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

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Vol. 17   No. 22

This issue is sponsored
l'iluy Nishmas
R' Yehuda ben Aharon z"l
whose Yohrzeit is
Rosh Chodesh Nissan

Parshas Vayakhel-Pikudei

The Blood on the Doorposts
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

It was through the redemption from Egypt that Yisrael introduced the knowledge of G-d's existence to the world. That is why, Rabeinu Bachye explains, they were issued with a number of instructions concerning the Korban Pesach that would demonstrate to Par'oh the contempt in which they held his beliefs. Those instructions would, at one and the same time, serve to undermine the Egyptian faith at its very core, and implant in the hearts of Par'oh and his people belief in the true G-d and instill His fear into them.

Firstly, they were commanded to slaughter the Egyptian god (the lamb that they revered) and to eat it, not cooked in a pot, but roasted directly on the fire. By doing so, not only would whoever entered a Jewish house see the Egyptian god roasting on the fire, but in addition, the powerful smell of roasting lamb would inevitably reach the nostrils of anybody who happened to be passing in the vicinity.

Then in order to enhance the conspicuousness of their actions, G-d instructed them to place some of the blood on their lintels and doorposts, open for all to see that the Midas ha'Din (symbolized by the blood) which was leveled at the Egyptians, was about to be unleashed.

(Needless to say, the fact that their erstwhile slaves then proceeded to eat their gods was the ultimate degradation of their beloved gods).


The author then discusses the kabalistic approach to the concept of the lintel and the doorposts. Firstly, he points out how the lintel, the two door-posts represent the three letters of G-d's four-letter Name (Havayah). The lintel represents the 'Vav' (which in turn, stands for Midas Rachamim), and the two door-posts, the two 'Heys' (which both stand for Midas ha'Din [Binah and Malchus, respectively]). Whereas the Saf, (the small, round bowl containing the blood) he adds, represents the 'Yud' (which stands for Chochmah). And it was that Name which prevented the destructive angel from entering the Jewish houses, as we shall explain shortly.

And that explains the order in which the Torah initially mentions the doorposts and the lintel (in Pasuk 7) "And they shall take some of the blood and place it (first) on the doorposts and (then) on the lintel", starting from the bottom and going upwards which basically, follows the order in which the letters of G-d's Name are written, and which coincides with the way that they are built.

Yet later (in Pasuk 23), the Torah reverses the order - "And He will see the blood on the lintel and on the two door-posts". And he attributes this to 'the secret of the Pasuk in Mishlei (8:34) "Praiseworthy is the person who listens to Me, to hasten to My doors (the lintels) every day, to guard the doorposts of My entranceways". I presume that this switch indicates that the procedure of the blood on the doorposts was an act of mercy, and that is why the Torah saw fit to begin with the lintel - which as we explained, represents the Midah of Rachamim. And this is what the Medrash means when it writes that 'our fathers had four altars in Egypt the lintel, the two doorposts and the bowl'.

The author also intimates (see footnote) that according to this explanation, when the Pasuk writes "And Hashem will pass by the doorway, and He will not allow the destructive angel to come ", it is as if it had written 'And he (the destructive angel) will pass by, because Hashem is on the doorway'.


The four cups at the Seider too, he adds, represent the four letters of Hashem's holy Name. The first cup, the cup of Kidush, appropriately stands for the 'Yud' (for so the Pasuk says "Raise your hands [ten fingers[ in holiness" [Tehilim 134b]).

The second cup, over which one recites the Hagadah (i.e. the miracles that took place at that time), represents the first 'Hey' (Binah), which is the source of the miracles and the ten plagues that struck the Egyptians.

The third cup, over which we recite Birchas ha'Mazon, corresponds to the 'Vav', which the Zohar refers to as 'Shamayim' (as the Pasuk writes in Melachim 1, 8:32) "And you will listen in Heaven", as that is the source of our livelihood, as we find in Beshalach (16:4) "Behold I will rain down for you bread from the Heaven".

Whereas it is over the fourth cup that we recite 'Sh'foch chamoscho ' (Pour Your wrath over the nations), which corresponds to the second 'Hey' (Malchus, which as we explained earlier, represents the Midas ha'Din).


