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

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Vol. 21   No. 22

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Parshas Vayakhel

Shabbos and Mishkan
(Adapted from the Oznayim la'Torah)

"And Moshe gathered the entire congregation of Yisrael and he said to them "These are the things that G-d commanded to do them" (35:1).

Moshe gathered the people, to tell them about Shabbos and to instruct them to build the Mishkan.

What these two Mitzvos have in common, the Oznayim la'Torah explains, is that they both represent Kedushah - the one sanctity of time, the other, of place. The fact that Shabbos overrides the construction of the Mishkan, as Rashi explains, indicates that the sanctity of time is greater than that of location (see opening article, Ki Sissa).

And the reason that they are mentioned specifically here, he says, is due to the fact that both are antidotes to the sin of the Golden Calf. And as for Shabbos, the Gemara says in Shabbos (118) "Whoever keeps Shabbos properly, even if he served idols like the generation of Enosh, will be forgiven', not, he explains, because Shabbos atones for Avodah-Zarah, but because it strengthens one's faith in the One who created Heaven and earth.

The Mishkan, on the other hand, besides being in itself the ultimate symbol of the Oneness of Hashem (see Rashi in Korach 16:6), directly atones for the sin of the Golden Calf - as Chazal said 'Let the gold of the Mishkan come and atone for the gold of the Eigel ha'Zahav'. Hence the Medrash, quoted by the author, also says 'Let the gathering of Moshe come and atone for the gathering of Aharon'.


One in a Thousand


Moshe gathered the whole of Yisrael, the Oznayim la'Torah explains, as an act of demonstration to minimize the sin of the Golden Calf. See, he says, how more than six hundred thousand people donated towards the Mishkan, as well as women and children (Ramban), a total of over three million. The donations, he adds, came to atone for the sin of the Golden Calf, a sin in which only three thousand people participated (and they were not even fully-fledged members of K'lal Yisrael). This surely is a great defensive shield on behalf of Yisrael, in that such a small percentage of people actually sinned, and that in fact, the sinners, strangers who joined Yisrael at the last moment, who announced "These are your gods, Yisrael" numbered only one in a thousand and were therefore 'Bateil be'Elef' ('nullified in a thousand').


As is well-known, the women did not donate towards the Golden calf. The Oznayim la'Torah, citing Rabeinu Bachye, finds a hint for this in the Pasuk in Koheles (chapter 7), where Shlomoh ha'Melech writes, "And a woman among these I did not find". "These", he explains, refers to the Golden Calf, in connection with which the Eirev Rav announced "These are your gods, Yisrael ". What the Pasuk is therefore hinting is that among those who were guilty of worshiping the Golden Calf, there was not a single woman to be found.

The author himself adds that, by the same token, the beginning of the same Pasuk in Koheles, "One man in a thousand did I find" hints that, even among the men, who did sin, it was only one in a thousand who actually sinned, as he just explained.

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Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Oznayim la'Torah)

Transporting the Basin & its Stand

"The Mizbe'ach of the burned-offering its staves and all its accessories, the basin and its stand" (35:16).

The Oznayim la'Torah wonders why the Kiyor and its stand are not mentioned in Bamidbar, where the Torah discusses how all the vessels of the Mishkan were carried, and who carried them.

None of the commentaries there speak about it. The Ibn Ezra here refers to the question and suggests that, bearing in mind that the basin and its stand did not have staves with which to transport it, perhaps they were transported on the wagons, together with the dismantled sections of the Mishkan.

The author queries this explanation however, inasmuch as, in Parshas Noso, where the Torah lists, down to the last detail, everything that the sons of Gershon and Merori carried, it makes no mention of the Kiyor or its basin!


To solve the problem, he cites various Medrashim which describe how the well of Miriam, which travelled with Yisrael in the desert (as the Torah writes in Chukas), would stand in the courtyard of the Mishkan whenever Yisrael stopped travelling and began to set up the Mishkan.

