Back to This Week's Parsha

Peninim on the Torah

subscribe.gif (2332 bytes)

Previous issues

Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum
Hebrew Academy of Cleveland


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

The Torah refers to the Mishkan / Tabernacle using three appellations: Mishkan Ha'Eidus, Tabernacle of Testimony; Mikdash, Sanctuary; Ohel Moed, Tent of Meeting. As the Mishkan Ha'Eidus, the Sanctuary was the harbinger of the Divine Presence to the world. As the Midrash Tanchuma comments, "It was a testimony to all of the nations that Hashem had reconciled with Klal Yisrael after the incident of the Golden Calf." When the Jews became engrossed in the materialism that led to the creation of the Golden Calf, the nations of the world assumed that the Shechinah had rejected them. The Jews had forsaken their responsibility to G-d and fallen into the abyss of materialism by turning their backs on spirituality. When the nations observed the construction of the Mishkan, they realized that Hashem's "absence" was only temporary. Hashem had accepted the Jews' repentance, and He had returned to His earthly abode. This was the testimony provided by the Mishkan Ha'Eidus.

As reflected by its three names, the Mishkan performed two additional functions. Horav Aharon Soloveitchik, zl, cites the famous Mishnah in Avos 1:2: "On three things does the world stand: on the Torah; on the service (of G-d), and on (acts of) loving kindness." He suggests that these three pillars of the world coincide with the three names of the Mishkan. All three of these pillars, which support the world, functioned in the Mishkan. The term Mishkan Ha'Eidus corresponds to the Torah aspect of the world. The name Mikdash alludes to the avodah, Divine Service, aspect of the world for which the Mikdash served as host. Last, the term Ohel Moed, Tent of Meeting, is an allusion to the Mishkan as a source of loving-kindness.

In its function as a Torah center, the Mishkan housed the Aron HaKodesh, in which the Luchos received by Moshe Rabbeinu on Har Sinai was located. The Mishkan served as a wellspring of Torah wisdom that was dispersed to the nation. It was also a source of spirituality, a place where people could come to energize themselves spiritually, as they were inspired by the kedushah, holiness, that emanated from within its walls. Hence, it was a Mikdash, holy Sanctuary. Last, the Mishkan served as an Ohel Moed, a place where Jews of all walks of life and from all areas of the country came together and united into one large family. It was the focal point of the people, guiding and aiding them, sustaining them in their moment of need.

After the Jews entered Eretz Yisrael, the Bais HaMikdash supplanted the Mishkan by fulfilling all of the same needs as its predecessor. This was a period of glory and peace which lasted until our sins caused Hashem to take the Bais HaMikdash from us. Once again, his own actions compelled the Jew to pack up and wander in exile. While the Mishkan was hidden away and we forfeited the Bais HaMikdash, we still had the mikdash me'at, lesser sanctuary, the shul, the synagogue, the house of study and prayer, to function as our spiritual nucleus, our center for spiritual survival.

Indeed, this is how it used to be. The synagogue of old was the spiritual hub of every community. Whether it was a large, impressive edifice or it was a broken down, old shteibel, the shul was the Jew's mainstay, his island of calm in a world of storm and strife. Here he connected with the Almighty, as he poured out his heart in prayer. It was a place where people could go to hear the word of G-d, because the shul was also a place where the people studied and disseminated Torah. Yes, the synagogue of old was a true sanctuary which exercised a salutary influence over the private life of a Jew.

Times have changed, however, and the contemporary synagogue has become a social hall, a place where people gather to talk and discuss business and other state of affairs. It no longer functions as a spiritual fountain of refreshing waters that enliven and enrich the Jew. It has lost its attraction, its joi d'vivre. It is a synagogue in name; it is almost as if the Shechinah has departed from its confines. What happened?

Rav Soloveitchik cites a fascinating Midrash that relates a meaningful allegory. When Shlomo HaMelech introduced the Aron Hakodesh-- containing within it the Luchos -- into the Bais HaMikdash, all the woodwork within the sanctuary manifested signs of animation. Gradually, a process of germination set in. These very walls sprouted leaves, buds, and twigs, which ultimately bore luscious fruit. This process endured until Menashe placed an idol into the Kodoshei Kodoshim, Holy of Holies, whereupon the Divine Presence departed, and everything dried up, withering away.

