Back to Basics
Parshas Shemini opens with a series of pesukim describing the events that
transpired on the eighth day of the inauguration of the Mishkan. The
sequence begins as Moshe assembled the kohanim and the elders (Vayikrah
9:1) and informed them of the specific korbonos that were to be brought on
the final day of the inauguration (9:2). Moshe then told Aharon (9:3) to
share this information with all the Jews, and perhaps most importantly, to
inform them (9:4) that the glory of Hashem’s Divine Presence will appear
before them on that special day. The Torah (9:5) notes how Moshe’s
instructions were faithfully carried out, and that all the Jews assembled
and stood before Hashem.
A striking question arises, however, as we read the sixth pasuk in this
progression. There does not seem to be any new information contained in
that pasuk. The Torah relates (9:6) that Moshe addressed the assembled
Bnei Yisroel and told them, “Zeh hadavar asher tzivah Hashem ta’asu,
ve’yera alechem k’vod Hashem – this is the thing that Hashem has commanded
you to do; [and] then the glory of Hashem will appear before you.” Moshe
was informing them to simply follow the instructions previously given and
told them that Hashem’s Presence would appear to them, of which they were
already informed. Why would there be a need to repeat these commandments
and to inform the Bnei Yisroel for the second time that they will see the
Presence of Hashem?
Walking and Talking Torah
Several weeks ago, while preparing for this dvar Torah, I was having
difficulty with the question noted above and I was unsuccessfully
researching the meforshim (commentaries) looking for a deeper
understanding of that pasuk. One Shabbos morning, I posed this question to
my chaver Rabbi Shraga Solovietchik, who is a direct descendant of the
illustrious “Beis Halevi,’ Rabbi Chaim Solovietchik z’tl.
He shared with me that this very question was posed to his great uncle,
Reb ‘Velvel’ Solovietchik z’tl, many years ago. Rabbi Solovietchik was
vacationing in Switzerland during the summer months and went out walking
one day in the majestic surroundings of the Alps. His walking companion
was an American businessman and the conversation turned to the sixth pasuk
in Parshas Shmini. The man asked the Brisker Rov why Moshe Rabbeinu needed
to repeat the instructions regarding the korbonos brought on the final day
of the inauguration of the mishkan and why it was necessary for him to
tell the Jews that they would see the presence of Hashem.
Reb Velvel responded that Moshe was sharing a poignant and important
message with the Bnei Yisroel, and that some context was needed to fully
understand the significance of his words.
Following the Torah’s Instructions
The Jews were on a spiritual plateau when they left Egypt and Hashem’s
presence surrounded them. Sadly, this elevated state did not last for long
as the Jews sinned by serving the ‘egel’ (the golden calf). At that point,
Hashem’s Shechinah left the Bnei Yisroel and did not return until the
mishkan was inaugurated. Understandably, the Jews were very eager to have
the Shechinah back in their midst. When they initially heard from Moshe
Rabbeinu (9:4) that the glory of Hashem’s Divine Presence would appear
before them on that special day, they were naturally overcome with joy and
assembled (9:5) to bask in the glow of the Shechinah. In fact, the Sifri
comments on the level of their excitement and simcha as they prepared to
greet the Shechinah.
Reb Velvel explained that at that point, Moshe realized that the
understandable excitement of the Jews regarding the reappearance of Hashem
was overshadowing the important mitzvos of that special day – the korbanos
that were to be brought and the inauguration of the mishkan. To bring
focus to the Bnei Yisroel, Moshe informed them, “Zeh hadavar asher tzivah
Hashem ta’asu, ve’year alechem k’vod Hashem – this is the thing that
Hashem has commanded you to do; [and] then the glory of Hashem will appear
before you.” He reminded the Jews that should not concentrate on the
byproduct of the mitzvah – Hashem’s Shechinah – but rather on the actions
that would cause Hashem to rest His presence among them.
We were fortunate to have been given the Torah of Hashem. It is our
mission in life to follow its eternal lessons and live meaningful lives.
The spiritual byproducts of following Hashem’s Torah will surely come as a
result of keeping it. We need not concentrate on the results. We ought to
do what Hashem instructed us. His presence in our lives will surely
Best wishes for a Gutten Shabbos
Text Copyright © 2006 by Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz and Torah.org.
Rabbi Horowitz is the founder and dean of Yeshiva Darchei Noam in Monsey, NY, as well as the founder and Program Director of Agudath Israel's Project Y.E.S. (Youth Enrichment Services), which helps at-risk teens and their parents. He is a popular lecturer on teaching and parenting topics in communities around the world, and is the author of several best-selling parenting tape and CD sets. For more information on Rabbi Horowitz's parenting tapes, visit http://www.rabbihorowitz.com/ or call 845-352-7100 X 133.