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A DONATION OF THE HEART
Our parashah opens with a list of the raw materials necessary for the building of the Mishkan and its accessories and the design of the priestly garments. The list includes gold, silver and brass, as well as wool, leather and cedar wood. The last items enumerated are the precious stones placed upon the ephod and hoshen of the kohen gadol. Later in history, the Sages paid six hundred thousand gold coins for the stones of the hoshen, besides the principal sum. If they were so precious, why does the Torah list them at the very end, after the inexpensive materials of goats' wool, flax and wood?
The Or Hahayyim Hakadosh zs"l explains based on the comment in the Midrash that the precious stones fell down from the heavens together with the mann. As such, the donation of these stones involved no effort or exertion. A small gift that required painstaking efforts and is given wholeheartedly and sincerely is worth more than even the most expensive and lavish gift that had been originally attained easily, without exertion. The small coins donated by the less fortunate and the materials woven by the women supersede in importance the enormous fortune given by a wealthy person without feeling or a sense of a concern.
Indeed, Hashem is interested primarily in one's heart, in the donation of the heart, and this constitutes the single standard by which one's contribution is measured. This perspective must guide us through every area of life, especially in the context of family. A gift is not measured by its financial value, but by the accompanying donation of the heart.
A PASUK AND ITS LESSON
Tradition teaches us that "there is nothing not alluded to in the Torah." The Gaon of Vilna zs"l wrote that all world events - both large and small - have a hint in the Torah. The following story, relevant to our parashah, testifies to this principle.
Around two hundred and fifty years ago, the ten year old son of one of the wealthy men in Egypt ran away from home and severed all ties with his family. His two brothers remained at home with their father, and upon his death they inherited his wealth.
FROM THE WELLSPRINGS OF THE PARASHAH
"The menorah shall be made of a single block"
Rabbenu Ovadia Seforno zs"l explains that the menorah symbolizes the light of wisdom. The straight, middle shaft of the menorah represents the ultimate purpose of wisdom - the service of Hashem. The arms to the right of the central shaft symbolize the in-depth, theoretical scholarship, while those to the left signify practical wisdom. The Torah commands that the candles of the menorah be kindled towards the middle shaft, that all branches of wisdom serve the central and basic function of avodat Hashem.
The pasuk, "The menorah shall be made of a single block" comes to teach us that all branches of wisdom must form a single unit, "for when all the light is directed to one place, similar to the single block of gold that symbolizes unity, then once can see light that has evolved from the great light," and this light will bestow upon the individual supreme, heavenly wisdom.
"The menorah shall be made of a single block"
The Siftei Kohen zs"l notes that whereas the pasuk begins with the imperative form - "You shall make a golden menorah," it continues in the passive form - "the menorah shall be made." He explains that all the accessories in the Mishkan allude to sublime, spiritual forces in the heavens. The Zohar writes that our actions down below affect that which transpires in the heavens, as the Midrash says, "You with your ingredients [materials for the Mishkan], and I with My Glory." An individual performs missvot here, in this world, and the Almighty acts in accordance with his deeds in the upper worlds. This is what is meant by the phrase, "You shall make a golden menorah," that through your actions, "the menorah shall be made of a single block" in the upper worlds, to illuminate the souls of Yisrael with the great, spiritual light.
"The menorah shall be made of a single block"
The Alshich Hakadosh zs"l writes that the menorah symbolizes the human being. Therefore, it stood eighteen handbreadths high, the average height of a person. The Torah alludes to the fact that an individual must turn himself into "pure gold," he must purify all his actions and cleanse them from any adulteration or blemish, so that he becomes sacred and pure. "The menorah shall be made of a single block." This block is beaten by the smith's hammer, symbolizing the intense effort demanded of a person towards the development of his spiritual persona. The arms of the menorah, which symbolizes man's limbs, must be part of the same block as the body of the menorah. In other words, "this is a parable to the unity of the limbs, that one must not contaminate one of them and thereby sever its essence from the other limbs, for even if he repents and corrects, it will not be completely atoned. Rather, from the outset they should all have unity and purity as one. One should not say that it is enough that most of his limbs are rooted in the performance of good while the minority perform evil - rather, it must all be a single block of pure gold!"
THE GOLDEN COLUMN
Solikah the Martyr Hy"d
Near the grave site of Rabbi Yehudah Ben Atar zs"l and Rabbi Avner Hassarfati zs"l lies the grave of the ssadeket Solikah the Martyr. She was an attractive young girl, and one of the neighboring Moslems desired her. He thought long and hard how to seduce her, and finally decided to spread the false rumor that she had secretly converted to Islam and then returned to her family's religion. Her denials were to no avail; the Moslem court gave her the choice of either "returning" to Islam or face death by the sword.
