Back to This Week's Parsha

Peninim on the Torah

subscribe.gif (2332 bytes)

Previous issues

Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum
Hebrew Academy of Cleveland


(And) Now you shall command the Bnei Yisrael. (27:20)

By beginning the Parsha with the words, "Now you shall command," it seems to imply that heretofore, the previous Parsha which addressed the construction of the Mishkan, was not referring to Moshe Rabbeinu. Now, the command is directly to Moshe Rabbeinu. However, this is not true, because in the previous Parsha, the Torah addresses Moshe Rabbeinu a number of times, with the word, "v'asisa," and you should make. Moreover, in the previous Parsha Moshe is told to act, to take an active role in the construction, while here he is told merely to command. Why is this?

The Ozrover Rebbe, zl, gives the following explanation: The Midrash in the beginning of Sefer Vayikra distinguishes between the value of gold and precious jewels as opposed to sifsei daas, intelligent speech. A person may possess vast amounts of gold and jewels, but if he has no daas, intelligence, they are of little value. He will either not appreciate what he has, or will quickly lose it. Everyone contributed towards the Mishkan - except for Moshe. This depressed him. Why should he not play an active role in this unprecedented experience? Hashem said to him, "Your words are more beloved to Me than all of the gold and jewelry that was brought for the Mishkan."

What is the Midrash teaching us? The Rebbe explains that Moshe was troubled. Here he was the leader of the Jewish People - everybody gave their fair share - everybody - but him. Why should he not be upset? Hashem told him, "Moshe, you are mistaken. A person who possesses great wealth, but does not have the intelligence to manage it properly -- or does not have someone, or some guidelines for taking care of it -- is this wealth of any value to him? While it is true that everyone contributed towards the Mishkan, what value does the Mishkan have if there is no Torah in it? It is merely a mausoleum of gold and silver. Moshe, you have the Torah. Your "words" of Torah which emanate from your mouth have greater significance than anything else. For, without the Torah, everything else is meaningless."

Let us see how great is Moshe's word. His name is not mentioned in Parashas Tetzaveh, because after the chet ha'eigel, sin of the Golden Calf, when Hashem wanted to destroy Klal Yisrael, Moshe declared, "Hashem, if You forgive Klal Yisrael, good! But, if not, first take my life and remove any mention of me from the Torah, for I cannot be a leader who failed to gain mercy for his people." This unparalleled devotion to Klal Yisrael turned the tide and Hashem listened. But, Moshe's name had to be "erased". He made a statement, and his word must be upheld. Parashas Tetzaveh usually falls around the seventh of Adar, the anniversary of Moshe Rabbeinu's birth and death, a date intrinsically bound with his name. Thus, this Parsha was selected as the only Parsha in the Torah, from the time of Moshe's birth, where his name is not mentioned. We wonder - should Moshe be punished for his unequaled mesiras nefesh, devotion and self-sacrifice, for Klal Yisrael? Is this his reward for a life of supreme dedication? Veritably, we must deduce that the omission of Moshe's name is not a punishment at all. On the contrary, there is no doubt that he was rewarded for his "demand" on behalf of Klal Yisrael. But, nonetheless, a "word" left his mouth -- a word that is Torah, for Moshe Rabbeinu's word is Torah. Such a word is not a simple abstract - it is an entity - it is Torah. Such an expression cannot go to waste. It must take effect. Thus, Moshe's name is deleted from this Parsha.

Indeed, heretofore, Moshe did not have a personal share in the building of the Mishkan. V'atah tetzaveh, until now, until this command, it was not you. Now, v'atah, what will be your cheilek, individual contribution? Tetzaveh, your command, the Torah that emanates from your mouth, overrides every other contribution. For without the Torah there is no value to the gold and silver that was brought. The Torah is what gives it meaning and value.

Aharon shall bear the judgment of the Bnei Yisrael on his heart constantly before Hashem. (28:30)

The Kohen Gadol wore the Choshen Ha'Mishpat, Breastplate, over his heart. Aharon HaKohen was selected by Hashem to be the first Kohen Gadol, the progenitor of Kehunah Gedolah. Chazal tell us that Aharon merited this distinction because of a unique quality which he exemplified - the character trait of "nosei b'ol im chaveiro," bearing the yoke with his friend. While to empathize with others, to be sensitive and feel their pain as well as their joy, is a character trait that should distinguish all Jews, it was Aharon who set the standard for this middah.

Regarding Aharon's relationship with his brother, Moshe, it says in Sefer Tehillim 133:1, "Behold how good and how pleasant is the dwelling of brothers." Aharon was sincerely joyful when Hashem selected his younger brother, Moshe, to be Klal Yisrael's leader. Indeed, his benchmark was his unquestionable love for all Jews - regardless of their stature, pedigree or financial status. His joy for Moshe was as if it were his own. Certainly, it is easier to feel a friend's pain than to share his joy. Jealousy is a difficult mountain to transcend. Aharon showed the way for others to emulate.

