Volume 21, No. 32
16 Sivan 5767
June 2, 2007
Bava Kamma 4:2-3
Daf Yomi (Bavli): Yevamot 30
Daf Yomi (Yerushalmi): Pesachim 55
Our parashah opens with the command to Aharon to light the Menorah in
the Mishkan. The third verse relates: "Aharon did so; toward the face of
the Menorah he kindled its lamps, as Hashem had commanded Moshe." What is
this pasuk teaching? Rashi writes: "Aharon did so - the verse speaks
Aharon's praise, i.e., that he changed nothing."
How are we to understand this? asks R' Yaakov Kranz z"l (the Dubno
Maggid; died 1805). Is there anyone who would deviate from what G-d had
He explains with a parable: Three patients came to one doctor with the
same serious illness, and the doctor gave each of them the same
prescription. One of the patients was a simple fellow who understood
nothing about his illness. He followed the doctor's instructions to the
letter and was soon healed.
The second patient thought he knew something about medicine. He
altered the doctor's instructions, taking only some of the medicines that
had been prescribed. He did not recover from his illness.
The third patient also was knowledgeable about medicine, but he
nevertheless followed the doctor's instructions. He also was healed.
The Torah is our prescription against the spiritual illness brought on
by the yetzer hara, says the Dubno Maggid. And, the same three types of
people can be found among Mitzvah-observing Jews. Some understand nothing
and simply do the mitzvot. Others think they understand and they pick and
choose among the mitzvot. Finally, there are the scholars who do have
some understanding of what lies behind the commandments, but they
nevertheless do not try to "improve" on the mitzvot. This is the Torah's
praise of Aharon--whether he thought he understood the commandments or
not, he fulfilled them to the letter.
(Quoted in Ve'karata La'Shabbat Oneg)
"This is the workmanship of the Menorah, [hammered-out of] a
block (`mikshah') of gold . . ." (8:4)
The word "mikshah" / "a block" is related to the word "kasheh" /
"difficult." Midrash Bemidbar Rabbah (46:10) explains as follows:
R' Levi bar Rabbi said: The pure menorah came down from heaven, for
Hashem told Moshe (Shmot 25:31), "You shall make a Menorah of pure gold."
Moshe responded, "How shall I make it?"
Hashem answered (in the same verse), "Mikshah shall the Menorah be
However, Moshe found this difficult, and when he descended from Har Sinai,
he forgot how to make it.
This was repeated several times until finally Hashem showed Moshe a
picture of what the Menorah was to look like. Again, however, Moshe
forgot, and again, Hashem showed Moshe the image of the Menorah.
Finally, Hashem said to Moshe, "Go to Betzalel; he will make it." So
Moshe instructed Betzalel, and immediately, Betzalel made the Menorah.
Moshe was shocked, and he said, "Hashem showed me the Menorah several
times, yet I was unable to make it, and you, who did not see, made it on
your own! Were you perhaps in the shadow of (`B'tzel') G-d (`El') [a play
on the name Betzalel, meaning, were you so close to G-d that you could
eavesdrop when He spoke to me]?
This is what the midrash relates about the making of the Menorah.
What, however, was the purpose of Moshe's difficulty?
R' David Luria z"l (see below) explains: Man must prepare himself so
that the Light from Above can rest on him. Nevertheless, all a person can
do is prepare; he cannot ensure that the Light will, in fact, rest upon
him. (Rather, we are taught that the yetzer hara would defeat man if
Hashem did not come to his aid.)
Moshe, who prepared himself by studying the menorah over and over,
could not make the Menorah. Betzalel, who was given wisdom as a gift from
G-d, was able to make the Menorah.
"According to the word of Hashem Bnei Yisrael would journey and
according to the word of Hashem they would encamp . . . When the cloud
lingered upon the Tabernacle many days, Bnei Yisrael would maintain the
charge of Hashem and would not journey. Sometimes the cloud would be upon
the Tabernacle for a number of days . . . and sometimes the cloud would
remain from evening until morning . . . or or a day and a night . . . or
for two days, or a month, or a year . . ." (9:18-22)
Why? Yitzchak Elchanan Waldshein z"l hy"d (Assistant Mashgiach in
Hashem's intention was to teach Bnei Yisrael three traits -- patience,
restraint, and alacrity. They learned patience from staying in undesirable
places longer than they wished. They learned restraint by staying in
pleasant places a shorter time than they would have liked (and thus being
restrained from enjoying whatever fruits that particular oasis offered).
