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Peninim on the Torah

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Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum
Hebrew Academy of Cleveland


On six days, work may be done, but the seventh day shall be holy for you, a day of complete rest for Hashem. (35:2)

Interestingly, whenever we find the prohibition against labor on Shabbos, there is always some mention of working on six days of the week, i.e., "On six days, work may be done, but the seventh day shall be holy for you." This is also true in the Aseres HaDibros, Ten Commandments, "For (in) six days Hashem made the heavens and the earth…and He rested on the seventh day." (Shemos 20:11) Horav Avraham Schorr, Shlita, explains that kedushas Shabbos, the sanctity of Shabbos, is greatly dependent on the manner in which one acts during the six days of the "work" week.

Harov Schorr supports this statement with a principle from the Rishonim. In the aforementioned pasuk from the Aseres HaDibros, the Torah writes, "For (in) six days Hashem made the heavens and the earth." The way the pasuk is read, Ki sheishas yamim asah, it should be translated as, "For six days Hashem made." In order to coincide with the popular translation of the pasuk, it should have written, Ki b'sheishas yamim asah, "For in six days Hashem made." It almost sounds as if Hashem created "six days." The Teshuvos Ha'Rashba writes that the Torah is telling us just that: the actual entity of time, i.e., "six days," was created by Hashem. The problem with this approach is that it implies that Hashem created only six days-- and not seven. How does Shabbos fit in to this construct? Was it a creation?

Rav Schorr cites the Bris Avraham, who quotes a Rishon that originally the day had been twenty-eight hours long. Hashem created the first six days, and then He took four hours from each day, and those hours combined to constitute Shabbos. The sefarim explain that the "six days" decided among themselves to select a rosh, head, over themselves. They chose Shabbos.

This is why Shabbos is referred to in the tefillas, Shabbos service, as chemdas ha'yamim, the most coveted of days. According to the above approach, this is a reference to Shabbos being created from the "select" hours of each day of the week. The "six times four equals twenty-four," of which Shabbos is comprised, is the chemdas, the most coveted of the days of the week. Alternatively, we can say that the days of the week "chose" as their rosh, head, the Shabbos, which became the symbol of their chemdah, love, for it.

Rav Schorr concludes with an inspiring thought for us to carry through the "work" week. Shabbos is a creation of the six work days. Thus, one's Shabbos is the result and outgrowth of his actions during the weekdays. Every day gives its hours to Shabbos. If we view Shabbos as the rosh of our week, we must make our week worthy of the Shabbos. A yeshivah has a "rosh" yeshivah, who reflects the character of his yeshivah. A community has a Rav or Av Bais Din, rabbi or leader of its judicial court, selected by the community. He is their representative, and thus, a reflection of themselves. The mafia, l'havdil, also has its don, its rosh who characterizes the activities of his henchmen. Our Shabbos reflects our weekdays. The type of Shabbos we observe is largely based upon the way we act during the week. What a powerful thought to carry around all week.

And they came, everyone whose heart stirred him. (35:21)

The Mishkan was a Divinely inspired architectural masterpiece. The construction of this Sanctuary required individuals who were talented and skilled craftsmen, artisans who were highly proficient in fashioning intricate designs in metal work and wood work. Clearly, the time the Jewish People spent in Egypt was not dedicated to honing their skills in these intricate areas of craftsmanship. Therefore, how were they able to execute the construction of the Mishkan? They really had no experience whatsoever in Egypt. The Ramban understands nesius ha'lev, "one whose heart stirs him," as the key to the Mishkan's exemplary work force. The ish asher nesao libo, "one whose heart stirred him," was an unusually motivated individual who offered his services to Moshe Rabbeinu. Their attitude was characterized by such responses as, "Here, let me do it." "What can I do?"

Although none of these people had received any formal training or guidance in the required skills, they found "within themselves" the inherent capability to perform these tasks. The Ramban concludes, "And because they uplifted their hearts to serve Hashem," i.e., they were spiritually inspired, they therefore volunteered for the job.

Apparently, according to the Ramban, these men did actually possess natural talent, but for some reason they lacked the motivation to come forward and offer their services. What about this mitzvah stirred them to come forward? And how did this motivation overcome whatever had previously impeded them?

