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Parashat Pekudei


Imagine an untrained person trying to lift by himself a beam one and a half amot (= around seventy centimeters) by one amah (= around a half a meter) and ten amot (= around five meters, or two stories) high. Now imagine this person trying to lift with only his own strength an entire structure composed of around fifty such beams, in three walls, and closely bound together by crossbeams. We trust the testimony of Rashi: "Nobody could lift it, and Mosheh eventually lifted it. Mosheh [had] said before the Almighty, 'How can a human being lift it?' He said to him, 'You involve yourself with it - with your hands. It will seem as if you lift it up, but in fact it will be straightened and lifted by itself.' This is what is meant by the pasuk, '. the Mishkan was erected' - it was erected on its own." What does this teach us? After all, the Torah is eternal and we must extract the relevant lessons from each and every parashah. This incident comes to teach us never to despair from a formidable task, which seems beyond our capabilities or too difficult for us, even if it is too difficult not only for us, but for the entire world, as well! The Torah teaches us, go ahead with confidence, try, "involve yourself with it - with your hands," and, if you are deserving, you will earn divine assistance to the extent that it will appear as if the task accomplishes itself, on its own, and suddenly emerges in all its glory, with you receiving the credit! This is how young students approached their studies with strong will and resolve, determined to master the vast corpus of Torah knowledge, "whose measurement is longer than the Earth and wider than the sea." They studied and saw success, eventually emerging as remarkable scholars who stored in their minds incalculable amounts of information, simply amazing in its scope. Our generation, however, is orphaned, and the Almighty has not punished us. To the contrary, He has provided us with all the assistance we need on a silver platter, even before we open up to the first page. What would you like to learn, Gemara? You have before you a Shas with commentaries and countless books to aid one with Talmud study. For example, you can use the series "Havruta" or the series of cassettes "Kol HaDaf." Perhaps you prefer to study halachah? You can use the series "Halachah Berurah" by Rav David Yossef shlit"a and the set "Yalkut Yossef" by Rav Yisshak Yossef shlit"a, as well as so many others. These remarkable works come complete with detailed indexes, a true "Shulhan Aruch" (literally, a "set table), with all the food ready and prepared. And if your interest lies in the study of Mishnayot, in acquiring comprehensive knowledge of all the topics discussed in the six sections of the Talmud - and, as we know, the study of Mishnah purifies and purges the soul, and serves as well as a means to elevate the souls of the departed - then you have at your disposal a series of one hundred and eleven cassettes (fifty hours worth). These tapes include all six sections of Mishnayot with a clear, readily understandable commentary. One who listens to these tapes for a half hour every day will complete the entire Shas Mishnayot in less than a year! Many teachers use these tapes to help prepare their classes, Torah scholars listen to these cassettes while they eat, and those who work with their hands and do not need to concentrate listen to these tapes while they work. There is a Jew in Bnei Brak whose wife is ill, and thus he bears the responsibility of preparing for Shabbat. He decided that he would listen to tapes on Masechet Shabbat as he works, and he has now gained expertise in the masekhet and in all the halachot of Shabbat! Earlier generations had to garner all their strength to lift the weighty Mishkan, and only through the help of miracles did they succeed in picking it up. God has had mercy on our generation and brought us "cranes" - study-aids, commentaries, etc. With the help of these cranes - everyone can do it!


"and Mosheh blessed them"

Rashi cites the comments of the Midrash (Bemidbar Rabbah 19:9): "He said to them, may it be His will that the Shechinah reside in your handiwork. May the pleasantness of Hashem our God be upon us, and may the work of our hands prosper (Tehillim 90:17). This is one of the eleven chapters in Tehillim that Mosheh Rabbenu said." The Alshich Hakadosh zs"l explains that the true "residence" of the Shechinah is within the hearts of Benei Yisrael, as the pasuk says, "They shall make for Me a sanctuary, and I will dwell within them." Only then does the Shechinah reside in the Mishkan or Bet Hamikdash. But when Benei Yisrael sin, God forbid, and cast the Shechinah from their hearts, the Shechinah also leaves the Bet Hamikdash, thus allowing for their defeat at the hands of their enemies. When this happens, a Heavenly voice calls out, "You destroyed a house that was already destroyed," Heaven forbid. This is what Mosheh Rabbenu meant in his blessing. When the pleasantness of Hashem is upon us, meaning, within us and our hearts, then "may the work of our hands prosper" - the Shechinah resides as well in our handiwork. The pasuk then repeats, "and may the work of our hands prosper" - meaning, the Shechinah shall reside even within that which we made before we elevated ourselves to the point where the Shechinah can reside among us. Rabbenu Behayei offers a different explanation for the repetition in this pasuk - "and may the work of our hands prosper, may the work of our hands prosper." He explains based on the pasuk in Sefer Vayikra (6:23) that when the Mishkan was consecrated Aharon raised his hands to the people and blessed them. Regarding this act by Aharon Mosheh says, "may the work of our hands" - meaning, Aharon's raising of his hands - "prosper," that the blessing shall be fulfilled. Additionally, Mosheh continues, "may the work of our hands prosper" - meaning, may everything we do be infused by the pleasantness of Hashem!

