FEBRUARY 27-28, 2009 4 ADAR 5769
"They shall make me a sanctuary - so that I may dwell among them" (Shemot 25:8)
The Children of Israel were given the opportunity to build a Mishkan in the desert. With the exception of the tragic incident of the golden calf, the rest of the book of Exodus is devoted to the preparations for and the construction of the Mishkan. The Israelites accepted this task with great enthusiasm and quickly accomplished all that was needed. Later on the Torah relates that Moshe had to tell the people that they should stop bringing their contributions because there would be too much. Perhaps this is one of the reasons that the Torah spends so much time talking about this project, for it shows the people's great desire to do the will of Hashem.
Later in Parashat Pekudei (39:42) it says again and again, "Like all that Hashem commanded Moshe so the Children of Israel did all of the Abodah." In the desert the hearts of the people were filled with thankfulness They could have improvised in expressing that gratitude; they could have created their own form of service of Hashem. "Why have a Menorah of only seven branches? (25:37) We will build a Menorah with twenty-five branches." But no, they expressed gratitude in the way Hashem wanted them to express gratitude. They were obedient to the commands of Hashem. This means we do not express gratitude by doing things that the giver does not want us to do. We express gratitude by doing exactly that which he desires.
The only way to know how Hashem wants us to thank Him is by learning. Only by learning will we be aware of the correct manner in which Hashem desires us to thank Him. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah
"Cedar wood, standing erect" (Shemot 26:15)
We were told to take cedar wood trees for use in the Mishkan as beams. The word "omdim" is taken by the Midrash to mean "standing forever", that the beams and all components of the Mishkan will never fall into foreign hands. Even when not in use, they will be hidden until the great revelation, and they will then be put in use again! Why did these objects merit to be safeguarded from all our enemies while the two Batei Mikdash did not have this zechut?
The Rabbis tell us that to give for the Mishkan or the Temple is really not necessary since Hashem owns all the gold and silver in the world. He can construct anything He wants. In fact, the third Temple will come down from Heaven already built! The reason He wants us to build it is that He wants our hearts and souls behind the actual giving! Hashem desires to see if we will carry out His will and the attitude in the giving makes the donation last forever. Moshe and Bnei Yisrael were able to give with all their hearts and souls so their donations lasted forever.
We are a most generous nation. We give and give, Baruch Hashem, for many causes. We have to make sure that if we're giving anyway, we should give with our hearts. Our attitude should be positive and we should especially not cause grief to the one collecting by making him wait and come back again and again! If we're going to give anyway, let us give in a way which will make our donations last forever! Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"On the table you shall place showbread for Me always" (Shemot 25:30)
The showbread was prepared on Friday and rested on the table until the following Shabbat. Miraculously, it maintained its warmth and freshness. This miracle was a sign of Hashem's love for the Jewish people. When Jews made the pilgrimage on Yom Tob, the table would be uplifted for everyone to view the miracle of fresh loaves of bread. There were many miracles that occurred in the Bet Hamikdash, as mentioned in Pirkei Abot (5:5); why was this miracle (which is not mentioned among the others in Pirkei Abot) demonstrated to those who made the pilgrimage?
When King David was in the wilderness of Yehudah, he sang to Hashem, "My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You in a land barren and with no water. Just as I have beheld you in the Sanctuary to see Your might and glory" (Tehillim 63:2-3). Simply, this is understood as King David expressing his yearning now to be as close to G-d as he was within the Sanctuary.
The Ba'al Shem Tob provides a Hasidic explanation that King David is actually praying that he should retain this thirst and yearning he now has for Hashem while in a barren and distant land also when he is actually within the Sanctuary.
People typically yearn for things that seem distant and inaccessible. Once obtained, however, the object of desire often loses its appeal. Thus, a child away from home yearns to see his parents, and as the days approach for his return home, his excitement increases greatly. However, when he is finally home, he neglects his parents and takes them for granted.
Therefore, King David expresses the wish that even after he is granted the opportunity of again being close to G-d and beholding G-dliness in the Sanctuary, his aspiration and strong desire for G-dliness should not be lessened.
