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Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum
Hebrew Academy of Cleveland

Parshas Vayakhel - Pikudei


Take from yourselves a portion for Hashem, everyone whose heart motivates him shall bring it, as a gift for Hashem. (35:5)

In recognizing the contributions towards the Mishkan of the dor ha'midbar, generation of the wilderness, the Torah uses the phrase nedivus ha'lev, donations of the heart. What is a donation of the heart? Ibn Ezra notes two variances in the Torah's idiom regarding Klal Yisrael's contribution. Hashem commanded them, "Kechu me'itchem," "Take from yourselves." To "take" is the opposite of to "give." Placing the prefix "mem" (meitchem) before a word changes its meaning. Thus, "Kechu me'itchem" has the same meaning as "Tenu," give. Why did the Torah express this idea in such an awkward manner? Second, what is the meaning of "nediv libo'? Literally translated, it means, "donating the heart." Why does the Torah use a phrase that must be understood so differently than its literal meaning?

Horav Chizkiyah Cohen, zl, explains the ascending levels of giving. The Mishkan demanded the highest level, total selflessness in giving, in order that a contribution be deemed worthy of inclusion in Hashem's Sanctuary. A person has a conscious awareness and a subconscious inclination. One may believe that he is contributing wholeheartedly. His subconscious, however, may have a totally different perspective. Indeed, we find that the Torah excluded a letter from the name of the Nesiim because they were hesitant in responding to the call for contributions. The commentators explain that they were not really lazy; they had a good reason for being slow to contribute. They felt Klal Yisrael should be given the initial opportunity. They would be responsible for the short-fall. Chazal, however, attribute their rationale to a subconscious tendency towards indolence. Hashem's Sanctuary does not tolerate anything less than total commitment - even on a subconscious level.

Horav Mordechai Miller, Shlita, explains that this was the uniqueness of the dor ha'midbar; Hashem demanded of them a nedivus ha'lev in the literal sense - they contributed their heart! There was no conflict between their overt contribution and their instinctive obscure emotions. While some people overtly contribute magnanimously, all they really give is their material wealth. They do not give of themselves; they do not give their hearts. This is why the Torah insists that they take from themselves - not simply give a donation. To take is a stronger -- more aggressive -- form of contribution, one in which the contributor overcomes his inner emotions and marshals them to work towards a common community goal.

The Nesiim brought the shoham stones and the stones for the settings for the Eiphod and the choshen. (35:27)

The Nesiim were the princes, or leaders, of every tribe. Rashi cites the Midrash which notes the word Nesiim is spelled in Hebrew without the two "yudin" that it would normally have. This defective spelling was deliberate - as a punishment for their not bringing their contributions together with everyone else. They had waited to see what would be lacking, so that they would fill the deficit. To their surprise and chagrin, the national response was so overwhelming that there was almost nothing left for them to give. Chazal note a taint of laziness on their part which caused their delay in giving. For this, the Torah spells their name incompletely.

It is important to preface the expositions of the various commentators with the obvious note: Regardless of the critique against them, the Nesiim erred unknowingly. Their conscious intention was clearly l'shem Shomayim, for the sake of Heaven. How were they to know that Klal Yisrael would be so industrious and come forward immediately to fulfill the requirement completely? Hashem Yisborach, however, sees beyond what seems to be obvious. Incidentally, the Kesav Sofer points out that since a mitzvah is attributed according to the one who completes it, the Nesiim wanted to be the last ones to contribute for the Mishkan. While this idea is praiseworthy, it does not compensate for the lack of zerizus, alacrity, in mitzvah performance.

The question that confronts the commentators is: Why is the "yud" designated to be the letter deleted from the word, rather than any of the other letters? The simple answer which is given is that when one deletes the "yud," the sound of the word still does not change. In contrast, the deletion of any of the other letters would dramatically alter the kriah, reading, of the word. Horav Zaidel Epstein, Shlita, offers a novel reason. For most letters of the alphabet, the sum of the numerical value of the other letters is not equal to the letter itself when that letter is removed from its spelled out name. For instance, aleph: The letter aleph has a value of one, while the rest of the word, lamed and fay, equals 110; bais is equal to two, while the rest of the word is yud, saf, which equals 410. When the yud, whose value is ten, is removed the vav and daled still equal ten. This implies that the yud is tocho k'baro, its inner essence/value is equivalent to its external essence. In other words, "What you see is what you get." There is a consistency between the chitzonius, external, and the penimius, internal.

