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Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum
Hebrew Academy of Cleveland

Parshas Vayakhel

Moshe assembled the entire community of Bnei Yisrael and said to them, "These are the things that Hashem commanded… On six days work may be done, but the seventh day shall be holy for you…Moshe said to the entire community of Bnei Yisrael…"This is the word that Hashem has commanded…Take from yourselves a gift for Hashem." (35:1,2,4,5)

Moshe Rabbeinu assembled the entire nation as he instructed them in two mitzvos: Shabbos and the construction of the Mishkan. While each Jew is enjoined to observe Shabbos and maintain the sanctity of the Mishkan, both of these mitzvos have a collective application to Klal Yisrael as a whole. Moshe, therefore, speaks to them as a group. Horav Zalman Sorotzkin, zl, explains that Shabbos was not given to "Reb Yisrael," the individual Jew, but to Klal Yisrael, the entire Jewish People. The Shabbos observance -- or lack thereof -- of each individual Jew has a compelling effect on the entire klal, for we are all partners in its observance. Each individual Jew is analogous to a limb of a large body called "the Jewish People," whose mate is Shabbos Ha'Malka, the Shabbos Queen. If any one limb causes the queen pain, we all suffer in turn. Shabbos attests to the fact that Hashem created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. To reject Shabbos is to repudiate this belief.

A similar concept applies to the Mishkan whose construction was also commanded to a collective Klal Yisrael. All of Klal Yisrael gave equally for the silver adanim, sockets, of the Mishkan's foundation. Everyone gave according to his desire and ability for the Mishkan itself and for the various vessels.

We are confronted with a question regarding the text: Since Moshe began by instructing Klal Yisrael in the mitzvos both of Shabbos and Mishkan, why does the Torah begin over again by saying, "Moshe said…take for yourselves a gift for Hashem." We have just concluded that Moshe spoke to them about Shabbos and the Mishkan. Why did it repeat it? Furthermore, why is the idea that he spoke to the "entire community of Bnei Yisrael" reiterated? Last, in Pasuk 35:20, the Torah says, "The entire community of Yisrael departed." Why does the Torah mention their leaving? This is not the "style" of the Torah.

Horav Sorotzkin uses a parable to convey a practical and timely response to these questions. Once a rabbinic leader invited his congregants for a meeting to raise money for an institution that was faltering on the brink of collapse. Realizing that mention of a fundraising meeting would dissuade his congregants from attending, he cited another reason for the meeting, one that did not have financial implications. Thus, everyone would attend. Later, he would reveal his main agenda. Moshe Rabbeinu had the same notion when he "attached" Shabbos observance to his request for financial assistance to construct the Mishkan. He began with Shabbos, and he "moved on" to the Mishkan.

Regardless of the ploy, these risks do not work. As soon as people hear an allusion to money, they suddenly have appointments to go to, places to be, and functions to attend. By the time one broaches the main issue, the wealthy individuals have vanished. By the middle of the lecture/appeal, the middle class invitees have likewise disappeared. As we near the end of the solicitation, we are fortunate to find that a handful of people, who probably have little wherewithal to contribute, have remained.

The Torah tells us that regarding the Mishkan, fundraising events were different. Originally, the "entire community" came to the meeting, and they all stayed. No one conjured up an excuse to leave. Although they might have suspected that the Shabbos exchange was leading up to something else that would cost them, they gladly remained. Even when Moshe began with the nitty gritty, requesting contributions for the Mishkan, no one left. The list of items needed was lengthy, requiring serious donations, yet they all continued to stay. They all waited until the end, when they departed together to gather their gold and silver for the Mishkan. Such was their desire to contribute towards the Mishkan. They came together, they stayed together, and they left together, only to return with their whole-hearted donations. If only that attitude would have endured.

All the women whose hearts inspired them with wisdom spun the goat hair. (35:26)

They spun the wool while it was still attached to the animal. This is certainly a remarkable craft, but what benefit does it derive? Obviously, there was a purpose in performing this extraordinary feat: What was it? Horav Meir Bergman, Shlita, suggests a practical application for spinning the wool in this manner. Everything in the Mishkan must be tahor, ritually clean/pure. The women went to extreme lengths to see to it that the thread would remain tahor until it was actually incorporated into the curtains of the Mishkan. According to halachah, a living animal is not mekabel tumah, never becomes ritually contaminated. Therefore, the women spun the wool while it was still attached to the animal to prevent it from becoming tamei.

