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

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Vol. 16   No. 22

This issue is sponsored
l'iluy Nishmas
R' Yehudah ben R' Aharon z'l
whose Yohrzeit is Rosh Chodesh Nisan

Parshas Vayakhel-Pikudei
(Parshas ha'Chodesh)

The Blood of Pesach
and The Blood of Milah

Commenting on why G-d commanded Yisrael to take the Korban Pesach four days in advance of its Shechitah, Rashi, cites a Medrash. The Medrash, based on a Pasuk in Yechezkel, explains how G-d saw that, although the time had come to fulfill His promise to take Yisrael out of Egypt, it was not possible to do so. This is due to the fact that Yisrael had no Mitzvos with which to busy themselves, and so they were unworthy of being taken out of Galus.

So what did He do? He gave them two Mitzvos, 'the blood of Pesach and the blood of Milah', with which to occupy themselves, and thus they were able to leave.


The question arises however, why they required Mitzvos, seeing as they excelled in Egypt in many ways (as is hinted by the Ba'al-Hagadah). As the Medrash explains, they had the merit of retaining their Jewish names and their native tongue, of avoiding the adulterous practices of their Egyptian neighbours and they did not speak Lashon-ha'Ra (as is noted in the Medrash)? Why did those many merits not suffice to grant them their freedom?


It therefore seems that merits alone are not necessarily sufficient. In extreme circumstances, such as those that prevailed in Egypt at that time, what was needed was the positive performing of Mitzvos, as Rashi in his wisdom hints when he writes that 'Yisrael had no Mitzvos with which to busy themselves' (rather than just 'they had no merits').

The question now arises however, as to why they needed two Mitzvos, and why specifically Pesach and Milah.

One could of course answer, that in reality, G-d wanted to give them the Mitzvah of Korban Pesach (for reasons that we will explain shortly), only seeing as an Areil (who is uncircumcised) is ineligible to bring the Pesach, Pesach without Milah is simply not feasible. And maybe this is borne out by the fact that, other than a Halachah prohibiting an Areil to eat the Korban Pesach, the Mitzvah of Milah is not mentioned in this Parshah at all, rendering it seemingly secondary to that of Pesach.

But perhaps there is more to it than that! Perhaps the Mitzvah of Milah plays a major role here in its own right, as we will not explain.

Bearing in mind that Chazal refer here to the blood of Pesach and the blood of Milah, the obvious explanation that springs to mind is the aspect of Mesiras Nefesh (self-sacrifice) that pertained to both of the Mitzvos in question. Taking the lamb that the Egyptians worshipped and tying it to their bed-posts for four days was no simple matter; indeed, Chazal inform us that the Egyptians attempted to kill them when they did, but were miraculously prevented from doing so. Doing what they did therefore, constituted an extreme act of loyalty - an extremely brave act of loyalty to G-d. Whereas Milah, by virtue of the fact that it entails spilling one's own blood, is considered an act of Mesiras Nefesh, as Chazal explain, with reference to the Pasuk in Tehilim (44:23).

And no merit carries with it a greater merit than one that is performed with Mesiras Nefesh. This dual Mesiras Nefesh then, was the ideal way to enter nationhood as G-d's chosen people.


But there is another qualitative advantage that these two Mitzvos contain that will explain G-d having chosen them over and above all other Mitzvos on that occasion.

The importance of the Mitzvah of "Anochi" (Belief in G-d) and that of "Lo yih'yeh l'cho" (the rejection of any other god) is undoubtedly expressed by their position at the head of the Ten Commandments. But even more so by the fact that they are the only two Mitzvos that K'lal Yisrael heard directly from the mouth of Hashem Himself, as the Gemara explains at the end of Masechet Makos.

These two Mitzvos, which were heard by every Jew, and even by every prospective Jew, of every generation, form the basis of Emunah (faith) in their hearts. It is safe to assume that the Mitzvah of "Anochi" represents all the Mitzvos Asei, and that of "Lo yih'yeh l'cho", all the Mitzvos Lo Sa'aseh.

Once G-d had decided to give Yisrael a merit to leave Egypt, what better merit could He offer them than the Mitzvos of "Anochi" and of "Lo yih'yeh l'cho", the two Mitzvos that form the basis of the entire Torah. The problem with that is that, seeing as they already had merits and what they needed was something positive with which to busy themselves, as we explained earlier, nothing would have been gained by giving them those Mitzvos in their current form. So what did He do? He gave them two positive Mitzvos that are in fact, the practical manifestation of those two Mitzvos, B'ris Milah, inasmuch as it symbolizes one's acceptance of G-d as one's Master, and renders oneself subservient to Him, as the commentaries explain; and Korban Pesach, in that taking the lamb for the Korban Pesach symbolized the relinquishing of Avodah-Zarah, as Chazal infer from the Pasuk (12:21) "Mishchu u'kechu lachem tzon" ('Draw and take for yourselves a lamb').

