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

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Vol. 18   No. 22

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זיווג הגון בקרוב ממש

Parshas Vayakhel

In the Shadow of G-d

The Riva, citing Rashi in Eikev, informs us that there were actually two Aronos, one that Moshe made before he was even commanded on the construction of the Mishkan and all its vessels, the other, the one that Betzalel made.

Rashi there (10:1) relates how, after the second set of forty days on Har Sinai praying on behalf of K'lal Yisrael, G-d forgave Yisrael for the sin of the Golden Calf and first commanded him to carve out the second Luchos and then to make an Aron to house them. However, he explains, Moshe switched the order. He first made the Aron, because otherwise, where would he place the Luchos when they arrived?

And Rashi proves that the Aron mentioned there cannot possibly the one that Betzalel made, since they did not embark on the construction of the Mishkan until after Yom Kipur, when Moshe descended with the second Luchos.


The Gemara in B'rochos (55a) explains how although G-d had instructed Moshe to inform Betzalel to make the Mishkan, the Aron and the holy vessels, Moshe had inverted the order and instructed Betzalel to make the Aron, the holy vessels and the Mishkan. Whereupon Betzalel remarked that it is customary to construct the house first, and to bring in the furniture only afterwards! 'If I am to make the vessels first, he exclaimed, where will I put them? Perhaps', he suggested, 'G-d said to build the Mishkan first and then the vessels, and you inverted the order?'

At which Moshe declared 'Perhaps you were in the shadow of G-d (be'tzeil Keil hoyiso)', a play on Betzalel's name.


A question that we shall not deal with now is what Moshe found so praiseworthy in Betzalel's foresight? Now that he himself had gone 'in the shadow of G-d', why should Betzalel not do likewise? Moreover, was it not possible that Betzalel had simply taken his cue from him, in which case there was nothing remarkable about his comment?

The two-fold problem that we will deal with now is firstly, why did Moshe switch the order of G-d's instructions regarding himself, and secondly, having arrived at the conclusion that building the house must take precedence over building the vessels, what prompted him to instruct Betzalel to invert the order and to repeat G-d's instructions to him, the very instructions that he had himself inverted?


Before attempting to delve into the answer, it is important to note that neither did G-d instruct him, nor did he instruct Betzalel, to specifically construct the Vessels first and then the Mishkan. What happened was that G-d, and subsequently Moshe, had first referred to building the vessels and then, to building the Mishkan. Moshe and Betzalel did not change their instructions! What they changed was the order of priorities. That being the case, G-d on the one hand, and Moshe and Betzalel on the other, were referring to two different orders of priority on two different planes, both of which were necessary, and both of which were correct.

It was obvious that as far as the actual construction was concerned, the house had to precede the furniture. Consequently, G-d's instruction had nothing to do with the construction. G-d's instructions concerned the order of importance. The Holy Vessels (starting with the Aron) were the ultimate objective of the entire project - the Mishkan was merely a location in which to house them. And it was due to the superior status of the vessels that G-d mentioned them first. Indeed, it is precisely because of the vessels' superior status that Moshe switched the order and made the Mishkan first.

Let us go one step further. If in the world of Ma'aseh (action) the Mishkan had to take precedence over the Holy vessels, in the world of Machshavah (thought), precedence had to be given to the vessels. As we say every Friday Night "Sof ma'aseh be'Machshavah techilah" (See Page 4 'The Final Act').


That being the case, it is hardly surprising that Moshe, despite having reversed the order of G-d's initial instructions, took his cue from Him and issued Betzalel with the same instructions that G-d had issued him. Taking his cue from his Creator, he conveyed G-d's instructions to Betzalel according to the order of importance, from the vantage point of Machshavah (so that Betzalel would place his main focus on the vessels). He had not the least intention that Betzalel should actually build in that order, and more than G-d did when He instructed him. No doubt, had Betzalel not arrived at the same conclusion as he had, he would have told it to him. But now that he did, he exclaimed in admiration 'be'Tzeil Keil hoyiso!'

* * *

Parshah Pearls
Chayav Kareis for Every Melachah

"Do not burn a fire … on the day of Shabbos" (35:3).

According to one opinion cited by Rashi, the Melachah of lighting a fire comes 'Lechalek', to teach us that one is Chayav Kareis for each Melachah independently. The Riva adds that goes together with the principle that 'Any item that was part of a general k'lal (a group of items - the thirty-nine Melachos, in this case), and is then taken out of the K'lal to teach a specific ruling, that ruling is not confined to that item, but extends to all the items in the group. In other words, it is not only lighting a fire that carries with it a Chiyuv Kareis, but all the other Melachos too.


