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Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum
Hebrew Academy of Cleveland


Every wise-hearted among you shall come and make everything that Hashem commanded. (35:10)

Why did Moshe Rabbeinu not simply say, "All of the wise-hearted among you shall come and construct the Mishkan? Would it not have been more correct to identify what they were doing, building the Mishkan, rather than just telling them to follow Hashem's command? Horav Moshe Feinstein, zl, makes a profound inference. Man only builds the structure, Hashem actually makes it into a Mishkan/Mikdash when His Shechinah reposes there. All we can do is follow Hashem's dictate, adhering to His command and instruction. Only then can we aspire for the Shechinah to rest there, thereby transforming this edifice into a Mishkan. Any davar shebikedushah, holy endeavor, is consecrated by Hashem after we put in the proper and correct kavanos, intentions. By extension, this applies to any holy edifice. The building becomes holy when Hashem sanctifies it on a level commensurate with our ability to act in the manner which He commanded us. It is a two-way street; we must first do our part.

See Hashem has proclaimed by name, Betzalel ben Uri, ben Chur, of the tribe of Yehudah. (35:30) Every time the Torah details Betzalel's pedigree, it goes back two generations to his grandfather, Chur. Apparently, Chur played an important role in molding Betzalel's perspective on life. Indeed, it was probably because he had descended from Chur that Betzalel was selected to build the Mishkan. Only a very special individual, one whose devotion to Hashem had been exemplary, would undertake this unprecedented endeavor. Chur was the individual who challenged the erev rav, mixed multitude, when they rebelled against Hashem to build the Golden-Calf. He was killed for his devotion. His spirit of mesiras nefesh, self-sacrifice, remained alive in his family. His grandson was prepared to be moser nefesh, to build the Mishkan that would atone for the sin of the Golden-Calf. That incident caused his grandfather's death. Hashem needed a person whose devotion to Him was so great that it would override even his own personal feelings. This was Chur's zechus, merit; it was his reward. His grandson would be the architect of the holy Mishkan.

In Shemos 34:7, The Torah tells us, "Notzer chesed l'alafim," "(Hashem) preserves deeds of kindness for thousands of generations." Horav S. R. Hirsch, zl, notes that word "notzer" also means "creates" or "causes to blossom." Thus, the expression "notzer chesed" can be a reference to Hashem's benevolence. He allows an act of chesed which we perform to become a seed of chesed that germinates, grows and blossoms, bringing forth salvation at a later time. Our acts of kindness do not comprise an isolated entity that ends when they are completed. No, at times they catalyze deliverance and happiness for the individual who has performed the act of kindness. Situations also occur in which the reward is manifest at a later time, even generations later, for a descendant. This is what happened with Chur. He acted. His grandson shared in the reward. The seed of mesiras nefesh was planted. It sprouted and blossomed in a grandson who was sanctified by Hashem's Name.

I recently heard an intriguing story from Rabbi Dovid Ordman of Eretz Yisrael. I will attempt to capture its essence on paper. A number of years ago, the Israeli government airlifted thousands of Falashan Jews from Ethiopia in a daring rescue called Operation Solomon. One day the Jews were in Ethiopia, starving and living under terrible conditions. The next day they were welcomed into Eretz Yisrael - free at last. Much planning and political manipulation was involved in carrying out this incredible rescue. It did not just happen overnight. The behind-the-scenes maneuvering involved the United States State Department, the Israeli Government, and the Central Intelligence Agency. Apparently, before the Falashan Jews could be released, it was necessary for the United States, who was "brokering" this rescue, to provide two things: Thirty-five million dollars, and an apology tendered by the President of the United States to the Ethiopian dictator.

The money seemed to have been the minor issue. An apology was not that simple to obtain, nor was it considered "diplomatically correct." The President convened a meeting, which was attended by his thirteen closest advisors. They were asked to vote on the question. Their vote would determine if these thousands of Falashan Jews would live or die. The votes were cast: six for and six against. One vote remained to be cast, that of a prominent African American, a distinguished member of the intelligence community. Everyone looked at him to hear his opinion on the tie-breaking vote. He stood up and addressed the group: "Gentlemen, I am about to cast my vote, but, before I do so, I would like to relate to you a story that occurred some thirty-five years ago, which has critical bearing on my vote."

"One hot, summer night in the Harlem section of New York, a large fire broke out in a tenement house. The fire raged on as the people did everything to escape. The fire fighters did everything in their power to contain the blaze, but it was too late, the fire was out of control. They were able to rescue the tenants - or at least they thought they had, until they looked up and saw three young children on the second floor screaming from the window: 'Help! Help! Save Us! Please,' they screamed, hysterically. The entire building was engulfed in flames. No one would or could go forward to save them. Suddenly, as if from nowhere, a young man appeared. Ignoring everyone's warnings, he ran into the building. A few minutes later, he came our carrying the three little children.

