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PARSHAS VAYAKHEL/PEKUDEIAnd Moshe assembled the entire assembly of Bnei Yisrael and said to them. (35:1)
Rashi observes that this assembly took place on the day after Yom Kippur, after Moshe Rabbeinu had descended from the mountain. The Sifsei Chachamim notes that Parashas Ki Sisa concludes with Moshe's descent from the mountain. The narrative here continues from that point. The fact that Rashi emphasizes that the Assembly occurred on the day after Yom Kippur is notable. Is the date really that significant? If the gathering would have taken place on another day - would it have been different?
Horav Moshe zl, m'Kubrin offers a practical exposition - something to which we can probably all relate. Yom Kippur is central to Jewish belief as the Day of Atonement, the holiest day of the year. It is a day when we all go to shul and pray with fervor, supplicating the Almighty for forgiveness and entreating Him to grant us another year of good health, success and welfare. It is not a time for bearing a grudge or maintaining a bad relationship with anyone. People "tend" to get along at this time of the year, because they are frightened. We understand that if we cannot forgive the fellow who hurt us during the year, we can hardly ask Hashem to do the same for us. It is a simple quid pro quo.
Yom Kippur goes by and, lo and behold, the amicable relationships that had prevailed "yesterday" are gone "today." The friendships begin to wane, the forgiveness deteriorates, life returns to pre-Yom Kippur status. Indeed, as the days go by, as we distance ourselves from Yom Kippur, we begin to do likewise with our "friends." Yom Kippur is over and, often, with it go some of the resolutions we made regarding our social relationships. The peace and unity which had reigned just a few days earlier no longer seems to be applicable to today. It is almost as if one is no longer able to discern that a Yom Kippur had occurred.
This, says the Kobriner, was what Moshe was alluding to in addressing the nation: "Rabosai, we are gathered together today as one, as a unified Klal Yisrael. After all, it is the day after Yom Kippur. The mood that was infused in our nation should not wane the day after. Hakhel, 'assemble together', on the 'day after Yom Kippur,' as you did 'on Yom Kippur.' Let peace and harmony reign among our people. It is not only for Yom Kippur. It is also to be continued the 'day after'."
On six days work may be done, but the seventh shall be holy for you. (35:2)
The Torah introduces the commandments concerning the Mishkan with an enjoinment to guard/observe the Shabbos. On a simple level, the Torah is intimating that, while the construction of the Mishkan is a lofty endeavor with clearly transcendent significance, it does not supersede Shabbos. In other words, the construction of the Mishkan, regardless of its magnitude, is halted for Shabbos. Veritably, one detects an affinity between Shabbos and the Mishkan. Chazal declare that the Lamed-tes Melachos, Thirty-nine classifications of work prohibited on Shabbos, are derived from the nature of work involved in the construction of the Mishkan. What is the connection between Shabbos and Mishkan?
Horav Aharon Soloveitchik, zl, distinguishes between two forms of Creation: briah and yetzirah. He quotes Radak who explains that briah is related to destruction. Although briah in the total sense of creation is the antithesis of destruction, briah involves destructive elements as well. Chazal teach that prior to creating the world in which we live, Hashem created many other worlds and destroyed them. Through this perspective, we see that the creation of this world involved the destruction of many others. Hence, the creation of this world entailed the process of briah.
Yetzirah is a process of creation which does not involve any element of destruction. It is the process through which Hashem continually recreates this world and governs it. We now may understand how Shabbos fits into the equation. We may wonder: What is so special about our world that it, too, was not destroyed like its many predecessors? The Rosh Yeshivah explains that the principle of causation distinguishes our world from the rest. This world, unlike the others, survives because its operation is based on causation, the principle which ensures harmony and order, "the principle of rest," the principle of Shabbos Kodesh. The other worlds did not survive, because they did not contain the element of Shabbos.
When the Torah writes that Hashem rested on the seventh day, it implies that until Shabbos there had been no causality, there had been no order. True, there was creation, but it was a process whereby worlds were created, rearranged, destroyed - and then new ones created. So much energy was expended via creation and destruction, but there had been no cause and effect. On the seventh day, Hashem completed the process of briah. The process had been in effect for the six days of Creation. On Shabbos, the principle of rest was introduced and, with it, harmony and causality. The yetzirah mode now began. Thus, Shabbos is the day on which man is to dedicate himself to the pursuit of yetzirah, creation without destruction.