The Shulchan

"And he made the Shulchan and its staves … " (35:13).

Discussing the role of the Shulchan in the Mishkan (and in the Beis Hamikdash), Rabeinu Bachye explains that it served as the source of material blessing for the entire world. Indeed, he says, it was called Shulchan because G-d sent His blessing to the the Lechem ha'Panim on it (Perhaps the 'Nun' at the end of the world represents the Shechinah); and from the bread, the B'rachah extended to all the food in the world, thereby enabling people to eat and be satisfied (just as Chazal say with regard to the Lechem ha'Panim - A Kohen who received as little as the volume of a bean, ate and was satisfied.

'And this B'rachah. He explains further, 'was something from something (yesh me'yesh), since nobody has the power to produce something from nothing (yesh me'ayin), as we find in connection with the prophets Eliyahu and Elisha, both of whom performed miracles and produced an abundance of food only when there was something on which the miracle could take effect. Yesh me'ayin, he concludes, was something that G-d did at the Creation, but not anymore.


The Goats-Hair Curtains

"And he made the curtains of goats-hair" (36:14).

The Riva observes that the Torah says nothing about 'cherubs, work of a craftsman' with regard to these curtains. The reason for this is because they could not be seen from the top, on account of the curtains of ram and Tachash skins that covered them; nor could they be seen below, due to the bottom curtains of dyed wool and linen that covered the walls of the Mishkan and ran across the top. So what was the point of beautifying them?


Betzalel Made the Aron

"And Betzalel made the Aron" (37:1).

This is the only 'Vessel' in connection with which Betzalel's name is specifically mentioned. Rashi explains that this was because he was moser nefesh (put his heart and soul into it) for the manufacture of the Aron when constructing it. The Zohar explains that it was because he was the one to 'keep the covenant' that manufacturing the Aron fell into his lot. Interestingly, this is almost the total opposite of the Pasuk in Terumah. There the Torah writes with regard to every 'vessel' "and he (Betzalel) shall make … " with the sole exception of the Aron, where it writes "They shall make the Aron", so that everybody should become involved in the Aron's construction (as we explained there in 'Highlights from the Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos').

To explain the apparent contradiction, it is clear that whereas here, Betzalel was the one to actually construct the Aron, in Parshas Terumah, the Torah is teaching us that everybody was invited to play some role in its construction, either by donating wood or gold towards it, or by assisting Betzalel in some small way, or perhaps by having appropriate thoughts that would connect with its construction.

* * *


" … he made it (the Mizbei'ach ha'Olah) hollow (n'vuv), of boards (38:7).

The Ba'al ha'Turim (in Terumah) points out that the Gematriyah of "n'vuv" is sixty, hinting at the maximum number of Amos (sixty by sixty Amos) that the Mizbei'ach was permitted to be.

Note, that the Mizbei'ach of Moshe measured five by five Amos, whereas that of Shlomoh measured thirty-two by thirty-two Amos.



The Three Tools

"And G-d filled him (Betzalel) with a Divine Spirit, with wisdom (Chochmah), understanding (Binah) and knowledge (Da'as)" (35:31).

These are the very three tools that G-d used to create the world, says the Ba'al ha'Turim … , quoting Pesukim in Mishlei (3:19/20) "Hashem founded the earth with wisdom; He established the Heaven with understanding, "With His knowledge, the depths were split".

Similarly, with regard to the third Beis-Hamikdash, the Pasuk writes there (24:3/4) "Through wisdom will the House be built, through understanding will it be established and through knowledge will its chambers be filled with all dear and pleasant treasures".


The Top Half of the Mizbei'ach ha'Nechoshes

" And he made the Mizbei'ach ho'Oloh … and three Amos tall" (38:1).

Rashi in T'rumah cites Rebbi Yossi, who explains that the real height of the Mizbei'ach was ten Amos, and that the three Amos mentioned by the Torah refers to the top section of the Mizbei'ach exclusively, as we will now explain. The Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos, elaborating on Rebbi Yossi's opinion, explains that the three Amos began at the top edge of the Soveiv (see note following article). The Soveiv, also known as the Karkov, was built atop the Reshes, the copper (ornamental) netting, which rose one Amah from the halfway mark (five Amos from the floor, four Amos from the top of the Amah 'foundation' [known as the 'Y'sod']) of the Mizbei'ach. The Mizbeii'ach itself rose a further three Amos above the Soveiv, and the K'ronos (the four cubic blocks, one on each of the four corners of the Mizbei'ach) another Amah. This gave the Mizbei'ach a total height of ten Amos.