From a remark made by the Rambam in Hilchos Tumaas Meis 1:13, we note that this was unnecessary. The Mishnah details the obvious precautions taken in preparing the Parah Adumah and mixing it with the "cleansing water" to be sprinkled upon one who was tamei tumaas meis, had been in contact with a corpse. Since everyone involved with the process was to be tahor, the children who would draw the water that was ultimately mixed with the ashes were raised to be tahor from birth. Everybody else would undergo the seven-day purification process necessary for one who comes into contact with a corpse. Regardless of these unusual measures, the Rambam adds that while we see it is possible to arrange to have people free of tumaas meis, we should take every precaution to keep them as far as possible from actual contact with the ashes. The Rambam concludes that in reality there is no difference between one who has never become tamei and one who had been tamei and became tahor. In fact, the individual who is sprinkled with the tahor water achieves a special distinction of purity as evidenced by the Torah's proclamation of his pure status.

Accordingly, one who becomes tahor is actually greater than one who has never been impure. Even if a thread would become tamei, it could be cleansed, rendering it even more appropriate for use in the Mishkan. We return to our original question: What was accomplished by choosing to prepare the thread in this more difficult manner, while it was still attached to the goat's body?

In an alternative approach, Horav Bergman suggests the following: He cites the Talmud Bava Metzia 85b in which Rabbi Chiya extolled his method for assuring that Torah would never be forgotten from Klal Yisrael. He said, "What do I do? I go and sow flax and twist nets out of the flax that grows. I use these nets to trap deer. I slaughter the deer and feed the flesh to orphans and prepare Torah scrolls from their hides. I then write the five Chumashim on these scrolls. I go to those towns where there is no teacher for the children and teach five children the five Chumashim and six children the six orders of the Mishnah. I tell the children, 'Until I return, teach each other!' They teach each other, thereby ensuring that Torah will not be forgotten from Yisrael!"

Horav Aharon Kotler, zl, asked why Rabbi Chiya went to such lengths to prepare the scrolls personally. He explained that the best guarantee of success is to perform everything, every single detail, from start to finish l'shem Shomayim, for the sake of Heaven. He cites the Vilna Gaon who says that if a shul were to be built entirely l'shem Shomayim - each board, each brick, each nail and even the workmen's tools - then no one would entertain any inappropriate thoughts during davening. A building that is entirely built for the sake of Heaven retains an element of sanctity unlike anything else.

We now understand why the women made such an effort to spin the goats wool for the curtains of the Mishkan. The wool of a living animal cannot become tamei as it grows. Tumah could creep in, however, once they began the actual work of making the curtains. These people were concerned that the holiest structure that had ever been built by man should not become defiled. To this end, the women undertook the preparation of these panels in the most strenuous manner. Carding, combing, washing and spinning the wool would be performed with utter devotion l'shem Shomayim. No extraneous ideas would be thought. There would be no opportunity for the evil inclination to attach to the project. These people had no training in this difficult and exacting craft, particularly not in doing it while the wool was attached to the animal. As the Ramban explains, "Their heart uplifted in Hashem's ways" and Hashem inspired them in the craft.

They had no one to guide them in their work - other than their "uplifted heart." As they turned to Hashem with absolute devotion, wisdom flowed from the Source of all wisdom. Suddenly, whatever Moshe asked of them, they could do. The Fountain of all wisdom and strength gave them the ability and the knowledge to execute the most arduous task.

This serves as a pedagogical lesson for us as we raise and educate our own children. If our goal is for them to be educated, G-d fearing, holy Jews -- and as observant Jews this should most certainly be our goal -- then we must focus on these things from the moment our children are born. Every aspect of their training should be executed al taharas ha'kodesh, from a totally pure and holy perspective. Only in this way can we anticipate the success of seeing them living lives of true devoutness. The training begins with the parents, who themselves must be unwavering in their commitment and devotion. A child responds to, and emulates, what he sees at home. We must make sure that what he sees is something we want him to mirror as he leaves the home.

Raising children is a most difficult task - not much different than spinning wool on a living goats' back. This is an almost impossible achievement if not for the Almighty's aid. As the people of that generation uplifted their hearts and turned to Hashem, so, too, should we seek Him out as we raise our children. To paraphrase Horav Chaim Soloveitchik, zl, in regard to raising children, "Even after applying all the pedagogical skills it is important to recite Tehillim mit treren, un treren mit Tehillim - Tehillim with tears, and tears with Tehillim." With this recipe, we may hope to achieve success.

