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Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum
Hebrew Academy of Cleveland


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

Rashi notes the double use of the word, Mishkan. Why the redundancy? He explains that Hashem took the Mishkan away from the midst of the Jews twice as a result of their deficient behavior. Had He not taken the Mishkan, it would have been incumbent upon Him to execute a more definitive punishment. Rashi adds that the words Mishkan HaEidus, Mishkan of the Testimony, alludes to the Mishkan serving as a testimony that Hashem tolerated the sin of the Golden Calf and allowed the Jewish People to live. Rashi's sequence -- first saying that the word, Mishkan, means collateral, alluding to the fact that one day Hashem could take the Mishkan as collateral for their lives -- indicates an egregious sin on the part of the Jews, a sin that catalyzed the destruction of the Temple. This exposition is followed with the statement that the presence of the Mishkan indicates Hashem's forgiveness of Klal Yisrael for building the Golden Calf. This demonstrates that the Presence of Hashem still reposes within the Jewish People. Should it not have been the opposite? First, the Mishkan is here to attest to the Presence of the Shechinah following the sin of the Golden Calf. Then, the Mishkan serves as a collateral for the nation's sins. Those sins for which the Mishkan was collateral followed the sin of the Golden Calf, for which they required atonement.

The Ha'Drash v'Ha'iyun explains that when the Temple was built in all of its glory, its beauty was resplendent for all to observe. Then, when Hashem rested His hallowed Presence within the Temple, it was clear that Hashem was not doing this due to the physical beauty of the Temple. Hashem has all of the world as His domain. Why "confine" Himself to a physical edifice - regardless of its beauty? Obviously, Hashem rested His Presence in the Temple out of an abiding love for Klal Yisrael. This is something of which our People are aware. The rest of the world has no clue that Hashem is present out of a sense of love. They think it is due to the beauty of the Mishkan.

When was it clearly revealed that the Presence of Hashem was with us as a result of His love? When did it become known to all of the world that the command to construct the beautiful Temple was due to His love of people - not His love of structure? This was indicated when we sinned egregiously, when we deserved to be wiped out for our mutinous behaviors, when our sins caused the Temple to be buried in the ground, to be twice destroyed. Then it was clear to the world that it was not the edifice that Hashem sought - it was the People Whom He loved. Thus, as long as we remained worthy of His Presence, He "stayed" in the Temple. Once we rebelled, Hashem destroyed the Temple, banished His People, taking the Temple as a collateral until they would become worthy to return home.

Therefore, Chazal (as cited by Rashi) are teaching us the perfect sequence. First, the pasuk reiterates the word, Mishkan, to teach that the Temple would twice be taken as collateral for our sinful behavior. Second, the word eidus, testimony, attests to the fact that Hashem loved the Temple - not due to its physical beauty-- but because Hashem wanted to reside among the Jews, because they were so special; His love for them was so great that He resided among them. Therefore, once they began to slide backward and were no longer deserving of His Presence, He destroyed His home - until the time in which they would become worthy of His return.

These are the reckonings of the Mishkan, the Mishkan of Testimony, which were reckoned at Moshe's bidding. (38:21)

A person's perspective, his viewpoint on circumstances, his outlook concerning people and situations, is most often molded by his interests, his endeavors, the areas of life in which he is personally involved. In other words, a person's outlook is controlled by where his "head" happens to be. Let us see how this preface fits into explaining a statement which Chazal made concerning Moshe Rabbeinu's decision to give a full accounting of every ounce of gold, silver and copper that the people contributed towards the construction of the Mishkan.

The Yalkut Shimoni, as cited by Horav Shlomo Levinstein, Shlita, relates that, when Moshe would leave his tent to walk through the camp, two types of onlookers commented about their leader. One type viewed our quintessential leader in the positive manner that he should: "Fortunate is the one who gave birth to him; all of his days, Hashem speaks to him; all of his days he is complete with Hashem." These people characterized Moshe as an individual who had reached the apex of spiritual distinction, a human being who was closely connected with Hashem. Others harbored more jaundiced opinions of Moshe. They looked at his physical build and saw what they felt was a well-fed specimen of humanity. This prompted these miscreants to suggest that our leader was nourishing himself on that which rightfully belonged to all of the Jews. They intimated that not all of the contributed funds had made it to the Mishkan, some of them lining our leader's pockets.

Such ludicrous slander is mind-boggling. To think that money played a role in Moshe's life; to suggest that he was pocketing some of the till was laughable - and sad. How low could these people descend? To what nadir of perversity could they plunge?