In the construction of the Mishkan, all forms of work involved the principle of briah in one way or another. All thirty-nine melachos, even that of boneh, building, involved some sort of destructive effort, even if only to rearrange the elements of nature. Rearranging nature means altering an object, which is like destroying its original form. Hotzaah, carrying, is one exception; therefore, it is called a melachah geruah, inferior type of work. On Shabbos, the day when one is to dedicate himself almost exclusively to yetzirah, these melachos are prohibited.
Shabbos celebrates the point of the culmination of briah and the initiation of yetzirah. This moment represents the basis of creation. Rav Soloveitchik makes a play on words when he points out that on Shabbos one must focus on his tzurah, image, realizing his individuality and conforming to the image of G-d, the Tzelem Elokim, inherent in him. By studying Torah, he brings himself closer to achieving this goal and elevating the world to a higher spiritual plateau.
During the construction of the Mishkan the categories of work involved the principle of briah, such that its completion was the place for the Shechinah to repose among the Jewish People, thus transforming the Mishkan into an edifice dedicated to yetzirah. Until Hashem rested His Divine Presence on the Mishkan, until the spirit of His Glory was not manifest, the Sanctuary was not the Sanctuary. It was a body without a soul, an edifice of briah. Only when the Mishkan was elevated to the realm of yetzirah did it receive its soul. At that point, the Mishkan was complete. The kedushah, holiness, of Shabbos and the kedushah of the Mishkan are of a similar nature, in that they both embody the principle of yetzirah. Until the Mishkan became the place where Hashem would repose His Divine Presence, it was yet another edifice - whose construction did not supersede the kedushah of Shabbos.
The following story is about Shabbos and the deep bond that a Torah giant had with this holy day. A number of years ago, a rabbi visiting Miami gave a lecture about the life and character of the saintly Chafetz Chaim. He held the group spellbound with vignettes about the Chafetz Chaim's righteousness. He was about to relate one last story, but he hesitated. Apparently, he knew only part of the story. Then he changed his mind, deciding that even an unfinished story about the Chafetz Chaim was worthy of relating.
A young teenager in the Chafetz Chaim's town was caught smoking a cigarette on Shabbos. The sacred day of rest had been marred. The Chafetz Chaim was notified, and the student was called to report to his "office." No one knew what would happen to the student. The Chafetz Chaim took his religion very seriously. The boy entered the office and exited a few minutes later. The rabbi then said that this was all he knew about the incident. He had no idea what had taken place in the office, what the Chafetz Chaim had said to him. He did know one thing: "That boy never desecrated Shabbos again." He concluded his lecture with the addendum that he would give anything to know what had transpired in the office of the Chafetz Chaim.
The hall emptied, as everyone except for one elderly man dispersed. This man sat in his seat, deep in thought. He began to tremble, and his eyes became moist and began to tear. The rabbi approached him and asked, "Is anything wrong?"
"Where did you hear that story?" the man asked.
The rabbi replied, "I really do not remember. On one of my trips, someone related the incident to me."
The man looked up at the rabbi and said, "I was that boy." He then continued with the rest of the story.
"The incident took place in the 1920's, when the Chafetz Chaim was already in his eighties. I trembled to go in to face him, but I had no alternative. I was wrong, and now I would have to face the music. The office was in the Chafetz Chaim's house - if you could even call it a house. It was nothing more than a ramshackle hut with broken furniture. The poverty was evident throughout. Yet, here was the gadol ha'dor, the Torah leader of the generation, the pulse of the Jewish People.
"I entered the room, and there he was. He was a tiny man. He hardly reached up to my shoulders. He said nothing, but took my hand and clasped it tenderly in both of his hands. He then brought my hand up to his face. His eyes were closed. When he opened them, they were filled with tears - burning, hot tears. He looked at me. In a hushed voice filled with pain and disbelief, he cried out, "Shabbos, Shabbos, the holy Shabbos." That was it. He looked deep into my eyes, as his hot tears rolled down his cheeks, landing on my hand. I thought the tears would burn a hole through my hand. Indeed, I can still feel the heat. That was his rebuke. I felt that he was not angry, just sad and disappointed. I never forgot that moment. I have observed Shabbos ever since."
Imagine - no rebuke, no discourse - just sincere pain over another Jew's error. Here was a man who loved each Jew as much as he loved each mitzvah. When he heard that a brother had desecrated Shabbos, he did not call him names. He cried. Can we say that?
