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Posted on February 15, 2024 (5784) By Rabbi Yochanan Zweig | Series: | Level:

“…take for Me a portion…” (25:2)

There is an obscure Midrash which states that when Hashem instructed Bnei Yisroel to assemble the materials for the building of the “Mishkan” – “Tabernacle”, they responded “Shema Yisroel Hashem Elokeinu Hashem echod” – “Hear O Israel, Hashem is our G-d, Hashem is One”.1 What message are Bnei Yisroel attempting to convey through this response?

Our daily prayers contains a section known as Tachanun. In the concluding portion of the Tachanun we recite the following two stanzas: “O Guardian of Israel, protect the remnants of Israel, let not Israel be destroyed – those who proclaim ‘Shema Yisroel’. O Guardian of the unique nation, protect the remnants of the unique people. Let not the unique nation be destroyed – those who proclaim ‘Hashem Elokeinu Hashem echod'”. We beseech Hashem to save us in the merit of our saying “Shema Yiroel” and “Hashem Elokeinu Hashem echod”. Why are these two proclamations listed separately and considered separate merits?

The Talmud states that Yaakov Avinu wished to reveal to his sons the time of the ultimate redemption but the Divine Presence departed from him. He feared that perhaps one of his sons was unworthy. However, his sons reassured him that they all were righteous by proclaiming “Shema Yisroel” – “Listen our father Israel, Hashem Elokeinu Hashem echod”.2 If they were standing in front of him why did they need to say “Listen our father Israel”? Why do we initiate our affirmation of the unity of Hashem with “Shema Yisroel”?

Our obligation to observe the precepts stems from a dual sense of responsibility; most obvious is the responsibility we have to our Creator. However, there is an additional responsibility, the responsibility to upkeep the traditions and heritage of our forefathers. An essential element of honoring our parents, who give us existence, is honoring the values and traditions which they have received as a legacy from their parents. Consequently, nonobservance of our heritage is an affront not only to our Creator, but to our parents and their ancestors as well.

By addressing their father ‘Hear O Israel” the brothers were proclaiming to him their commitment to adhere to the traditions and values with which he had inculcated them. They then added “We are also obligated to keep our heritage because Hashem our G-d requires us to do so.” It is this very proclamation which we recite twice daily, stating that our commitment to serve our Creator is twofold: our responsibility to upkeep the values of our Patriarch Israel and our responsibility to Hashem.

When Hashem instructed Bnei Yisroel to begin donating materials for the creation of a Mishkan, their response to Him was that they were committed to establishing a House for the Divine Presence because He had commanded that this be done. However they emphasized that they had already accepted this responsibility from their father Israel who ingrained in them the importance of having such an abode, as the Midrash states that Yaakov foresaw with prophetic vision that his children would be required to build a Mishkan. Therefore he commanded them to bring to Mitzrayim all the components necessary for the building of the Mishkan so that the materials would be available when leaving Mitsrayim two hundred ten years later.

1.Nachal Kadmon, Divrei Yoel
2.Pesachim 56b, see Rashi, who states that Yisroel refers to Yaakov Avinu

Out of Service


“oil for illumination, spices for the anointing oil and the aromatic incense”

This week’s parsha introduces the contributions that were made for the construction of the “Mishkan” “Tabernacle”, its vessels and the Priestly garments. Parshas Terumah elaborates upon the construction of the Mishkan and its vessels, whereas Parshas Tetzaveh deals primarily with the description of the Priestly garments. A few of the recorded contributions appear out of place. The verse records that Bnei Yisroel donated oil for the Menorah and spices for the incense offering, items which are elements of the service performed in the Mishkan. Why then, questions the Chizkuni, are these contributions recorded together with the construction of the vessels and the Mishkan?1

The Torah relates the dimensions of the Table which was located near the northern wall of the Mishkan’s outer chamber. This description concludes with the requirement that the show-bread continuously be upon the Table.

The Rambam authored a work which records all of the six hundred thirteen precepts. The commentaries on the Rambam pay careful attention to the order by which he records these precepts, for each one is meticulously assigned its designated place. A perplexing fact is that the Rambam begins recording the Temple service in precept number forty, although he previously records the lighting of the candles (#25), the placing of the show-bread (#27), and the burning of the incense (#28), all of which are generally considered part of the Temple service.4 Why does he record them after the precept of building the Temple (#20), but prior to the precept which begins detailing the Temple service?

In Parshas Beha’aloscha the Torah records Aharon’s obligation to light the Menorah. Additionally, the Torah records the construction of the Menorah.5 Why does the Torah juxtapose the construction to the lighting? Addressing the reason why the Torah records the oil for the Menorah as part of the materials used in the construction of the Mishkan, the Chizkuni suggests that although the oil is used in the Menorah service it has an additional function, to illuminate the palace of the King.6 The oil is therefore not only an element of the service, but a function of the building as well, and as such, is recorded with the building’s construction. However, the Chizkuni’s answer does not sufficiently address the difficulty from Parshas Beha’aloscha, for according to him the lighting is a function of the construction of the building, not the Menorah.

The Chizkuni adds that the incense is also a function of the building for it is appropriate that the palace of the King should be well aromatized.7This explanation is supported by a comment made by the Rambam in the Moreh Nevuchim where he states that the purpose for the incense offering brought upon the Golden Altar is to aromatize the building and the Priestly garments.8 The commentaries on the Rambam struggle to find a source for his comments. The Chizkuni’s explanation sheds light as to where the Rambam derives the notion that the purpose of the incense is to aromatize the building. The source for the second part of the Rambam’s statement that the incense is used to aromatize the Priestly garments stems from the fact that the Torah records the specifications of the Golden Altar in Parshas Tetzaveh, while all the other vessels are recorded in Parshas Teruma. Why does the Torah record the dimensions of the Altar used for the incense in the parsha which describes all of the Priestly garments? The Rambam concludes that the incense must be servicing the Priestly garments.

The reason for the Torah recording the placing of the show-bread together with the construction of the Table is that the bread laying upon the Table is part of the Table’s configuration. It is therefore an imperative that the Table never be without bread for this would be a lack in the very structure of the Table. It is possible that for the same reason the Torah requires that there always be oil within the lamps of the Menorah. Aside from the explanation of the Chizkuni that the light is a function of the building, the oil inside the lamps is part of their structure and is therefore recorded together with the Menorah’s construction. What emerges is that the incense, show-bread and the oil for the Menorah all have functions separate from the actual service they perform. Therefore the Rambam records them prior to the precept which details the Temple service.

3.Vayikra 24:5-10
4.See Sefer Hamitzvos

2 The entire service involving the show-bread is depicted in Parshas Emor. 3 Why is it necessary to detail the placement of the bread upon the Table in the parsha which records only the construction of the vessels?