Rav Levinstein feels that this is an example of what had earlier been suggested: a person views life, the world around him, people and situations, through the lens of his own context. We are different from one another; thus, we each view things and people in the context of our own personal perspectives. We will be most sensitive to that which affects us personally and manifest less empathy towards that for which we have no personal concern.

Rav Levinstein relates that years earlier, sitting in the Arab Shuk in Yaffo, his friend noticed two men of differing professions sitting on chairs in front of their shops. One was a barber; the other was a shoe maker. They were talking to one another over cups of coffee. Interestingly, whenever a passerby went by, each man took notice. It was on that which they each seemed to be focusing that spelled the disparity between their perspectives. The barber would glance at the passerby's head of hair, while the shoemaker set his sights on the man's shoes. One gazed upward; the other looked downward. A similar variance presents itself when an electrician and a carpenter enter a room. One looks at the lighting; the other looks at the chairs and tables.

Horav Mordechai Mann, zl, explains that this is the reason that an infant puts everything he touches into his mouth. An adult understands that, as a mature person, he requires many different items in order to function properly: food to eat; clothing to wear; transportation vehicle for enabling him to get around, etc. Everything has its specific purpose and place in his life.

A child's world is very limited. His parents provide everything for him. The only thing that the child thinks about, his only area of concern, is satisfying his immediate hunger. Therefore, from his limited perspective, everything revolves around his mouth! Therefore, whatever is in his hand, he immediately places in his mouth.

We return to Moshe Rabbeinu and the discrepant perspectives through which the people viewed him. The individual whose life revolved around materialism-- for whom the mighty dollar regulates his life and defines the value of individuals with whom he comes into contact -- looked at Moshe and wondered what happened to the millions that he had gathered for the Mishkan. If Moshe were dressed impeccably in clothing that bespoke an individual who was materially comfortable, the question that would come to mind was how did he come into so much money? After all, he did not really have a job. "Clearly," he must be skimming off the top. When a person's head is always in the mud, it is not surprising for him to come up dirty.

The other viewpoint of Moshe was held by he who understands that there is more to life than money: Our leader neither knows nor cares about money. Someone whose life revolved around money wondered what Moshe did with the gold and silver.

Chazal teach (Shabbos 112b), "If the earlier ones (Torah leaders) are (viewed by us) as angels, then we are like human beings. If, (however), the earlier ones (in our eyes) are viewed as human beings, then we are mere donkeys." What are Chazal teaching us?

Horav Yechezkel Sarna, zl, explains that, when a donkey views a man, he thinks to himself, "This is no ordinary donkey. This is a special donkey, one that walks on two legs, instead of four. This donkey is capable of doing incredible things, which no ordinary donkey could achieve." In short, the human being seen through the eyes of a donkey is a super donkey!

Now, how do human beings view angels? An angel can fly, can achieve in a moment what might take a human being a year to accomplish. An angel must be a superman! Man thinks like a donkey. Thus, a human being must be a super donkey!

Veritably, we all know that an angel is no more a man than a man is a donkey. It all depends on the context of the perspective of the individual. We must understand that it is impossible to fathom the greatness of the sages who preceded us, because they were more than simply of a different caliber - they were completely different entities! They are not like us in any way!

The individual who feels he can judge Moshe Rabbeinu through the context of his human perspective is wrong. Moshe was beyond our ken. We cannot grasp Moshe Rabbeinu. To judge him and ascribe to him the frailties which are common to us is like a donkey judging a human - or a human judging an angel. We are just not on the same page as Moshe.

They brought the Mishkan to Moshe. (39:33)

The Midrash offers a perspective on the concept of reward in Olam Hazeh, this world. Klal Yisrael was asked to donate towards the Mishkan. Everyone came forward with his free-willed offering. The Midrash relates that a student of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai left his yeshivah and moved to chutz la'aretz, the diaspora. He returned a while later a wealthy man, having successfully navigated the world of commerce, earning a pretty penny. Apparently, Rabbi Shimon's remaining students manifested envy concerning this student. They, too, indicated a desire to leave the yeshivah and attempt to be successful making it in the world of business. After all, why should they not also be wealthy?

Rabbi Shimon was acutely aware of their desire to leave. He brought them out to a valley, not far from the yeshivah. He began to pray, "Valley, valley fill up with golden coins." The valley "complied," filling up with an enormous amount of gold! He then turned toward his students and said, "If it is gold which you are seeking - here is all the gold you would ever need. Take whatever you want, but, remember one thing - whoever takes gold now is actually appropriating his portion from the World to Come. The only remuneration for Torah study is in Olam Habba. If you decide to "collect" it while you are here in this world you are taking your nitzchiyus, eternity, and squandering it here (author's free translation).

