel), anyone under twenty is also exempt from davening Musaf. Moreover, even assuming that he is permitted to volunteer a tefilas Musaf, he will not be permitted to daven Musaf in the capacity of a Shli'ach Tzibur, because anyone who is not obligated to perform a mitzvah, cannot render yotze someone who is.

The Torah Temimah's comparison however, is questionable, on the basis of Chazal, who differentiate in a number of places, between a woman, who will never become obligated to perform a certain mitzvah, and a kotton, who will. It is therefore possible for a young man who has reached the age of bar-mitzvah to render the congregation yotze with the Tefilas Musaf, seeing as he will become obligated when he turns twenty, even though a woman cannot.


Parshah Pearls



"And Moshe assembled all the congregation of Yisroel and said to them 'These are the things that G-d commanded you to do: Six days you shall do work and on the seventh day is Shabbos ... ' "

The Gemoro in Shabbos (70a) derives the thirty-nine melochos of Shabbos from the words "Eileh ha'devorim" ("eileh" = 36, "Devorim" = 2, "ha'(Devorim)" = 1.


They asked the Gro about the seemingly strange long list of words in one of the Piyutim in Parshas Shekolim "Oz ro'iso, ve'sofarto, ve'heichanto, ve'chokarto, u'modadto, ve'chalto, ve'shokalto ... ".

He replied that the number of expressions there totals thirty-nine, hinting at the thirty-nine melochos employed by G-d to create the world. Those are the melochos from which He desisted on Shabbos, and that is why thirty-nine melochos are forbidden to us on Shabbos.

And this symbolises the 'tal' (the dew), whose numerical value is thirty-nine, and which, due to a covenant that G-d made with it, never ceases to fall. As a matter of fact, it is the Ma'aser that Heaven gives of its produce each day (P'ninim mi'Shulchan ha'Gro).


Who Goes First?

The Torah places the mitzvah of Shabbos before that of the Mishkan, explains Rashi (35:2) to teach us that the construction of the Mishkan does not override Shabbos. In Ki Siso, the Torah reverses the order, placing the Mishkan before Shabbos, and it is from the word "Ach" that we learn the very same thing - Rashi 31:13.

Why, asks the Kli Yokor, does the Torah there place the Mishkan first, and then find it necessary to add the word "Ach"? Why did it not put Shabbos first (like it does here), dispensing with the need to add "Ach"?


The answer, he explains, is based on the concept that Shabbos demonstrates the honor of G-d (that He created the world in six days ...) and the Mishkan, the honour of Yisroel (because it proves that G-d forgave Yisroel for the sin of the Golden Calf).

Now, in the parshah of Ki Siso, where G-d is speaking to Moshe, He expresses His love for Yisroel by placing the honour of Yisroel (the building of the Mishkan) before His own (Shabbos) - thereby creating the need to add "Ach". Whereas in Vayakhel, it was Moshe speaking to Yisroel, and who, as the Shli'ach of the people, waived their honour in favour of G-d's to place Shabbos first, in which case "Ach" is not needed.


Now We're Quits
But why would we have even thought that the construction of the Mishkan, an ordinary Asei, should override Shabbos which, after all, incorporates an asei and a lo sa'aseh, and a lo sa'aseh punishable by death to boot, asks the Kli Yokor?

And he points to the numerous aspects of the avodas ha'Korbonos that did override Shabbos. If so, it would have been quite natural for the construction of the Mishkan to override Shabbos too, had the Torah not indicated otherwise.


No Fires!

"Do not light a fire in all your dwellings on Shabbos" (35:3).

The Torah needs to single out the melochoh of kindling a fire (out of all the thirty-nine melochos) for one of three reasons:

1) Because of the inference "Do not light a fire in all your dwellings on Shabbos", but do light one in the Beis ha'Mikdosh.

2) To preclude from the contention that, just as whatever is forbidden in the house is forbidden in the Beis ha'Mikdosh (i.e. the bulk of the melochos), so too, whatever is permitted in the Beis ha'Mikdosh (lighting a fire), ought to be permitted in the house.

3) To warn us by way of a hint, not to cause a conflagration by desecrating the Shabbos, in keeping with the Gemoro in Shabbos (119b) where, based on a posuk in Yirmiyah (27:17) Rav says that fires are common there where the Shabbos is desecrated.


The Unique Perek Mishnayos

"And he made the Courtyard, for the south side, the hangings of the Courtyard, twined linen, a hundred amoh" (38:9).