In other words, already before leaving Egypt, they had been given the two fundamental Mitzvos, which, more than any other, served as the basis for all the Mitzvos Asei and Lo Sa'aseh that they would soon receive at Har Sinai. And it was these two Mitzvos, more than any others, that G-d deemed fit to prepare them to leave the realm of their Egyptian masters, and to become His servants. These two Mitzvos served a dual role, a. of earning Yisrael the merit that they needed to leave Egypt and b. of preparing them to become G-d's chosen nation who would go from there to Har Sinai to receive the Torah.


And this explanation will also help resolve another problem. We know that it is generally Mitzvos Lo Sa'aseh that are punishable, either by lashes or by death (either at the hand of Beis-Din, by Kareis or by the Hand of G-d). Someone who transgresses an Asei via 'shev ve'al ta'aseh' (doing nothing) is not subject to any official punishment. The only two exceptions are Pesach and Milah, which are subject to Kareis, a punishment that is second only to death at the hand of Beis-Din, should one fail to fulfill them; and the question arises as to why?

According to what we wrote earlier however, these are not just two Mitzvos, but fundamental Mitzvos upon which one's status as a Jew depends. Anyone who fails to fulfill them has demonstrated that he is not part of K'lal Yisrael. In fact one might even say that he really deserves to be killed at the hand of Beis-Din, and it is only because he did not perform an act that his death-sentence is commuted to Kareis.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Based on Rabeinu Bachye)

The Mishkan Atones

"And Moshe gathered all the congregation of Yisrael" (35:1).

We know that the Mishkan came to atone for the sin of the Golden Calf. R. Bachye cites the following Medrash in that connection:

'Let the gathering of Moshe come and atone for the episode where the people gathered around Aharon.

Let the words of Moshe ("and Moshe *said* to all the congregation of Yisrael Take from yourselves a gift") atone for the words said to Aharon ("Arise and make for us a god").

Let "these words" atone for "These are your gods".

Let the gold of the wave-offering atone for the gold of the Calf!'


Melachah on Shabbos

" whoever performs a melachah on it, shall die. Do not burn a fire in all your dwellings on the day of Shabbos" (35:2&3).

The first Pasuk, says R. Bachye, refers to work connected with the construction of the Mishkan, which is forbidden on Shabbos (even though the Avodah in the completed Mishkan is permitted).

Whereas the second Pasuk refers to future generations. It is as if the Torah had written 'Do not perform work in all your dwellings', incorporating all Melachos in the Melachah of lighting a fire. For as everybody knows, the majority of tasks that man performs require fire (see Ba'al ha'Turim).


The reason that Chazal instituted the B'rachah over fire on Motza'ei Shabbos, is because it is the first moment of the new the week that Melachah becomes permitted; It was also the first Melachah to be employed at the Creation, where the Torah writes on the first day "And there was light" (and the author clearly equates light with fire).

Other commentaries attribute the B'rachah over fore on Motza'ei Shabbos to the fact that G-d instilled 'Da'as' into Adam, causing him to pick up two flint-stones and rub them together, to create the first fire.


Havdalah in the Torah

"Do not burn a fire on the day of Shabbos" (Ibid.)

All four B'rachos of the Havdalah, says R. Bachye, are hinted in the opening Pesukim in the Torah:

'Borei P'ri ha'Gafen':

The word "ha'Aretz", incorporating Gan Eden, which contained the vine, which in turn, hints at Yayin ha'Meshumar (the wine that is guarded in its grapes from the six days of the creation).

'Borei miynei besamim':

"and the Spirit of G-d (Ru'ach Elokim) was hovering over the surface of the water" (35:3).

For the sense of smell (Rei'ach) is effective only when it is assisted by the wind. In fact, a person smells something after he has drawn the wind into his nostrils; and besides, it is the wind that blows the smell from one place to another.

'Borei me'orei ha'eish':

is clearly hinted in the words "va'yehi or" (and there was light), and

'Ha'mavdil bein or la'choshech':

in the words "and G-d divided between the light and the darkness".


The Women Came in First!

"And the men came 'after' the women (al ha'noshim)" (35:21).

This is how R. Bachye translates the phrase (See also 'Highlights from the Ba'al ha'Turim').

This proves, he explains, that the women were the first to donate towards the Mishkan, and that the men came only after them. And it brings out the superior Midah of Z'rizus in the women, particularly bearing in mind that they refused to donate towards the Golden Calf, as is evident from the dialogue between Aharon and the people, when they demanded that Aharon make them 'a god'.

The women clearly, did not need the kaparah of the Mishkan like the men did, yet when the men arrived with their donations, they found that the women had arrived before them.

Interestingly, it was on account of the righteous women that they left Egypt; it was the women who did not sin by the Golden Calf, and it was the women who donated first for the Mishkan.

Something to think about!

* * *


For the Guinness Book of Records

"And they beat out the plates of gold, and they cut it into threads " (39:3).

In all the Meleches ha'Kodesh, says R. Bachye citing the Ramban, this is the sole occasion where the Torah actually describes the method that they used in producing an item for the construction of the Mishkan.

