After the last three parashot (Terumah, Tetzaveh and Ki Tissa)
have described the design of the Mishkan / Tabernacle and its
components and vessels, this week's two parashot, Vayakhel and
Pekudei, describe the actual construction of the Mishkan. At the
end of Parashat Pekudei (and the Book of Shemot) we read: "Moshe
could not enter the Ohel Mo'ed / Tent of Meeting, for the cloud
rested upon it, and the glory of Hashem filled the Mishkan."
This was a sign of Hashem's happiness with Bnei Yisrael.
The midrash relates that the nations of the world try to entice
the Jewish people by saying, "Join us, and we will give you
The Jewish people answer, "Can you give us anything as great as
what G-d gave us in the desert, where we sinned against Him and
He forgave us [as seen from the fact that His glory filled the
Mishkan]?" R' Yaakov Leiner z"l (the "Izbicer Rebbe"; died 1878)
There could be no greater closeness to G-d in "This World" than
that which Bnei Yisrael experienced while living in the desert in
proximity to the Mishkan. At any moment, they could tell exactly
where they stood with G-d by looking at the cloud that hovered
over the Tabernacle. When Hashem was pleased, His glory filled
the Mishkan, and when He was angry, it left. There can be no
greater joy than being so close to G-d.
However, our closeness to Hashem in the time of Mashiach will
be even greater. Regarding that time, the prophet Yishayah wrote
(25:9): "And they will say on that day, 'Behold this is our G-d;
we hoped to Him that He would save us. This is Hashem to Whom we
hoped, let us exult and be glad in his salvation'" - in even
greater gladness than in the past. (Bait Yaakov)
"But the work ('ve'hamelachah') was enough . . . and there
was extra ('ve'hotair')." (36:7)
The word "ve'hamelachah" / "But the work" appears in three
places in Tanach - here, in the verse (Ezra 10:13), "But the work
is not for one day or for two days," and in Divrei Hayamim I
(29:1), "But the work is great." What can we learn from this?
R' Eliezer Papo z"l (1785-1827; rabbi in Sarajevo) writes:
The work required to observe the Torah is great. There are 613
mitzvot, and who can keep them all? But the work is not for one
day or for two days; rather each soul must be incarnated three or
more times before its work is complete.
Alternatively, the work, i.e., mitzvot that one performs in one
lifetime, can be enough if one has a real desire to observe the
entire Torah, for Hashem attaches man's good thoughts to his good
deeds. Or, one can get credit for observing some of the mitzvot
by studying the laws of those commandments (alluded to by the
fact that the word "ve'hotair" has the same letters as the word
In many editions of the chumash, each parashah is followed by a
note indicating the number of verses in the parashah and mnemonic
device to remember the number, i.e., a word or phrase whose
gematria is equal to the number of verses. For example, the note
at the end of the first of this week's parashot, Vayakhel,
states: "122 verses; the siman / sign is 'Senuah'." ("Senuah" is
a person mentioned in the book of Nechemiah; the name has a
gematria of 122.)
In nearly all chumashim, however, this week's second parashah,
Pekudei, which has 92 verses, has no such note printed after it.
R' Menachem Mendel Schneerson z"l (1902-1994; the "Lubavitcher
Rebbe") was once asked why, and he responded as follows:
"It is necessary to check older prints of the chumash, for in
my opinion, this originates from a printer's omission, which was
later copied by other printers. Perhaps the original siman
consisted of the phrase 'bli kol' / 'without any' [see Devarim
28:55], which has a gematria of 92. Perhaps a young printer's
apprentice saw the phrase 'bli kol siman' / 'without any siman'
and misunderstood its meaning, so that Parashat Pekudei was, in
fact, left without any siman."
(Quoted in Otzrot Tzaddikei U'geonei Ha'dorot)
Thirty Days Before Pesach
Chazal designed the Pesach Seder to revolve around questions
and answers. Indeed, the halachah states that if a couple has no
children, the wife should recite the "Mah Nishtanah" section.
And, if a person is all alone, he should ask himself the
R' Avraham Danzig z"l (author of the halachic compendium Chayei
Adam) explains: We do so many of our mitzvot by rote, without
giving them much, if any, thought. However, the lessons of
Pesach are the centerpieces of our beliefs as Jews, and they are
much too important to be done by rote. Therefore, Chazal
required us to ask questions in order to slow us down and make us
Nor should the questions be limited to "Mah Nishtanah," R'
Danzig writes. When the gemara describes the seder, it says, "We
pour the second cup, and then the son asks." Presumably, the
question that the son will ask is, "Why are you pouring a second
cup of wine before washing for hamotzi?" which is not one of the
questions in "Mah Nishtanah."
