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Posted on March 14, 2024 (5784) By Shlomo Katz | Series: | Level:

Volume 38, No. 23
6 Adar II 5784
March 16, 2024

Sponsored by Mrs. Rochelle Dimont and family on the yahrzeit of mother and grandmother Ida Tarshish (Chaya Faiga bat Harav Chaim Halevi Tarshish a”h)

In our Parashah, the Mishkan / Tabernacle is finally completed. Commentaries note that our Parashah says 18 times that the Mishkan and its implements were made exactly “as Hashem had commanded Moshe.” Also, Rashi z”l notes that the opening verse of our Parashah alludes to the eventual destruction of the two Batei Mikdash / the First and Second Temples, which Hashem took as a “Mashkon” / pledge for the sins of Yisrael. These two facts can lead us to a deeper understanding of the significance of the Mishkan and Bet Hamikdash, based on a thought from R’ Avraham Mordechai Alter shlita (Yerushalayim; grandson of the previous Gerrer Rebbe), who writes:

The Gemara (Gittin 56b) relates that in the period leading up to the destruction of the Second Temple there was a disagreement between the leading sage of the generation, Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai (RYBZ), and the Biryonim / a fierce militia defending Yerushalayim. The Biryonim wanted to defend the Bet Hamikdash at all costs, even if it meant death for everyone in Yerushalayim, but RYBZ smuggled himself out of Yerushalayim and negotiated with the Roman Emperor Vespasian to save the Sanhedrin and its scholars. R’ Alter explains that the Biryonim saw the Bet Hamikdash as something with inherent value. RYBZ, on the other hand, understood that the Bet Hamikdash has value only if the Shechinah rests there, which, in turn, depends on our obeying Hashem. Without that, the Bet Hamikdash has no holiness.

In this light, continues R’ Alter, we can understand the following Gemara (Yoma 52b): When the Kohen Gadol entered the Kodesh Ha’kadashim on Yom Kippur, he prayed only a brief prayer in order not to worry the Jews who were waiting outside for his safe return. (If the Kohen Gadol was unworthy, he would not return alive.) Once, a Kohen Gadol prayed a longer prayer, and his fellow Kohanim admonished him. He retorted, “Does it bother you that I prayed for you and for the Temple, that it should not be destroyed?” They responded, “Even so, do not do that, for our Sages said not to pray a long prayer lest it cause people to worry.” (Until here from the Gemara) R’ Alter explains: If Halachah says not to pray a long prayer, then even a prayer in the seemingly holiest place in the world has no more value than a prayer uttered in a mundane place. This is what the Torah means when it says (Vayikra 10:1) that Aharon’s sons, Nadav and Avihu, “brought before Hashem an alien fire that He had not commanded them [to bring].” Nadav and Avihu complied in all respects with the laws of bringing Ketoret / incense, except for one detail–Hashem had not given that Mitzvah to them. That made their act worthless and not a Mitzvah at all; indeed, they died because of it.

R’ Alter continues: Avraham Avinu was the paradigm of Chessed / kindness. Every idea about Chessed that has ever been written in any Torah commentary, Avraham fulfilled, R’ Alter writes. How, then, could Avraham obey Hashem’s command to offer his son Yitzchak as a sacrifice–the opposite of Chessed? R’ Alter answers: Avraham understood that Chessed has no independent value; it is fulfilling the word of Hashem that has value. When it is His will that we perform Chessed, then that is what we must do. And, when it is His will that we act with Gevurah / strength, as at the Akeidah, then that Middah / trait takes precedence. Notably, the very location where the Akeidah took place, where Avraham proved his complete subjugation to G-d’s will, is where the Bet Hamikdash was built. This fact reflects the idea expressed above: the location of the Bet Hamikdash is not inherently holy; rather, it derives its holiness from our adherence to Hashem’s commandments.