"and Mosheh blessed them"

The great Kabbalist Rabbi Meir Bikayam zs"l notes that whereas the Midrash (Sifra, Parashat Hamilu'im 15) opens its discussion with the question, "With what blessing did Mosheh bless them?" Rashi cites only the Midrash's answer ("May it be His will that the Shechinah reside within your handiwork. May the pleasantness of Hashem."). Apparently, the answer itself is the main point. It would seem that this Midrash presents a powerful question and a beautiful answer. The question is, "With what blessing did Mosheh bless them?" As we know, "blessing abounds only upon that which is concealed from the eye," and not upon something that has been counted or measured. Parashat Pekudei opens with a precise measurement and accounting of all the building materials used for the Mishkan. How, then, could any blessing be bestowed upon the Mishkan? The answer is, as Rashi cites from the Midrash, that Mosheh blessed Benei Yisrael that the Shechinah shall reside among them, and wherever the Shechinah resides there can be no limitation on the bestowal of blessing. Thus, blessing may abound even of that which was measured and counted!

"and Mosheh blessed them"

The Hid"a zs"l explains that the Mosheh Rabbenu looked at the entire finished product, "and behold, they made it as Hashem had commanded Mosheh, so they did it." In other words, the construction of the Mishkan was completed properly. Nevertheless, certain details of the Mishkan were not done with the proper intentions. Therefore, Mosheh blessed them that the Shechinah should come and reside within their handiwork. Whereas they constructed everything in accordance with Hashem's instructions, the Shechinah should reside within the Mishkan despite the occasional lacking of proper intentions. The same applies to the performance of missvot in general. If one ensures to perform the missvah in accordance with the halachah, then the Shechinah resides within the missvah as if the individual had all the proper intentions!


Rabbi Ssiyon Meir of Baghdad zs"l

Rabbi Ssiyon Meir zs"l, father of the great ssadik Rabbi Salman Mussafi zs"l, was a member of the study hall of the Hid"a zs"l. He ensured to always recite Shaharit precisely at sunrise, in accordance with the practice of the "vatikin" (pious ones), about which Hazal say that those who are strict in this regard are not harmed the entire day. In the year 5674, with the breakout of World War I, the authorities announced a general draft, and sent the recruits to the snowy Caucasus mountains to fight the Russians under the most horrid conditions, both physical and spiritual. Many Jews fled from their homes in fear of the conscription law and hid in the wastelands in the western parts of the country, in small crevices and caves in the mountains. Rabbi Ssiyon was among those who fled. A Moslem guide led the group along their hidden journey through far-out paths in the midst of the night, and during the daytime hours they would hide from the soldiers scouting out the defectors. One night the group was traveling in an open wasteland, and they saw the eastern sky beginning to brighten - morning was soon arriving. Afraid of being seen, the people hurried to the nearby mountain chain in order to hide from the soldiers. Only Rabbi Ssiyon Meir remained along the shore, wrapped in tallit and tefillin and preparing for Shaharit, so as to ensure that he would reach Shemoneh Esreih with the sunrise, in accordance with the verse, "You shall be seen by Him with the sun." By the time he completed his tefilah, the sun shone brightly, and he stood all alone in the middle of the desert. He looked to the mountains to try to locate his comrades, and suddenly he froze in his tracks: in the distance he could see the group surrounded by a unit of soldiers, who beat the fugitives cruelly, preparing them for a life of pain and danger. He raised his eyes to the heavens and offered thanks and praise to Hashem for saving him. He said, "How great are the words of the hachamim, for indeed, one who recites Shaharit at dawn is not harmed the entire day!"