And the work (of bringing materials for the building) was just enough, to make all the works (of the Mishkan), and there was left over. (36:7)
When we read this pasuk we are struck with an anomaly in its interpretation. The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh asks: Are these two expressions - dayom, "just enough;" and v'hoseir, "left over" - actually exclusive of one another? If there was "just enough," then there could not have been anything "left over"; and if there is something "left over," then clearly there was more than "just enough." The Sfas Emes approaches this from a number of perspectives. We will select one which teaches a valuable lesson in avodas Hashem, service to the Almighty.
In the Midrash Tanchuma, Chazal state that the building of the Mishkan paralleled Brias Ha'Olam, the Creation of the world. Vayar Moshe es kol ha'melachah, "And Moshe saw all of the work." The pasuk does not say that Moshe saw, "all of the meleches ha'Mishkan, all of the work (associated with the building) of the Mishkan," but rather, "all of the work." (Apparently, this is a reference to another "work" that was completed.) For everything was (exactly) like the work of creation. In short, Chazal teach that the creation of the Mishkan corresponded with the creation of the world.
The Sfas Emes notes that when Klal Yisrael sinned with the Golden Calf, their infraction impacted not only themselves and their relationship with Hashem. They also damaged the spiritual structure of the entire world. Hence, the Mishkan, which served as a kaparah, atonement, for their sin was meant to repair the spiritual breach which they engendered. Thus, every step of the Mishkan's construction had to parallel the original creation of the world.
Let us compare the "endings" of these two "constructions." At the culmination of Maaseh Bereishis, the Act of Creating the World, the Torah writes, Vayar Elokim es kol asher asah v'hinei tov me'od, "And G-d saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good…"; V'yechal Elokim…melachto asher asah, "And G-d completed His work which He had done"; Vayivarech Elokim, "And Hashem blessed." (1:31, 2:1, 6) Concerning the completion of the Mishkan, the Torah writes, Vayar Moshe es kol ha'melachah… va'yevarech osam Moshe, "And Moshe saw all the work…and Moshe blessed them" (Shemos 39:43).
Hashem created the world with the power of Torah. The tzaddikim, righteous, of every ensuing generation maintain the world via the Torah, which they so diligently study. Moshe sensed this awesome reality. He understood that the Mishkan was much more than a temporal structure, an edifice made for the Jews traveling in the wilderness. He understood that, with the creation of the Mishkan, Maasei Bereishis had reached its completion as well.
There is yet another similarity between the creation of the world and the construction of the Mishkan. The Sfas Emes quotes the Talmud Chagigah 12a, where Chazal state that, at the beginning of Creation, the Heavens and the earth expanded and continued to burgeon until Hashem said, Dai! "Enough!" The Midrash states that by dusk at the end of the sixth day (in other words, Erev Shabbos), the physical forms for certain spirits had not yet been created; thus, they have remained spiritual entities without corporeal bodies. Certainly, Hashem knew that Shabbos was coming; yet, even so, He did not complete all of His work. This was on purpose. There was "left over." As the Maharal m'Prague writes, "This world was made with a lack of perfection." The only way to achieve perfection, the Sfas Emes explains, is by drawing Hashem into this world by means of our Torah study and mitzvah observance.
Let us return to the original question presented by the Ohr HaChaim. Klal Yisrael wanted to give more and more for the construction of the Mishkan, but were forcibly stopped. Hashem said "no more". The imperfection of the Mishkan and this world itself, tells us that, despite our efforts and with all our work, we still depend on Hashem to achieve final completion. Man's contribution is dai, his input "just enough." The hoseir, "extra flow" of blessing that completes the Mishkan, is derived from a supernatural source. Indeed, the Sfas Emes adds that this is quite like the neshamah yeseirah, extra soul, that enters the world on Shabbos and elevates the entire creation.
These are the reckonings of the Mishkan, the Mishkan of Testimony. (38:21)
Rashi notes the juxtaposition of Mishkan/Mishkan, which he explains refers to the two Temples which were taken from us. In a play on words, the word Mishkan is pronounced Mashkon, which is a pledge, collateral, security. This suggests that the two Temples/Mishkanos were taken as collateral for Klal Yisrael's sins. At the time in which we will sincerely repent, they will be returned to their former glory. It seems strange that the destruction of the Batei Mikdash is alluded to specifically at the juncture that the Torah addresses the completion of the Mishkan's construction. Surely, there could be another, more appropriate, place to make note of the destruction of the Batei Mikdash.