The Jews were shown the showbread to demonstrate that just as the freshness of the showbread was constantly maintained, so the desire and longing that they have for Hashem before the pilgrimage should be retained once they are in Yerushalayim, and even after leaving. (Vedibarta Bam)
"And you shall make a curtain for the entrance to the Ohel" (Shemot 26:36)
We may note that the entrance to the Mishkan was on the eastern side. The southern, northern and western walls were composed of wooden beams. The Kodesh Hakodashim, Holy of Holies, was situated on the western wall. Rabbi Avigdor Miller, z"l cites the Rambam in the Moreh Nebuchim, who states that the focus of the Torah is to entirely abolish idolatry. It would therefore seem logical that the orientation of the Mishkan, the Kodesh Hakodashim be towards the west, opposite the rising sun.
The sun, the most conspicuous and powerful of all entities, was revered and idolized as god more than any other in ancient times. Consequently, all who entered the courtyard of the Mishkan prostrated themselves towards the west, thereby de-emphasizing the preeminence of the sun in the east. Likewise, the Korban Tamid was offered in the morning on the northwest corner of the mizbeah, and in the afternoon on the northeast corner, each in the opposite direction of the sun, supporting this thesis.
The Talmud in Yoma states that Abraham Abinu chose the western side, the place at which the Kodesh Hakodashim was to be built. The Rambam suggests that the reason for this was that during Abraham's time the people worshipped the sun as a deity. Abraham exemplified his inimical opposition to the popular pagan rite of the day by turning his back to the sun!
Rabbi Miller encourages Abraham's descendants to view their ancestor as a role model to follow in their association with a secular world antagonistic to Torah. We should turn our backs as much as possible, to all enemies of the Torah, be they external or internal. We are obliged to avoid all contact with an immoral society whose very foundation is antithetical to the Torah. Only by doing so will we be able to maintain our standard of truth. (Peninim on the Torah)
The misvah of Mahasit Hashekel is one that can be performed while the Bet Hamikdash stands only. Each adult must donate a half-shekel annually with which the sacrifices offered on behalf of the nation were purchased. The monies were collected and stored in a vault in the compound of the Bet Hamikdash. Three times a year, a portion of this money was emptied from the vault for use for the sacrifices. This event was called terumat halishkah.
Our Sages taught (Soferim 21): On Rosh Hodesh Adar the bet din announces the obligation to donate the shekalim. Why was it done so much in advance? Hashem foresaw that Haman would offer his money to receive permission to annihilate the nation of Yisrael, as the verse says, "I will measure out ten thousand talents of silver for those who will perform the task" (Esther 3:9). G-d told Moshe, therefore, that our shekels should precede those of Haman, preempting his plans and thus protecting us from his evil designs. Every Jew should give his half-shekel before Shabbat Zachor.
At present we cannot fulfill this misvah. The Rambam taught (Hilchot Shekalim 1:8): "The misvah of Mahasit Hashekel is practiced when the Bet Hamikdash is functioning only. When the Bet Hamikdash is functioning, every member of the people of Yisrael had to make this donation, whether he resided in the Land of Yisrael or elsewhere. When the Bet Hamikdash is destroyed, however, even the residents of the Land of Yisrael do not make this donation."
At present, therefore, we must be careful not to declare that the money we are giving is Mahasit Hashekel money, as is the ruling of the response Ge'one Mizrah uMa'arav (#41): The misvah of Mahasit Hashekel applies only when the Bet Hamikdash is functioning. At present, however, we do not give Mahasit Hashekel. If someone donated money and declared it to be Mahasit Hashekel, the money becomes consecrated and it cannot be redeemed. It may not be given to poor people, either. The only choice is to cast the money into the ocean."
Although we do not practice the misvah of Mahasit Hashekel at present, several poskim mentioned that there is a custom to give money to charity as zecher leMahasit Hashekel, a reminder of the misvah of Mahasit Hashekel. This has become a universal custom in all communities. (Yalkut Yosef - Purim)
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