The Nesiim, Princes, brought the Shoham stones and the stones for the Eiphod and the Choshen. (35:27)

Rashi cites the Midrash that notes that the word Nesiim, Princes/leaders, is written without the two yuds it would customarily have. The defective spelling of their title is an implied critique of these leaders for not coming forward immediately, like everyone else, to bring their contribution. Their attitude was, "Let the people first give and then we will be mashlim, complete the shortfall." They underestimated Klal Yisrael's absolute devotion, for the national response was so generous that there was almost nothing left for the Nesiim to give. The Torah spells their title defectively because their "lagging" indicated an element of laziness. We must endeavor to understand the significance of the missing yud. Horav Zev Weinberger, Shlita, explains that it was not indolence on their part for which they were chastised, it was rather their attitude in creating a pirud, separation, within Klal Yisrael. They distinguished between their own contribution and everybody else's. While this was certainly not their intention, their lack of participation created such an impression. The purpose of the Mishkan is to engender harmony among our people, not to create an opportunity for disunity. The "yud" symbolizes the Yid, Jew, the letter of the alphabet that unifies Klal Yisrael as one. For this reason, specifically the "yud", the symbol of harmony and oneness, was deleted from their name.

When the Mishkan was completed, everyone attempted to raise it up -- to no avail. They all tried, but did not succeed. They turned to Moshe and asked him to raise it. By subjugating themselves to him, by collectively deferring to him, they personified the ingredient most essential for hakomas ha'Mishkan, raising the Mishkan - unity. Moshe accepted, and succeeded in raising the Mishkan as a result of their collective achdus, unity.

This is a thoughtful exposition regarding Chazal's critique of the Nesiim. How is a lack of unity, or the fact that the Nesiim displayed an air of superiority, related to laziness? Chazal say they were indolent; they rationalized; they looked for excuses not to rush forward with alacrity and enthusiasm. What does that have to do with eliteness and its consequent lack of achdus?

We suggest that the lesson to be derived is that achdus is not a natural phenomenon. People have to overcome inner challenges to act in harmony with others. They have to work at achdus if it is to become a reality. We do not make committees for unity and expect it to just happen. It takes hard work to overcome inner fears, to prevail over one's own ego; to learn to respect others; to display a willingness to live together in harmony. One cannot pay lipservice to unity. It is a challenge that one must be willing to accept and follow through -- regardless of the various setbacks that may occur. One who is slothful, who takes an apathetic attitude towards life, will not succeed in sustaining harmonious relationships with others.

This does not mean that the Nesiim were chas v'shalom, Heaven forbid, lazy in any way. When Chazal critiqued any of the Patriarchs or Torah giants of the past, they were doing so in a relative perspective, in accordance with their lofty spiritual/moral plateau. Chazal sensed that a tinge of indolence commensurate with the Nesiim's lofty spiritual level was the source of their lack of enthusiasm in contributing towards the Mishkan.

See, Hashem has proclaimed by name, Betzalel son of Uri, son of Chur, of the tribe of Yehudah. (35:30)

Rashi notifies us here that Chur was Miriam's son. We wonder why Rashi waited until this point to tell us this aspect of Chur's lineage, as Chur's name occurs previously in Parashas Ki Sisa. That would have been a proper place to detail Chur's pedigree. Furthermore, Chur gave up his life to sanctify Hashem's Name when he took a stand against the Golden Calf revelers. Why is this incident presented only as an allusion? One would think that such an act of extreme devotion would receive a more prominent exposure than just a cursory mention. The fact that his grandson was the architect of the Mishkan is truly a great merit, but does Chur not deserve recognition in his own right?

Horav Zev Weinberger, Shlita, derives a profound lesson from this apparent omission in the text. If citing Chur's greatness and devotion means recalling the tragic sin of Klal Yisrael, their terrible degradation and downfall - if one cannot be mentioned without the other - then we acquiesce and do not openly recount Chur's brave deed. We conceal Chur's eminence in order not to denigrate others. This is the meaning of true greatness.


1) What is derived from the fact that the prohibition of Shabbos preceded the mitzvah of building the Mishkan?

2) Which yerios are referred to as the Mishkan?

3) Which word in this parsha is referred to both in the lashon zachar and lashon nekeivah, masculine and feminine gender?

4) What was unique about the manner in which the women spun the wool?

5) Who was Betzalel's great-grandfather?

6) From where did Klal Yisrael get the copper for the Kiyor?


1) The construction of the Mishkan does not override the halachos of Shabbos.

2) The yerios hatachtanos, lower panels which are visible from within the Mishkan.

3) Chatzer, "Es amudav v'es adonehah, its pillars and its sockets: "pillars is written in the masculine; sockets in the feminine. Both are references to Chatzer, the courtyard.

4) They would spin while it was still attached to the living goat.

5) Calev ben Yefunah.

6) From the women's mirrors, which were made of copper.

This issue is dedicated by the mispallelim of
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In gratitude to our Mora D'asara
and in honor of our 25th anniversary dinner


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