These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Tapes on the weekly portion: #1151 Shul Shortcuts – Does Saying A Pasuk Really Help? Good Shabbos!
The pasuk says “You shall make the beams of the Mishkan of shittim wood, standing erect ” [Shemos 26:15]. Moshe Rabbeinu was commanded to make the boards of the Mishkan out of shittim wood. Rashi says that the wood used for the Mishkan came from special trees that Yaakov Avinu planted in Egypt. Just prior to his death, he commanded his children to remove these trees and take the wood with them when they left Egypt. He prophesized that the Holy One Blessed Be He would in the future command to make a Mishkan, and that the wood from these trees he planted would become the boards for that Mishkan.
This Rashi is based on a Medrash in Sefer Bereshis, on a pasuk in Parshas Vayigash [Bereshis 46:1] On his way down to Egypt, Yaakov stopped in Beer Sheva. The Medrash says he went there to gather cedar wood that his grandfather Avraham had planted there many years earlier. This wood has a very long history. The Torah says that Avraham planted an Eishel in Beer Sheva [Bereshis 21:33]. He made his “hotel” there, and at that time he planted these trees. Yaakov, on his way to Mitzrayim, stopped in Beer Sheva and cut down those trees, taking them with him to Egypt, where he replanted them.
So, these trees from which the wood of the Mishkan was taken, come with a pedigree. Not only do they go back to Yaakov Avinu, they go all the way back to Avraham Avinu.
With this background, Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky explains the above cited pasuk [Shemos 26:15]. What is the meaning of the term “Atzei Shitim Omdim“? The Gemara [Succah 45b] explains that Moshe Rabbeinu was commanded to use wood that would last forever. They would not burn or be destroyed. They would never be captured. They would never warp or rot. Moshe was told “You will need the type of trees that will stand forever (that would be “omed l’olam u’l’olmei olmaya“).
Moshe wondered, “How am I supposed to do that? How am I supposed to build with boards that I know for sure will never be destroyed and never be captured? It depends. If Klal Yisrael will behave, then the Mishkan will last. If they misbehave, the Mishkan will meet the same fate that the Batei HaMikdash met!” It appears that Moshe was being given a Mission Impossible!
The answer is that Moshe was being told: Do not take just any trees. Take the trees that Yaakov planted, which he received from Avraham Avinu. Those trees will last forever and ever. Since those trees were originally planted and used for a matter of mitzvah, they were used for Kedusha, they will last forever and ever. Something that is made “al taharas haKodesh”, which is built from the beginning with the most pure and pristine of intentions, exists forever and ever.
This explains the famous Gemara in Maseches Bava Metzia [85b] that Rav Chiya stated that he was going to ensure that “Torah will not be forgotten from Israel.” This was a bold statement. The reason we are here today learning Torah is because Rav Chiyah made a statement that he was going to do something that would ensure the eternity Torah. What did he do? He taught young children Torah. He taught children the five Chumashim and the six orders of the Mishna and they taught it to others, and that is how Torah lasted.
But what guarantee did he have? Maybe the children or grandchildren or great grandchildren of these students he taught would not carry on the tradition! The Gemara explains that Rav Chiya did not merely sit down with these children, open up a Chumash and teach them. Rather, he planted flax from which he made nets with which he caught deer. He then skinned the deer and he made hides. On the hides he wrote the Chamisha Chumshei Torah. Now, why did he go through all that trouble? He was not merely satisfied with buying parchment and writing the Torah scrolls himself. That was not good enough! He planted the flax to make the nets to catch the deer to procure the hides. That was the guarantee that this Torah would last forever. His motives were pure from the get-go. When that type of intense Kedusha is invested in a person’s efforts, the results last an eternity.
There is a famous saying from the Gaon of Vilna: If the wood used in the ax handle used to chop down trees used to build a Beis HaKeneses came from a tree planted by a Shomer Shabbos Jew, people would never recite a prayer without Kavannah (intense devotion) in that shul. This is exactly the same concept. If something is pure and holy and pristine and infused with kedusha from the very beginning, it lasts forever and ever.
This, says Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky, was the message to Moshe to build the Mishkan from Atzei Shittim OMDIM (that stand forever). You need to obtain the type of wood that will last forever and ever. From where can he obtain such wood? It is very simple. Do not go to the lumber yard and buy wood. Get the trees that Yaakov Avinu planted in Egypt after having first cut down the trees Avraham Avinu had planted by his Eishel in Be’er Sheva. Those trees, already used by Avraham to provide hospitality for wayfarers in his hotel, have been infused with kedusha from the beginning. They used those trees to build the Mishkan, and the fact is that the Mishkan was never destroyed. The First Beis HaMikdash was so much more glorious than the Mishkan, but it was built by non-Jews. Chiram, King of Tyre, contributed and sent workers. It was not pure, pristine, and unadulterated holiness. Certainly, the Beis HaMikdash had great Kedusha, but if you want to create something that will last forever, sanctity must be put into the structure from the very beginning.