It also makes good sense, R. Bachye explains, to say that the sign of blood on the doorposts signified life and death - death for the Egyptians, via the plague of Makas Bechoros which took place at that time, and life for Yisrael ("for the blood is the Soul [of life]"), who were spared on account of the blood.

The author stresses that the destructive angel that he has mentioned a number of times refers not to the angel that struck dead the Egyptians, since, as the Torah itself states (and the Ba'al Hagadah elaborates), Makas Bechoros was performed, not by an angel, but by G-d Himself. It must therefore pertain to the destructive angel that makes his rounds.

He elaborates further that it can be compared to a king who passes from place to place, and who is accompanied by his retinue of officers with their hordes of soldiers, whose job it is to mete out justice to those who deserve it. Only on this particular night, the King had decided to personally mete out justice, as Chazal have said "I", 'and not an angel !' Nevertheless the destructive angel with his cohorts, accompanied the King on His rounds, in honour of the King (as the Pasuk states "The Glory of the King lies in numbers!').

The above restriction however, was confined to the Egyptians. There was nothing from stopping the destructive angel and his retinue from entering Jewish homes and striking them down. That is why G-d instructed Yisrael to place the blood on the lintel and the doorposts of their homes, thereby protecting the house's occupants from the destructive angel. For every house that displayed this symbol was not accessible to the destructive angel.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

Parshas Vayakhel

Gold, Silver & Copper

" and any man who waved a wave-offering of gold for Hashem. Whoever separated a portion of silver or copper " (35:22-24).

Following in the footsteps of the Ramban, R. Bachye ascribes the Torah's change of expression from "Terumah" by the silver and copper, to "Tenufah" with regard to gold to the fact that everyone owned a lot of silver and copper, whereas gold was to be found predominantly in the women's ornaments. Consequently, gold constituted a far smaller percentage of the donations, but of a far greater value. So the owners would happily wave the gold for all to see and appreciate the value of their donation, as would those who received it, in order to publicize the donor's generosity.

Granted the Torah does use the word "Tenufah" in connection with the copper (see Parshas Pikudei 38:29), but that is because of the high quality of copper to which it refers. In fact, he explains, the copper was so highly refined and shiny that it was rarer than the gold.

(This implies that the copper that was donated fell into two different categories - ordinary cheap copper and high-quality copper, a fact that requires looking into).


The Princes' Donation

"And the princes brought the onyx stones and the filling-stones " (35:27).

R. Bachye explains that it is natural for princes to harbor feelings of haughtiness over the people under their jurisdiction, as the Pasuk indicates in Parshas Shoftim (17:20). That is why the princes brought the precious stones for Aharon to wear on his heart, in order to atone for that inherent vanity. And this, the author adds, explains why the Torah describes the stones using the definite article "the onyx stones and the filling-stones", on account of the aptness of the donation.

(Interestingly, Aharon himself merited to wear the Choshen on his heart on account of his incredible humility [see Rashi Sh'mos 4:14]).


On the Other Hand

Despite their noble intentions, the author explains, the princes are taken to task for waiting until the people had finished donating before coming forward with their donation. That is why the word "ve'ha'Nesi'im" in this Pasuk, is missing a 'Yud', as Rashi explains.

According to Rabeinu Bachye, this does not seem to have been due to laziness (though Rashi maintains that it was) and certainly not to pride (for, as the author just explained, the very essence of their donation was meant to atone for vanity). It was simply in contravention of the principle 'Mitzvah ha'bo'oh le'yodcho, al tachmitzenoh" (a Mitzvah that one can perform today, one should not leave for tomorrow). And in this case, the stakes were even higher, for as he puts it, what would the princes have done had the people donated everything that was needed for the Mishkan?


Perhaps it was the Clouds

Finally, R, Bachye cites others (see Targum Yonasan) who attribute the missing 'Yud' in "ve'ha'Nesi'im" to the fact that it doesn't mean princes at all, but clouds (as we find in Tehilim 135:7). According to them, it was the Clouds of Glory that fetched the precious stones from Gan Eden and deposited them inside Moshe Rabeinu's tent.


Parshas Pikudei

The Sin & the Atonement

"These are the reckonings of the Mishkan " (38:21).