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

If one has only one of the two tefillin - either the shal yad or shel rosh, but he knows that the other one will soon be brought, before the end of the time for shema and tefilah, then he should wait until the other one is brought to him, so that he can recite shema and tefilah with a full set of tefillin. However, if one who is accustomed to wearing tefillin all day, even after reciting shema and tefilah, has only one of the two tefillin, then he may put the single one on now, and then place the other when it arrives. If one intentionally placed only of the two tefillin, then even though he has neglected a missvat aseih, he is still considered as having fulfilled one of the two missvot by wearing the one of the two tefillin.

Tefillin Shel Yad - On The Left Hand

Tefillin shel yad is worn on the left hand. Hazal (Masechet Menahot 36b) derive this halachah from the pasuk (Shemot 13:9), "It shall be for you a sign on your arm," which implies the left hand, as evidenced in another pasuk (Yeshayahu 48:13), "Even My arm established the earth, and My right arm spread out the skies." This pasuk indicates that "arm" without any identification refers to the left hand. Similarly, another pasuk (Shofetim 5:26) reads, "Her arm reached for the tent pin, her right arm for the workmen's hammer," and we also find (Tehillim 74:11), "Why do You hold back Your arm, and Your right arm." Others, however, derive the requirement the place tefillin shel yad specifically on the left hand from the relationship in the pasuk between "ukshartem" and "uchtavtem" ("you shall tie" and "you shall write" - Devarim 6:8-9). Just as writing is generally done with the right hand, so must the tying be performed by the right hand. Thus, one places the tefillin on the left arm, so that it he ties it with his right hand. For if one were to place the tefillin on his right arm, he would be unable to tie it with his right hand. Others derive the halachah from the spelling of the word "yadchah" ("your arm") in a pasuk referring to tefillin (Shemot 13:16), which allows for the reading, "yad keihah" - the weaker arm, i.e. the left. If one did put tefillin shel yad on his right arm, he did not fulfill the missvah (even bedi'avad").

Where on the Arm One Places the Tefillin

One places the tefillin shel yad on the place in between the armpit and the elbow. This area is sometimes referred to as the "zeroa" (for example, see Shofetim 15:14). Specifically, the tefillin is placed on the muscle, where the arm appears as if it swells. Hazal (Menahot 37a) learn this halachah from the relationship between tefillin shel yad and tefillin shel rosh. Just like tefillin shel rosh is placed on the highest point of the head, so is tefillin shel yad placed on the highest point of the arm - the muscle near the shoulder.


"All the work for the Mishkan, Tent of Gathering, was completed. Benei Yisrael did everything that Hashem commanded Mosheh, so they did" (Shemot 39:32). Rabbenu Ovadia Seforno zs"l explains, "The whole project, in its entirety, was done by all of Yisrael, for some of them donated money and some performed the work, all out of the good will of their hearts to do the will of their Creator." Herein lies an eternal message, relevant and applicable tenfold in our times. Not everyone is aware of the work done in different areas, the incredible devotion and spiritual fervor that is involved in various realms: the Torah education for boys and girls, the Torah youth programs and classes, the yeshivot at the elementary and high school levels, the yeshivot for higher Torah education, kollelim and halachic training programs, activity in the area of encouraging family purity, and hesed projects. Everyone must ask himself, what is my place in this remarkable system of the restoration of Torah's glory to its rightful place, the returning of the people's hearts to their Father in heaven? Everyone must lend a hand, bend his shoulder, and do his share - to organize a Torah class, to deliver a class, or to support a class - to take part in his wondrous trend, rather than standing off to the side.