Horav Henach Leibowitz, Shlita, explains that just because one is endowed with talent, it does not mean that he is qualified to undertake an important task. One may have all that it takes to succeed at a specific endeavor, yet there still may be something missing. There are two essential ingredients that are requisites for success: talent and experience. Without training under the supervision of an individual who guides from personal experience, one may err in his work and not even be aware of his mistakes. Natural ability is wonderful, but-- without experience-- it is of little value.

Under normal conditions, the craftsmen who constructed the Mishkan should have refrained from undertaking the awesome responsibility of building Hashem's Mishkan. Despite their considerable genius and skill, they still had no teacher to guide them, to mentor them in the do's and don'ts of this task. To err in such a holy undertaking was very dangerous. This is where nesius ha'lev, the stirring of their hearts, played a critical role. It took them beyond their fear of the unknown. It guided them past their lack of experience.

The Rosh Yeshivah cites the Orchos Tzadikim, who defines "uplifting one's heart" to serve Hashem as one's constant quest for spiritual achievement. He is not satisfied with his spiritual status quo - regardless of its exalted status. He wants more! No one else had the experience, but this did not deter them from offering their service. They gathered the courage to understand this enormous responsibility, trusting that Hashem would ultimately guide them.

There is a powerful lesson to be derived from here - and it is not limited to physical craftsmanship. Every endeavor must be approached with caution. Whether it is educational or organizational -- especially when it serves the community-it carries enormous responsibility. A mistake can hurt the community, set back an organization, or worst of all: cause a chillul Hashem, desecration of Hashem's Name. Nonetheless, if we always worry, we would never get anything done.

Therefore, we must first examine our qualifications. Are they sound? Next, do we have a mentor, someone to tell us when we are beginning to err, someone whom we respect and whose opinion we value? If the answer to these questions is negative, then it would be best that we rethink our initiative. If so, why did the Jewish artisans go forward? They had no experience. They had no idea that Hashem would ultimately guide them.

Their circumstances were different. They had received a direct communication from Hashem to construct the Mishkan. He was asking for volunteers who felt they had it in them to succeed. Thus, their desire to perform the mitzvah justified their volunteering, despite their lack of experience. Do we have a clearly defined mandate to go forward - or is it something that we often convince ourselves to do? There is only one clear way to know: consult our Torah leaders. They will guide us on the right path to follow. They will tell us if it is the correct thing to do - or not. From them we can gain the crucial training and guidance necessary to serve the community properly and with distinction. They will tell us when it is wise to demur, and when we should rise to the occasion.

And they came, everyone whose heart stirred him. (35:21)

Essentially, the Torah is teaching us that after a call went out for those who could give of themselves to construct the Mishkan, a number of individuals, whose heart stirred within them, came forward, and they were the Mishkan's builders. This must have been an incredible undertaking, especially since these artisans had no prior experience. It is not as if building sanctuaries was their favorite pastime in Egypt. These people were used for slave labor and nothing else. They were, however, highly motivated by the opportunity to build Hashem's Mishkan, and this motivation catalyzed them to go forward. When we think about it, this phenomenon is not uncommon. Many people are inspired to move forward, to dedicate themselves to a higher cause, but something happens along the road to success. Well, it is not really "something," but "someone." Whether it is someone whose jealousy is concealed in his skepticism or it is a well-meaning friend who just does not want to see us get hurt, our dreams and aspirations are often pinpricked before the balloon can ascend to great heights. Perhaps the following episode will give us a deeper insight.

The Lubliner Rav, as he was referred to reverently and affectionately, Horav Meir Shapiro, zl, was certainly a great man. He was a distinguished Rosh Yeshivah, a respected diplomat for his people in the halls of the Polish Parliament and a world class Torah leader. His distinction to us and to most Jews at the time was his innovative plan to have the entire Torah world literally on the "same page" of the Talmud: his Daf Yomi, folio a day, plan of Torah study. Rarely has an idea been so universally accepted and mushroomed to such success as the Daf HaYomi learning program.

His work on behalf of Klal Yisrael brought him to many Jewish communities in Europe. This incident took place as he arrived in one of the cities along his route. As he alighted from the train, people lined up to see and greet the distinguished visitor. They introduced themselves and vied for his attention. One of the individuals in the crowd was a young rav who introduced himself as the son-in-law of the Shotzer Rebbe, the town where Rav Meir had grown up.

