These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Tapes on the weekly portion: #1197. Hachana Issues: Loading Dishwasher on Shabbos; Defrosting For Yom Tov Sheni. Good Shabbos!
Parshas Vayakhel contains a review of the process of constructing the Mishkan and its furnishings, beginning with the solicitation of donations for the various building materials necessary for this construction. Among the significant items brought was Atzei Shittim (Acacia wood). The pasuk says, “…anyone with whom there was found shittim wood for any work of the labor brought it.” (Shemos 35:24). In fact, there was a significant need for Shittim wood, which was both long and heavy. The Medrash in Shir HaShirim speaks of the central beam (Beriach haTichon) that wrapped around the walls of the Mishkan being 32 cubits long.
Where did they find such long beams? They were hidden in Egypt (Mitzrayim) from the days of Yaakov Avinu. Chazal teach that Avraham Avinu originally planted the trees for the wood for the Mishkan in Be’er Sheva, and when Yaakov Avinu relocated to Mitzrayim, he took the wood from those trees and brought it with him to Mitzrayim. The people took this wood with them when they left Mitzrayim. They carried it into the Midbar and eventually they used this “wood with a pedigree” for the beams of the Mishkan. This is referenced in the above-cited pasuk.
The sefer Darash Mordechai by Rav Mordechai Druk brings a question from his own son: We know that Chazal spend a lot of time praising Moshe Rabbeinu for the fact that he spent his final hours in Mitzrayim locating and retrieving the bones of Yosef which he took with him. (Shemos 13:19) Chazal praise Moshe by noting that the rest of the Jewish people were occupying themselves with collecting “the booty of Egypt” while Moshe occupied himself with Mitzvos, quoting the pasuk “The wise in heart, will take Mitzvos…” (Mishlei 10:8) The son of the Darash Mordechai asked his father: “Why is there no praise given to the people who made it their business to gather up the Acacia wood that Yaakov brought down to Mitzrayim and schlep it out with them?” If we consider that the central beam (Beriach ha’Tichon) was approximately 64 feet long (32 Amos) then that was certainly a cumbersome task, to say the least. There is no doubt that it was much harder to take responsibility for all that wood than to take responsibility for Yosef’s bones. The wood schleppers also did a very noble act. What is the difference between Yosef’s bones and Avraham and Yaakov’s Acacia wood?
The Darash Mordechai suggested an answer to his son, and then his son responded with an answer of his own.
Rav Mordechai Druk answered that the praise bestowed upon Moshe was not merely for the fact that he schlepped, but rather for the fact that he did it while everyone else was busy collecting money. What does someone do when he is confronted with the following choice: On the one hand, there is a mitzvas aseh from the Ribono shel Olam to collect money—go into the vault and take out gold and silver, no strings attached! Who will hesitate to fulfill a mitzvah and get rich in the process?
On the other hand, what did Moshe Rabbeinu do? Forget the money. Forget the riches. I am just going to do the mitzvah of taking Yosef’s bones. The praise bestowed on Moshe is not for the weight he had to carry. If we would bestow praises based on pounds or kilograms carried, the wood carriers should be considered far greater heroes. Rather, Moshe was praised for forgoing the mitzvah with which he could acquire great wealth for himself, and instead focusing on a pure unadulterated mitzvah with no “matan sechara b’tziddah” (immediately accompanying reward).
Rav Druk’s son offered another answer: Moshe saw the distinction being between a mitzvah bein Adam l’Makom (between man and G-d) and a mitzvah bein Adam l’Chaveiro (between man and his fellow-man). Work to build a shul is an attractive mitzvah. People will come to shul and see the wood that I broke my back schlepping. It is a mitzvah that will bring me praise and social accolades from my friends and neighbors. It is not hard to find people anxious to work for such a mitzvah.
