Beginning with this week's parashah, most of the remainder of
Sefer Shmot is devoted to the construction of the
mishkan/Tabernacle (the precursor to the Bet Hamikdash).
Following this, in Sefer Vayikra, we read of the
korbanot/sacrifices which were to be brought in the mishkan.
R' Moshe Isserles z"l ("Rema"; 1525-1572) authored a lengthy
work containing philosophical and ethical lessons that are
derived from the structure of the Bet Hamikdash and the laws of
the korbanot. In the introduction to that work, he wrote (in
part) as follows:
The Midrash Tanchuma states: "The Torah is greater than all of
the sacrifices, as it is written (Vayikra 7:37), 'This is the
Torah of the olah/burnt offering, the minchah/the meal offering,
the chatat/guilt offering etc.' One who studies the Torah,
i.e., the laws, of the olah is deemed to have brought an olah;
one who studies the Torah of the minchah is deemed to have
brought a minchah; and so on." Similarly, Rema writes, the
early commentaries state that if one studies the structure of the
mishkan and its utensils, he fulfills a great mitzvah. How much
more so is this true if we merit to understand the inner meaning
of even one of the things to which the mishkan or its utensils
In reality, there are two benefits from studying the inner
meaning of the mishkan, the Bet Hamikdash, the utensils and the
sacrifices, Rema writes. One is that this study will cause us to
mourn for the Temple, for we will understand what we are missing.
The second benefit is that we will be able to "bring sacrifices"
in our minds when we sin; this is relevant to us all, as it is
written (Kohelet 7:20), "There is no man in the world who is a
tzaddik who does only good and does not sin." (Torat Olah)
"Let them take 'li'/for Me a portion . . ." (25:2)
Rashi writes: "'For Me' - for My Name" [i.e., with pure
R' Shmuel of Kaminka z"l (18th century; a disciple of the Ba'al
Shem Tov) commented regarding Rashi's explanation:
Chazal teach that a person is permitted to give tzeddakah with
a selfish motivation since the benefit to the recipient is the
same regardless of the giver's intentions. Thus, had the pasuk
said, "Let them give," the word "li"/"for Me" could not have
meant "for My Name."
What then does our pasuk mean? R' Shmuel explains: One who
takes charity must do so with pure intentions. Specifically,
charity should be taken only for necessities, not for luxuries.
(Mishnat Chassidim p. 428)
"This is the portion that you shall take from them: gold . .
The midrash on this parashah states that there are a number of
things which Hashem created which are, in essence, too good for
man. Hashem "considered" hiding them, but "decided" not to. One
of these things, the midrash states, was gold.
R' Yechezkel Levenstein z"l (1885-1974; mashgiach of the Mir
and Ponovezh yeshivot) taught: Of course, gold has both good and
evil uses, but the essence of gold is very good. In truth, we
fail to appreciate the special nature of most of the lower forms
of existence, be they inanimate, plant or animal. However, King
David wrote (Tehilim 8:7), "You give him dominion over Your
handiwork, You placed everything under his feet." It would make
no sense for the psalmist to praise Hashem in this way unless all
of those creations over which Hashem has given man dominion and
which Hashem has placed under man's control are pretty
"You shall place in the aron/ark the luchot that I shall
give you." (25:16)
"You shall place the kaporet/cover on the aron from above,
and in the aron you shall place the luchot which I shall
give you." (25:21)
Why is the instruction to place the luchot in the aron
repeated? R' Moshe Chafetz z"l (Italy; 18th century) explains as
follows, in light of the Sages' teaching that the gold of the
kaporet atoned for the sin of the golden calf.
Moshe broke the luchot when he saw Bnei Yisrael dancing around
the golden calf. It could be argued, then, that the Jews were
not worthy of having the luchot. However, said Hashem, after the
gold of the kaporet has atoned for the sin of the golden calf,
then "in the aron you shall place the luchot which I shall give
you." [The first verse, in contrast, simply explains the purpose
of the aron. Alternatively, writing these words twice is the
Torah's ways of telling us to look for a deeper message in the
"You shall make a menorah of pure gold, hammered out shall
the menorah be made, its base and its shaft, its cups, its
knobs, and its blossoms shall be hammered from it." (25:31)
R' Eliezer Papo z"l (1785-1828; Bosnian rabbi; author of Pele
Yoetz) writes that this verse alludes to the manner in which one
should give charity. This may be seen as follows:
"Menorat"/"a menorah of" - The letters of this word can spell
"matan" (leaving over the letter "reish"). "Matan" means
"giving" and"rash" means pauper.