We must learn to see our own face in the face of our fellow man. His needs should be our needs. We should feel for him as we feel for ourselves. Aharon's heart encompassed the hearts of others. His heart was large - large enough to be sensitive to the needs of others. Hence, Hashem selected him to be the first and ultimate standard bearer who would wear the Choshen Ha'Mishpat over his heart. The holy ornament, which atoned for the shortcomings and indiscretions of Jews, rested on the heart of he who felt for other Jews.

This quality has been the hallmark of our gedolei Yisrael, Torah leaders, who have distinguished themselves in more than their encyclopedic knowledge of Torah. I have selected two short stories from the vast repository of narratives which illustrates this middah.

The Ponovezher Rav, zl, once visited a wealthy philanthropist who supported many Torah institutions. Regrettably, he was far-removed from Torah observance. The Rav asked the man, "How did you come to support Torah so magnanimously when, in fact, you yourself are far-removed from a Torah way of life." He responded with the following:

"I was wild as a teenager and consequently, was not accepted in a number of yeshivos. My parents sent me to apply for placement in the yeshivah of the Chafetz Chaim in Radin, Poland with the hope that I might get accepted there. Well, I was not accepted. I could not stay in the yeshivah overnight, and to go home at that time of night was not possible. The Chafetz Chaim graciously offered me a bed in his home.

"To call it a home would be an overstatement. It was a two-room shack. In fact, the Chafetz Chaim gave me his own bed! It was cold and dark. Apparently, he was very poor. He had no heat, or electricity.

"I was young and used to a warm bed. It was very difficult to fall asleep because of the cold. The Chafetz Chaim came into the room as I pretended to be asleep. He took off his long jacket that he was probably going to sleep in himself and covered me with it.

"I never forgot that night and the Chafetz Chaim's gesture. Since then, I have become very wealthy. Regrettably, Torah observance was not something to which I wanted to commit. But the feeling of being cared for and loved by a total stranger never left me. That one act of kindness touched me like nothing else. Therefore, whenever a Torah institution approaches me for a donation, I gladly oblige. I give from the heart, because the Chafetz Chaim gave to me from his heart."

The second story was recently published by Rabbi Paysach Krohn. I think it is a classic. Horav Chaim Shmuelevitz, zl, once asked a close talmid, disciple, to drive him to Kever Rachel, the tomb of Rachel. As they traveled out of Yerushalayim, Rav Chaim began to think of all the people for whom he would pray. He had a list which included the sick, those who were grief-stricken, the childless, and the financially challenged. As he was going through the list, he began to cry. It was a soft weeping - at first - but then it became a loud sobbing that resounded throughout the car.

They arrived at Kever Rachel and Rav Chaim got out of the car, composed himself and entered the hallway leading to the kever. As he approached the kever, Rav Chaim once again began to sob bitterly, crying out, "Mamme! Chaimke is doh!" -- "Mother, Chaimke is here!"

Rav Chaim began to recite numerous kapitlach, chapters, of Tehillim, mentioning the names of those for whom he prayed. He wailed as he closed his eyes, visualizing each one. Then he called out, "De Ribbono Shel Olam hut gezocht Mamme, as du zolst nit veinan, ubber ich Chaimke zog, vein Mamme vein!" -- Hashem said to you, 'Mother, do not cry', but I, Chaimke, say to you, 'cry, Mother, cry!'"

He was referring to the famous pasuk in Yirmiyahu, 31:15, where Hashem tells Rachel to restrain herself from weeping. For the galus, exile, is only temporary. Klal Yisrael will one day return joyfully and reclaim their land.

On the return trip to Yerushalayim, someone queried Rav Chaim, "If Hashem instructed Rachel not to cry, why did the Rosh HaYeshiva supplicate her to cry?"

Rav Chaim's response was archetypical and defined his character. "A father can make demands of his daughter. He can tell her, 'Do not cry!' A son can tell his mother, 'Mamme, please cry!'

He felt their pain and anguish. He cared - and he cried. The brilliant Rosh HaYeshiva, rebbe to thousands, cared about every Jew, from his contemporary to the "little guy", from the brokenhearted widow, bereft of her husband and with a houseful of orphans to feed, to the girl who was having difficulty in finding her mate. That was Rav Chaim.

What should leave a powerful impact on us is the manner in which the Rosh HaYeshivah related to Rachel Imeinu. She was not an abstract figure, Matriarch of Klal Yisrael, who lived a few thousand years ago. She was his mother - here and now! He felt that way and communicated his feelings in that manner. What a lesson for us! He related to Rachel Imeinu as if to his very own mother. Is it a wonder that his prayers were heard?