The Mysterious World of Plants

One of the great wonders within the world of plants is that, as various experiments have shown beyond any doubt, plants have the ability to feel, sense and even react to human emotions either positively or negatively. One of the first such experiments was conducted by a prominent expert who used a lie-detector, which, as we know, passes a weak electric current through the person's body and even the slightest feeling of anxiety or excitement changes the force of the current. This scientist attached the machine to a plant and afterwards watered it. Amazingly, the machine detected a current of excitement in the plant when it received its drink. The expert therefore decided to try bringing about a more significant emotional reaction in plants. He took a match and lit one of the plant's leaves, keeping his eyes focused on the machine, which immediately recorded clearly and emphatically the strong reaction of the plant. Many long months of experimentation yielded similar results. Each time a reaction was detected by the machine, as if the plant actually sensed and had an awareness of the impending trouble. One researcher took two leaves from the same plant and separated them. One he placed in his room and the other he moved elsewhere. He provided both with the same growing conditions in terms of temperature, food and light, but he changed one thing - his overall attitude to the plant. He afforded the leaf in his room a lot of attention and gave it signals of affection and a positive disposition. To the other leaf he behaved in less friendly a fashion. The result? The leaf that received affection turned green and grew to glory, while the other leaf withered. Superficially, plants strike us as having no feelings. But when we look a bit deeper we find incredible capabilities latent therein. The same is true regarding Jews. Even a Jew that appears to us as simple, possesses within him a sacred soul and precious potential, which is actualized only by withstanding the tests set before him. When one gets to know the seemingly simple Jew a bit closer, he realizes just how special he is, a son of the Almighty. Even when a Jew feels as though he is but a "small screw" and thinks "when all is said and done, what am I?" it must be explained to him that he is precious in the eyes of the Almighty. If a Jew just comes closer to Torah, he will discover that therein lies the source of his very existence.


The Espionage Case (3)

Flashback: World War I brought fear and dread upon the Jewish population in Eastern Europe. Tens of thousands of people were drafted to the army, the economy collapsed, enemy armies plundered, everyone suffered from plagues, the sword and hunger. In addition, the Jews of Russia were suspected of sympathizing with the enemy Germans, and native Germans studying in the yeshivot in Lithuania and Russia were ordered under arrest and then exiled. Three German students of the yeshivah in Radin decided not to present themselves for the banishment order. They assumed that the authorities would never find them in the small city among hundreds of their friends.

Throngs of visitors flocked to the far-away town of Radin; distressed, heartbroken people came seeking the blessing of the ssadik. The young, unemployed tanner didn't stand out at all among the others. The yeshivah students generously provided him with free accommodations, and they allowed him to sleep in the bed of one of the students, who was called home because of the difficult situation. He did not know how to learn Torah, but now he had the opportunity to do so. He went to the Bet Midrash and surveyed the hundreds of students diligently concentrating on their learning. His ears caught the German accent of one student, named Efrayim Leboviss. He was a diligent student, gentle, mild-mannered and nice-looking, and one of the three students from Germany. The tanner inconspicuously followed Efrayim and discovered that he lived in the home of Rabbi Leib, the son-in-law of the Hafess Hayyim. The only path on which Efrayim ever treaded was that which led from the Bet Midrash to his residence and back. So long as the boy walked only this route, the newcomer could not carry out his plan. Indeed, we have been promised, "Whoever accepts upon himself the yoke of Heaven, is absolved from the yoke of the government." To be sure, Efrayim accepted upon himself the yoke of Heaven completely. After a little while, however, the sweltering summer began. On the fast of Shivah Asar B'Tammuz, the students studied with intensive diligence until the afternoon hours. After Minhah, they went to swim a little and relieve themselves from the overbearing heat. A group of students went out to the fields around the town, and Efrayim Leboviss joined them. The stranger followed them like a shadow, his eyes carefully pinned to his prey. The students paid no attention to the unemployed tanner, as they had already become accustomed to his presence in the yeshivah. They reached a certain hill and went to rest. As they sat down and began talking, the tanner approached them silently and, unnoticed, slipped a piece of paper into Efrayim's pocket. Seeing that his mission had been accomplished, a smile curled on his lips and he quickly headed back to the town. Nobody noticed that he packed his bags and vanished for good. He did his job, he planted the seeds of catastrophe. The students now become prey to the hungry wolves, who weren't long in the coming.

to be continued.