"In the meantime, the children's father, who had been away, returned to see the awesome sight of his three babies being carried out of a burning building by a young man. Understandably, everyone went over to the hero to praise and thank him for his selfless act of heroism. 'It was nothing,' he said, 'I was only performing a "mitzwah." He kept on repeating this phrase, 'I was only performing a mitzwah,' which, of course, no one understood.

"I, too," continued the advisor, did not understand what a mitzwah was until now. You see, I was one of those three children, and the young man that rescued us was an Ethiopian Jew. I know that a mitzwah is a good deed. I want to repay my rescuer's people; I also want to perform a "mitzwah." I vote that Operation Solomon be put into action."

An act of chesed performed by one individual many years earlier had planted a seed that sprouted many years later, bringing about salvation for thousands.

Moshe assembled the entire assembly of the Bnei Yisrael. (35:1)

A day earlier, on Yom Kippur, Moshe descended from Har Sinai with the second set of Luchos. He assembled all the people to tell them, says Horav Moshe, zl, m'Kubrin, that one must maintain friendship with his fellowman all year - not only on Yom Kippur. The quest for repentance and forgiveness should continue on the day after Yom Kippur also.

All of Klal Yisrael were assembled to hear about the importance of Shabbos. Moshe emphasized that this unique gift was given to everyone. It is not the individual possession of any group or segment of our People. We are all adjured to observe its laws.


And every wise-hearted man. (36:1)

Horav Aharon, zl, m'Karlin was wont to say; Wisdom without heart, chochmah without lev, is meaningless and futile.


But the work has been enough…and there was extra. (36:7)

When they collected for the Mishkan, a surplus accumulated.When they "contributed" for the Golden-Calf however, the result was far from abundant. There is no mention that excess gold was left over. Daas Chachamim explains that concerning the Mishkan, Moshe was the sole gabbai, collector. Hence, nothing was wasted; nothing was lost in the shuffle. In contrast, many "machers," movers and shakers, were involved in building the Golden-Calf. When there are so many askanim, people involved, a surplus rarely occurs.


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

The accounting of how the various donated materials were used for the Mishkan takes up a significant place in our parsha. Every detail, every amount, is reckoned and accounted for. Horav Moshe Feinstein, zl, feels that the concept of a reckoning applies equally to every aspect of our lives at every moment of our existence. Just as the artisans were to account for their use of every ounce of material in their possession, so, too, must we be able to give an accounting for the wonderful "materials" and bounty that Hashem has given us.

If we think about it, this idea has a serious implication. Hashem gives us time. Do we spend our time wisely? Do we devote the days and years that have been allotted to us for Torah study, its support and mitzvah performance, or do we allow it to fritter away on frivolities? We are blessed with a plethora of material largesse. Not only will we be questioned if we used our money for tzedakah, charity, and other forms of helping people, we will also be asked if we were careful to use the money prudently and productively for these purposes. Indeed, even in giving tzedakah there are priorities.

We think that Hashem's gifts to us are ours to do with as we please. This is a gross error. There are folios of laws detailing the proper use of property. How we use what is "ours" is determined by the Torah. Likewise, each of us is born with abilities and talents. We will have to give a tally of how we utilized these G-d-given gifts. We must remember that Hashem placed us on this world for a purpose. Not using His gifts defies that purpose in a manner similar to using them inappropriately.

Betzalel made all that Hashem had commanded Moshe. (38:22)

Rashi cites an interesting dialogue that took place between Moshe Rabbeinu and Betzalel. Moshe had instructed Betzalel to fashion the Aron Hakodesh and then make the Mishkan. Betzalel questioned the sequence, "Should one first make the furniture and then construct the edifice which will contain them?" Moshe responded, "Your name, Betzalel, means b'tzel Kel, in the shadow of G-d. Surely, you must have been standing in the shadow of G-d." The Commentators perceive Moshe's response to mean that Betzalel grasped Hashem's command accurately. This would imply that Moshe Rabbeinu who was surely greater in perception than Betzalel did not completely understand Hashem's command. This is difficult to accept. Moreover, if Betzalel's name denotes the clarity and depth of his understanding of Hashem's Divine wish, his name should have been Uriel, which means one who is illuminated, rather than one who stands in the shadows.

The Sokolever Rebbe, zl, takes a somewhat different approach towards interpreting this dialogue. Moshe felt that the Aron took priority. Its sanctity and eminence was so great that it needed no protection. As the Aron "carried its carriers," so, too, was it immune to any physical damage. The question did not concern damage from outside forces, but, rather, from a laxity in the manner Klal Yisrael conducted themselves in its presence. The issue was decorum in the presence of the Torah. Regrettably, things have not changed much. There are laws which regulate our propriety in a shul, in the presence of the Torah.