[Similarly, the Mishkan–and later, the Bet Hamikdash–was holy only because it was built exactly as Hashem had commanded. This is why the Mishkan atoned for the Golden Calf, which the commentaries say was well intentioned, but contrary to the will of Hashem. And, our Parashah hints, the Bet Hamikdash was destined to be destroyed when we no longer lived up to the standard taught in our Parashah, because only adherence to Hashem’s commandments gives the Temple its holiness.] (Emet Ve’da’at: Ma’amar “Ve’shachanti B’toch Bnei Yisrael”)


The Month of Adar

“In the first month, which is the month of Nissan, in the twelfth year of King Achashverosh, a Pur (that is, the lot) was cast in the presence of Haman from day to day, and from month to month, to the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar.” (Esther 3:7)

The Gemara (Megillah 13b) relates: When the lot fell on Adar, Haman was very happy, and he said, “The lot fell for me on the month when Moshe died.” But he (Haman) did not know that on the seventh of Adar Moshe died and on the seventh of Adar he was born. [Until here from the Gemara]

What is the connection between the death of Moshe, or his birth, and the Purim miracle? R’ Yehuda Loewe z”l (Maharal of Prague; died 1609) explains: Do not think that there was no significance to this lot; after all, you might say, its prediction that the Jewish People would be destroyed in Adar did not come true. The Megillah tells us that the lot was cast in the very important month of Nissan to emphasize its significance. How so? Maharal explains: In fact, on our own, the Jewish People are susceptible to having an end, and Adar, the end of the months, is a fitting time for that to occur (G-d forbid). (The Torah calls Nissan the first month and, as our verse says, Adar is the twelfth month.) What then ensures the eternity of the Jewish People? Only our connection to Hashem. Our very name, Yisrael, ends with a Name of G-d (Kel), thus ensuring that we will not have a “different end.”

Maharal continues: When Haman had lots cast, he was trying to determine which month is an auspicious time to bring about the Jewish People’s end. He was pleased when the lot settled on the month when Moshe died, for Moshe, the Giver of the Torah and teacher of the Jewish People, represents the essence the Tzurah / most complete manifestation of our People. If Moshe could meet his end in Adar, then so too could the Jewish People, Haman reasoned. Moreover, just as the Exodus occurred in the first month, so the end of the Jewish People would be in the last month, he thought.

But Haman was wrong, for he did not realize that Moshe also was born in Adar. Dying on his own birthday was an indication that Moshe Rabbeinu had reached completion, just as a circle is completed by ending where it began. Moreover, the 12th month alludes to Moshe’s 120 years, whose Mispar Kattan (a type of Gematria in which the zeros are dropped from the tens and hundreds places) equals 12. The Mispar Kattan of Moshe’s name (Mem = 4, Shin = 3, Heh = 5) also equals 12, showing that Moshe’s life-span was just right for him. As such, his death could not be a bad omen. (Ohr Chadash)



The Gemara (Shabbat 113b) teaches: “Your speech on Shabbat should not be like your speech on a weekday.” Understood most simply, the Gemara is teaching, as Rashi z”l writes, that one should not speak about business matters or about his accounts on Shabbat.

R’ Pinchas Halevi Ish Horowitz z”l (1731-1805; rabbi of Frankfurt, Germany; author of widely used commentaries on Tractates Ketubot and Kiddushin) explains: Hashem created the world using “speech,” as we read (Tehilim 33:6), “By the word of Hashem the heavens were made . . .” On Shabbat, Hashem refrained from speaking in this creative way, so we should as well. (Nevertheless, R’ Horowitz notes, this prohibition does not have the status of a Biblical commandment.)

R’ Horowitz continues: But, if that were all that the Gemara means, it could say simply, “Do not speak about mundane matters on Shabbat.” Rather, the Gemara is teaching also that everything a person says on Shabbat should be with greater holiness than he says the same thing on a weekday. For example, the first three Berachot of Shemoneh Esrei are exactly the same on Shabbat as on a weekday. But, “Your speech on Shabbat should not be like your speech on a weekday.” Therefore, purify your thoughts to a greater degree on Shabbat so that you will recite these very same blessings differently than you do all week long. Likewise, when you study Torah on Shabbat, do it with greater holiness than how you study on a weekday. This, writes R’ Horowitz, is the meaning of the verse (Tehilim 149:1), “Sing to Hashem a new song; His praise is in the congregation of the devout.” The song–i.e., the Torah–is the same song, but it is a “new song” when it is sung in a different environment–here, the “congregation of the devout,” and likewise, on Shabbat. (Panim Yafot: Shmot 20:10)