While the Nesiim thought they had introspected and had cleansed themselves of any vestiges of personal interests, the Torah implies that this was not true. There was an inconsistency; their actions were not motivated completely by a sense of l'shem Shomayim. There was a taint of indolence inherent in their delayed giving. Horav Moshe Reis, Shlita, cites the Chidushei Ha'Rim who says the "yud" denotes the Yehudi, Jewish essence, that was missing, characterized by their act of indolence. A Jew is excited, enthusiastic, energetic to serve the Almighty. He does not sit back and wait. He is filled with alacrity to go forward to serve Hashem. The Nesiim were not. Hence, the letter which symbolizes Jewishness was deleted.

Other commentators contend that the error lay in a different realm. The Kesav Sofer says that the "yud," the smallest of all the letters of the alphabet, implies the attribute of anavah, humility. The Nesiim sought to complete the mitzvah, in order to emphasize their contribution. This, regrettably, indicated a deficiency in their name. The Beis Yisrael supplements this by saying that the Nesiim chose to separate themselves from the klal, community, by deciding to donate on their own. This idea is implied by the missing "yud." The "yud" symbolizes the Jewish People who survive through achdus, unity. They chose to contribute on their own, not to unify with the others. Hence, they are missing the "yud" from their name.

The Pnei Menachem makes a similar comment, suggesting that their sin was in creating a distinction between "them"/ Klal Yisrael and us/Nesiim. They should all have worked together, sharing in their avodas Hashem. Last, the Pnei Menachem, citing a common theme in his derashos, lectures, places the blame on their lack of ayin tovah, good eye. They declared that they would supplement what is missing. How did they know that something would be missing? What right did they have to underestimate the people's commitment to the Almighty? The purpose of a leader is to look for the best in his flock. Their vision of Klal Yisrael was unfortunately myopic.


1. A. Does the construction of the Mishkan take precedence over Shabbos?

B. What do we derive from here?

2. Did the Nesiim contribute for the actual Mishkan?

3. A. How were Moshe and Aharon related to Chur?

B. Who was Chur's father?

4. Which one of the Klei haMishkan was completely comprised of the women's contribution?

5. What was inside the hollow space of the Mizbayach haNechoshes?


1. A. No B. Nothing, except for human life, takes precedence over Shabbos.

2. No.

3. A. He was their sister, Miriam's, son. B. Calev ben Yefuneh

4. Kiyor.

5. Earth.


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

The Midrash relates that Hashem told Klal Yisrael, "When you made the eigel ha'zahav, Golden Calf, you angered Me by saying, 'Eilah elohecha Yisrael,' 'This is your god, Yisrael.' Now that you made the Mishkan using the words, 'Eilah pikudei HaMishkan,' 'These are the reckonings of the Mishkan,' I have reconciled with you." We must endeavor to understand the significance of the word, "eilah," particularly its role in the sin of the Golden Calf and its role in the reconciliation vis a vis the Mishkan. It seems that the primary sin of the eigal was the proclamation of, "This is your god." Similarly, the actual construction of the Mishkan did not seem to effect the response of forgiveness until its completion, with the expression "These are the reckonings."

Horav Chizkiyahu Cohen, zl, cites the Midrash at the beginning of Parashas Mishpatim, which distinguishes between the word "eilah" and "v'eilah." Apparently, "eilah" negates the preceding, while "v'eilah" with the prefix "vav" - "and" - includes the preceding. In other words, when the word "eilah" is used, it implies a total rejection of any previous relationship to the present. When Klal Yisrael said, "Eilah elohecha," "This is your god," they were really saying, "This is our god - and nothing else. We reject any past commitments and renege any previous relationship with Hashem." A new dawn is rising, which brings with it a new god - a golden calf. This was the ultimate chutzpah! They did not merely create an idol, they felt the need to emphasize their rejection of the Almighty.

