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Torah Attitude: Parashas Vayakhel/Pekudei-Parashas HaChodesh: 600,000 half shekalim and 100 sockets
Every male between the age of twenty and sixty donated half a shekel to the building of the Tabernacle. The total amount that 600,000 males donated comes to exactly what was required to construct 100 sockets. Neither the wealthy were permitted to give more, nor could the poor give any less. Everyone had to be equal. The Kabbalists explain that the number "10" represents completeness. When every individual member of the Jewish people unite and subdue themselves for the benefit of the whole, we achieve the ultimate completeness and merit the Divine Presence among us. The leaders wanted to show a brotherly love for each other by pairing up in their donation of the wagons. Even though there are different levels of holiness between different groups, everyone must join together for the common goal to serve G'd. The angels connect and join each other, as we say in the Kedushah, during the repetition of Shemoneh Esrei. The Torah scholars need the financial support of the lay people, and the lay people need the Torah scholars to teach and guide them. When the Satan sees that he cannot stop the Torah scholar from his studies, he will attempt to stop the ones who support the Torah scholar. The Torah relates that the fight between Jacob and the Satan took place towards the break of dawn, indicating that this struggle will be most difficult at the end of the long night of our exile when we are heading toward the break of dawn.
Half a shekel
Last week we discussed the significance of the coins of half a shekel that every male between the age of twenty and sixty donated to the building of the Tabernacle. We mentioned that these coins teach us that we should always realize that our situation in this world only allows us to see part of the picture. Only G'd, Who spans all generations, sees the complete picture. This week we will discuss another aspect of these coins of half a shekel that the Jewish people donated.
In Parashas Pekudei, the second of the two Parshiot that we read this week, it says (Shemos 38:25-27): "And the silver of the census of the community was 100 kikor … a beka for every head, half a shekel … and the 100 silver kikor were used to caste the sockets of the Sanctuary and the sockets of the curtain, a 100 sockets for the 100 kikor, one kikor per socket." Rashi explains that each kikor weighed 3000 shekel. The total amount of the half shekalim that 600,000 males between the age of 20 and 60 each donated comes to exactly what was required to construct 100 sockets.
Larger common undertaking
At the beginning of last week's Parsha (Shemos 30:13-15), G'd instructed Moses about this census how every male should give half a shekel. Neither the wealthy were permitted to give any more, nor could the poor give any less. Everyone had to be equal. In this way, they all were given to understand that their individual donation was not complete but part of a larger common undertaking. Only through the effort of everyone doing their share did they accomplish to establish the 100 sockets that were the very foundation of the Tabernacle. And thus they merited having the Divine Presence dwell among them.
10 is complete
The Kabbalists explain that the number "10" represents completeness. Although in general we speak about 7 sefiros, the truth is that there are 3 hidden sefiros above the 7, making a total of 10 sefiros. This corresponds to the Ten Sayings through which G'd created the world (see Pirkei Avos 5:1). Similarly, Rabbi Chaim of Valozhin explains that when our Patriarch Abraham was tested ten times, it was in order to show that he was complete in all areas of his service to G'd (see Pirkei Avos 5:4). We find a further example of the completeness of the number "10" in connections with the Ten Commandments. Rashi (Shemos 24:12) quotes from the Midrash Rabba (Bamidbar 13:16) that all 613 commandments are included in the Ten Commandments.
The Kabbalists further explain that each one of the 10 sefiros have 10 subdivisions, totalling 100 units. This is represented by the 100 sockets. When every individual member of the Jewish people unite and subdue themselves for the benefit of the whole, we achieve the ultimate completeness and merit the Divine Presence among us. The Sforno shows that this expression, of the individual only being part of a larger whole, is a theme that we find throughout the building of the Tabernacle and its inauguration.
In Parashas Nasso (Bamidbar 7:1-3) the Torah relates how the leaders of the Twelve Tribes brought offerings on Rosh Chodesh Nissan, the day Moses finished erecting the Tabernacle. Their offering consisted of six wagons and twelve oxen, a wagon for every two leaders, and an ox from each of them. The Sforno asks why they only brought one wagon for two leaders. They were affluent and could easily afford to each donate a wagon in honour of the inauguration of the Tabernacle. The Sforno answers that there was a special symbolism in this donation. In this very first donation, the leaders wanted to show a brotherly love for each other. They therefore paired up in their donation of the wagons. It was this sense of brotherhood, says the Sforno, which made them worthy of the Divine Presence.
