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Vol. 18 No. 23
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Wonders and Miracles
(concerning the Exodus and the Mishkan)
How Many People Left Egypt?
The number of people that left Egypt stood at six hundred thousand (plus) men between twenty and sixty. Right?
Wrong. Targum Yonasan points out that the Eirev Rav who joined them numbered one million, two hundred thousand. Assuming that they left with their wives and children, this would have boosted the total of those who left from some three - three and a half million to a staggering six or seven million.
Were they protected by the Pillars of Cloud and Fire? Did they too, receive a daily portion of Manna and water from the well? If not, what did they eat and drink? And where did they camp? All that the Torah tells us about them is that they were responsible for the sin of the Golden Calf and perhaps for some of the sins mentioned in Bamidbar, too.
And How About the Animals?
And how about the animals? Notwithstanding the vast herds of cattle and flocks of sheep and goats that they had accumulated over the years (as well as what they inherited from the four-fifths who had died in Egypt during the plague of darkness), the Medrash informs us that each person also took with him ninety donkeys laden with all the wealth of Egypt. The spectacle of some six hundred thousand families leaving Egypt, each accompanied by ninety laden donkeys and dozens, if not hundreds of heads of sheep, goats and cattle, is mind-boggling to say the least! Where did they put all these animals (plus all the baggage)? Where did they graze and who looked after them?
The Materials for the Mishkan
One wonders from where the generation that left Egypt obtained all the materials to construct the Mishkan. The Medrash informs us that, in anticipation of this great event, Ya'akov Avinu took cedars with him down to Egypt, which he planted, leaving instructions that upon leaving Egypt, the B'nei Yisrael should take them with them. Considering the haste in which they left, when did they do this?
Another Medrash teaches us that, in anticipation of the miracles that G-d would perform with Yisrael in the Desert, the righteous women of that generation (outstanding in their unshakeable faith) took instruments with them when they left, which, led by Miriam, they played after the miracle of K'ri'as Yam-Suf.
But how did they know which materials they would need for constructing the Mishkan. Granted, the wealth of Egypt which they took out with them, plus the spoils of the Yam-Suf, would have provided them with the gold, silver and copper needed for the Holy Vessels. But who told them which ingredients would be required for the incense and the anointing oil, or the various colour dyes with which to colour the various cloths and skins?
Furthermore, even after learning about the Techeiles dye, bearing in mind that the Chilozon fish only appeared in the Mediterranean Sea (or in the Sea of Teverya) once every seventy years , how did they obtain it, and in the quantities that were required for the covering of the Mishkan, the Bigdei Kehunah and to cover some of the Holy Vessels?
The Middle Bolt
We already discussed the materials for the Mishkan including the cedar (Acacia) wood from which many parts of the Mishkan and its vessels were manufactured. Many commentaries cite the middle bolt that measured seventy Amos, and that ran through the middle of the planks, encircling the entire Mishkan. But from where did they obtain a bolt that measures seventy Amos (110-120 feet)? The Medrash explains that Ya'akov Avinu brought it down to Egypt together with the cedar trees. According to Targum Yonasan, the angels felled the tree that Avraham Avinu planted in Be'er Sheva, and transported it to the Desert; and it is from that tree that Yisrael manufactured it.
The Thirty Amah Curtains
And talking of size, the Medrash wonders how it was possible to find a single curtain measuring twenty-eight Amos in length. The footnote there explains that the Medrash cannot be speaking about the two bottom sets of curtains, as these were made of wool and linen and goats' hair respectively, which could well have been woven. The Medrash is referring to the covering of Tachash skin, which covered the entire top of the Mishkan, and which could not possibly have been woven.
This means that the Tachash must have measured at least twenty Amos long! It therefore seems, that not only was the Tachash unique on account of its beautifully coloured skin, it was also unique due to its immense size. Chazal therefore say that the Tachash existed at that time only, for the sake of the Mitzvah of constructing the Mishkan. This enormous multi-coloured animal suddenly appeared in the Desert; K'lal Yisrael captured it and used its skin to cover the Mishkan when it was erected and some of its Holy Vessels when they traveled. That being the sole purpose of its creation, it promptly became extinct.
Constructing the Mishkan
The only trade those who left Egypt had been forced to practice was that of building with bricks and mortar. Yet incredibly, when it came to building the Mishkan, they produced expert smiths in gold, silver and copper, cutters of precious stones, spice-makers, weavers and tapestry-embroiderers, areas of expertise in which they had no previous training or experience. And the fact that their hands, that must have become hardened to the construction work to which they were accustomed, were suddenly subjected to the delicate and refined skills that were now needed for many of the above tasks, makes it all the more remarkable.