That is why—this is not the custom here, but it is the custom in Yerushalayim and other places—when they take a child to Cheder for the first time to learn, they wrap him in a Tallis and bring him to the Cheder. Some Yerushalmi Jews go one step further, and they cover the child’s eyes on the way to Cheder so that he should not see anything impure on the way to Cheder. Why? It is because you want that moment to be pristine, pure and holy. That can affect the child for the rest of his life.
Nothing Happens on Its Own
The pasuk “You shall make a Menorah of pure gold – miksha shall the Menorah be made” (Shemos 25:31) uses the passive language (tey’aseh – shall be made) rather than expressing the more common direct command (ta’aseh – make). Rashi comments on this: The Menorah was made on its own because Moshe had difficulty visualizing its appearance. The Menorah was so intricate with its flowers and cups and buds that Moshe could not figure out how to make it. Hashem finally told him to throw the ingot of gold into the fire, and it was miraculously made by itself. Moshe threw the gold into the fire and presto, out came the elaborate candelabra.
The Maharal in his Gur Aryeh asks a question on this Rashi from the Medrash Tanchuma. The truth is that the Medrash Tanchuma internally has the same problem. On the pasuk in Parshas Beha’aloscha “V’zeh ma’aseh ha’Menorah…” (This is the workmanship of the Menorah…) [Bamidbar 8:4] the Medrash notes that every time the word “zeh” (this) appears in Chumash, it indicates pointing with a finger. On the pasuk “Zeh K-eli v’Anveyhu” (This is my G-d and I will glorify him) [Shemos 15:2] Chazal say that a handmaiden at the Red Sea could see things that the great prophet Yechezkel himself could not see. They were able to point: This is my G-d.
Here too, the Medrash states, the use of the word “V’Zeh” by the Menorah indicates that HaKadosh Baruch Hu pointed out to Moshe the exact appearance of the Menorah. The Maharal points out that this Medrash in Bamidbar seems to contradict what Rashi says here in Parshas Teruma. Our Rashi says that Moshe could not figure it out and the Menorah emerged from the fire by itself. The Medrash Tanchuma seems to indicate differently – that Hashem clearly pointed out the appearance of the Menorah to Moshe, so Moshe would know how to make it himself. Perhaps then Moshe tried and still had difficulty so he finally threw the gold into the fire and a menorah came out. However, from Rashi it sounds like it was totally “presto”. There was not even an initial attempt by Moshe to make it, as implied by the Medrash.
The Maharal explains that there was a process. Moshe Rabbeinu needed to look at the Menorah, study it, and try to understand its structure. Then he tried to make it. But it did not work. At that point, Hashem told him – “Okay, throw it into the fire,” and the finished product emerged without further effort.
The Maharal says there is a big lesson here: Nothing happens on its own. Even when a task seems hopeless, the person must make an effort by himself. Once the person makes the effort, then the Ribono shel Olam can give Siyata d’Shmaya (Help from Heaven). But if a person sits back with folded hands and just waits for a miracle to happen – it is not going to happen!
Rabbi Hartman, in his commentary on the bottom of the Maharal, cites the pasuk “…And the L-rd your G-d will bless you in all that you do.” (Devraim 15:18) and quotes the Sifrei: I might think (that the blessing will come) even if the person sits and does nothing – therefore the Torah emphasizes: “All that you do.” This means you need to make the effort.
The concept is the same when Moshe was commanded to count the Levi’im. Unlike the other tribes, Levites were counted from the time they were thirty days old. Moshe complained to the Ribono shel Olam: Do you want me to go into the tents of the nursing mothers with their new babies to count them? The Ribono shel Olam said, “No. Go to the door of the tent. Once you get there, I will tell you how many babies are inside.”
Why did Moshe need to go to the doors of the tents? He could have sat by the Mishkan, and Hashem could have given him a figure and he would have the number! The answer is that a person needs to make the effort. Even though it may be Mission Impossible, but the person needs to make the effort.
If there is one lesson that we learn in bringing up our children, it is this. Sometimes we feel that it is an impossible effort. How can we do it? The answer is we need to put in the effort and then the Ribono shel Olam will bless us with Divine Assistance.
One Story: Two Lessons
While we are on the subject of educating our children, I will relate a story someone recently told me. He asked me not to use the name of the individual. I happen to know the individual, and it is a beautiful story.
There was a Jew who passed away in his nineties. This Yid was responsible for Yiddishkeit, and specifically Torah Yiddishkeit, in a small town somewhere in America. He was the “go to” person for all matters of Torah communal life in that town. He built the shul, the Day School, not only financially but administratively. He was the layman that took care of everything. Today this community is a flourishing Jewish community because of his efforts decades ago.