"Of pure gold" - Charity should be given from gold which is
pure, and not from wealth which is ill-gotten.
"Mikshah"/"hammered out" - This word shares the same root as
"kasheh"/"difficult." No matter how difficult one's own
circumstances, he still should give charity.
"Yereichah"/"its base" also means "its thigh." Just as a
person's thigh is meant to be hidden, so one's charity should be
"Kanah"/"its shaft" shares a root with the word which means "to
acquire." When one gives charity, he actually acquires wealth
for himself, for Hashem will repay him.
"Ve'kanah, gevi'ehah"/"its shaft, its cups" - The letters of
these words can be reordered to spell "kenei be'yegi'ah"/"acquire
through toil." This alludes to the fact that the highest form of
charity is to give the poor person a job or to establish him in
business so that he can earn a living through the toil of his
"Kafto'rehah"/"its knobs" alludes to "kaparah"/"atonement,"
which is what a person achieves through performing acts of
"Its blossoms" - One who gives charity will blossom in This
World and in the World-to-Come.
"You shall make the planks of the miskan/Tabernacle of
acacia wood, standing erect." (26:15)
The midrash comments: "From those acacia trees which were
already standing for this purpose. Avraham had planted these
trees in Be'er Sheva. When Yaakov went to Egypt, he transplanted
these trees there. Then, before he died, he told his sons that
Hashem would one day command that they build a mishkan, and they
should use these trees."
Surely there were suitable trees in Egypt! Why did the
Patriarchs go to all this trouble? R' Yaakov Kaminetsky z"l
(died 1986) explains that the Patriarchs acted thus in order to
raise the spirits of their descendants who would be enslaved in
Egypt. It was not enough to promise the Jews that they would be
redeemed; the groves of acacia trees that Yaakov planted in Egypt
were a tangible reminder to the enslaved Jews that their eventual
salvation was a reality.
Similarly, R' Kamenetsky writes, this is one reason that the
authors of the siddur included the order of the
korbanot/sacrifices in the daily prayers. The more we are
familiar with what took place in the Bet Hamikdash, the more real
that the eventual rebuilding of the Bet Hamikdash will seem to
Letters from Our Sages
How can a person become a diligent student of Torah if he
has only limited time to devote to Torah study? R' Avraham
Yeshayahu Karelitz (the "Chazon Ish"; died 1953) answers
that question in the following letter which is printed
in Igrot Chazon Ish, Vol. III, No. 10.
"I would like to fulfill your request to help you strengthen
your Torah study, or, more correctly, your shekidah/diligence.
The concept of diligence is not related to the amount of time
that one devotes to studying. Rather, it has to do with handing
over one's person, and giving one's heart as a gift, to delving
into Torah. One hour of diligence and of yearning is more
valuable than two hours of casual study. . .
"The main thing is to acquire the traits by which Torah is
acquired [see Avot ch. 6]. The lifeblood of all of these traits
is to structure one's thoughts around the verity that everything
that befalls a person is commanded by the Power which surrounds
all creations - inanimate, vegetable, and living - and all of the
wonders of nature, which were created by one Power Who causes
them to exist and gives them life.
"Pay attention to the fact that every mortal who was created
works vigorously no matter what befalls him in order to better
his situation and bring success to himself. A person is given
the understanding to works things out for the best, [and these
abilities can be applied] to rising to intellectual heights, to
appreciating the delicateness of the enlightened soul, and to
experiencing pleasure which words cannot describe.
"But, I have gone deeper with my words than I should have, and
I now return to the point. There are several weeks left until
Pesach [when the semester ends in most yeshivot], and it is
essential to take hold of oneself and to be filled with a new
spirit dedicated to diligence. A resolution is in any case more
effective when it is for a limited time. It also is necessary to
pray that one not encounter stumbling blocks, for a resolution
which is not pure of improper motives may be a trick of the
yetzer hara. Be strong - the stumbling blocks are only in the
beginning, as with any test man faces."
Sponsored by the Katz family
on the yahrzeits of
Avraham Abba ben Avigdor Moshe Hakohen Katz a"h and
Etia (Etush) bat Avigdor Moshe Hakohen Landau a"h