However, it is not so easy to find people willing to do a private kindness for someone else. A personal mitzvah bein Adam l’Chaveiro has neither the glory nor the publicity of a mitzvah involving public worship in a Mishkan of the Ribono shel Olam. Such a public mitzvah is actually less of a mitzvah than a private chessed to an individual. Yosef haTzadik had children and grandchildren. Really, it should have been their responsibility to take care of their grandfather’s bones. Let them do it! The fact that Moshe Rabbeinu chose a Mitzvah bein Adam l’Chaveiro has value and superiority that trumps even a Mitzvah bein Adam l’Makom.
I heard an interesting incident that bears this out.
Rav Yitzchak Zilberstein has a sefer in which he brings interesting incidents related to Chodesh Nissan and to Pesach. His first story concerns the mitzvah of Birkas Ilanos (making a bracha on the first blooming fruit trees of the spring season). There is a Kabbalistic concept which emphasizes the preference of making this Bracha specifically over two trees.
Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt”l, was walking down the street in Chodesh Nissan and he passed a house with a fruit tree. He paused in front of that house and prepared to recite the bracha. Another Jew passed by and said to the respected sage, “If you go two blocks down the street, you will find a house with two blossoming fruit trees in front of it. Why don’t you wait two blocks and fulfill the mitzvah in accordance with the Kabbalistic preference?”
Rav Shlomo Zalman pointed out to this Jew the window of the house in front of which he was now standing. “Do you see the woman in the window? She is a widow. She is standing in the window and is bursting with pride that I, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, posek of the generation, am making my Birkas Ilanos on her tree! It is better to do a chessed by bringing pleasure to a widow, even if it means making the bracha on just one tree, rather than adding the dimension of the Zohar’s preference of making the Birkas Ilanos on two trees.”
This is again an example that if a person can combine into his Man-God mitzvos a dimension of a Man-Man mitzvah, that is indeed preferable. Thus too, the private chessed that Moshe Rabbeinu performed with the bones of Yosef haTzadik was an even bigger mitzvah than schlepping the wood for the Mishkan.
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 Vayakeil/Pikudei is provided below:
- # 047 Pikuach Nefesh: To Save a Life
- # 090 The Melacha of Carrying
- # 138 The Melacha of Tying Knots on Shabbos
- # 185 The Melacha of Writing
- # 231 Making a Siyum
- # 275 Electricity in Halacha
- # 321 Leap Year and the Second Adar
- # 365 The Melacha of Tearing
- # 409 The Melacha of Melabain (Laundering)
- # 453 Wearing A Watch on Shabbos
- # 497 The Tefillah of B’rich Sh’mei
- # 541 Learning Kabbalah
- # 585 The Melacha of Trapping
- # 629 Sitting in Judgement on Shabbos
- # 672 The Mishebeirach in Halacha
- # 673 Putting A Sefer Torah in the Aron
- # 717 One Hundred Brachos A Day
- # 761 Killing Two Birds with One Stone
- # 805 Baruch Sh’omar, Ashrei and Yishtabach
- # 849 Saying L’shem Yichud – A Good Idea?
- # 893 The Unique Parshas Sh’kolim
- # 937 Magnetic Forces
- # 980 Siyum M’sechta: For The Past Or For The Future?
- #1024 Turning That Old Dress Into A Cover for a Sefer Torah?
- #1068 “This (Aron Kodesh/Ner Tamid/Window) Is Donated By”…A Good Idea
- #1111 Paying the Baal Koreh/Chazan/Babysitter for Shabbos
- #1154 Does The Husband’s Early Kabolas Shabbos Affect His Wife?
- #1197 Hachana Issues: Loading Dishwasher on Shabbos; Defrosting For Yom.Tov Sheni
- #1241 The Case of the Mishloach Manos That Was Delivered to the Wrong Person
- #1285 “It’s A Siman Min HaShamayim”: Is There Such A Thing?
- #1328 A Fascinating Muktzeh/Tevilas Keilim Shaila
- #1329 Finishing a sefer of Tanach: Does It Warrant a Seudas Siyum? And Other Siyum Issues
- #1416 Does the Prohibition of Not Taking Medicine on Shabbos Still Apply in Our Day and Age?
- #1461 What Do the Urim ve’Tumim and Scrabble Have to Do With Each Other?
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