Volume 37, No. 19
4 Adar 5783
February 25, 2023
Mrs. Rochelle Dimont and family on the yahrzeits of father-in-law and grandfather Harav Shmuel Elchanan ben Harav Binyomin Dimont a”h, and mother and grandmother Chaya Feiga bat Harav Chaim Halevi a”h | The Katz family on the yahrzeits of Yitzchak Zvi ben Chaim Hakohen a”h, Avraham Abba ben Avigdor Moshe Hakohen a”h, and Etush bat Avigdor Moshe Hakohen a”h
This week’s Parashah begins to discuss the construction of the Mishkan / Tabernacle. Surprisingly, though, a Midrash relates that Hashem told Moshe to command Bnei Yisrael about the Mishkan when they were yet slaves in Egypt. Specifically, we read (Shmot 6:12-13), “Moshe spoke before Hashem, saying, ‘Behold, the nation Bnei Yisrael have not listened to me . . .’ Hashem spoke to Moshe and Aharon and commanded them regarding Bnei Yisrael . . .’” Says the Midrash: “He commanded them to prepare slats to make the walls of the Mishkan.” What is this Midrash teaching us? Why was that an appropriate time to speak about the Mishkan?
R’ Chaim Yaakov Goldvicht z”l (1924-1994; founder and Rosh Hayeshiva of Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavneh) explains: The Talmud Yerushalmi (Rosh Hashanah 3:5) offers another surprising interpretation of the words: “Hashem . . . commanded them regarding Bnei Yisrael,” i.e., Hashem instructed Moshe to command Bnei Yisrael to free their Jewish slaves after six years. Why teach this law now? And, how, asks R’ Goldvicht, was this an appropriate response to Moshe’s concern, “Bnei Yisrael have not listened to me”?
Another question: We read in last week’s Parashah (21:6) that a Jewish slave who refuses to go free after six years should have his ear pierced. “The ear that heard at Sinai (Vayikra 25:55), ‘For Bnei Yisrael are My slaves,’ yet it went and obtained a human master for itself, should be pierced,” says the Gemara (Kiddushin 22b). Why the focus on the ear, not on the person himself?
R’ Goldvicht answers: When it comes to knowing what the Torah expects of us, “listening” (“hearing”) is the most important sense we have. Thus, Bnei Yisrael said, “Na’aseh Ve’nishmah” / “We will do and we will listen,” when they accepted the Torah. Likewise, our twice daily proclamation of our faith begins, “Shema” / “Hear!” After we listen and hear what is expected of us, we can make the decision to serve Hashem.
A slave is inherently incapable of making such a decision, R’ Goldvicht continues. Even if he goes to Minyan every day, for example, it is by the grace of his master, not an act he can claim as his own. On the other hand, a slave who is freed can become a true servant of Hashem. Therefore, someone who wants to be a slave, who refuses to “hear” what is expected of a Jew, deserves to have his ear pierced.
No one could appreciate the above distinction between a slave and a free person more than the Jewish People could on the eve of the Exodus. Therefore, R’ Goldvicht writes, that was the perfect time to teach them to free their own Jewish slaves in the future.
The purpose of the Exodus, R’ Goldvicht concludes, was to create a nation of servants of Hashem. Thus, the culmination of the Exodus was not when Bnei Yisrael left Egypt, not when the Sea split, and not when the Torah was given; it was when the Mishkan was built, as R’ Moshe ben Nachman z”l (Ramban; 1194-1270; Spain and Eretz Yisrael) writes. In light of this, we can understand why Bnei Yisrael would be commanded to prepare materials for the Mishkan while they were still in Egypt. (Asufot Ma’arachot: Ma’amar “Arirut Ha’avdut”)
“And turquoise, purple, and scarlet wool, linen, and goats. Red-dyed ram skins, and Tachash skins, and acacia wood.” (25:4-5)
Rashi z”l writes: Tachash was a kind of wild beast that existed only at that time.
R’ Shlomo Kluger z”l (1785-1869; rabbi of Brody, Galicia) asks: What was bothering Rashi that he felt the need to tell us this?
He answers: Rashi was bothered by the fact that the Torah says, “Tachash skins,” rather than saying, “Tachash,” as it says “Goats.” Therefore, Rashi understood that the Tachash itself was of no importance, because that animal was created only so Bnei Yisrael could use its skins, and then it became extinct.