The reason for this, he explains, is because this was the first time in history that gold threads had been manufactured, so the Torah proudly describes how they arrived at that achievement.


Sheish x Five

"And they manufactured the shirts of linen, and the turbans of linen, and the splendid head-dresses of linen (39:27/28).

The Torah mentions 'linen' five times in these two Pesukim (four times using the word "sheish" and once, the word "bad"), R. Bachye observes; One of these is needed to teach us that "Sheish" is 'linen' (seeing as the Torah here refers to the shirts as "kosnos bad", whereas in Acharei-mos [16:4], it refers to them as "kosnos bad" [and we know that 'bad' means linen; in fact it is so-called because it grows from the ground 'bad be'vad', in individual stalks])

Each of the other four come to teach us something special

The second (based on the fact that 'sheish' means six) teaches us that the threads must be six-ply

The third that even those garments where sheish is not mentioned the threads must be six-ply

The fourth, to teach us that linen is indispensable (and that if any other material is used, the garment is Pasul).

And the fifth and final 'sheish' teaches us that "Sheish" that is mentioned by the belt, which we already know is made of linen, since the Torah elsewhere has described it as "avnet bad", comes to teach us that the other materials used in the manufacture of the belt (the techeiles purple and scarlet wools mentioned in connection with the Kohen Gadol's belt) need to be six-ply as well.


The Mishkan - the Torah - the Man

"And Moshe did all that Hashem commanded him, so he did" (40:16).

These are the last of the 'asiyos' (the times that the Torah uses the word 'to do' in any of its forms) in connection with the Mishkan, beginning with the Pasuk in Terumah (25:8) "And they shall make for Me (ve'Asu li) a Mikdash, and I shall dwell in their midst" (not counting all the 'asiyos' mentioned in connection with the Golden Calf).

They number in total 248, corresponding to the 248 Mitzvos Asei in the Torah, and corresponding to the 248 limbs on a man's body. Because just as the Mishkan represented the world with its 248 Mitzvos Asei in miniature, so too, did it represented man with his 248 limbs.

* * *

(Parshas Vayakhel)

"And Moshe gathered the entire congregation of B'nei Yisrael and he said to them 'These are the words [eleh ha'devarim] . Six days work shall be performed " (35:1).

From the Gematriyah of "eileh" - 36 - plus "Devarim" (plural = 2) and an extra 1 from the 'Hey' (in "ha'devarim") Chazal derive that the same thirty-nine Melachos that were performed in connection with the Mishkan (next to which this paragraph is juxtaposed), are prohibited on Shabbos.

The Ba'al ha'Turim points out that in the various other places where the Torah uses the same expression, Chazal decline to make any comment. And he explains that they make this comment here is because the Torah has already written (in Pasuk 4) "Zeh ha'Davar" in connection with the Mishkan (though it is unclear what this has got to do with Shabbos), in which case, it must repeat "Eileh ha'Devarim" for a D'rashah.


From "Vayakhel" until "be'yom ha'Shabbos" there are thirty-nine words (not counting the word "ha'Shabbos". Perhaps that is what the Mishnah is hinting at, when it uses the somewhat strange wording [with regard to the Melachos on Shabos] forty minus one).


"Do not kindle a fire in all your dwellings on the day of Shabbos" (35:3).

The Torah singles out the Melachah of making a fire, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, because it was constantly needed in the construction of the Mishkan - to cook the dyes, to actually dye and to smelt the gold, silver and copper (see Parshah Pearls 'Melachah on Shabbos').


"Take from yourselves a gift for Hashem all whose heart is willing shall bring it (yevi'ehah) gold, silver and copper" (35:5).

The Torah ought to have written 'yovi', the Ba'al ha'Turim observes. Bearing in mind that a large segment of the required donation comprised women's ornaments, "Yevi'ehah" (with the extra 'Hey') hints that the men were not permitted to donate their wives ornaments without the wives' consent. Indeed, he says the Gematriyah of "libo ye'vi'ehah" ("his heart shall bring") is equivalent to that of 'leiv, hu ve'hi' (his heart and her heart).

See also following Pearl.


"And the men came together with the women, all whose hearts were willing brought " (35:22).

To conform with his explanation in the previous Pearl, the Ba'al ha'Turim points out that the Gematriyah of "Vayovo'u ha'anashim al ha'nashim, kol n'div leiv heivi'u" is equivalent to that of 'Oz ish ve'ishto bo'im yachad' (then a man and his wife came together).

Interestingly, the Seforno gives the opposite explanation. According to him, the man had to accompany his wife, in order to authorize the Gaba'im to accept her gift. Otherwise, the Halachah forbids a Gabai Tzedakah to accept a large gift from a woman without her husband's consent.

Perhaps the explanation of the Ba'al ha'Turim and the Seforno merely complement each other. This would explain why neither of the man nor the woman was permitted to bring the woman's donation without the other being present; the man to satisfy the Gaba'im that he had given his consent, and the woman to satisfy them that she had given her's.

* * *

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