Finally, they learned alacrity by having to pack and unpack in a short
(Quoted in Haggadah Shel Pesach Baranovitch p. 222)
"Make for yourself two silver trumpets . . . and they shall be
yours for the summoning of the assembly." (10:1)
The Gemara (Menachot 28b) teaches that all of the vessels that Moshe
made could be used by later generations as well. However, the trumpets
were for Moshe to summon the nation and could not be used by subsequent
R' Eliyahu Schlesinger shlita (rabbi of the Gilo neighborhood of
Yerushalayim) suggests that there is a simple lesson here. The way that
the leader of one generation calls his flock and relates to his
congregants will not necessarily work for the leader of the next
From the same work:
"When the ark would journey, Moshe said, `Arise, Hashem, and
let Your foes be scattered; let those who hate You flee before You.' And
when it rested, he would say, `Reside, tranquilly, Hashem, among the
myriads of thousands of Israel'." (10:35-36)
In the Sefer Torah, these verses are set off by special symbols to
highlight that they form a separate "book" on their own. What is so
important about these verses that the midrash would refer to them as a
R' Schlesinger explains: These two verses contain the fundamentals of
our existence in exile. At times, the "ark journeys," and the Jewish
people are tossed about from one exile to another. At such times, our
primary concern is our physical safety, and we pray that Hashem's foes
will be scattered and those who hate Him will flee before Him.
On the other hand, when the ark rests, i.e., when the Jewish people
are living peacefully in their own land or in a benevolent kingdom, the
primary threat is spiritual. It is primarily in those nations which have
treated us well that the threat of assimilation has been greatest.
Therefore we pray, "Reside, tranquilly, Hashem, among the myriads of
thousands of Israel."
R' Schlesinger adds: We read a few verses earlier that Moshe asked his
father-in-law Yitro to accompany Bnei Yisrael to Eretz Yisrael, and he told
him (10:31), "You will be as eyes for us." Moshe knew that Bnei Yisrael
would be in grave spiritual danger once they had settled peacefully on
their land, and he therefore wanted Yitro among them so that Bnei Yisrael
could look upon him - - they could set their "eyes" upon him -- as an
example. What had Yitro done that could serve as an example? He had been
living tranquilly in Midian -- indeed, he had been the high priest of
Midian -- but he gave it all up and went "against the flow" once he
realized that the prevailing beliefs were wrong.
R' David Luria z"l
"And the sun rises and the son sets" (Kohelet 1:5) - so it was said of
R' David Luria ("Radal"), who was born in 5598 (1797), the year that the
Vilna Gaon died. Although he was a businessman who never held a rabbinic
position, Radal was recognized as a leading Torah scholar in his day. In
1854, he was elected rabbi of Warsaw in place of R' Chaim Davidson, but he
did not accept the appointment. Despite not holding any official
position, Radal did participate in rabbinic conferences relating to issues
affecting Russian Jewry and he represented the Jewish community before the
Although he had no formal secular education, Radal was fluent in
several languages. In 1838, he was arrested on false charges of spying
and was imprisoned for 105 days. It is told that during Radal's
interrogation by Russian officers, the latter began speaking amongst
themselves in French in order that their prisoner would not understand.
Suddenly, Radal began inching toward a corner of the room. "Why don't you
stand still?" the commanding officer bellowed, and Radal's explanation
that he understood French and did not want to eavesdrop earned him the
respect of the officers and facilitated his release.
Radal was a prolific writer. His works include Talmud commentaries,
kabbalistic works, halachic responsa, glosses to several works of Jewish
history, and commentaries on midrashim, including Midrash Rabbah, Midrash
Shmuel, Pesikta, and Pirkei D'Rabbi Eliezer. (The last of these is the
leading commentary on that midrash, and it not only explains the text but
cross - references related sources in the Talmud and other midrashim.)
The first work that Radal published was Kadmut Sefer Ha'Zohar, whose
purpose was to establish the antiquity of the Zohar. (The Zohar is
classically attributed to the Sage of the Mishnah Rabbi Shimon bar
Yochai. However, because it was never published before the 13th century,
some have questioned that attribution.)
Radal died at the age of 58 on 5 Kislev 5616 (1855). (Sources:
Rabbotenu She'ba'golah p. 29; Gedolei Ha'dorot p. 618)
Copyright © 2007 by Shlomo Katz
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