This Midrash presents us with a number of questions. First, are we to believe that Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai's students would be moved by money? Would they be willing to leave their esteemed Rebbe and travel to chutz la'aretz just to earn money? Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai was a giant among giants. How are we to understand the allusions in the Midrash?

Horav Sholom Schwadron, zl, offers an insightful explanation to this Midrash. He suggests that the student who returned a wealthy man did not set up shop as a business man. Absolutely not. He returned to the bais hamedrash once again, attending his revered Rebbe's shiurim, discourses, as if he had never left. There was, however, one difference. Now, he was rich. He was no longer a poor student attending Rabbi Shimon's shiur. He was wealthy - and he probably had not missed out on that much.

We now understand why they were envious. They had never left. As a result, they did not have the means for donating gold and silver to various charities, as did the student who had left. He was similar to them in learning, but, in charitable acts, he was way ahead of them. He had achieved the best of both worlds. This is why they were jealous of his achievements. He had taken a break from the rigid schedule of Torah learning that they had been maintaining. Yet, he was now back with them and, quite possibly, just as proficient in his knowledge - and, unlike them, he was able to carry out acts of charity and kindness. When you think about it, why would anyone not be jealous? Why not me?

Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai was acutely aware of what coursed through the minds of his students. They were not simply looking for a way out, an easy way to make some money. His students would never exchange the bais hamedrash for material wealth and power. It would take much more to motivate them to leave the hallowed halls of Torah study. It was the opportunity to satiate themselves from both tables: Torah and maasim tovim, good deeds. While in the bais hamedrash, they were unable to enhance their Torah study with acts of kindness, because they lacked the wherewithal. If they could take some time off, however, to earn a good living and then return to the bais hamedrash - would that not be optimal? Would that practical application not elevate their level of Torah study?

Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai brought them outside the walls of the bais hamedrash and filled up a valley with gold and silver: "Nu - take all that you want! Perform your mitzvos. Carry out your good deeds! But, remember: whatever you take, it is your Olam Habba that you are taking. Do not think that one can grab Olam Habba by force. One must earn it. Giving up Torah, just so that one can earn the Olam Habba associated with maasim tovim is not the way to earn Olam Habba. In fact, you should be aware that, had your purpose in life been to support Torah study and carry out acts of charity and kindness, Hashem would have provided you with the ability and wherewithal to do so. If He has not, it is because you are destined to learn - learn - and continue learning! Your portion in Olam Habba is based upon uninterrupted Torah study. No wealth, no enhancements - just simply Torah study in its unhindered way. If you want both, then remember that you are diminishing your reward in Olam Habba. It will never be the same."

You shall anoint them, as you had anointed their father, and they shall minister to Me. (40:15)

"As you anointed their father": Why did Hashem stipulate that Moshe Rabbeinu's anointing the sons of Aharon HaKohen was to be carried out in the same manner that Moshe had anointed his brother, Aharon? The Meshach Chochmah offers a powerful and quite practical insight - one that has a profound ring of truth to it. When Moshe anointed his brother, he did not experience even a twinge of jealousy. After all, Moshe was a Navi, Prophet; he had even held the position of Kohen Gadol prior to Aharon. Whatever the role that Moshe was transferring to Aharon was a position that he already had filled at one point.

In contrast, Moshe had every reason to feel a sense of hurt in anointing Aharon's sons. Sadly, for whatever reason, Moshe's sons did not achieve the same spiritual plateau enjoyed by Aharon's sons. Therefore, when Hashem instructed Moshe to dress Aharon's sons as he dressed Aharon, this was a reference to his lev shaleim, complete heart, bearing the exact same sentiment of love and deep pride for Aharon's sons as he had manifest for his brother, Aharon.

Imagine, if the above exposition by the Meshach Chochmah is stated with regard to Moshe Rabbeinu, our quintessential leader, what can we say? Are we above envy? How often do we overact concerning others who went to school with our children, who just happened to excel in areas that our children did not? Clearly, although our love for our children never diminishes (at least, it should not) as a result of our perception of success, envy does creep in. As a result, we might begrudge the subject of our hurt the degree of respect, admiration and love that we should manifest towards him. How careful we must be not to permit envy to transcend common sense.