Horav Leib Chasman, zl, makes a similar point regarding Lot. Avraham Avinu's nephew, student and protege, achieved an exalted plateau of spirituality. There was one major difference between Avraham and Lot - the origin of their calling. Avraham Avinu heard Hashem's command through a prophetic vision from the Almighty Himself. Lot heard it from Avraham. His exposure was limited. Thus, Avraham's level of commitment was greater than Lot's. How did this disparity subsequently take effect? We are well aware of Lot's separation from Avraham. Lot went to Sodom, with its evil environment, because he hoped to benefit from a material standpoint. What about the spiritual dangers he would encounter? Lot did not care. The Midrash tells us that he said, "I do not want Avraham or his G-d." Lot rejected Hashem. Why? What characterized the distinction between Avraham and Lot? Avraham rejected all alien beliefs. He denigrated every idol and pagan deity. He sublimated himself totally to Hashem. In contrast, Lot did not. He followed Avraham, studied from him, but took along his prior baggage. He did not reject his past. Thus, he ultimately rejected the Almighty.

Sur meira va'asei tov, turn away from evil and do good. Before one's positive behavior can have a lasting effect, he must first purge himself of the ra, evil, within him. Lot did not. Is it any wonder that the tov, good, to which he had committed himself was temporary?

When Klal Yisrael created the Golden Calf, they did not consider their action to be an open rebellion against Hashem. Perhaps there was a vestige of pure intention in their minds. They sought a "supplement" to their religion. When they proclaimed, "Eilah elohecha Yisrael," "This is your god, Yisrael," they were rejecting the past, they were spurning the Almighty. This sin was intolerable. When they completed the Mishkan and declared, "Eilah pikudei haMishkan," "These are the reckonings of the Mishkan," citing the word "eilah" which negated their previous heresy, their attachment to the Golden Calf, Hashem could now forgive them.

In an alternative exposition, Horav Cohen cites the Maharzav, who explains the word eilah, as an expression which praises one's actions. "Look at what I have accomplished; I take pride in what I have done," is the underlying meaning of "eilah." We now understand the gravity of Klal Yisrael's sin. In the Talmud Berachos 19a, Chazal state,"If you see a Torah scholar sin in the evening, you can be sure that by the next day he has already peformed teshuvah." We are not infallible. Everybody errs once in a while. The scholar, which is a term that is applied to one who is virtuous and committed, is filled with regret, immediately repenting his misdeed. The sinners who encircled the golden calf proudly proclaimed, "This is your god! Eilah, we are excited about our idol." The arrogance that spewed forth with the word "eilah," was unforgiveable, unless they would react in a similar manner towards another structure, a structure dedicated to holiness, a sanctuary - the Mishkan. The second "eilah" expiated the first "eilah."

In reality, both answers express the same idea. Klal Yisrael's teshuvah, repentance, could not be accepted until there was a total reversal, a complete recanting of their past attitude. This was accomplished through an emphatic rejection of the past, through a sense of pride in their future commitment. We cannot continue to proclaim our allegiance to the Sanctuary as long as we pay lip-service to the Golden Calf!

And they made the holy vestments for Aharon, as Hashem had commanded Moshe. (39:1)

Aharon HaKohen demonstrates the paradigm of love for a fellow Jew. He was the "oheiv shalom,v'rodeif shalom;" loved peace and pursued peace. He sought to maintain relationships between Jews and between husband and wife. He set the standard for all of us to emulate. In our quest to follow in Aharon Hakohen's noble example, we might over-zealously tend to ignore some basic precepts of the Torah. We might bend the rules in order to promote harmony among our fellow men. We might resort to employing unconventional methods for creating a more positive relationship between husband and wife - methods that are not necessarily Torah-oriented.

Horav Aharon Zakai, Shlita, infers this to be the pasuk's message: "And they made the holy vestments for Aharon," - when people want to don the garb of Aharon, when they want to clothe themselves in Aharon's garments - a simile for acting like Aharon, attempting to promote good-will among people, it must be "as Hashem had commanded Moshe." We must adhere to the Torah's dictate and follow Hashem's prescription for creating harmony among people. Aharon succeeded without breaking His rules. Why should we act differently?


1. What was Isamar ben Aharon's role exclusive of his service as a Kohen?

2. To what does the name Betzalel allude?

3. Were the Bigdei Haserad included in the Bigdei Kehunah?

4. What did Moshe do for the construction of the Mishkan?


1. He was appointed over the Leviim to designate the avodah to each individual family.

2. B'tzel - Kel , in the shadow of the Almighty. Betzalel perceived that the Mishkan should be constructed prior to its keilim, something that Hashem had related only to Moshe. This prompted Moshe to ask Betzalel, "Were you in the shadow of the Almighty that you heard what He told me?"

3. No.

4. He raised it up.


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