The Ramban, commenting on the appointment of the thirteen-year old Betzalel to oversee all the work of the Mishkan, refers to the fact that here was a young boy who was master not only in every facet of the construction, but also in teaching them to others. Moreover, he had also mastered the total understanding (Chochmah, Binah and Da'as) together with all the secrets that lay behind every detail of the Mishkan. As the Ramban himself writes, "This was truly a 'Pelle' (a wonder)!"
The Mizbei'ach of Earth
The 'Mizbach Adamah' was so-called, Rashi explains, because due to its large size (five by five by ten Amos) it was not feasible to make it solid. So what they did was to fill it with earth whenever they encamped.
Anyone who has been to a Levayah (burial) knows how long it takes for three or four people to fill in a grave measuring less than twenty cubic Amos with earth that is loose and soft. And here we are talking about filling in a space of two hundred and fifty cubic Amos!
One wonders how many men were appointed to perform this daunting task, who they were and how long it took them to do it.
Without doubt, one can attribute many of the above wonders to the realm of Miracles. We are, after all, dealing with a generation where miracles were the norm, rather than the exception. Their battles were fought and their punishments wrought, by the Divine Hand; their sustenance and their protection were Divinely inspired. They witnessed ten miracles daily in the Mishkan and the Aron actually transported those who carried it! So it is not difficult to add the above to the list of miracles. But that does not render them any less fascinating.
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(Adapted from the Riva)
What was the Gold Used for?
The Riva asks why the Torah does not enumerate all the uses of the gold, like it does the uses of the sliver and the copper.
And he attributes it to the fact that, despite the fact that far more gold was used for the construction of the Mishkan, than silver and copper, all of it was used to overlay other parts of the Mishkan or to enhance them. Surprisingly, not one single item in the Mishkan was actually made of gold,
And he goes through the entire list …
Gold was used to overlay the Aron, to fashion its 'crown' and its lid; and it was used to overlay the Shulchan, the planks and its bolts, and to fashion its rings. It was also used to overlay the tops of the pillars of the entrance of the Ohel Mo'ed and of the Poroches. And finally, it was used to fashion the hooks of the bottom hangings.
The sole exception, the Rivas concludes, is the Menorah and all its accessories, which were made of pure gold. But that, he explains, was relatively little, so the Torah did not see fit to mention it. And it is for the same reason, he adds, that the Torah omits the fifty copper hooks that were used to join the two sets of goats-hair hangings in the list of things for which the copper was used; 'because it is little, and Bateil to the curtains'.
The Bells & the Pomegranates
"A golden bell and a pomegranate …" (39:34).
Rashi explains that the pomegranates were placed beside the bells, and not that the one was placed inside the other. That being the case, the previous Pasuk, which states
That "the golden bells were 'b'soch ho'rimonim' ", it must be translated as 'among the pomegranates' (and not 'inside' them).
The Ramban on the other hand, explains the current Pasuk to mean that each golden bell and pomegranate was one unit, since the bells were actually inside the pomegranates (which were made of various coloured wools). Consequently, he will translate "b'soch ho'rimonim" as' inside the pomegranates'.
According to Rashi's explanation, three questions arise. Firstly, why did the Torah write "b'soch ho'rimonim" (which implies 'inside the pomegranates')? Had the Torah wanted to say 'among the pomegranates, surely it ought to have written "Bein ho'rimonim"?
Secondly, the term "A golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate", implies that each bell and pomegranate formed a pair (which fits beautifully according to the Ramban's interpretation, but which) makes little sense according to Rashi.
And thirdly, bearing in mind that there were seventy-two bells and seventy-two pomegranates, why does the Torah then write that they placed the bells among the pomegranates? Once again, according to the Ramban, who explains that they placed the bells inside the pomegranates, this makes perfect sense. But according to Rashi, it would have been equally correct to reverse the statement and to say that 'they placed the pomegranates among the bells'.
"And all the work of the Mishkan was completed (Vateichel)" (39:32).
In Melachim (1, 7:51), when discussing the completion of the Beis-Hamikdash, the Pasuk uses the word "Vatishlam", comments the Rivo.
This is because the "Vatishlam" also has connotations of fulfilling a promise, he answers, quoting the Ram from Coucy. The latter explains that when they inaugurated the Mishkan in Nisan (the month(in which the world was conceived), Tishri (in which it was created) complained that it had not merited any vestige of honour connected with the Mishkan. G-d therefore promised that the work of the Beis-Hamikdash would be completed on it. That is why, when Shlomoh concluded the Beis-Hamikdash in Tishri, the Pasuk writes "Vatishlam … ", an indication that G-d had kept His promise.
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COUNTING K'LAL YISRAEL
(Part 2 - cont. from Parshas Ki Sissa)
(Adapted from R. Bachye)
" … and each man shall give a redemption of his Soul when you count them (bi'f'kod osam), and they will not be stricken by a plague when you count them (bi'f'kod osam)" (30:12).