The meaning of this allegory is obvious. As long as the Aron containing the Torah is"in" the Bais HaMikdash, as long as we recognize this entity as the vital essence of our lives, then the Bais HaMikdash is alive. It breathes life; it enriches it; it invigorates it; it sustains us. As soon as the Ark is replaced with an idol, however, whether that idol is "talking" about business, lashon hora, slanderous speech, or even talking about Torah during davening, it defames and profanes the sanctity of the Bais HaMikdash and its successor: the modern-day shul. When the shul no longer carries any significance, when coming to davening is a drag - especially during the week when it conflicts with our schedules- when Starbucks takes precedence over Shacharis, and the entertainment media replace Minchah/Maariv and a shiur, then the shul becomes a valley of dry bones. Torah is the only thing that generates vitality into the mikdash me'at. Otherwise, it is not a mikdash.

How do we correct the problem? How do we restore the Shechinah to the shul? Rav Soloveitchik offers the following antidote, based upon an inspiring exposition into an aphorism expressed by Hillel HaZakein: Im ani kan, hakol kan, v'im ein ani kan, mi kan? "If I am here,then everything is here, and if I am not here, who is here?" The great Tanna was speaking at the Simchas Bais Ha'Shoeivah, which was a seminal experience for the Jewish People, the height of inspiration when all Jews gathered in the Bais HaMikdash to draw inspiration from the Divine Presence, similar to the way in which one draws water from a well.

How was this function realized? One does not become endowed with sanctity just by being present. What does the participant have to do? The Bais HaMikdash imparted kedushah, nobility and righteousness, because the Kohanim and scholars of the Sanhedrin which functioned in its confines were dedicated to revealing the true "I" of every Jew. Every Jew has at his essence a sublime, positive proclivity to do good, to be holy, to be pure, to interact with and to serve the Almighty to the best of his ability. This is the ani, the "I," the essence of every Jew. The spiritual leaders of yesteryear were committed to endeavoring constantly to arouse, awaken and energize the true self inherent in every person, which is essentially his yearning toward kedushah and all of the sublime goals that accompany it.

Hillel said, that if the "I" is present, then everything is present in the Sanctuary. If the "I" is not present, if the spiritual leaders-- those to whom the Bais HaMikdash is entrusted-- are too involved with themselves to awaken the "I", the true self of each Jew, then the Sanctuary loses its meaning.

While it is true that not all spiritual leaders are gifted with the ability to reach out to catalyze the potential of all Jews, they should at least try. By working at increasing attendance at various Torah classes, they will enable the Pintele Yid in each Jew to manifest itself and shine.

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

The Midrash makes the following statement concerning the word eilah (pekudei ha'Mishkan), "these." Hashem Yisborach said to Klal Yisrael, "When you fashioned the Golden Calf, you angered Me with the word eilah, saying, Eilah elohecha Yisrael, 'These are your gods, Yisrael.' Now that you have made the Mishkan and used the word eilah, in its construction, I have been appeased with the word eilah." Clearly, the concern of this Mishnah goes beyond simple word play or semantics. Apparently, both Hashem's displeasure and His eventual appeasement hinged on this small word. What is there about the word eilah which stimulates such extreme reactions?"

In his Nachalas Eliezer, Horav Eliezer Kohn, zl, explains this Midrash, using a comment by Rashi to the opening words of Parashas Mishpatim: V'eilah ha'mishpatim asher tasim lifneihem. "And these are the laws that you shall present before them" (Shemos 21:1). Rashi writes that whenever the word eilah is used, it marks a separation, a new beginning, detached from that which has previously transpired. The word v'eilah, "and these," however, indicates a connection and addition to that which has preceded it. Thus, by beginning with the word eilah, these, our parshah severs its relationship with those preceding it. The Mishkan is isolated from the incident that preceded it.

During the tragedy that was the sin of the Golden Calf, the nation acted in a manner that was reprehensible. When the people took leave of their senses and created a Golden Calf, they descended to such a nadir that they declared, Eilah elohecha Yisrael, "These are your gods, Yisrael." With this declaration, they severed themselves from the preceding events. What were those events? They were: the liberation from Egypt amidst unprecedented miracles; the wondrous splitting of the Red Sea; the countless miracles that accompanied and sustained them in the wilderness; their yiraas Shomayim, inner fear of Hashem. They isolated themselves from their Father in Heaven. "These" are the new gods. "These" are the new leadership. Out with the old, and in with the new. All the good that had previously benefited them was no longer a part of their lives. They had "these," a new leader, one of molten gold.

When they repented and separated themselves from the Golden Calf and what it represented, when they accepted upon themselves to construct a Mishkan that would be the repository for the Divine Presence, they reconnected with Hashem. A new day was dawning, symbolizing the start of a new chapter in the relationship between Klal Yisrael and Hashem. The evil was purged: out with the old and in with the new. The Mishkan would atone for the sin of the Golden Calf. Once again, eilah indicates a fresh start, a new beginning, a separation from the old, sinful behavior that had previously occurred. With this eilah the nation atoned for the previous sinful eilah.