Rav Meir looked at him and asked, "Is your rebbetzin here with you?"

"In fact, she is," the young rav replied.

"Could I possibly speak with her?" Rav Meir asked.

"Certainly," the rav answered. "I will go and get her."

When the woman came over, Rav Meir addressed her with the following question, "Do you remember that, as a child, I would learn with your father in your home?"

"Yes, I remember," she replied.

This time, when Rav Meir asked the next question, there was a slight tremor in his voice, "Do you recall my grandiose plans to unite all the Jews in the world in the study of the same daf, page in the Talmud, daily ? This way all of Klal Yisrael would be united through Torah." Then his voice dropped an octave, when he asked, "Do you also remember how all the children would laugh at the idea and mock it, deriving great satisfaction from putting down my idea?"

This time the woman remained still. She did not reply.

Rav Meir continued. "Do you know that I came seriously close to giving up my plan? I was losing confidence in my ability to successfully maneuver through the various obstacles I faced. Those taunts almost pushed me over the edge. This is why I asked to speak to you. I just wanted to share one thought with you: Never laugh at the dream of a child!"

Now that we have read the story, we must ask ourselves: How often have we been the victim of such taunts? How many times have we wanted to move forward with a great idea only to have someone knock it out of the realm of possibility either for selfish or foolish reasons? How often have we been the perpetrators of such an impediment to success? Last, how many of those times have we justified our self-centered actions by asserting that we really were doing the other fellow a favor? Perhaps, we will just leave it with the questions.

Every man and woman whose heart motivated them to bring for any of the work…the Bnei Yisrael brought a free-willed offering to Hashem. (35:29)

The parsha commences with a description of the tremendous outpouring of generosity toward the construction of the Mishkan. Anybody who has ever had to make an appeal or address a fundraising effort knows that only a percentage-- and usually a small percentage of those assembled-- will respond favorably - or even at all. Yet, Moshe Rabbeinu's appeal for the thirteen materials to be used for the Mishkan was so successful that he had to ask the people to halt their donations. They were so motivated to give that their response was unprecedented. This is what the pasuk is relating to us. If so, why does the pasuk conclude simply, "Bnei Yisrael brought a free-willed offering to Hashem?"

Horav Avraham Pam, zl, cited by Rabbi Sholom Smith in his book, "Shabbos With Rav Pam," suggests that the very fact that the Mishkan was constructed through the talented craftsmanship of the people, using their money or materials, might lead them to feel a sense of pride or arrogance. After all, it was their donation; it was their ability; it was their nedivus. Those whose donations were significant might allow this notion to elevate their heads into the clouds - a certainly not uncommon phenomenon. It did not, however, and they did not. Nothing of the kind occurred. The people gave and were enthusiastic about it for its own sake. They were giving for the Mishkan. This was all that counted. If they were fortunate enough to be able to participate in this exalted mitzvah, they were ecstatic. The people were motivated by only one concern: How would it lead to greater kavod Shomayim, honor of Heaven? This is why the pasuk emphasized that although each Jew brought his own unique, individual donation to the Mishkan, he viewed it and himself as part of the greater collective Bnei Yisrael, a unified entity - not an individual in his own right. He cared about the focus of his contribution - not about his involvement in it.

The Rosh Yeshivah cites the Malbim, who explains that the purpose of the Mishkan was to create a komah sheleimah, an all-encompassing entity, of a unified Klal Yisrael comprised of: all of the various maalos, attributes/qualities; kochos, individual strengths and talents; and levels of kedushah, sanctity of the different members of the nation. This goal would be achieved via each one's individual contribution for the common goal of creating a sanctuary for the Shechinah. Everyone felt and understood that it was not only his efforts alone that created this holy abode, but the work of everyone together in a cumulative effort that achieved this komah sheleimah.

This can be achieved only when each Jew views himself as part of the large body of Klal Yisrael. Just as the body is comprised of many organs and limbs, each with its unique function, each with its own individual task that impacts the entire body. True, some organs play a leading role, while others play a supporting role, but they are all part of one body. Thus, if the toe is hurt, the entire body is held captive by the pain. Just as one organ is not envious of another organ, because they are all in this together as components of the body which needs all of them, so, too, should one Jew not be jealous of another Jew who has been endowed with special talents and acumen. Indeed, one's heart should swell with pride in the knowledge that Klal Yisrael possesses such talented people. The healthier the body, the healthier are all of the organs.

