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

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Vol. 22   No. 22

This issue is sponsored
in honour of the Bas Mitzvah of
Esther Naomi Grossman n"y
May she grow up to be an Eshes Chayil

Parshas Vayakhel (Parah)

Thoughts on the Parah Adumah
(Adapted mainly from the Ramban)

Why the Nations Ask

"This is the statute (chukas) of the Torah which Hashem commanded saying 'Speak to the B'nei Yisrael and they shall take to you a cow that is completely red, that is unblemished, and that has not carried a yoke' " (19:2).

Commenting on the word 'chukas', Rashi explains that the Satan and the nations of the world take Yisrael to task; they ask what sort of a Mitzvah it is and what is the reason behind it?' He does not however, explain what it is about the Mitzvah that they find difficult to absorb.

The Ramban in Parshas Acharei-Mos, cites the Medrash which adds wearing Sha'atnez and the Sa'ir ha'Mishtale'ach (on Yom Kipur) to the list of things that the Satan and the nations taunt Yisrael. And he explains that what they find strange about the Parah Adumah and the Sa'ir Mishtale'ach, both of which come to remove Tum'ah, is the fact that, unlike all other Korbanos, they are brought outside the Beis-ha'Mikdash, conveying the impression that we are imitating the goyim, by bringing sacrifices to the demons, and not to Hashem (chas ve'Shalom). I.Y.H. we will explain why this is not the case in Parshas Acharei-Mos.

*

What the Kohen Wears

Ibid.

The Sifri learns from a Gezeirah-Shavah from "Chukas", which appears also in Acharei-Mos in connection with the Avodah on Yom Kipur, that just as there, the Kohen had to wear the four white garments, so too here.

The Minchas Chinuch (at the beginning of Mitzvah 99) infers from the expression 'the white garments', that the Sifri is referring to the four white garments that the Kohen Gadol wore when he entered the Kodesh ha'Kodashim on Yom Kipur, as opposed to the four garments worn by a Kohen Hedyot throughout the year, which were slightly different, as he explains later in the Mitzvah. And he queries the Rambam who rules that he wore the garments of a Kohen Hedyot. But assuming that a Kohen Hedyot is forbidden to wear the four garments that the Kohen Gadol wears on Yom Kipur, we will have to learn like the Rambam, according to the Chachamim that we will cite in Pasuk three - that any Kohen is eligible to prepare the Parah Adumah.

*

The Ten Cows

Altogether, there have been nine Parah Adumos, and the tenth one will be prepared by Mashi'ach. The nine were prepared by: Moshe/Elazar, Ezra, Shimon ha'Tzadik (2) and Yochanan Kohen Gadol (2),Eliyohini ha'Kof, Chanamel ha'Mitzri and Yishmael ben Fiabi.

*

Who Prepares the Cow

"And you shall give it to Elazar the Kohen"(19:3)

Rashi extrapolates from here that the onus of preparing the Parah lies on the S'gan (the deputy Kohen Gadol). The Ramban however, quoting the Sifri, states that although the first Parah Adumah was indeed brought by Elazar, who was the deputy Kohen Gadol, future cows could be prepared by the Kohen Gadol, according to Rebbi Meir, and according to the Chachamim, by any Kohen - though under the jurisdiction of the S'gan. And it learns this from the words "give it", implying 'it', but not future cows.

*

According to Rebbi Meir (cited in the previous paragraph, the author explains, the reason that the current Parah was not prepared by Aharon was either because due to his greatness, it would not have been befitting for him to prepare a Korban' that falls under the heading of Shechutei Chutz (Kodshim that are brought outside the Beis-Hamikdash) or - bearing in mind that the Parah Adumah came to atone for the sin of the Golden Calf, as a punishment on account of the role that Aharon played in the sin, and due to the principle that 'A prosecutor cannot become a defendant'. Whereas according to the Chachamim, Elazar was designated the task since, besides Isamar, he was the only Kohen Hedyot, and it would not have been correct to appoint his younger brother and not him, to carry out this important task.

*

The Tum'ah of the Sword

"And whatever touches the surface of the field, one that is slain by the sword (ba'chalal cherev)" (19:16).

Chazal learn from the words "ba'chalal cherev" that a sword that touches a corpse is Metamei a person who touches it (for seven days) like the corpse itself.

The Ramban points out that, from the various Mishnahs and Gemoros that deal with this topic, it emerges that although the sword in question renders Tamei via touching or carrying, it does not render Tamei via the Din of Ohel. If it did, he maintains, a Kohen would not be allowed to enter anybody's house since, in those days, everybody owned a sword with which he had fought battles and killed the enemy.

Nor, he adds, does the person who touches a Tamei sword require sprinkling with the ashes of the Parah Adumah. After seven days, he immerses in a Mikveh and is automatically Tahor (though Tosfos in Nazir disagrees - as the note in the Ramban observes).

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Ramban)

Friends Once Again

"And Moshe assembled all the congregation of Yisrael and he said to them 'These are the words that Hashem commanded that one should do'" (35:1).