Perhaps we might take the entire dvar Torah to another level. In working with individuals who have embraced mitzvah observance at a later point in life, or with those who are in the process, I have come across the phenomenon of men and women who must cope with the sad reality that Torah nachas from their own children and grandchildren will probably elude them. Having lived as secular Jews for a good part of their lives, they did a good job of raising their children (who are now adults) as responsible human beings who would adhere to the core values preached by their brand of Judaism. Now they are frum and have discovered a new world with new friends - all who have their grown-up families from whom they have much nachas. I remember recently attending the wedding of a close friend's grandchild. With me was a contemporary who happened to be a baal teshuvah. He said, "I guess this is one form of simcha that I will never experience."

This person and so many like him attend our simchas with a twinge of pain. They hurt, because they are unfortunately excluded from our greatest joy - Torah nachas. To them, the Torah responds with the enjoinment to Moshe to anoint Aharon's sons with the same sentiment with which he had anointed Aharon. Hashem knows the pain that you are experiencing. He wants you to rise above it and do as you are told. He shares in your emotions. That alone should be a source of comfort.

For the cloud of Hashem would be on the Mishkan by day, and the fire would be on it by night, before the eyes of all of Bnei Yisrael throughout their journeys. (40:38)

Clearly, this pasuk has ramifications concerning the future of our people as our tenure in galus, exile, continues. The Jew should not think that the darkness which encompasses us in galus is so pervasive that we are unable to penetrate it; or that it completely envelops and stifles us. No! V'eish tiheyeh laylah, "And fire would be on at night." The light of Torah will illuminate the darkness of exile. The daled amos shel halachah, four cubits of Jewish law, will light for us the path of darkness, as we will be able to make our way, as others have before us.

Horav Sholom Schwadron, zl, relates that he heard from the Ponevezer Rav, zl, an incredible insight regarding Chazal's statement that from the time the Bais Hamikdash was destroyed, Ein lo l'Hakadosh Baruch Hu ela daled amos shel halachah bilvad. "All that Hashem has/maintains in this world is four amos of halachah." What do Chazal mean with this statement? Are they intimating that since the Bais Hamikdash has been gone, Hashem reposes His Presence only in the daled amos shel halachah, because there is nowhere else. Nothing is left. Earlier, we at least had the Temple. Now that it is gone, all that Hashem has left is our learning. In other words, the four cubits of Torah learning represent the "after." The "before" was the Temple.

The Ponevezer Rav explains that, with regard to Hashem's relationship with the Torah, nothing has changed. Even when the Bais Hamikdash was standing in all of its glory and the korbanos, offerings, and the priestly service were in full force, Hashem's world revolved around the Torah study of His People. When the Bais Hamikdash stood, Hashem rested His Presence also in the Temple. Now that it no longer exists, He only has His daled amos shel halachah. A talmid chacham, Torah scholar, is Hashem's world. Thus, the home of a scholar is a veritable Bais Hamikdash. It is to him that Klal Yisrael turns day and night to seek the dvar Hashem, word of G-d. Is it any wonder that when a righteous talmid chacham takes leave of this world, Hashem considers it as if the Bais Hamikdash was destroyed? Perhaps we should keep this in mind upon coming in contact with a gadol b'Yisrael, Torah giant. He represents the apex in a human being's relationship with Hashem.

Va'ani Tefillah

Keil Elyon - the Almighty Who is above our understanding.

Gadol, great; gibor, powerful; nora, awesome: these are concepts that our minds can fathom. We understand that Hashem is great, powerful and awesome; and we have some way of working out these concepts in our minds as they relate to Hashem. We are able, however, to perceive neither the essence of Hashem nor the manner in which He conducts affairs of this world. Why the wicked prosper while the righteous continue to suffer is a question that has plagued the minds of the Jews throughout the millennia. The various tragedies that our People have sustained is another area which defies human rationale. Sick children, major calamities, the pain suffered by the finest specimens of Judaism at its best, the Holocaust - all these are pressing questions which we cannot even begin to fathom. This is because they are directives from the Keil Elyon, the Almighty Who is above our understanding. Thus, until He explains to us the reason for His actions, we remain clueless. These two words, Keil Elyon, when unequivocally accepted, can be comforting. When one knows that there is a reason, that an answer exists, but that it is beyond his ability to comprehend, he can accept it.

In memory of
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R' Naftali Michoel ben Nesanel z"l
Maras Sara Riva bas R' Yaakov Meir Hacohen a"h

The Rothner Family

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