Rav Pam cites a powerful thought from Horav Simchah Bunim, zl, m'Peshischa which encapsulates this idea. One should be happy for the collective nation that includes within its ranks individuals who have been endowed with extra special Heavenly blessings. The Rebbe was once asked if he would like to change places with Avraham Avinu, such that Avraham would receive the Rebbe's special talents, and the Rebbe would be bestowed with Avraham's unique capabilities. The Rebbe smiled and said, "I would not want to change places with Avraham because what would Hashem derive from the exchange? There would still be one Avraham and one Bunim."

This is a statement from a person who lived for one purpose: to serve Hashem. Everything that he did reflected this purpose, or else it was not worth doing. If one thinks of the collective Klal Yisrael and its function in this world, does it really matter who it is that is blessed with unique talents?

To live for one purpose: to serve Hashem. One expends every bit of strength in his body to serve the Almighty. In one of the last Eluls of his life, when he was already weakened with illness and advanced age, the legendary Mashgiach, Horav Yechezkel Levinstein, zl, felt a great desire to speak once again to his beloved students, to impart to them the meaning of the month of Elul, the imperative of serving Hashem on an even higher level than usual. He slowly, painstakingly, and with great effort made his way to the front of the study hall and ascended to the lectern. This act of walking across the room was the result of great mesiras nefesh, personal self-sacrifice. Upon reaching the lectern, he no longer had the strength to speak. He was totally spent. So, he slowly returned to his seat. As far as his students were concerned, this was the Elul shmuess, ethical discourse, for which they had hoped. They learned that one must continue in one's avodas Hashem, service of the Almighty, to the extreme limits of one's strength.

A wealthy friend of the family of Horav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, zl, urged Rav Yosef Chaim to permit him to build a beautiful, spacious home for the Rav. Rav Yosef Chaim thanked him for the generous offer and led him over to the window of his modest dwelling. "Look out the window, my friend," said Rav Yosef Chaim wistfully. "See how the house of Hashem, our Bais HaMikdash, lies in ruin, occupied by Arabs. Do you really want to build a mansion for me? It is enough for the servant to be like his master. As long as the palace of the King is destroyed, this dwelling will suffice for me."

Va'ani Tefillah

Yehi kavod Hashem l'olam, yismach Hashem b'maasav.
May the glory of Hashem endure forever, let Hashem rejoice in His works.

The Talmud in Chullin 60A comments that this pasuk was initially recited by the Sar Ha'Olam, the angel into whose hands the entire world had been given. The Talmud explains that this declaration was prompted by the following incident. When Hashem commanded the trees to emerge from the earth, "each after its kind (l'mineihu)," without an intermingling of species, the different types of herbage raised the logic of kal v'chomer, a priori, regarding themselves, reasoning, "If Hashem desires a confusion of species, why did He tell the trees to grow, 'each after its own kind?' Clearly, He desires a distinction among the species, and logically this applies to us (herbage) as well. Furthermore, this can be supported with a kal v'chomer: 'If even concerning trees, which by nature do not emerge from the earth in confusion, Hashem still said, l'mineihu, we, (herbage) who are of the manner to emerge from the earth in confusion, certainly should do so separately, each according to its own kind." Immediately, each and every type of herbage sprouted forth, each according to its own kind. Upon witnessing this, the Sar Ha'Olam began to praise Hashem saying, Yehi kavod.

Horav Moshe Feinstein, zl, derives a powerful lesson from here. The herbage were not commanded directly how to sprout forth. They applied logic to ascertain what really was the tzivui Hashem, command of Hashem. This teaches us to delve into a matter, seeking out the underlying motif of Hashem's or asking, "What does Hashem want from me? What is He telling me?" The very act of seeking out the meaning and the essence of Hashem's command is in itself the greatest and most sublime avodah, service, of Hashem. One who does not suffice with simply fulfilling the revealed and distinct mitzvos, but looks deeper to discover what really is the will of Hashem, he is the one about whom Hashem rejoices.

Peninim on the Torah is in its 14th year of publication. The first nine years have been published in book form.

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