Because Yisrael did not sin intentionally, says R, Bachye, only because they sought (rightly of wrongly) the Golden Calf as a leader, that is why it was possible to forgive them for their sin. And the proof that the sin was forgiven lay in the fact that the Shechinah dwelt in the Mishkan that they subsequently built. And it was because the Shechinah dwelt in the House that they built that it was called 'Mishkan' (from the Lashon 'Shechinah').

And as proof that the Mishkan came to atone for the sin of the Golden Calf, the Medrash points out that they sinned with the word "Eileh" ("Eileh Elohecho Yisrael"), and they were accepted with the word "Eileh" ("Eileh Pekudei ha'Mishkan").


Putting it Up & Taking it Down

"On the first day of the first month you (Moshe) shall set up the Mishkan" (40:2).

R. Bachye, citing a Medrash, explains that Moshe erected the Mishkan and took it down three times a day, as the Torah hints in the three expressions "Hukam ha'Mishkan" (Pasuk 17), "be'Echad ba'Chodesh Takim" (here) and "Vayakem Moshe es ha'Mishkan" (Pasuk 18). And these three occasions coincided with the morning Korban Tamid, the Milu'im (the inaugural Korbanos) and the afternoon Korban Tamid.

To have put up the Mishkan even once in such a short space of time, and even assuming he had had a team of helpers, would have been beyond human capabilities, let alone three times in the space of a few hours, and entirely on his own. Moshe's achievement can only be understood in light of the Medrash subsequently cited by the author (and which Rashi already cites in Pasuk 33). The Medrash, commenting on the expression "Hukam ha'Mishkan" (implying that the Mishkan erected itself), explains that since Moshe had played no active role in the construction of the Mishkan, G-d reserved the honour of erecting it for him. Consequently, neither Betzalel nor the elders were able to erect it. So G-d told Moshe that no human being could possibly erect the Mishkan. He then commanded him (Moshe) to perform the actions of putting it up, piece by piece, and the Mishkan would erect itself, which he did. Nevertheless, the erection was attributed to him. In this way, the whole of Yisrael knew, says R. Bachye, that without Moshe, the Mishkan could not have been erected. And in this way, we can understand how Moshe on his own, could possibly have erected the entire Mishkan three times a day.


Going Upwards in Kedushah

"And Moshe erected the Mishkan" (40:18).

The Gemara in Menachos (99a) learns the principle of "Ma'alin ba'Kodesh' (that in matters of Kedushah one always increases) from the copper pans of Korach's congregation, which after being used to merely serve the copper Mizbei'ach, were subsequently used to overlay the Mizbei'ach, thereby becoming an intrinsic part of the Mizbei'ach itself.

And it learns the other half of the principle 've'Lo moridin' (that one never decreases) from this Parshah, which describes how Moshe erected the Mishkan a number of times each day (as we learned above), but without ever actually saying that he dismantled it - even though it is obvious that he had to do so.

* * *



"See, Hashem has called by name Betzalel " (35:30).

The word "See", says the Ba'al ha'Turim, citing the Gemara in B'rachos (55a), comes to teach us that one does not appoint a leader over the community without their consent.


"And Moshe gave orders, and they issued a proclamation in the camp saying no man or woman should do any more work " (36:6).

The Torah was given on Shabbos, the Ba'al ha'Turim reminds us. Consequently, Yom Kipur that year fell on Tuesday, and the work for the Mishkan began on Wednesday. They continued to bring their donations on Thursday morning and Friday morning (se Pasuk 3), and on Shabbos motning, Moshe issued the above proclamation.


"And it was that the hundred Kikar of silver were used to cast the sockets of the Kodesh and the sockets of the Poroches, a hundred sockets for the hundred Kikar (38:27).

Correspondingly, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, they later instituted the recital of a hundred B'rachos per day. This is most appropriate, since the sockets are called 'Adonim' (from the word 'Adon' - master), and what is the purpose of a B'rochoh if not to acknowledge that G-d is our master, in whichever facets that particular B'rochoh covers.


"Like G-d commanded Moshe " (40:23).

The Torah writes this with regard to each and every item that Betzalel manufactured.