This gathering took place, says the Ramban, the day after he returned to the Camp of Yisrael the third and last time (on Yom Kipur). That is when he gathered the men and women of Yisrael and issued them with the command to construct a Mishkan. In fact, he explains, G-d had taught Moshe about the Mishkan during his first forty days on the mountain, before the people worshipped the Eigel (See Rashi in Ki Sissa 31:18). It is not clear however, whether the reason for this is because the Mishkan was not contingent upon the sin of the Eigel (and would have been built anyway - perhaps as a reward for Yisrael's declaration of "Na'aseh ve'Nishma!"), and this is implied by the brackets (parentheses)in the above-mentioned Rashi; or whether the Mishkan did indeed come to atone for the sin of the Golden Calf, only G-d instructed Moshe in advance, in keeping with the principle that He always creates the cure before the stroke. It will shortly become clear that the Ramban too, concurs with the opinion cited in the brackets - whose source is the Zohar.

*

Moshe told Yisrael about the Mishkan immediately following his return to the Camp with the second Luchos, the author explains, after G-d had entered into a new covenant with Yisrael. The relationship between Him and them had been restored to its former glory and the Divine Shechinah dwelt among them once more - as had been G-d's intention prior to the sin of the Golden Calf, as G-d informed Moshe earlier. " they will build for Me a Mishkan and I will dwell in their midst".

*

The Mishkan and Shabbos

"These are the things that G-d commanded you shall do Six days work shall be done " (35:1 & 2).

"The things " mentioned in the Pasuk, says the Ramban, refer not to Shabbos (as the Ib'n Ezra explains, but) to the construction of the Mishkan. That being the case, the Torah is teaching us here that the work of the Mishkan is to be done during the six days of the week, but not on Shabbos.

This is not learned from the fact that Shabbos precedes the Mishkan (as Rashi explains here). Nor from the word "Ach", as Rashi explains in Parshas Ki Sissa (31:3), which the Ramban refutes there, but directly from the simple wording of the two Pesukim here.

In any event, the question arises why, according to Rashi, we need two Pesukim to teach us that building the Mishkan does not override Shabbos?

*

Two reasons present themselves as to why Shabbos overrides the Mishkan; 1). Because the institution of Shabbos preceded the institution of Mishkan; 2). Because the sanctity of time (which cannot be changed or destroyed) is greater than the sanctity of location (which can).

*

Unlearnt Skills

"And every man whose heart inspired him came " (35:21).

Some people felt the urge to donate materials for the building of the Mishkan, the Ramban explains. The Pasuk describes them as "donors" (misnadvim). Whereas this Pasuk, he says, refers to the people who had a sudden inspiration to help Betzalel in the actual construction.

This was remarkable, inasmuch as, having spent their whole lives building mortar and bricks, nobody had ever trained for any of the required tasks. Neither did they have any experience whatsoever in the more refined undertakings, such as weaving and embroidery, carpentry, and jewel-cutting. Yet they were suddenly aware that they were experts in one of the particular fields of endeavour required for the task on hand.

And if the miraculous nature of this newfound expertize was true of all the volunteers who came forward to work, it was all the more true of the young thirteen-year-old Betzalel, who was the master craftsman and teacher of every facet of the Mishkan's construction, as the author pointed out in Ki Sissa (31:2)

*

And the crux of the miracle was there for all to see, when the Mishkan, built by novices, with no training and no experience, was completed to perfection, exactly according to G-d's instructions, first-time round, without a mistake!

Pekudei

The Mishkan & the Ohel

"These are the reckonings of the Mishkan of Testimony in the charge of Isamar the son of Aharon the Kohen" (38:21).

*

The word "Mishkan" per se generally refers to the bottom set of curtains (made of different colour wool and linen) that covered the Kodesh and the Kodesh Kodshim, and the word "Ohel" to the set of goat-skin curtains that covered it. Hence whenever the Torah speaks about the actual Mishkan it refers to it as Mishkan ho'Eidus or Ohel Mo'ed.

This explains why the Torah found it necessary to add the words "the Mishkan of Testimony" here. And by the same token, he says, when the Torah writes in Pasuk 33 that "they brought the Mishkan to Moshe, the Ohel and all its accessories, one needs to add a 'Vav'; to the word "the Ohel", since they are referring to the two above-mentioned curtains, and not to the Mishkan and to the Ohel Mo'ed.

*

Under the Jurisdiction of Isamar

Ibid.

The Ramban cites 'many commentaries' who explain that this Pasuk refers to the Mishkan with its vessels and the Chatzer, about which we learned in the previous Parshah, and which the Torah now teaches us were placed in the charge of Isamar. And the reason that the ensuing Pesukim do not mention the holy vessels (the Aron, the Shulchan, the Menorah and the golden Mizbe'ach) is because they were all placed in the charge of Elazar, whereas the current Parshah is concerned with the vessels and the accessories that were under the jurisdiction of Isamar.

*

The author rejects this explanation however. Why, he asks, does the Torah concern itself exclusively with those accessories that were under Isamar's jurisdiction, particularly bearing in mind that the Avodah of Elazar was superior to that of Isamar.

*

He therefore explains that the Pasuk refers to the vessels mentioned in this Parshah all of which were under Isamar's jurisdiction, because the Torah is only concerned with the accessories made of silver (there were no copper vessels). And the reason for this is because the Torah's main objective here is to inform us how the specified amount of silver was apportioned - something that we are not told with regard to the golden vessels that were in the charge of Elazar (which explains why anything made of gold is not mentioned in the opening section of this Parshah).

The sole exception to the rule is the copper Mizbe'ach, which is listed here, even though it was under Elazar's jurisdiction, because, like the silver accessories, it was apportioned from the donated copper.

* * *

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