Horav Aizik Ausband, zl, derives from here that the hashroas ha'Shechinah, the fact that the Divine Presence rests among us, was a complete and irrevocable gift to the Jewish People. Thus, even when they sin and warrant an end to this glorious relationship, Hashem does not "rip up" the contract and leave us hanging. No, it is very much like a mashkon, whereby Hashem takes the Mishkan as collateral until that time that we reverse ourselves and repent. A mashkon can be seized only by the lender from the individual who rightfully owns it. He does not take a mashkon from just anyone, only from its owner.
The Torah is teaching us that, as the Mishkan is completed and Hashem is about to rest His Divine Presence among us, the Mishkan becomes our possession unilaterally. When Hashem destroyed it, He was only using it as collateral. When we repay our "debt," we will get it back. One frightening lesson can be derived from this concept. After all the years of misery, bloodshed, pogroms and holocausts; after we have soaked the soil of Europe with our blood and our tears have created a river, it seems that we have not yet repaid the debt.
He erected up the courtyard all around the Mishkan and the Mizbayach… And Moshe completed the work. The cloud covered the Ohel Moed, and the glory of Hashem filled the Mishkan. (40:33, 34)
Ramban addresses the reason Sefer Shemos concludes with the subject of the Mishkan, when, in fact, it is addressed earlier in Parshios Terumah and Tetzaveh. He explains that Sefer Shemos is referred to as the Sefer HaGeulah, Book of Redemption. It is the book that relates how Hashem came to His close nation and redeemed them from the pain and misery of the Egyptian bondage. Although they were no longer under the thumbscrews of their Egyptian masters, they were still in exile, in the sense that, until they would return to their place and come back to the level of their ancestors, their redemption would not be complete. When they left Egypt, they were still exiles, because they had not entered into their Promised Land. Wandering in the wilderness, not knowing what tomorrow would bring, hardly engendered a sense of freedom. When the nation arrived at Har Sinai and made the Mishkan, thereby setting the stage for the Shechinah, Divine Presence, to reside among them, they had returned to the level of their forefathers. Then, they were considered geulim, redeemed. Thus, Sefer Shemos concludes, "The glory of Hashem filled the Mishkan."
Let us attempt to grapple with the above statement. Following their release from Egypt, Klal Yisrael were wandering in the harsh wilderness - without a stable home, source of livelihood and sustenance, lacking everything that is part of a settled life. They lived from day to day, sustained by the Heavenly manna. Yet, it was specifically this set of circumstances which defined their freedom. How are we to understand this?
Horav Arye Leib Bakst, zl, explains that the underlying purpose of the briah, the creation of this world, is that Klal Yisrael achieves perfection. Hashem chose us as His emissaries to the world, as His nation. We must be worthy of this distinction. This can only come about through commitment, obedience, devotion, and self-sacrifice. Then, after reaching this pinnacle, we have arrived. We are free! This is the ultimate geulah, liberation. We derive from the Ramban that this plateau can be achieved when Klal Yisrael lives with the Shechinah, as it was when Hashem's glory filled the Mishkan. This is the perfection which connotes true freedom. The only way Klal YIsrael can replicate this perfection, which is the result of Hashem's glory being among us, is through the medium of limud haTorah, Torah study. Everything else mundane is merely vacuous and foolish. We either have it - or we do not. When Hashem reposes among us, we are not in exile - regardless of the physical conditions in which we find ourselves. One can be in a ghetto or a concentration camp and be free; alternatively, one can be outfitted from head to toe in luxury, his days and nights filled with honor and power, but still remain a slave in exile. It all depends on his degree of perfection, his relationship with Hashem.
The cloud covered the Ohel Moed , and the glory of Hashem filled the Mishkan…For the cloud of Hashem would be on the Mishkan by day, and the fire would be on it at night, before the eyes of all the House of Yisrael. (40:34,38)
The Mishkan served a unique function. As the Sanctuary in the wilderness and the forerunner of the Bais HaMikdash, it served as the focal point of Jewish life in the wilderness and, later, in the Promised Land. The Mishkan announced to the world that Hashem had forgiven Klal Yisrael for their participation in the sin of the Golden Calf. It declared that His Divine Presence rested among us. It was the spiritual, inspirational hub around which the life of the Jew was bound up. It was the place where the Divine Service was carried out, and it was a tent of gathering where all Jews were united in one large Bais Yisrael, House of Yisrael, where the entire Jewish communal family united together as one unit.