Thirty four years ago, the great community leader, the ssadik Rabbi Naftali Hayyim Adler zs"l, son-in-law of the "Imrei Hayyim" of Vishniss zs"l and among of the founders of the Hassidic communities in Benei Berak and Haifah, accepted the offer of the religious Jews in Netanyah that he settle among them in an attempt to block the wave of secularism in this vacation town and establish there a Torah center. This was no easy task, and it was fraught with difficulties and potential obstacles. He had every reason to anticipate bitter struggles and disappointments. But with resolve and genuine devotion to his new job, through his warmth and profound wisdom, the center was built one beam at a time. One family moved in and then another, one Bet Kenesset was built and then another. The neighborhood eventually grew and flourished, and in the center of the city ran several parallel streets checkered with Batei Kenesset, institutions of Torah and hesed, Talmud Torah day schools and yeshivot. Upon his arrival in town, a large welcoming celebration was prepared in his honor in the sanctuary of the main Bet Kenesset of the city. All types of community leaders came and spoke - rabbis, community activists and philanthropists. Silence overcame the large crowd as the rebbi of Sanz, founder of Kiryat Sanz on the outskirts of Netanyah - which was at that time isolated from the rest of the city yet yielded profound spiritual influence thereupon - stood up onto the stage. The rebbi came to offer his blessing to the new rabbi. This occurred in the first week of the month of Adar, during the week of Parashat Pekudei. The rebbi opened by citing from the parashah: "They made on the bottom of the cloak [the cloak of 'techelet' worn by the kohen gadol] pomegranates of blue, purple and crimson yarns, twisted. They made bells of pure gold, and they placed the bells within the pomegranates, on the bottom of the cloak all around, within the pomegranates. A bell and a pomegranate, a bell and a pomegranate, on the bottom of the cloak all around." The Rishonim offer differing opinions as to how these pomegranates and bells were arranged. Rashi explains that the pomegranates were colorful, hollow balls made of linen, and in between each two pomegranates was embroidered a golden bell that would ring. The Ramban (in his commentary to 28:31) challenged Rashi's interpretation: "If so, then the pomegranates served no purpose. And if they were just for decoration, then why were they made as hollow pomegranates?" He thus explains that the bells were embedded within the pomegranates and thus rang from inside the pomegranates. Commenting on our parashah (39:24), the Ramban notes that the text of the pasuk supports his interpretation. The rebbi of Sanz remarked: "As we know, the accessories of the Mishkan and the priestly garments allude to exalted and profound concepts, and deep meanings lie therein. The cloak, which was colored 'techelet' [a bluish die], symbolizes the Heavenly Throne. The pomegranates and bells on the bottom allude to the souls of Yisrael that were hewn from under the Heavenly Throne and are divided into two categories. There are among Am Yisrael both 'bells' and 'pomegranates.' For good reason the pomegranates were hollow. For Hazal comment that even the 'empty' among Benei Yisrael are filled with missvot like a pomegranate. The image is one of a hollow pomegranate, a fruit that seems empty. But even it is attached to sanctity, it, too, was hewn from the Heavenly Throne. These souls are pure, Jewish souls yearning for correction. These pomegranates on the cloak were multicolored, for these souls come in various forms. The bells, however, were made of pure gold. Jews who observe all missvot are considered perfect; they are precious and shine like gold. Yet, they may never feel content with their own perfection and focus only on themselves and their pure souls. Absolutely not - Jews are responsible for one another. How can one stand idly while watching his brothers' errors, how can one remain indifferent to their detachment from their heritage? They must be like the golden bells of the kohen gadol's cloak and sound their voices, calling their brethren to open their eyes and hearts, to attach themselves to their Creator and return to their heritage. They must tell them, stop being a colorful, hollow, woven pieces of cloth - become pure, unadulterated gold! "And herein," added the rebbe, "lies the dispute between the Rishonim regarding the placement of the bells - and both opinions are the words of the living God! Several years ago I founded Kiryat Sanz near Netanyah - the bell next to the pomegranate. This is the first stage. But then we reach the second stage, where a Torah center can be established within the city itself, like the bell inside the pomegranate, a bell to fill the vacuum inside the hollow pomegranate." What a profound thought this was back then, and how much more so in our day, a full generation later. Back then, there was a need for religious Jews to enclose themselves in religious strongholds, such as Mei'ah She'arim and Ge'ulah, Kiryat Vishniss, Zichron Meir, Benei Berak, Rechasim and Tifrah, Komemiyut and Hazon Yehezkel. From these communities emerged people who shone the light of Torah, who served as the golden bells that sounded their voices - and the voice was heard. The thirst and yearning for Torah and the Word of Hashem increased, and then came the stage of the pomegranates inside the bells - more and more Torah classes in all neighborhoods, more and more active rabbis of Batei Kenesset, flourishing communities - full Torah lives in every city and town!!

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