Moshe Rabbeinu's relationship to Hashem was certainly closer than Betzalel's. He perceived the brilliance and clarity of the Shechinah associated with the closeness on a more sublime level. He could not fathom anyone acting in an undignified manner in the presence of the Aron. Moshe Rabbeinu's profound humility did not permit him to believe that anyone could be different than he in his reverence for the Almighty.

Betzalel, however, was more "down to earth" than Moshe. He was acutely aware of the frailty of the common Jew. He felt that Moshe was over-estimating the spiritual plateau of the average Jew. He was, consequently, concerned that an exposed Aron would not receive the appropriate respect it deserved and demanded. Hence, he felt that the enclosure to protect the Aron from human irreverence was needed - prior to building the Aron. Moshe agreed with Betzalel, because he understood that Betzalel's perception of the common Jew was more realistic than his. He said, "You decided to make the protective edifice first because you stood in the shadow of G-d. Had you been closer, had you benefited from standing in the direct light, your perception would have been much more lucid. You also could not have conceived that anyone would behave improperly in the presence of the Aron."

Moshe Rabbeinu's response to Betzalel is of a timeless nature. Indeed, the further we are removed from the Revelation of Har Sinai, the deeper we progress in the "shadow of G-d." The precautionary laws that Chazal have legislated for us are to protect us from forgetting this fact; we stand only in the shadow of the spirituality that Klal Yisrael once manifest.

Moshe did…Hashem commanded Moshe. (40:10,20)

Throughout the parsha, we note how Moshe Rabbeinu acted in accordance with Hashem's command - "to Moshe." Should it not have said "to him," rather than "to Moshe." Are they not one and the same? Horav Elchanan Wasserman, zl, was wont to say that Moshe did not attribute any significance to himself in regard to his position as Moshe, the quintessential leader of the Jewish People. There was Moshe - the man, and Moshe - the leader: two different people. It is as if Moshe, the man, was standing by the side as Moshe, the leader, was involved in constructing the Mishkan.

When the Mashgiach of Baranovitz, Horav Yisrael Yaakov Lubchenski, zl, was gravely ill, Rav Elchanan, the Rosh HaYeshivah, came to visit him. As he walked in, the Rebbetzin lamented the fact that her husband would not permit his students to assist him in any way. Rav Elchanan mused, "I do not understand. Perhaps for himself he might not want to take advantage of his students, but what about the Mashgiach? He needs the students to help him, so that he can recuperate more quickly from his illness. Indeed, the Mashgiach should see to it that the Mashgiach gets better, since the yeshivah badly needs the Mashgiach." He supported his statement by relating the way Moshe viewed "himself." This is the perspective of one whose outlook is molded by Torah perspective.

For the cloud of Hashem would be on the Mishkan by day, and fire would be on it at night…throughout the journeys. (40:38)

A Torah scholar whose life is Torah is a microcosm of the Mishkan. He is a living embodiment of the Mishkan, as Chazal say, "the Shechinah resides within each person who is worthy of being a repository for it." Horav Yehudah Tzedaka comments that the Mishkan had two attributes: fire and cloud. Likewise, the Torah scholar should possess these two attributes. Cloud is an allusion to tznius, modesty. He should always be modest, unpretentious, "covered," as if by a cloud. When the honor of Torah is at stake, he must act as a fire, with passion and zeal, not shying away from challenge or confrontation. Humility is a special virtue, one that every Torah leader should possess. There is a time, however, when misplaced humility and self-effacement is a liability. When the Torah, or those who epitomize its doctrine are disparaged, one must rise to the occasion and vehemently oppose those who would undermine the Torah.

Vignettes on the Parsha

Betzalel , the son of Uri…did everything that Hashem commanded Moshe. (38:22)

Horav Shlomo, zl, m'Radomsk, interprets the pasuk in its literal sense. Betzalel was not "satisfied" with just constructing the Mishkan and its vessels. He endeavored to be a complete Jew, to do everything that Hashem had commanded Moshe. One who is "osek," involves himself in meleches Shomayim, Heavenly Work, must himself be holy and virtuous.

You shall dress Ahraon…and anoint him…and his sons you shall bring near…you shall anoint them as you anointed their father. (40: 13,14,15)

Why would Moshe anoint Aharon's sons any differently than the way he anointed Aharon? The Meshech Chochmah suggests that when Moshe anointed Aharon, there was no room for envy on his part, since they each had an exalted position: Aharon was the Kohen Gadol; and Moshe was the Navi and leader of Klal Yisrael. When it came to anointing Aharon's sons, it was different. Aharon merited to see his sons follow in his footsteps and also become Kohanim. Moshe, regrettably, did not see his sons assume his leadership position. He was, thus, instructed to maintain the same inherent joy when he anointed Aharon's sons as he had when he anointed Aharon.

He emplaced the Laver. (40:30)

The Laver, which was used to wash and purify the Kohanim upon entering the Sanctuary, was made of the women's mirrors. The Toldos Yaakov Yosef notes that one does not purify himself until he views himself as others see him.


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