The Sforno further elaborates on this in Parashas Terumah (Shemos 25:8 and 26:3 and 6). He explains that the Tabernacle was covered with two sets of blankets. One set of blankets covered the room in the Tabernacle referred to as the "Holy" and the other set of blankets covered the "Holy of Holies." Although there was a partition between these two rooms, the blankets were connected with hooks above the partition (see Shemos 26:31-33). Says the Sforno, this symbolizes that even though there are different levels of holiness between different groups, everyone must join together for the common goal to serve G'd.
This is how the angels connect and join each other, as we say in the Kedushah, during the repetition of Shemoneh Esrei. We express that we want to emulate the angels, who also have different groups on different levels. Nevertheless, they call upon each other and sanctify G'd in unity, as symbolized by the two angels above the Holy Ark. And this, says the Sforno, is why the Divine Presence in the Tabernacle dwelled between these two angels. He continues to explain that this is a lesson for the Jewish people for all times. Those on a higher level of holiness should connect with and take an interest in those that have not yet reached that level and teach them how to serve G'd.
Torah scholars join with lay people
Since the destruction of the Temple, the Divine Presence dwells in the study halls of Torah (see Torah Attitude: Parashas Terumah: Meriting the Divine presence at all times, February 26, 2009). There as well, says the Sforno, do we find the need for the Torah scholars and the lay people to join forces. In Parshas Beha'aloscha (Bamidbar 8:2), the Sforno explains that we find this symbolism in the Holy Menorah. The Torah instructs that the lights of each side of the Menorah should face towards the central light of the Menorah. This symbolizes that both the Torah scholars, who spend their day immersed in spiritual pursuits, and the lay people who are occupied with more mundane matters, should focus towards the central common goal. No group can exist on their own. The Torah scholars need the financial support of the lay people, and the lay people need the Torah scholars to teach and guide them. Thus we must all focus towards the central point of our existence. With this insight we gain a better understanding why it was this light that miraculously burned twenty four/seven, as a sign of the Divine Presence dwelling in the Temple.
Fight between Satan and Jacob
The Chofetz Chaim elaborates on the importance of this joint effort. He explains that the Satan, through the evil inclination of every individual, will try to break up this unity. The Chofetz Chaim quotes the Zohar in Parashas Vayishlach (171a) who explains that this was the deeper significance of the fight between Jacob and the angel who represented the Satan. The angel tried to overpower Jacob who symbolizes the Torah scholars of all times (see Bereishis 25:27). When the angel realized that he could not overpower Jacob, it says (Bereishis 25:27): "And he struck at the socket at his hip." Just as the hip supports the body, this symbolizes the lay people who support the Torah scholars. When the Satan sees that he cannot stop the Torah scholar from his studies, he will attempt to stop the ones who support the Torah scholar. He will put them in financial difficulties and pursue other schemes to try and dissuade them from doing their part of the partnership supporting Torah scholars.
Break of dawn
The Torah relates that the fight between Jacob and the Satan took place towards the break of dawn, indicating that this struggle will be most difficult at the end of the long night of our exile when we are heading toward the break of dawn. At this time, as the Jewish people endure their part of the financial difficulties worldwide, we must take comfort and strength from the words of the Zohar. This will enable us to live up to our common goal so that we continue to merit the Divine Presence in the study halls of Torah, both in the land of Israel and in the Diaspora. The knowledge that these difficult times are a sign that we are nearing the end of our exile and heading towards the break of dawn gives us added encouragement to endure. And as we enter the month of Nissan, we pray with the words of the Talmud (Rosh Hashanah 11a): "In Nissan our ancestors were redeemed and in Nissan we will be redeemed in the future."
These words were based on a talk given by Rabbi Avraham Kahn, the Rosh Yeshiva and Founder of Yeshivas Keser Torah in Toronto.
Shalom. Michael Deverett
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