The Ba'al ha'Turim comments that it is a reward for Mosheh's having said "blot me out from Your Seifer (in defense of K'lal Yisrael) " - the Torah makes a point of repeating his name over and over again. In fact, he explains, it mentions it eighteen times, and it is against this that Chazal instituted eighteen B'rachos in the Amidah.

In the same vein, the word "Leiv" (heart) appears a hundred and thirteen times. This is equivalent, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, to the concluding words of all the B'rachos in the Amidah ('Boruch Atoh Hashem, Mogein Avraham'; 'Boruch Atoh Hashem, Mechayeh ha'Meisim' ) - because the main thing in the Amidah is the Kavanah of the heart.


"And he set up the Chatzer around the Mishkan and the Mizbei'ach (ve'la'Mizbei'ach)" (40:33).

The same word "ve'la'Mizbei'ach" appears in Seifer Yo'el (2:17) "Between the Ulam and the Mizbei'ach the Kohanim will weep and they will say 'Have pity Hashem, on Your people ", for that is where they would stand and Daven.

This supports the opinion, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, that the Shechinah spoke to Moshe from on the Mizbei'ach (rather than from the lid of the Kapores - which is the better-known opinion).

* * *

(Part 2)

(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

15. "And you shall give it to Elazar ha'Kohen" - Traditionally, the first Parah Adumah was prepared by the S'gan (the deputy Kohen Gadol, Elazar), even though Aharon was still alive. Subsequent cows however, could be prepared either by the Kohen Gadol or by a Kohen Hedyot, either of whom had to wear the four Bigdei Kehunah whilst arranging it.

16. Ultimately, burning the Parah Adumah had to be performed outside the Har ha'Bayis, as the Pasuk writes "And he shall take it to outside the camp" - (i.e. outside the Har ha'Bayis which was outside the three camps). In fact, they would burn it on Har ha'Mishchah, facing the Beis-Hamikdash.

17. "And he shall Shecht it in front of him" - a Zar Shechted it whilst Elazar watched.

18. "he shall Shecht 'it' " - that one is not permitted to Shecht anything else together with it.

19. Neither is he permitted to do any other work at the same time, as the Torah writes "And he shall burn the Cow before his eyes" - that he must make a point of watching it until it has turned into ashes.

20. "And Elazar ha'Kohen shall take from the blood with his finger" - that he shall not receive the blood in a vessel, but Shecht the Cow with his right hand, and receive the blood with his left, before sprinkling with his right forefinger from the blood in his left palm seven times, deliberately sprinkling in the direction of the entrance of the Ohel Mo'ed facing him and which he must be able to see from there, as the Pasuk writes "and he shall sprinkle towards the front of the Ohel Mo'ed".

21. When he finishes sprinkling the blood, he wipes his hand on the body of the Cow, and steps down from the 'Ma'arachah' (the arrangement of wood on which the Cow is lying). He then sets fire to the Ma'arachah (via little twigs which he places underneath the large fire-brands that comprise it).

22. The Kohen stands at a distance and watches the burning cow until the fire envelops most if it and its stomach splits open, at which point he takes a cedar-branch (eitz erez) and a twig of hyssop (eizov), measuring not less than a Tefach, and wool died red with the tola'as (which we will explain shortly), weighing five Sela'im.

23. He then asks in a loud voice to all those present 'Is this a cedar-branch? Is this a cedar branch? Is this a cedar branch? 'Is this a hyssop-twig?' 'Is this a crimson thread?' - each one three times. And the people answer 'Yes!' - three times on each item.

The reason for all this is because there are seven species of cedar (of which 'Erez' is one), and four species of hyssop (of which 'Eizov ' is one); And regarding the red dye, there are some who use a dye called 'Pu'ah', whereas others use the 'Tola'as' - very red grains that resemble the pips of carobs, each containing a worm the size of a gnat (which is the correct method) - hence its name. Therefore he makes this public display to publicize the fact that the species that he is using are the ones specified by the Torah.

As for the Eizov that the Torah specifies, it is the kind that people tend to eat and which they use to spice their dishes. 24. The Kohen then winds the woolen thread round the cedar-branch and the twig of hyssop and throws them into the burning cow's stomach (as the Torah writes "into the inside of the burning Cow") - not before the majority of the Cow is burning, and not after it has turned into ashes.

* * *

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