"I never converted to Islam! I have always been a Jew and I will die as a Jew!" she proudly declared. But the judges were not impressed, and they sent the death sentence to the Moroccan king for his confirmation.
The prince heard of the incident and his curiosity was aroused. He went to see Solikah in her prison cell and became very attracted to her. He promised to marry her if she converts to Islam, and she would thus become a princess. Wealth and honor would be showered upon her family, and she would eventually become the queen of Morocco. "Gold and silver, honor and prestige," replied Solikah, "aren't worth the faith in the true God and His sacred Torah. Nothing in the world will lure me to rebel against my nation and faith!" And so, her sentence was issued. She accepted her fate resolutely and with confidence. She was prepared to give her life for the sanctification of God's Name.
As she was led to her execution, the prince stood there waiting for her and attempted to persuade her one last time. "Seriously consider how fortunate you will be if only you accept the Islam faith!" "I am already fortunate!" she answered. The executioner offered her one final request, and Solikah asked for, of all things, clips. She used them to tie her dress to her legs so that they not show when she dies. She proudly ascended the gallows and gave her life for the sanctification of God's Name.
ASKING AND EXPOUNDING
A Series of Halachot According to the Order of the Shulhan Aruch, Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a
by Rav David Yossef shlit"a, Rosh Bet Midrash Yehaveh Da'at
The prevalent custom is to wear tefillin only during shaharit. The tefillin should not be removed until after the "kedushah" in "u'va lessiyon."
Some, however, maintain according to Kabbalah that tefillin should not be removed until after the first mourner's kaddish after the "kaddish titkabal," in order to ensure that the individual says with his tefillin four "kaddishim" (the half-kaddish before birchot keri'at shema; the half-kaddish after the hazan's repetition of the Shemoneh Esreih; "kaddish titkabal"; and the first mourner's kaddish) and three "kedushot" (in the beginning of birchot keri'at shema; during the repetition of the Shemoneh Esreih; and in u'va lessiyon).
Others, however maintain that according to the Kabbalistic tradition one must recite with tefillin three "kaddishim" and four "kedushot." (The fourth "kedushah" is "borchu" before birchot keri'at shema, which also constitutes a "kedushah.") According to this view, one may remove his tefillin after "kaddish titkabal."
The Ar"i zs"l was accustomed not to take off his tefillin until the completion of "v'al kein," the second paragraph of "aleinu," and this is the preferable practice.
Furthermore, it is proper for everyone to study Torah with his tefillin on after tefilah. If, however, one fears that he will be unable to maintain the necessary bodily cleanliness throughout the entire tefilah, he may remove his tefillin earlier.
Those accustomed to remove their tefillin after the kedushah of u'va lessiyon should not do so on days when the Torah is read. Rather, they should wait until after the Torah is returned to the ark, as alluded to in the pasuk, "Their King passed before them [referring to the Sefer Torah] and Hashem was at their head [referring to tefillin]" (Michah 2:13).
This, however, applies only to those communities where the custom is to return the Torah to the ark after u'va lessiyon. Where the custom is to return the Torah before u'va lessiyon, one should not remove his tefillin until after reciting the kedushah of u'va lessiyon. (Similarly, in places where the Torah is returned before the recitation of "kaddish titkabal," one should not remove his tefillin until after "kaddish titkabal.")
If one needs to remove his tefillin while the Sefer Torah is out, he must be careful not to remove his tefillin shel rosh in the presence of the Sefer Torah so as not to uncover his head in the presence of the Torah. Rather, he should move to the side and take off his tefillin shel rosh there.
If, however, one's head generally does not become uncovered while taking off his tefillin, such as if his head remains covered by the tallit, or while removing the tefillin shel yad, there is no need for concern in this regard.
Furthermore, if the Sefer Torah is placed in an enclosed case, one may remove his tefillin shel rosh in the presence of the Torah.
It is proper to be careful not to remove one's tefillin during the recitation of kaddish so as not to divert his attention from the response of "amen yehei shemeih rabbah." while removing his tefillin.