R’ Kluger adds: Do not ask, “But the Torah also says, ‘Ram skins,’ and the ram is not extinct?!” The Torah had to say “Ram skins” because it is the skins that are “Red-dyed,” not the rams themselves. (Imrei Shefer)
“You shall erect the Tabernacle according to its laws, as you were shown on the mountain.” (26:30)
R’ Srayah Deblitzki z”l (1926-2018; Bnei Brak, Israel) writes: Hashem did not command Moshe himself to make all of the parts of the Mishkan or its Keilim / implements. As the Torah relates, that work was done by Betzalel, Ohaliav, and many other unnamed men and women. Why, then, was Moshe commanded to erect the Mishkan himself?
R’ Deblitzki explains: Imagine that a very sophisticated machine–for example, an aircraft or spaceship–has been assembled. Each of the thousands of parts conforms perfectly to its specifications and is in its proper place, yet, for some reason, the machine does not work. The project’s engineers are stymied, until the world’s leading expert inspects the machine and notices that one screw is loose. That one loose screw is preventing the machine from working; indeed, were that screw to come loose during the spaceship’s flight, a major tragedy would result.
The Mishkan, continues R’ Deblitzki, was a very finely-tuned “machine.” Through it, Hashem’s Shechinah could reside in this world, but only if it was constructed according to the precise physical and spiritual specifications that Moshe Rabbeinu was shown at Har Sinai; otherwise, it would not work. That is why Moshe himself had to assemble it.
R’ Deblitzki adds: Man’s body is also a Mishkan / tabernacle capable of having the Shechinah reside in it. In order to accomplish this, one must ensure that each limb is performing its job properly [– for example, that the tongue is being used to speak words of Torah, prayer, and kindness, not Lashon Ha’ra or hurtful words; that the eyes are being used in Mitzvah performance, not to view sinful things, etc.] If even one small part is “out of place,” the Shechinah will be unable to make a home in that body. (Et L’drosh p.91-92)
“You shall place the Shulchan / Table outside the Partition, and the Menorah opposite the Shulchan on the south side of the Tabernacle, and the Shulchan you shall place on the north side.” (26:35)
The verse begins to speak of the Shulchan, then it tells us where the Menorah should be placed, and, only then, it tells us where the Shulchan should be placed. Why?
R’ Yissachar Dov Rokeach z”l (1851-1926; Belzer Rebbe) explains: The merit of the Shulchan, on which the twelve loaves of Lechem Ha’panim / bread were placed, brings down Hashem’s material bounty. The Menorah, in contrast, alludes to the light of the Torah. Thus, the Gemara (Bava Batra 25b) teaches: “If one wants to become wise, he should face slightly southward when he prays,” because the Menorah was in the south.
The purpose of material bounty, continues the Belzer Rebbe, is solely to enable us to study and keep the Torah. Otherwise, there is no reason for it. The Shulchan needs to be opposite the Menorah. Therefore, the Torah needs to tell us first where the Menorah is to be placed. (Quoted in Lekket Imrei Kodesh)
“V’karata La’Shabbat Oneg” / “You shall call the Shabbat a ‘delight’” is a Mitzvah fulfilled specifically through physical pleasures, such as eating and drinking. What does it mean to “call” Shabbat a delight, and what does that teach us about how to perform this Mitzvah?
Rabbeinu Bachya ben Asher z”l (Spain; 1255-1340) writes: The word “V’karata” has the same implication as in (Tzephaniah 1:7), “Hikdish keru’av” / “He invited his guests.” (Kad Ha’kemach: Shabbat)
R’ Yeshayah Halevi Horowitz z”l (the Shelah Hakadosh; rabbi of Prague and Yerushalayim; died 1630) elaborates: The Gemara (Shabbat 118a) speaks of “One who gives the Shabbat ‘Oneg’,” not one who gives himself Oneg, because a person’s intention [when he prepares and consumes Shabbat delicacies] should not be to give himself pleasure. Rather, it should be to enjoy himself in honor of Shabbat. This may be likened to hosting an honored guest and making a big meal in his honor. In such a situation, one exerts himself more than he would do for himself. (Shnei Luchot Ha’brit: Masechet Shabbat, Ner Mitzvah 37)
How does one know if he is enjoying himself in honor of Shabbat or just paying lip service to Shabbat and satisfying his own desires? R’ Eliezer Papo z”l (1785-1827; rabbi in Sarajevo) answers: If one does not pursue delicacies and worldly pleasures during the week, and on Shabbat he eats a little more than he is accustomed to, then he is honoring Shabbat and giving it pleasure. (Pele Yo’etz: Oneg)