He was not originally from that town. He was originally from another town. He told his children what motivated him to become this “Askan” (community leader), assuming the responsibility with all that it implies to build Torah in a small community. He said it is something that happened at his Bar Mitzvah. This person died in his nineties. This means his Bar Mitzvah was over eighty years ago in a small town in America.
Eighty-plus years ago in a small town in America, a Bar Mitzvah consisted of the following: You were called up for Maftir, you read the Haftorah, and that was it! There was no leining the whole parsha, there was no ‘pshetel‘ in Yiddish, there was no ‘pshetel‘ in English, there was no “Bo Bayom” (special celebration on the exact calendar day of his 13th birthday). The expression “Bo Bayom” did not enter the dictionary until the 1990s! That was a Bar Mitzvah in small town America circa 1930.
This Bar Mitzvah boy received Maftir in shul that day. After davening, he overheard two of the congregants talking to one another. One said – “the Bar Mitzvah boy did a really good job.” The other one said back – “Yeah, he did a really good job, but let’s see whether he comes back for Mincha!”
In those days, you had a ceremony in the shul in the morning, but very few came back for Mincha in the afternoon. The first congregant said “He will come back for Mincha, because this boy is different!”
This Bar Mitzvah boy told his own children, decades later, that those words he heard that day “This boy is different” kept ringing in his ears his entire life. He always told himself “I am different! People expect more from me.” It was these words that he heard when he was 13 years old which motivated him his entire life!
I happen to know the family – his siblings were not religious. This boy went off to Yeshiva, which was not a common practice in those days. Why did he do it? Because “this boy is different.” He married a frum woman. Why? It was because “This boy is different!” He assumed the responsibility of building a community. Why? Because “This boy is different!”
Four words: THIS BOY IS DIFFERENT. They made a difference in a person’s lifetime that changed a city. It changed a family. It changed generations. I know his children. I know his grandchildren. All Shomrei Torah u’Mitzvos. Bnei Torah.
The other lesson from this story goes back to the Jew in shul who made that comment. When he passed away and he went to Heaven, he was shown all the merits he accrued during his sojourn in the world below. This surely included the shul in this other fellow’s town, and the school there, and all the people who were made frum there. They will tell him: These are your zechusim (merits). He will say “What are you talking about?” I never stepped foot in that city! How can I get credit for those institutions? There must be a computer glitch here. You have the records mixed up!”
The Ribono shel Olam will tell him “I do not mix up records!” He will be told – it was the words you said at so and so’s Bar Mitzvah “This Boy Is Different.” They made all the difference in his life and in all that he accomplished.
These are the two important lessons of this story. (1) If a child knows he is different, it can make an impression and (2) saying even the smallest complement can change a person’s life.
Transcribed by David Twersky; Jerusalem [email protected]
Technical Assistance by Dovid Hoffman; Baltimore, MD [email protected]
This week’s write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissochar Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Series on the weekly Torah portion. A listing of the halachic portions for Parshas T’rumah is provided below:
- # 044 Changing Nusach: Ashkenaz vs. Sephard
- # 087 The Microphone on Shabbos
- # 135 Living Above a Shul
- # 182 Davening Towards Mizrach
- # 228 Selling a Shul
- # 272 Chazakah B’Mitzvos: Is This Maftir Yonah Mine?
- # 318 Taking Out Two Sifrei Torah
- # 362 The Mechitza-How High?
- # 406 Shul Elections
- # 450 Bais Hakeneses & Bais Hamikdash–Differences & Similarities
- # 494 Bima In The Center Of The Shul
- # 538 Preventing the Building of a Shul
- # 582 Silk in Halacha
- # 626 The Po’roches
- # 714 The Bais Hamedrash Is Not a Chat Room
- # 758 An Atara for a Talis?
- # 802 Birthday Cakes on Shabbos
- # 846 A Pasul Sefer Torah – Where Should It Be Kept?
- # 890 Shul Windows: An Open or Closed Case?
- # 934 Kohanim Face the Nation
- # 977 Remodeling A Shul: Is There A Problem?
- #1021 Should a Yahrzeit Make His Own Minyan in Shul to Get the Amud?
- #1065 The Breakaway Minyan – Permitted or Not?
- #1108 Being From The First Ten At Davening
- #1151 Shul Shortcuts – Does Saying A Pasuk Really Help?
- #1194 Your Father’s Nussach Or Your Grandfather’s Nussach
- #1238 Pushka and Tzedaka Shailos
- #1283 I Want To Take Back The Keser Torah I Donated: Should the Shul Agree?
- #1370 They Want To Build A New Shul? N.I.M.B.Y. (Not In My Backyard)
- #1414 Shul Issues: Shortcuts, Davening Towards Mizrach and More
- #1458 Mizrach is One Direction; The Aron Kodesh Is in Another; Which Way Should You Face?
A complete catalogue can be ordered from the Yad Yechiel Institute, PO Box 511, Owings Mills MD 21117-0511. Call (410) 358-0416 or e-mail [email protected] or visit http://www.yadyechiel.org/ for further information.