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Posted on March 9, 2023 (5783) By Rabbi Yissocher Frand | Series: | Level:

These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Tapes on the weekly portion: #1241 The Case of the Mishloach Manos That Was Delivered to the Wrong Person. Good Shabbos!

In Parshas Ki Sisa, we are introduced for the first time to Betzalel—the general contractor of the Mishkan building project: “See, I have called by name: Betzalel son of Uri son of Chur, of the tribe of Yehudah. I have filled him with a G-dly spirit, with wisdom, insight, and knowledge, and with every craft; to weave designs, to work with gold, silver, and copper; stone-cutting for setting, and wood-carving – to perform every craft.” (Shemos 31:2-5) At this point in time Betzalel was thirteen years old. Just imagine—Moshe Rabbeinu gathers the people together to announce the CEO of the Mishkan, and it turns out to be a little Bar Mitzvah Bochur, who last Shabbos leined the Maftir in shul!

Among other things, the way that the Torah introduces Betzalel is striking. Normally, when introducing people by name, the Torah mentions the person’s name and his father’s name. So it is with Kalev ben Yefuneh and so it is with Yehoshua bin Nun, to cite just two of many examples. In general, we do not introduce a person by his whole genealogy—who his father was and who his grandfather was. This is an exception to the rule. Betzalel ben Uri ben Chur, of the Tribe of Yehudah.

Not only is this the way Betzalel is mentioned when we first meet him in Parshas Ki Sisa, but his whole lineage is repeated again when he is mentioned in Parshas Vayakhel (Shemos 35:30), and then again when he is mentioned in Parshas Pekudei (Shemos 38:22). That is one anomaly.

A second anomaly is the fact that Rashi (Shemos 35:30) explains “Chur was the son of Miriam.” Why does Rashi tell us this? Why is it important to know? In fact, the Medrash in Parshas Vayakhel addresses the first issue: Why is Betzalel’s grandfather mentioned? The Medrash says that it is in the merit of Chur that Betzalel was given the opportunity and privilege to be in charge of building the Mishkan. Betzalel received more than just this opportunity. The Ribono shel Olam gifted him with the knowledge and know-how to build the Mishkan. This was all in the zechus of his grandfather Chur.

Who was Chur? Besides being the son of Miriam, Chur played a central role when Klal Yisrael was in the midst of making the Egel Hazhav (Golden Calf). As we read in this week’s parsha, it was a mob scene! The mob desired to build an Egel to replace Moshe, their missing leader. Chur stood up against the mob. He objected and insisted that the undisciplined masses were taking inappropriate action. Tragically, Chur paid for this protest against the mob with his life. They killed Chur. This is perhaps why Aharon tried to stall, and did not stand up to the mob. He saw what happened to his nephew. (See the Medrash Vayikra Rabba cited by Rashi to Shemos 32:5)

If we are to look back and ask, was Chur right or was he wrong – should Chur have stood up to them or should he not have stood up to them? We might conclude that it was a mistake, that it was an exercise in futility. Look what happened—they killed him! However, it was not a mistake! The Ribono shel Olam appreciated what Chur did. He appreciated it to the extent that he made Chur’s grandson the Chief Architect of the Mishkan. Chur took an unpopular stand. Sometimes it is necessary to take an unpopular stand despite the fact that the efforts will not succeed.

Chur did not necessarily think that he would be successful and that he would be able to persuade the people to abandon their plans of building an Egel Hazhav. But Chur felt this was not the right thing to do, and he stood up to the people. Many times in life, a person must take a stand and do what is right rather than what is popular, regardless of the chances of success. That is what Chur did.

Where did Chur get this character trait? Where did he learn the lesson that a person must at times do his best, give it his best shot, even when success is extremely unlikely? The answer to this question is the detail that Rashi is supplying when he tells us that Chur was the son of Miriam. This was Miriam’s approach to life as well.