Horav Mordechai Miller, zl, cites the Zohar Hakadosh that writes: "It is written eilah - not v'eilah. This reckoning (of the Mishkan) overrode any other estimation. Any desires, any wishes, any proclivities were all severed with the construction of the Mishkan. Thus, this project effected atonement for the tumultuous events that preceded it." The people now had their priorities straight. Nothing mattered - only the Mishkan; only kedushah, holiness; only avodas Hashem, serving Hashem. Money was of no value, unless it was used for sanctity. They rededicated themselves to Hashem because now they were focused on what was correct. Until now, they had been focused only on themselves; therefore, their priorities were misplaced. They now understood the importance of everything being Li, to Me, to Hashem.

Moshe saw the entire work, and behold! They had done it as Hashem had commanded, so they had done. (39:43)

The Yalkut Shemoni makes what appears to be an enigmatic statement concerning this pasuk. The people did as Hashem had commanded. The Yalkut asks: when did He command them? The answer is: "They shall make a Sanctuary for Me - so that I may dwell among them" (Shemos 25:8). The K'sav Sofer is hard-pressed for an explanation of this statement. What does the Yalkut mean by asking, "Where did He command them?" There must have been a number of places in parshios Terumah where Hashem instructs Moshe Rabbeinu to have the people perform certain types of skilled labor, so that the Mishkan would be constructed. What more were they supposed to hear? Veritably, the Yalkut's reply is somewhat questionable. Is the V'asu Li Mikdash, "They shall make for Me a Sanctuary," the only place in which the reason for the creation of the Mishkan is mentioned in the Torah?

The K'sav Sofer explains that Moshe Rabbeinu was impressed, but not by the people's ability to carry out Hashem's command in a letter-perfect fashion. What inspired him was their ability to perform this construction while adhering to the strict spiritual quality control inherent in such a holy project. When Moshe saw the Mishkan, he took note not only of its perfect architectural design and construction, but he also sensed that the kedushah, holiness, and taharah, purity, necessary to make this an edifice worthy of Hashem's repose was also imbued therein. This is why he asked, "Where were you commanded?" This means: What aspect of the command inspired you so to do this with perfection? The response was: V'asu Li. They understood that in order for the Mishkan to be suitable for Hashem's Presence, it had to be made exclusively Li - "for Me" - for Hashem, with no overriding personal interests or embellishments.

One might ask, what is the "big thing"? Hashem instructed the people to make a Mishkan for Him - and they did. Regrettably, this is not always the case. We often commence a project with idealistic goals, each and every one officially l'sheim Shomayim, but, for some reason, it just does not achieve fruition on that same level of l'sheim Shomayim. Whether it is our personal vested interests or our egos, something changes along the way and taints the purity of the project. The Mishkan was perfect in all ways: from its leadership, Moshe, who was selfless, concerned only about the Mishkan being the perfect sanctuary for Hashem; to the people, whose intentions paralleled those of Moshe. Since the raison d'etre of the project was l'sheim Shomayim, it is no wonder that the Mishkan achieved perfection.

Indeed, this idea may be gleaned from the commentary of the Ohr Ha'Chaim Ha'Kadosh to the opening statement of our parsha, Eilah pikudei ha'Mishkan, "These are the reckonings of the Mishkan (ibid 38:21)." The word "these" suggests homiletically that "these," that the only meaningful reckoning is the manner in which one utilizes the resources devoted solely to building Hashem's sanctuaries and otherwise devoted to be used for the sake of Heaven. Only such investments are eternal; only such investments have a value worth counting. Other projects are transitory in nature and, thus, not qualified for eternal reckoning. This gives us a new approach to defining one's accomplishments. The great philanthropist that has shared his wherewithal with others for the purpose of self-aggrandizement-- or as a power play to feed an overactive ego-- actually has very little in his account. Yes, he has helped, and he will certainly be rewarded, but when it comes to the reckonings that are perpetrated eternally, it is only those that are l'sheim Shomayim that make the grade.

