After reading in the last three parashot about the command to
build the mishkan/Tabernacle and its vessels, we read in this
week's parashah of the actual construction. In all, observes
R' Gedalyah Schorr z"l, there are seven parashot that discuss
some aspect of the mishkan's construction. Likewise, we are
taught that there are seven "Heavens."
The purpose of the mishkan was to be a "home" for Hashem. With
each of these seven parashot, the Shechinah descended from one of
the seven Heavens until it reached the mishkan.
We read in this parashah that Bnei Yisrael brought so many
donations for the mishkan that Moshe had to say, "dai"/"Enough!"
The gemara says similarly that when Hashem created the universe,
it would have expanded indefinitely if He had not said,
"dai"/"Enough!" (This is why one of His names is "Shakkai.")
What does this mean?
R' Schorr explains that the act of creation involved Hashem's
restricting His Light in order to make room for, i.e., to allow
for the possibility of, a physical world. However, He struck a
fine balance so that it is still possible to find Him within the
physical world. Had He not commanded the physical world to stop
expanding, that balance would have been lost and there would be
no possibility of man's recognizing G-d's Light.
In contrast to the creation of the physical world, which caused
Hashem's presence to be hidden, Bnei Yisrael's construction of
the mishkan caused Hashem's presence to be revealed in this
world. Here too, however, there is a limit, and it was necessary
to say "Enough!" Otherwise, Hashem's Light would overwhelm us.
"Take from yourselves a portion _for_ Hashem; everyone whose
heart motivates him shall bring it, as the portion _of_
Hashem: gold, silver and copper . . ."
Why does the phrase, "portion of/for Hashem," appear twice, and
why does the verse say "for" one time and "of" the second time?
R' Baruch Yosef Sack z"l explains: On the verse (Mishlei 3:9),
"Honor Hashem with your wealth," the Sages comment (via a play on
the Hebrew word "honcha"/"your wealth"), "Honor Hashem with what
He has given you." When we give charity, the money that we give
is not ours, it is His. All that we give of our own is our good
This is the meaning of our verse: "Take from yourselves a
portion for Hashem; everyone whose heart motivates him shall
bring it." The only thing that you give which is "from
yourselves" is the fact that your hearts motivate you. Anything
else you give is "the portion of Hashem: gold, silver and
copper . . ."
"The nesi'im/leaders brought the shoham stones and the
stones for the settings for the ephod and the breastplate."
Rashi quotes the midrash: Why did the nesi'im bring the first
sacrifices when the altar was dedicated (in Bemidbar, chapter 7),
whereas they were not the first to contribute when the mishkan
was built? The nesi'im said, "Let the people bring whatever they
will bring for the construction of the mishkan and we will make
up whatever is lacking." In the end, however, nothing was
lacking (except these stones). Therefore, when the mishkan was
dedicated, the nesi'im said, "This time, we will contribute
Rashi concludes: Because they acted lazily the first time, one
letter was subtracted from their name, and the word "nesi'im" in
this verse is missing a "yud."
Why, of all letters, a "yud"? R' Moshe Yechiel Epstein (the
"Ozorover Rebbe" in New York beginning in 1926) observes that the
number ten - the gematria of "yud" is ten - signifies a
congregation. By not participating initially in the construction
of the mishkan, the leaders separated themselves from the
congregation and lost the letter "yud."
When the mishkan was dedicated, each of the nesi'im brought a
set of sacrifices - one leader per day, for twelve days. The
midrash says that on the day that each nasi brought his
sacrifices, he made a party for all of his friends and relatives.
Why? asks R' Epstein. This was each leader's way of re-entering
the congregation from which he had separated himself at the time
that the mishkan was built.
(Be'er Moshe p. 1000)
This week, as every year on the Shabbat before Rosh Chodesh
Adar (unless Rosh Chodesh falls on Shabbat), we read Parashat
Shekalim. In the so-called "Yotzer" prayer which some
congregations recite on this Shabbat, we read: "You raised my
head above all heads, and You caused my body to be raised above
all bodies." (The word in parentheses is not in some versions.)
What does this mean? Also, asks R' Shalom Elchanan Jaffe z"l
(St. Louis; 1890's), why is there a change from "You raised" in
the first part of the stanza to "You caused . . . to be raised"
in the second part? He explains:
Our Sages comment on the verse (Tehilim 139:5), "Back and front
You created me," that man was both first and last in the process
of creation. If man is worthy, he is considered to be the
"beginning" of creation, but if man is not worthy, he is
considered to be the "end" of creation. How so? R' Jaffe
explains that man's soul is the most important -- the "first" in
importance -- of all creations, and a man who lives a life worthy
of his holy soul is "first" in rank among G-d's creations. On
the other hand, man's body is one of the grossest of the
creations, and a man who places his body first, places himself
"last" in creation.
However, man can elevate and purify his body. Indeed,
Kabbalists teach that G-d created the whole world merely so that
man would have an opportunity to improve himself. When man
elevates himself he becomes the loftiest of all creations, and by
creating a world where one can elevate himself, G-d has "raised
[man's] head above all heads." The first "head" refers to each
person, of which the head is the loftiest part, while the second
"head" refers to everything else in the world that is lofty.
When one elevates himself, his "head" is raised -- it becomes
loftier -- than all "heads."
Because man's body contains a soul which is extremely holy, man
effectively has a "head-start" toward elevating himself. This is
alluded to in the phrase, "You raised my head above all heads."
You, G-d, did it. Thereafter, man must work on his own, and the
spiritual boost that he receives from G-d is more indirect. This
is alluded to in the more indirect language, "You caused my body
to be raised above all bodies."
How is this message relevant to the Shabbat of Parashat
Shekalim? R' Jaffe explains:
The special Torah reading for this Shabbat commemorates the
obligation to donate a half-shekel to the Bet Hamikdash. Why a
half-shekel? The half-shekel symbolizes the fact that half of
man (the soul) is already in heaven. All that man must do is
elevate the other half (the body).
Rabbis of the New World
R' Abraham Joseph Rice z"l was the first ordained rabbi to hold
an official position in the United States. He was born in
Germany in 1802, and studied under R' Avraham Bing. (R' Bing was
a student of R' Nosson Adler and was the teacher of R' Yaakov
Ettlinger, the "Aruch La'ner."). Later, R' Rice studied under R'
Wolf Hamburger, the leading German posek/halachic authority of
For a short time, R' Rice headed a small yeshiva in Germany.
However, in 1840, he was prevailed upon to settle in the United
States to lead the many immigrants moving there. There were no
rabbis in America at that time. R' Rice himself wrote: "In this
country, men who have studied neither Bible nor Talmud have
assumed the title of 'Rabbi,' donning the rabbinical cap on their
heads in the same way that Napoleon placed the crown on his
R' Rice first settled in Newport, Rhode Island, but soon moved
to Baltimore. There he became the rabbi of Congregation Nidchei
Yisrael. R' Rice also received halachic queries from all over
the country. Among the issues that he dealt with was the status
of West Indian etrogim and the kashrus of supposedly pure olive
oil. As the first ordained rabbi in the United States, R' Rice
was the one who decided the Hebrew spellings of many place names,
something that it essential for writing a get/bill of divorce.
In 1849, R' Rice left his increasingly reform-minded
congregation and went into business. At the same time, he began
a small, strictly Orthodox congregation and served it as rabbi
without charge. He wrote to his teacher, R' Hamburger: "I dwell
in complete darkness, without a teacher or companion."
R' Rice died in 1862. (Source: The Torah Personality, p. 247)
Sponsored by the Katz family
in memory of aunt Chana bat Yaakov Shulim a"h