For the sons of Aharon you shall make Tunics…and you shall make them Headdresses for glory and splendor. (28:40)

The Migbaas, Headdress, worn by the Kohen was very distinctive. Rashbam explains that since it is worn on the head, the highest portion of the body, it is noticed and transmits an image of the individual who is wearing the Headdress. The Migbaas and Mitznefes, Turban, were to be regarded as specific marks of distinction or worthiness, similar to the crown worn by a king. The Kohen's Migbaas was made of white linen, reminding him that maintaining his purity, distancing himself from anything that is base and immoral, is his sine qua non. The Headdress was a subtle reminder of the Kohen's function and responsibility. People looked up to him. He had to be worthy of their respect.

We understand now why Chazal tell us that the Mitznefes atoned for gasus ruach, arrogance, gross haughtiness. The Mitznefes warns even the highest and most distinguished in the nation of the necessity to be constantly on guard, to rise above and remove himself from everything ignoble or impure. By doing this, he comes to realize that he must banish any overestimation of himself and divest himself of any form of conceit.

Paradoxically, these Headdresses are to be made for glory and splendor. This seems to be in direct contrast with the goal of abrogating conceit and atoning for haughtiness. The answer is simply that the Kohen must understand that he is merely a medium, a vehicle for inspiring holiness and respect. He is nothing more than an agent through which the lofty concepts that he represents are taught. Thus, by wearing the Headdress, he serves to atone for the sin of arrogance.

To know one's worth, to realize one's position in life is not arrogance. Indeed, one must demand the proper respect for his position - otherwise, he demeans his position and himself. He is a representative of an ideal. To demean the agent is to denigrate the ideal. A ben Torah represents the Torah. Therefore, to degrade a ben Torah is to debase the Torah he embodies.

What is the definition of kavod? Chazal in Pirkei Avos 4:1, ask, "Who is honored? He who honors others." One would think that he who is honored by others is honorable, rather than he who honors others. Apparently, one who depends on others to honor him is not really honorable, since the honor he receives is of a dubious nature. It is not his - it is dependent upon the whims of others. Honor that is contingent upon others is not honor. True honor is controlled by the individual. Therefore, Chazal view the one who gives honor as the honorable one. For, by giving honor to others, he indicates that he understands the meaning and value of honor. This is an expression of his own understanding - something that is not contingent upon others. The need for kavod, the obsession for kavod is a tragic disease that devours a person. Its cure is based upon developing respect. For if one respects himself, he really does not need or obsess about the fleeting praise of others.


In the Ohel Moed, outside the Paroches… Aharon and his sons shall arrange it from evening until morning. (27:21) Pardes Yosef renders this pasuk homiletically as referring to Ner Elokim, the candle burning the light of Hashem / the Jewish spark of devotion to Hashem, that should be aflame in every Jew's heart. It should burn in the Ohel Moed - the Shul and Bais Ha'Medrash -- during times of prayer and devotion. It should be kindled also outside the Paroches - in the street, the business, anywhere that one is involved in mundane endeavors. The flame should never flicker. It should burn brightly - always.

Six of their names on one stone, and the names of the six remaining ones on the second stone, according to the order of their birth. (28:10)

Meshech Chochmah cites the Yerushalmi that says that Binyamin's name was split on the stones of the Eiphod. Bais, nun, were engraved on one stone, while the yud, mem, yud, nun, were on the adjoining stone - which was situated on the other side. Thus, part of Binyamin's name was on one shoulder, while the other part was on the other shoulder. Therefore, it says in Sefer Devarim 33:12 in regard to the Bais HaMikdash, "And (the Temple) rests between his shoulders," because his name was split between the two kisphei/shoulders of the Eiphod.

You shall make a Breastplate of Judgment. (28:15)

The letters of the word Choshen - ches, shin, nun, also spell the word nacheish which refers to a medium who reveals hidden things by means, and with the assistance, of the forces of impurity and evil. Haksav v'Hakabalah notes that the Choshen's function was to reveal the hidden through the powers of kedushah, sanctity, using the medium of the Urim V'Tumim. There are two ways - the right way, the holy way, and the wrong, evil method.

Its sound shall be heard when he enters the Sanctuary. (28:35)

Chasam Sofer interprets this pasuk as conveying an important message to the Torah leader. Tznius, modesty, acting with humility, is the appropriate and refined approach - especially for a Torah leader. This is only in regard to worldly, mundane matters. When it concerns matters of kedushah, sanctity, whether it is the sanctity of the nation or the sanctity of Jewish life, it is incumbent for the leader that his voice be heard loud and clear.

Sponsored in loving memory of my grandparents
Shelton and Ruthi Kasnett
Jerome Jick
Daniel Kasnett


Peninim on the Torah is in its 11th year of publication. The first seven years have been published in book form.

The Seventh 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