The Gemara in Yoma (37) also tell us that, in the time of the Beis-Hanikdash, there was a well in the courtyard into which they would lower the basin each night, to prevent the water that it contained from becoming Pasul be'Linah (invalidated by being inside a K'li Shareis overnight- not joined to the ground). For the same reason, it would have been necessary to do the same with the basin in the desert, and the need to do so would have applied even whilst travelling.

It is therefore safe to assume that the Kiyor and its stand spent each night inside Miriam's well, and that was also where it travelled.


The Wood for the Mishkan (1)

"And with whoever there was found cedar-wood for the work of the Mishkan, they brought it" (35:24).

There are two theories as to the source of the cedar-wood with which they constructed the Mishkan and some of the Holy Vessels. Some say that they were cut from the trees that Avraham Avinu planted specifically for the Mishkan that his descendants would construct many years later, and which Ya'akov took down to Egypt in preparation for the great event. Whilst according to others, they discovered a forest of cedar-trees in the location of Har Sinai, which they felled for that purpose.


The current Pasuk bears out the first opinion, says the Oznayim la'Torah. Because if they obtained the wood from a forest, which was accessible to all, the expression "with whoever there was found cedar-wood " would have been inappropriate.


The Wood for the Mishkan (2)


Regarding the first of the opinions that we just discussed, the Oznayim la'Torah in Parshas T'rumah (25:5), makes the following comments:

1, When G-d informed Avraham that He would redeem his children on the merit of the Korbanos, Avraham immediately planted cedar-trees for the purpose of building the House in which those Korbanos would be sacrificed - because a prophecy or a promise is fulfilled successfully only if one performs an action to actualize it (See Melachim 1, 13:2).

2. Avraham Avinu made sure that not only the Korbanos, but all the preparations for the Korbanos, were performed for the sake of G-d - like we find by Rebbi Chiya, who planted flax-seeds in preparation to teach Torah to the Jewish children (See Bava Metzi'a, Daf 85b).

3. The cedar-trees that Avraham planted in Be'er -Sheva represented his Midah of Hachnosas Orchim. Consequently, when they built the Mishkan using planks that were constructed from those trees, the Mishkan (which Chazal compare to the creation of the world) represented 'the three Midos on which the world stands': Torah (the Aron), Avodah (the Mizbei'ach) and Gemilus-Chasadim (the Mishkan itself).


Betzalel ben Uri ben Chur

"And Moshe said 'See Hashem has called by name "Betzalel, the son of Uri, the son of Chur" (36:30).

Why, asks the Oznayim la'Torah, does the Torah mention Betzalel's grandfather Chur, when, only a few Pesukim later, it names Betzalel's second in command as Oholi'av ben Achisamach, making no mention of his grandfather?

He explains that this is because Betzalel, who was only thirteen at the time, merited the distinction of being in charge of all facets of the Mishkan's construction, on account of his grandfather, who was murdered during the episode of the Golden Calf, as Rashi explains there (32:8). In Ki Sissa, the author explains that the choice of Betzalel to fulfil this mammoth task was to atone for his grandfather's murder, and that Chur's son Uri, could not fulfil it because he was still in mourning over his father's death.


The Wise-hearted Men

" Betzalel, Oholi'av and every wise-hearted man did all that G-d commanded him" (36:1).

In Egypt, says the Oznayim la'Torah, the people were all busy with mortar and bricks. Nobody had learned any other trade or profession. Bearing in mind that the Mishkan was built the year that they left Egypt, where, he asks, did they find experts in all the fields of expertise that were needed to construct both the Mishkan together all its vessels and the Bigdei Kehunah?

The answer, he explains, lies in the current Pasuk - "into whom G-d placed wisdom and understanding to know and to do all the holy work".

And whom did G-d choose to perform the holy task?

That question is answered in the very next Pasuk - "All those whose hearts were uplifted to approach the work to do it". This is in keeping with the saying of Chazal 'Whoever comes to purify himself, receives Divine Assistance'.

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