THE WONDERS OF CREATION
Water for Plants
That water constitutes the source of life cannot be denied. Plants, as well as humans, need water for their very survival, for the ingestion of food and the building of their structure. In order to absorb a sufficient amount of food through its roots, a plant needs large quantities of water to pass through it constantly. A depletion of ground moisture prevents the plant from acquiring enough nourishment. Water also serves a critical role in regulating the plant's temperature. Water passes through the transport lines from the roots to the leaves and evaporates from the leaves' stomas. The plant then cools as a result of the evaporation. Water also sustains the upright form of herbaceous plants.
A lack of water causes the plant to wither, and, in extreme cases, to die. In short, a plant without water - well, no such thing exists. But how much water does a plant need? Here's where the problems begin. Some think that the more water a plant has, the better off it is. In truth, however, this is a mistake. There are some plants, such as ferns, whose thirst for water simply knows no end. By contrast, if one waters a cactus every day, he will be left with some dilapidated, brown object on the brink of death. It is important to realize, then, that different plants have different watering needs, and one must find out the appropriate quantity of water for each individual plant, as well as when and how to water it.
The watering needs of houseplants, for example, depends upon several factors such as the relative humidity in the air and the season. In the beginning of spring, when rapid growth begins, one should increase his plants' water, as is the case during hot summer days. Strong, healthy and developed plants require more frequent watering than weaker plants.
In conclusion, we can say that plants do not grow on their own, at least not the plants the people find desirable. The appearance of the plant corresponds proportionally to the level of effort and devoted attention given to it. One must carefully ascertain each plant's specific watering needs, the various conditions that come into play, and decide upon the appropriate watering schedule. From that point on, consistent treatment of the plant is necessary to ensure its proper development. Indeed, one who likes pretty plants must be willing to invest the necessary effort.
The same can be said about raising children. A child from whom parents wish to derive much "nahat" does not grow by himself, without attention and concentrated effort. How the child grows is largely a function of the effort put into his rearing. Each child has his own characteristics, sensitivities and qualities. Therefore, parents must establish the behavior and level of study with the youngster through constant analysis of the individual child's needs, as the pasuk teaches us, "Educate a youngster according to his path, so that even in old age he will not steer from it."
The Faithful Student (17)
A story from the book "HaSaraf M'Brisk," The Story of the Life of Maharil Diskin zs"l
Flashback: Rabbi Hayyim Simhah, the faithful student of Maharil Diskin, staged a robbery attempt in order to be imprisoned together with his rebbe, who was convicted on false charges. In Rabbi Hayyim Simhah's trial, he testified that his own wallet had his initials written in the inner lining. When it was discovered that the wallet retrieved at the scene of the alleged crime indeed contained his initials and was in fact his, he was asked why he didn't say anything when he was first arrested. He answered that the policeman who caught him didn't allow him to say anything, telling him that he may speak on his own behalf only in the courtroom.
"If I may speculate," added the defense attorney, "the defendant saw the hand of God in his arrest, as it allowed him to spend two weeks together with his rabbi, who is sitting in jail."
The judge's complexion turned dark, suspecting the involvement of another "hand" - that of the defendant himself, who may have staged the entire incident. His thought was interrupted, however, by the bailiff who entered the courtroom carrying - in full view - a brown wallet.
"My wallet!" Feitl shouted. The gavel crashed down onto the desk.
"Where was this wallet?" asked the judge.
"Just as your honor thought - in the police station near the site of the incident. Someone brought it in on September 10th." The black stitches were clear and evident.
"The defendant is not guilty," announced the judge, thus signaling his permission for everyone to break out into loud and raucous conversation.
Rabbi Hayyim Simhah got down from the witness stand and walked over to the judge.
"Sir," he said humbly, "in compensation for the two weeks I spent in prison unjustly, will your honor allow me to continue spending time with my rabbi in his cell?" The judge's suspicions intensified.
"You have a lot of nerve, young man," said the judge. He dunked his pen in the inkwell, wrote a few words on the paper sitting on his desk, stamped it with his official stamp and said,
"I do not have the authority to order the prison staff, but I wrote a recommendation." He then turned to the lawyer, who had approached the judge's stand, and said,
"I am jealous of the rabbi, that he has such a faithful student." And so, both the lawyer and judge realized that the entire incident was staged.
"What did you ask the judge?" the lawyer asked Rabbi Hayyim Simhah as they walked away from the judge. Rabbi Hayyim Simhah showed the lawyer the letter from the judge requesting permission for him to be with his rebbe in the prison cell.
"He considered my request an expression of 'nerve,'" he noted.
"I wouldn't have called it nerve," replied the lawyer. "I would call it outright chutzpah!" to be continued.
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