Moshe looked upon all the work…Then Moshe blessed them. (39:43)

What brachah, blessing, did Moshe Rabbeinu give them? Rashi relates that Moshe told them, Yehi ratzon, "May it be the will that the Divine Presence rests among the works of your hands." We find that Moshe expressed a similar blessing when the Mishkan was inaugurated with the korbanos (Vayikra 9:23). We must endeavor to understand exactly what Moshe's blessing was. They built the Mishkan for the specific purpose of providing a place for the Divine Presence to repose. The blessing that he gave them was that it should be the will that the Divine Presence should rest there. Was that not the purpose of the Mishkan? Imagine, someone goes to the store to purchase a suit and, then, when he leaves with the suit, he is told, "It should be the will that you should wear it." What kind of blessing is this? This is why he bought the suit. Had Moshe blessed them with good health, longevity, wealth, it would be understandable. To bless them with the Divine Presence reposing in the Mishkan, however, is exactly why they had built it!

This teaches us, explains Horav Dovid Shneur, Shlita, that a bircas tzaddik, the blessing of a righteous person, plays a crucial role in every undertaking. Regardless of what one is about to do, whether it is to enter into a business venture, a marriage, building an edifice - anything - if the endeavor is to have a siman brachah, sign of blessing, one should seek the added protection of brachah from a pious Jew. It seals the venture and renders it complete.

A tzaddik is imbued with great powers, but, in order for them to be effective, the individual seeking the blessing must possess emunas chachamim, faith in the power of the tzaddik. In Chassidic lore, the story is told of two women, both not yet blessed with motherhood, who went to a great tzaddik and asked to be blessed with a child. He blessed both of them that, before the following year passed, each would be hugging her child. Regrettably, the blessing was effective for only one of them. Obviously, the one whose blessing "did not work" returned to the tzdadik and asked, "What happened? Why did the other woman have a child and I did not?"

The tzaddik looked at her and said, "She believed in the blessing."

"So did I," countered the woman.

"Did you go to the store and purchase the necessary garments and baby things for the new arrival?" the tzaddik asked.

"No, I did not. I am not going to buy anything until I am sure that the blessing will occur," she replied.

"That is why your friend's blessing achieved a positive result. Your friend went out and purchased all that was allowed in preparation for the joyous occasion. She believed in the blessing. You did not."

When a person believes in the tzaddik he connects with him, and the Divine blessing can pass through the tzaddik into the one he blesses. This is only possible if one believes. Without belief, there is no connection.

Interestingly, the text of Moshe's blessing was: "May it be the will." He did not say: "May it be the will of Hashem." This implies that it should be either G-d's will, or their, Klal Yisrael's, will. This is enigmatic. If they are asking for a blessing, then it certainly must be their will that the Divine Presence be a part of their lives. I once heard that it is Hashem's desire to be a part of our lives. We, however, have to invite Him in through our positive actions and behavior. Moshe was blessing the people that we should make the world a suitable holy place befitting His Presence. He wants to be here. Are we ready to have him?

Va'ani Tefillah

Yehi kavod Hashem l'olam, yismach Hashem b'maasav.
May the Glory of Hashem endure forever; Let Hashem rejoice in His works.

In his sefer, Shem Olam, the Chafetz Chaim, zl, offers a penetrating insight into this pasuk. We pray that Hashem should have joy from His creations. Wonderful. When does Hashem have joy from us - His creations? This joy is catalyzed by our Torah study and mitzvah observance. In other words, when we act as we are supposed to act, doing the will of G-d, we thereby bring joy to Hashem. If, however, we are not learned and, thus, not able to properly comply with the mitzvos due to our lack of knowledge, we do not bring joy to Him. How do we correct the problem and ensure that Hashem has joy? We see to it that our children receive a proper, meaningful and inspiring Torah education that guarantees that they will follow in Hashem's ways and give Him pleasure. Therefore, when we say Yehi kavod, it is an appeal to us to affirm our responsibility to educate our children so that they will bring joy to Hashem.

In the Perek Shirah, which includes the songs of praise sung to Hashem by every living creature, the pasuk of Yehi kavod is sung by the sheratzim, creeping animals. Why is this pasuk used? Horav Moshe Soloveitchik, zl, explains that these are the smallest of Hashem's creations, yet, Hashem's watchful eye covers each and every one of His creations - regardless of size. He sees to it that they are all sustained. This is certainly a reason to praise Him.

In memory of
Our father, grandfather and great-grandfather
Mr. Nathan Rothner
R' Naftali Michael ben Nesanel z"l
niftar 7 Adar 5763

The Rothner Family

Peninim on the Torah is in its 14th year of publication. The first nine years have been published in book form.

The Ninth volume is available at your local book seller or directly from Rabbi Scheinbaum.

He can be contacted at 216-321-5838 ext. 165 or by fax at 216-321-0588

Discounts are available for bulk orders or Chinuch/Kiruv organizations.


This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper,
provided that this notice is included intact.
For information on subscriptions, archives, and
other Shema Yisrael Classes,
send mail to
Jerusalem, Israel