The Mishnah in Perek 'Eizehu Mekomon' states 'and they (Kodshei Kodshim) are eaten within the hangings by male Kohanim ... '.

We need to understand, asks the Gro, why the Tana refers to 'the hangings', which constituted the walls of the Mishkon, whereas in other places in Shas, the Tana always refers to the avodoh of the Mikdosh (not of the Mishkon); and in the Mikdosh there were no hangings, but a proper wall?


To answer this question, he refers to the Beis Yosef quoting the Ro'oh, who, as a reason for reciting, of all the chapters of Mishnayos, specifically that of 'Eizehu Mekomon' each morning, explains that this particular chapter is unique, insofar as there is not one dispute in the entire chapter.

And why is that, asks the Gro? It is because (for some undisclosed reason) this chapter was deliberately preserved in the same loshon as it was handed down to us by Moshe from Har Sinai. And in that generation of course, it was the Mishkon that stood - with curtains as its walls, not the Beis ha'Mikdosh with its wooden walls (P'ninim mi'Shulchan ha'Gro).



The Amidah
(Part I)

And the Angels Declared

The Gemoro in Megilah (17b) describes how a hundred and twenty sages, among them many prophets, composed the Amidah. This was necessary, explains the Levush, because they based it on the reaction of the angels to a variety of historical events that took place in the course of history , as is written in Pirkei de'Rebbi Eliezer:

When Avrohom was saved from the furnace in Ur Kasdim, the angels declared 'Mogein Avrohom', and when Yitzchok was spared from being sacrificed at the Akeidoh (after having already been bound), they exclaimed 'Mechayeh ha'meisim'.


When Ya'akov prayed at the gates of mercy, and sanctified G-d's Name, they declared 'ho'keil ha'kodosh', and when the angel Gavriel taught Yosef seventy languages, they exclaimed 'Chonein ha'Do'as'.


When Re'uven sinned with Bilhoh, was sentenced to death and did teshuvah, the angels declared 'ho'Rotzeh bi's'shuvoh', and when Yehudah admitted publicly to the role he had played in the episode with Tomor, they exclaimed 'Chanun ha'marbeh li's'lo'ach'.


When Ya'akov prayed at the gates of mercy, and sanctified G-d's Name, they declared 'ho'Keil ha'Kodosh', and when the angel Gavriel taught Yosef seventy languages, they exclaimed 'Chonein ha'Do'as'.


When G-d told Yisroel in Egypt that He would redeem them, they declared 'Go'eil Yisroel', and when the Angel Refoel cured Avrohom (after his b'ris milah) they exclaimed 'Rofei cholim'.


When Yitzchok planted seeds and a hundred times more than he planted grew, they declared 'Mevorech ha'Shonim', and when Ya'akov was reunited with Yosef, they exclaimed 'Mekabeitz nidchei amo Yisroel'.


When G-d said to Moshe 've'Eileh ha'mishpotim', the angels declared 'Melech ohev tzedokoh u'mishpot', and when G-d drowned the Egyptians in the Reed Sea, they exclaimed 'Shover oyvim u'machni'a zeidim'.


When G-d told Ya'akov that Yosef would place his hand over his eyes and Ya'akov trusted Him - and later, this came true - he declared 'Mish'on u'mivtoch la'tzadikim', and when Shlomoh concluded the construction of the Beis ha'Mikdosh, they exclaimed 'Boneh Yerusholayim'.


When Yisroel crossed the Yam Suf and sang the Shiroh, the angels declared 'Matzmi'ach keren yeshu'oh', and when Yisroel sighed and cried in anguish to Hashem, and He answered their prayers, they exclaimed 'Shomei'a tefiloh'.


When the Shechinoh descended on the Mishkon for the first time, they declared 'ha'Machzir Shechinoso' (which had departed when they sinned by the Golden Calf and had now returned); others attribute it to the returning of the Shechinoh when they built the second Beis ha'Mikdosh, in which case what they said was 'ha'Machzir Shechinoso le'Tziyon'.


When Shlomoh brought the Oron into the Kodesh Kodshim, and his prayers were answered, and he gave thanks to G-d, the angels declared 'ha'Tov Shimcho ul'l'cho no'eh lehodos', and when Yisroel entered Eretz Yisroel and the posuk "And I will give peace in the land" became established, they exclaimed 'ha'Mevorech es amo Yisroel ba'sholom'.


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