It is no wonder that David Hamelech's dream was to build the House of G-d. It would be his greatest legacy, the achievement of a lifetime of service to G-d and the nation. He was not, however, allowed to fulfill his dream. As his son, Shlomo Hamelech, the one who actually built the Bais HaMikdash said, "Hashem said to my father, David, 'Regarding your heart's desire to build a House for My sake, you did well to have it in your heart. However, you shall not build the House, but your son who will emerge from your loins, he shall build the House for My sake.'"
Something seems to be wrong here. The Almighty praises David for his incredible desire to build for Him a Sanctuary. Yet, despite his all-consuming desire, his boundless love for Hashem, he is rejected for the "job." Instead, he is told that his son, Shlomo, was to receive the coveted position. Is this how a loyal servant is rewarded? David put in his time, his effort, his love - only to be told, "Thanks, your son will take over and carry out your dream." When one reads the words as stated in the Navi (Melachim I:8, 18, 19) it almost seems as if Hashem is telling David - specifically because of his overriding desire to build the Bais HaMikdash, Shlomo would be the one to complete the dream. One would think the opposite, that due to David's burning desire - he would build it, not his son.
Menachem Tzion explains that Hashem was actually giving David the ultimate blessing: he would be worthy of being the progenitor of the one who would build the Bais HaMikdash. Because his goals were so lofty; because his lifelong dream was so that Hashem's Name be glorified to the world; because he devoted his life to the fulfillment of this dream, he would receive the ultimate blessing: his son would build the Sanctuary. This is a parent's greatest blessing, to know that his legacy will endure; his offspring will carry on even after he has departed from this world.
What a powerful statement! What an insightful exposition of Hashem's words to David. It was not a rejection, a denouncement of his ability to carry out his dream; rather, it was the ultimate praise: your mission will survive; it will be completed by your son. Life does not go on forever. We are here for a short visit during which we endeavor to realize our potential, to fulfill our dreams, to provide a legacy for the next generation. Our dreams are expansive, but our tenure is limited. We can hope that we have inspired our children well, so that they will carry on the banner which we have raised. If we are fortunate, if we have succeeded in planting the seeds of inspiration, then we will be worthy of the ultimate nachas, pleasure, of knowing that these seeds will germinate, grow tall and erect and produce luscious fruit. This is what Hashem told David. You worked for it. Your sensitivity, your self-sacrifice and love, paid off in that you can be assured that your effort will bear fruit. Shlomo, your son, will build the Bais HaMikdash. Can a father ask for a greater blessing than to know that his work will continue, that his legacy will endure?
The values we impart to our children are the ones which they will carry on. The Jewish home is the most significant and most crucial unit in Judaism: Ahavas Olam Bais Yisrael amcha ahavta, "A love for the House of Yisrael, Your nation, which You love." Horav Simchah Wasserman, zl, observes a special relationship between Hashem and the Jewish home, as expressed by this prayer which we recite daily. There is no other unit whatsoever like the Jewish home. The relationship between husband and wife, parent and child, the Mesorah, tradition that is imbued within the family unit throughout the generations, is unlike any other unit. No nation - no religion or culture- can boast such a relationship which transcends and connects the generations of the past with those of the future. Every Jewish family is a link in the chain of Jewish life that heralds back to Sinai and will endure until the advent of Moshiach Tzidkeinu. As in all chains, however, it takes only one weak or broken link to sever the chain and render it unfit.
U'vanu vacharta mikol am v'lashon. And us You have chosen from every people and language.
That Hashem chose us from among the many nations of the world is a given. He offered them all the Torah, but they rejected it. This tells us something about them. We, however, chose to be chosen. By accepting the Torah, we were granted Hashem's greatest treasure, thereby elevating and enhancing our relationship with Him. Where does the word, lashon, language, fit into the equation? Horav Avigdor Miller, zl, translates lashon as language. The greatest mark of our distinction in the eyes of Hashem is the fact that we accepted the Torah. Our national language is the vernacular in which the Torah is written. It is the holy tongue. A nation's language plays a role in defining its character. Our national language is Divinely created, each letter, spelling, sound and depth of meaning - Divinely ordained. The fact that lashon hakodesh is our national language is telling about the nature of our People. The words, nuances, are all holy. So, Hashem chose us. Horav Shimon Schwab, zl, translates lashon in this instance as culture. Our culture rises above the rest, since our culture is intertwined with our religion. That says something about us. We are a religious culture, one with a unique purpose, meaning and set of values. That is why Hashem chose us.
Yaakov and Karen Nisenbaum
in memory of our Father and Grandfather
R' Mordechai ben R' Ephraim z"l
niftar Rosh Chodesh Nissan 5753
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