Moreover, R' Danzig notes, the questions of "Mah Nishtanah"
could not be the questions to which the gemara refers (" . . .
and then the son asks"), for a child could not even ask the Mah
Nishtanah [unless he had been prepared beforehand, as has become
common]. One of the questions is, "Why on all other nights do we
eat chametz and matzah, and tonight only matzah?" How can a
child know at the beginning of the meal that we will eat only
matzah? Perhaps, just as on all other nights we eat chametz and
matzah, right now there is only matzah on the table, but soon we
will bring chametz!
Rather, "Mah Nishtanah" is a set of more sophisticated
questions, whose real meaning is, "Why will our actions tonight
combine signs of slavery, such as eating matzah, and freedom,
such as eating while reclining?" As for the children, they
should be allowed and encouraged to ask whatever questions occur
(Haggadah Shel Pesach Toldot Adam)
R' Shmuel Avigdor of Karlin z"l (19th century) observes that
the question and answer format is not merely a creation of
Chazal. It is a mitzvah de'Oraita / Torah-ordained commandment,
mentioned no fewer than four times in the Torah.
(Haggadah Shel Pesach Im Peirush Maharsha)
Introductions . . .
This week, we present part of the introduction to Migdal
David, Sefer Emunah, by R' David Ha'kochavi. The author was
born in approximately 1260 in Estella, Navarre, Spain, and he
died in Provence (southern France) in approximately 1330.
Migdal David, Sefer Emunah is part of a larger work, Sefer
Ha'battim, which covers both aggadic and halachic topics.
The title "tzaddik" refers in most places in the books of the
Prophets to an elevated person whose soul behaves consistently
with good character traits and whose intentions and deeds are
desirable. "His heart is firm, confident in Hashem" [Tehilim
112:7]. He believes with a strong emunah / faith based on a
received tradition. . . He has not discerned or understood the
intentions of the mitzvot or their purposes . . . ; rather, his
heart is wholly with Hashem our G-d regarding everything that He
commanded, "and in His Torah he meditates day and night" [Tehilim
1:2] in order to know the laws of the mitzvot and all their
details. . .
Others use the title "tzaddik" to refer to a person whom Hashem
has filled with a spirit of wisdom and understanding, one who
rules over [his own] fear of G-d and [his performance of]
mitzvot. He controls his eyes and directs them to G-d's work,
and he seeks among the various areas of wisdom "to understand the
fear of Hashem and discover knowledge of G-d" [Mishlei 2:5].
This is a perfect tzaddik, as the Rambam has taught us that
"righteousness" means "doing justice," and "justice" means
"giving each thing its due." Such a person does justice with his
soul, for the highest part of the soul is the intellect. . .
Just as we find that in the words of the Torah and Prophets,
and in the expressions of our Sages, the word "tzaddik" is used
in the two ways mentioned, so our nation is divided into two
groups. One says that the proper way which a person should
choose, where there is "Light sown for the righteous" [Tehilim
97:11], is meditation in the written and oral Torah day and night
to know its meanings and details, which are called, "The
questions of Abaye and Rava" [Sukkah 28a, referring to two
Talmudic sages]. This, they say, is who finds favor in the eyes
of G-d, and one who knows [the Torah] and who acts with alacrity
regarding this matter and who is filled [with Torah] and whose
Torah is arranged on his lips, he is the elevated one. About such
a person they said [Pesachim 50a], "Fortunate is one who comes
here and his learning is in his hand." . . .
The second group says that "the path of life which is loftiest
for the intelligent person" [Mishlei 15:24] is to understand and
to probe in order to know and comprehend through investigation
the existence of Hashem and His uniqueness, while at the same
time observing the mitzvot; all this, in order to know the
purpose of the mitzvot. - to be continued -
Elaine and Jerry Taragin, in memory of Asriel Taragin a"h
Abe and Shirley Sperling & William and Ruth Konick
on the yahrzeits of
Tzvi Dov ben Avraham a"h (Harry Sperling) and
Mindel bat Tzvi Dov a"h (Mildred Klessmer)