MARCH 8-9, 2002 25 ADAR 5762
"This month shall be for you the beginning of the months" (Shemot 12:2)
This week is Shabbat Hahodesh. We read about the first misvah we received in Egypt, to declare a new month, Rosh Hodesh, when we see the new moon. The month of Nisan, the month of the Pesah holiday, is to be month number one. The Jewish months alternate between twenty-nine and thirty days for a total of 354 days, eleven fewer days than the solar year. Every year Rosh Hodesh Nisan will fall eleven days earlier on the solar calendar. In order to keep Pesah in the spring, the Jewish leap year has an extra month.
Rabbi S. Goldhaber tells a story that took place in the 1950's when Soviet Russia's Iron Curtain was impenetrable. Russian Jews were cut off from the rest of the world. One day we were informed that there would be a window of opportunity to send some religious articles for a few weeks. They sent tefillin, mezuzot, sidurim, with some gentile businessmen. As an afterthought they threw in some Jewish calendars. When the businessmen returned they said that everything went smoothly, except the authorities would not allow the calendars! Upon hearing about this, Rabbi Eliyahu Meir Bloch, the Rosh Yeshivah of Telshe in Cleveland, commented, "Now we can appreciate the importance of the pasuk, 'This month shall be for you the first of the months.' The entire framework of the lunar system was created for us, to enable us to observe each misvah in its correct time. Somehow, consciously or unconsciously, the Russians realized that allowing the Jews to receive their special calendars would give them control over themselves and their status. This allowance they refused to make. 'This month shall be yours' puts the control of the calendar in our hands."
A true story is told of Rav Shemuel who was a prisoner in Siberia. With great devotion, he kept track of every day. The prison camp ran a ten day week with no month designation at all. Without his personal records he wouldn't know when it was Shabbat. He knew which month had twenty-nine days and which month had thirty. He calculated when Pesah was and managed to procure some wheat. After his back-breaking day of work he was able to kosher an oven and bake a few kosher matzot. On that Pesah, he ate matzot and potatoes and was so grateful to Hashem. Months later the family got his release. When he celebrated his great exodus he was dismayed to find out that that year was a Jewish leap year and he had eaten matzot on Purim instead of Pesah.
There is no doubt that Rav Shemuel received full credit as if he ate matzah on Pesah. How fortunate are we to be able to fulfill Hashem's misvot freely in their proper time. But, some people like Rav Shemuel are above time. They have their own calendar. Time is in their hands. Shabbat Shalom.
Rabbi Reuven Semah
"And so Moshe finished the work." (Shemot 40:33)
The perashah concludes with the final account of the erection of the Mishkan. It mandates the precise placement of the Shulhan (Table), the Menorah and the Aron Hakodesh. The entire perashah is a study in detail, providing the exact description of each vessel and the specific verbs used to describe each activity necessary for creating these vessels. Examples include: "and he gave;" "and he placed;" "and he brought;" "and he spread out;" "and he screened."
Harav Moshe Swift, z"l, notes the Torah's emphasis on each activity. Every man has his own job to perform. One cannot be a silent partner in Jewish affairs. Each person must perform his endeavor of choice to his fullest potential. Some individuals must give, and some must take. Those who can work for the community are mandated to do so.
Everything in Jewish life has its own specified place. The Shulhan in the Mishkan was the place for the "bread." Bread symbolizes physical needs. The Menorah, alluding to faith, was their source of light. The Aron, which housed the Torah, was representative of Torah study and observance. There are so many functions to fulfill in a community. Each member should aspire to develop his G-d given potential to its fullest. Each one must occupy his own unique position within the community structure.
When individuals choose to cross the boundaries of their own designated role, discord arises. The Hashmonaim, who descended from the tribe of Levi, were to serve as the spiritual progenitors of Israel. Instead, they chose to enter the field of monarchy, a position which was designated for the tribe of Yehudah. This resulted in their tragic decimations.
How unfortunate it is that in the field of Jewish education everyone perceives himself as the educator par excellence. The unsophisticated and ignorant offer the educator instructions in his profession! Were this to happen in any other profession, the person would be ridiculed. If each of us would seek to excel in our own field of potential, not trespassing the role of others, we would be much happier and more productive members of the community. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"And the entire congregation of B'nei Yisrael went out from the presence of Moshe" (Shemot 35:20)
Rabbi Eliyahu Lopian commented on this verse that it was noticeable that they were in the presence of Moshe and they were now parting from him. If you see someone who was at a bar, it will be noticeable from the way he talks and walks where he was. One can easily perceive that someone is drunk from his actions and speech. Similarly, when someone seriously studies Torah in a yeshivah, it should be noticeable from the way he behaves that he has been studying Torah. That is what this verse expresses: everyone could tell from the elevated manner in which the people behaved that they had just come from Moshe. Whenever you are in a Torah environment, it should be noticeable from your deeds and traits that you have been in a spiritual environment. (Growth through Torah)
"And he has put it into his heart that he may teach, both he and Aholiab son of Ahisamach of the tribe of Dan" (Shemot 35:34)
Why is it necessary to mention Besalel's teaching ability?
In the times of the Bet Hamikdash there were a few families and individuals that were uniquely talented in preparing things for the Bet Hamikdash. The Gormu family were experts in the baking of the lehem hapanim, the Abtinus family were very talented in preparing the ketoret, etc. (Yoma 38a). The Sages were very upset with them for refusing to convey their dexterity to others.
Besalel and Aholiab were blessed with exceptional architectural talent. They did not consider this a personal asset, but rather something to pass on to others.