On top of the Mibei'ach, which measured five Amos, two Amos were taken up by two K'ranos (one Amah each) on each side, leaving three square Amos in the middle. Two of those Amos consisted of an Amah path for the Kohanim to walk on, and the remaining square Amah for burning the Korbanos.

The Torah makes no mention of a Kevesh (ramp), says the Riva. Nevertheless, we have a tradition that there was a ramp that led up to the Mizbei'ach on its south side, which had virtually no Y'sod.

The ramp in the Beis-Hamikdash, which began a short distance from the southern wall of the Chatzer, was thirty-two Amos long and sixteen Amos wide, overlapping half of the thirty-two Amos of the Mizbei'ach's south side.


The Amah Soveiv has two possible definitions. In the Beis-Hamikdash it was an Amah-wide ledge encircling the Mizbei'ach, which the Kohanim used to walk round the Mizbei'ach to perform various Avodos that were performed in the vicinity of the k'ranos.

In the Mishkan however, even assuming that the Mizbei'ach was ten Amos tall (like the one in the Beis-Hamikdash), there was no ledge. When performing the Avodah in the vicinity of the K'ranos, it seems, the Kohanim would climb the ramp to the top of the Mizbei'ach, and work there (See Rashi in Terumah 27:5).

* * *

The Final Act

"And Betzalel made the Aron" (37:1).

This Parshah follows the construction of the Mishkan (see Main Article, where we cited the adage 'Sof ma'aseh be'machshavah techilah').

The Iyun Tefilah makes the following comment with regard to that adage: Although Shabbos was only created at the end of the period of creation, it really came up first in G-d's mind. The Medrash compares this to a king who put up a Chupah, which he painted and decorated. All that was missing was the Kalah (the bride) to enter the Chupah. Is it not obvious that the Kalah preceded the Chupah in the king's mind?

And it compares it further to a king who ordered a signet ring. The ring was finished; all it lacked was the seal, which was the king's main objective in the first place.

Shabbos, the Iyun Tefilah explains, is the seal, the ultimate objective of the creation, and it is obvious that it is the objective that is uppermost in one's mind when one initially begins working on a project, even though it may only appear at the project's end.

See also Parshah Pearls (35:13) 'The Shulchan'.


The Eitz Yosef explains that Shabbos serves as the testimony that G-d created the world out of an absolute nothingness, What he means is, that had the world evolved, as many fools believe, it would not, it could not, have ceased its evolvement on the seventh, or on any other, day.

And He stopped creating out of nothing on Shabbos, because when it comes to creating something out of something, He never stopped, as the Pasuk writes in Bereishis (2:3)" … because on it He rested from all His work, which G-d created to do". The words "to do" indicate that G-d continued to create (something out of something) even after the Shabbos (See K'li Yakar).


Moving the Staves of the Aron

In Parshas Terumah in Parshah Pearls, we cited the Riva, who, citing the Ram from Coucy, explains that the staves of the Aron needed to be firmly wedged in the rings, so that when climbing a hill, the weight of the Aron should not slide down the pole and hit those who were carrying it at the back (and those in front when they descended).

Rabeinu Bachye however, quotes the Gemara in Yuma (72a), which proves from the Pasuk that, although anyone who removes the staves transgresses a Lo Sa'aseh, the staves are in fact arranged loosely in the rings, so that they can be moved backwards and forwards.

As for the problem with the Aron sliding whilst ascending or descending hills, refer to the question that we asked there (in Parshas Terumah 25:15).


The Luchos in the Aron

Commenting in Parshas Terumah, on the Pasuk (25:21) " … you shall put the lid on top of the Aron, and into the Aron, you shall place the (Luchos of) Testimony which I will give to you", Rashi asks what the Torah is coming to teach us.

Presumably, his question is based on the fact that the Torah already mentioned the latter statement earlier (in Pasuk 16). And he suggests that the Torah is teaching us here that the Luchos must be placed inside the Aron before putting on the lid (as opposed to first completing the Aron together with the lid, and then removing the lid and putting the Luchos inside. I never quite understood this Rashi, as the wording of the Pasuk implies just the opposite.

Rabeinu Bachye suggests a different interpretation of the Pasuk. According to him, the Torah is coming to teach us that the Aron should always contain the Luchos. Much in the same way as the Shulchan should never be without the Lechem ha'Panim on it.

* * *

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