Chazal say that when Pharaoh made the decree to throw all male children into the Nile, Amram divorced his wife. Why? He concluded: “We are toiling for naught! Why should we bring babies into the world to be thrown into the Nile?” He divorced his wife. The Gemara says that Amram was the leader of the generation (Gadol haDor) and therefore everybody followed suit and divorced their wives. Along came little Miriam and said to her father, who was the Gadol haDor: “Daddy, guess what? I don’t think you are right! Pharaoh only decreed regarding the boys. You are decreeing against the girls as well! Pharaoh only decreed that the children should be killed in this world, you are decreeing (by preventing children from ever being conceived) that the children should not even have a World-to-Come!

Did Miriam think she was going to convince her father? This is the equivalent of Rav Moshe Feinstein’s little daughter coming over to her father after Rav Moshe Feinstein came out with a definitive policy, and saying, “Tatty, I don’t think this is right!” Why did she try? Why did she make the statement?

The answer is because Miriam felt that it was the right thing to do. Whether she was able to convince her father or not, this was her opinion. Obviously, she said it politely, but this was her philosophy: You do what you think is right. You go ahead and make a statement that you believe in. Whether the recipient of the statement accepts it or not is not my business.

There is a second example: Moshe’s basket was placed into the Nile. “And his sister stood off at a distance to find out what would happen to him.” (Shemos 2:4). This too would seem to be an exercise in futility. What could Miriam hope to accomplish? Then when Bas Pharaoh finds the baby floating in the basket, Miriam approaches Pharaoh’s daughter and offers her an “idea.” Is she silly? A slave girl goes over to the Princess of Egypt and starts giving her advice about what she should do with this baby? It was apparently an exercise in futility.

There is a third example: Tosfos haRosh says that after Krias Yam Suf (the Splitting of the Sea), the men sang Az Yashir but the women complained. They said, “We also want to sing.” They went to Miriam with their complaint. Tosfos HaRosh says that Miriam recognized that there was a potential problem with women singing (Kol Isha), so she took a tambourine and started making noise with it. With the tambourine banging in the background, she told the women “Now you can sing! (The men won’t hear you anyway).”

Why did she do that? If Kol Isha is forbidden, then it is forbidden. There is no way around a black and white prohibition. The answer is that her philosophy in life was “Try to do whatever you can do. Maybe it will work.” That was her approach to life and all of its challenges.

There is a fourth example: The Rishonim write that the women wove the wool for the curtains of the Mishkan while the wool was still attached to the goats and to the sheep. The Talmud calls this “Chochma Yeseira” (requiring special talent). Now, why did they do that? The Rishonim explain that a certain percentage of the women were Niddos. If a Niddah touches the detached wool, the wool becomes tameh (impure). They complained to Miriam that they wanted to weave but they were not allowed to weave because they were tameh. They asked Miriam for advice. Miriam does not tell them flat out, “Sorry, this is forbidden. There is nothing you can do.” She suggests an ingenious idea. A live animal is not susceptible to become tameh. “Weave on the backs of live animals!”

We see a pattern here: The pattern is that you never give up. The pattern is that you try your best. The pattern is that you do whatever you can do. The pattern is what Rav Yisrael Salanter once said: “Mir darf nisht noch ton; mir darf nisht up ton; un mir darf nisht uf-ton.” Translating his Yiddish into English, this means: “Do not try to imitate people; do not try to make a minimal and superficial effort; and finally, one does not always need to accomplish.”

One merely needs to make the effort. That was Miriam’s approach to life. That philosophy of life came down to her son Chur. Chur, when faced with a hopeless situation, stood up because he thought it was the right thing to do. Rashi explains: Where did Chur get this character trait from? “He was Miriam’s son.” This was the mesorah of Miriam’s house, which translated itself to the mesorah of the House of Chur. In reward for this dedication, Betzalel built the House of Hashem.

Transcribed by David Twersky; Jerusalem [email protected]

Edited 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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