When Hashem blesses a person, it is incumbent upon him to share and convey to others his divine blessings and talents. Therefore, the Torah praises Besalel for sharing his knowledge with others. (Vedibarta Bam)
"And all the work of the Mishkan of the Ohel Moed was completed; and B'nei Yisrael did according to all that Hashem commanded Moshe, so they did" (Shemot 39:32)
The seemingly redundant words, "so they did," actually mean, "precisely they did." B'nei Yisrael were tested after receiving the Torah at Sinai. At Sinai they had learned the lesson of perfect obedience to Hashem's word through Moshe, without concern for their own reasoning. The construction of the Mishkan, which encompassed thousands of details almost for which no reason had been given, demanded an exemplary form of compliance. This type of obedience was demanded of the many thousands of individuals who had participated, who quite possibly could have substituted many more desirable designs. They never questioned what difference one slight insignificant alteration would make in the total arrangement! All of them had already learned the all important Torah lesson: Hashem's words through Moshe were to be fulfilled with the utmost precision, faithful even in the most hair-splitting detail. This generation of great minds learned and understood the universal importance of Hashem's word, even in its most miniscule detail. This important attitude has been traditionally maintained by their descendants after them, as is evident throughout the Mishnah, Talmud and later Codes. Throughout halachah we may note this unswerving loyalty to every detail. (Peninim on the Torah)
This week's Haftarah: Yehezkel 45:18 - 46:18.
The regular haftarah for this perashah would be from Yishayahu, which discusses the completion of the construction of the First Bet Hamikdash. However, since this week is Parashat Hahodesh, and we read a special maftir, a different haftarah is read. This haftarah begins by instructing the Kohanim to take a bull for a sacrifice on the first day of the month of Nisan. This maftir and haftarah are always read on the Shabbat which falls on or immediately before Rosh Hodesh Nisan.
This story is about an eleven-year-old boy whom we will call Jerry, whose father suddenly passed away at a very young age. Jerry was left alone in the world - alone with his young, widowed mother, who had to go out to earn a living to support the two of them. She worked long hours, and Jerry was alone for much of the evening. He missed his father terribly, but he had to cover up his loneliness, lest his mother notice and be overcome with grief. There was no Jewish Day School in Jerry's town, so he would go to the afternoon Talmud Torah after public school. His day would begin at 5:30 a.m. when he arose to go to the early minyan to recite Kaddish for his father. Most of the men in shul were the older men who were present early every day. The sight of an eleven-year-old boy reciting Kaddish tore at everyone's heart. Understandably, all of the men doted on young Jerry. They were all very protective of the little orphan.
A few weeks after Jerry began attending minyan, Mr. Goldman, the shamash, of the synagogue, began to appear at Jerry's front door each morning just as Jerry was leaving for the synagogue. Mr. Goldman was not a young man. Originally he had gotten a ride to the synagogue each day. Now, all of sudden, he was just "passing by" the house - each morning just as Jerry began his walk. He explained, "Your home is on the way to the synagogue. I have to go this way anyway, and I figured it would be nice for me to have some company. This way I would not have to walk alone."
Mr. Goldman was incredible. Through the freezing cold of winter, through the blazing heat and stifling humidity of summer, they walked together. The pelting rain and blinding snow did not halt their daily walk. During their walks, Mr. Goldman would share a story from the Midrash, a thought from Hazal, a halachah from the Shulhan Aruch, a mussar, ethical thought. He held Jerry's hand as they crossed the street. He slowly moved in to fill the void left by Jerry's father's death. Indeed, as Jerry recollects today, it was those daily walks and camaraderie that convinced him to pursue his religious studies in a yeshivah high school.
Years went by, and the walks were replaced by phone calls and letters. Jerry shared his successes with his surrogate father. When Jerry graduated yeshivah high school, Mr. Goldman was there to share in the joy. Years later, when Jerry received semichah, ordination, Mr. Goldman shared in this most wonderful moment. Indeed, Jerry felt that his semichah was a gift, a special gift to a special man, who from out of the blue had become his primary motivator and source of encouragement.
Jerry met his Divinely ordained match, and Mr. Goldman attended the wedding. He sought no accolades, just the pure happiness of observing the joy in the life of the young man whom he had befriended. A few years later, Jerry, together with his wife and little six-month-old son came to visit his mother. They called Mr. Goldman and asked if he could come to the home that he had "passed by" so often, years ago. Mr. Goldman responded that he would like to, but, alas, he could no longer walk more than a few steps. Jerry said he would gladly come by to pick him up. Realizing that he had never known where Mr. Goldman lived, Jerry asked him for directions.
The trip was long and complicated. It was a full twenty-minute drive. As Jerry drove, tears ran down his face as he realized the distance Mr. Goldman had walked daily just to "pass by" his house. He had walked over an hour just so that a young orphaned boy should not feel the pain of loneliness. He had made Jerry feel that he was the beneficiary of having a young boy keep him company, when, in truth, the opposite was true. He understood the young boy's loneliness and he sought a way to alleviate it.
They met - the young boy turned man, his family, and the old man who was now in his nineties. Everyone cried. It was an inspiring moment for Jerry and his wife. He finally was able to repay the man who had given him so much. What did he want? He merely wanted what all parents want - nahat and the best for their children. Jerry took Mr. Goldman home. As he said goodbye, they embraced and cried. They both knew that this would probably be the last time they would see one another. A short time later, Mr. Goldman went to his eternal rest, satisfied with a life lived well, a life that had inspired and kindled the spark in another life. Like a candle, he lit the flame in Jerry's neshamah, soul. By his simple gesture of being there, of holding Jerry's hand, of walking with him to shul and letting him know that he was not alone, he engendered confidence and faith in a young boy, giving him the reason and hope to go on. (Peninim on the Torah)
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