In his first explanation (to explain the repeated phrase), R. Bachye explains that the first 'bi'f'kod osom" refers to that generation, whereas the second one refers to future generation. Indeed, he maintains that David ha'Melech's refusal to accept his general Yo'av's warning to desist from counting the people, and the resulting thee-day plague of pestilence, was precisely because he misinterpreted this Pasuk, believing that the prohibition was confined to the year that they built the Mishkan only.
In his second explanation, interpreting the second "bi'f'kod" as 'taking note'. R. Bachye translates the Pasuk - 'each man shall give an atonement-offering when you count them, in order that they will not be stricken with a plague when you take note of them".
As long as a person remains anonymous, he explains, he is treated as part of the community. It is when he is specifically mentioned that the spotlight falls on him. Then he, together with all his deeds, comes under Divine scrutiny. It is then impossible for him to escape punishment.
And he illustrates this with the story of the Shunamis, who when asked by Elisha's servant Gechazi whether she would like the Navi to speak on her behalf to the king or to the captain of the army, replied "I dwell amongst the people!" She did not want to be specifically mentioned, preferring to be simply one of the people.
And, pointing to the fact that the Pasuk there uses the expression "Vayehi ha'Yom", R. Bachye explains that that episode took place on Rosh Hashanah, when G-d inspects everybody's deeds.
Finally, the author observes how in Megilas Rus, the Pasuk relates that 'a man traveled from Beis-Lechem Yehudah' without mentioning his name. The moment the Pasuk mentions him by name ("And the name of the man was Elimelech"), we are informed that "Elimelech died".
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AND THEIR MEANING
(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)
Please bear in mind that the rulings in this article
reflect the opinion of the Seifer ha'Chinuch
and are not necessarily Halachah.
Not to Work with Kodshim
One is not allowed to work with Kodshim animals, as the Torah writes in Re'ei (15:19) "Do not work with the firstborn of your ox", and we learn other Kodshim from the firstborn, as the Gemara in B'choros teaches us.
A reason for the Mitzvah … to prevent us from coming close to Kodshsim animals and touching them, as the author has already explained in this Parshah with regard to the Isur of P'sulei ha'Mikdashin and in other places.
Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah … Chazal have said that all Kodshim that go on the Mizbei'ach, irrespective of whether they are Kodshei Kodshim or Kodshim Kalim, may not be shorn or worked with, indeed, a Hedyot (an ordinary person) may not benefit from the Kodshim of Hashem, whether they are classified as Kodshei Mizbei'ach or Kodshei Bedek ha'Bayis (property of the Beis-Hamikdash that is used for repairs etc.); Anybody who benefits to the value of a P'rutah is guilty of Me'ilah (abusing Hekdesh). Kodshim that one is permitted to eat, such as the meat of a Chatas or an Asham after its blood has been sprinkled, and the Sh'tei ha'Lechem (on Shavu'os) after the blood of the two accompanying lambs has been sprinkled, is not subject to Me'ilah. And this applies evcn to a Zar (a non-Kohen) who eats it, seeing as some people are permitted to (eat or) benefit from them. And this also applies even if the Kodshim became Pasul, and forbidden to eat, since there was a stage when they were permitted … Anyone who is guilty of Me'ilah be'Meizid receives Malkos and is obligated to pay for any monetary loss that he caused Hkedesh. The warning for which he receives Malkos is the Pasuk in Re'ei (12:17) "You are not permitted to eat within your gates … and your Nedarim", which traditionally, refers to eating the meat of a burnt-offering (as the author already explained above (in Mitzvah 447), since it belongs entirely to G-d. Consequently, it also extends to all Kodshim that belong exclusively to G-d, irrespective of whether it is Kodshei Mizbei'ach or Kodshei Bedek ha'Bayi, if one benefits from it to the value of a P'rutah one receives Malkos … If however, one is Mo'el be'Shogeg, then one pays Hekdesh for the amount of the benefit plus a fifth, in addition to bringing a ram which is worth at least two Sela'im as an Asham Me'ilos - as the Torah writes in Vayikra (5:15/16) " … and he sinned from the Kodshim of Hashem, then he shall bring his Asham (guilt-offering) to Hashem … . And what he sinned from the Kodesh he shall pay, and a fifth he shall add to it"). The payment of the principle plus the fifth and the bringing of the Korban is a Mitzvas Asei … Paying the principle in full and bringing the Asham is crucial yo the Mitzvah; the extra fifth is not. Someone who brings his Me'ilah (money to Hekdesh) before bringing one's Asham, he has not fulfilled his obligation … Someone who is not sure whether he has been Mo'el or not, is exempt from payment and from the Korban … The extra fifth has the same Din as the initial Hekdesh, in that, someone who benefits from if is obligated to pay Hekdesh for the benefit, plus an extra fifth … The author has explained a number of times that 'a fifth' in this case, really means a quarter of the principle (so that the principle plus the fifth equals five).
(to be cont.)
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