Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues

by Daneal Weiner

The Slonomer Rebbe on the opening verses of

Parshas Vayakel,

which say, “And Moshe gathered the entire congregation of Israel and said to them, ‘These are the things that Hashem commands you to do them. Six days you will do your work and the seventh day will be holy to you, a day of certain rest for Hashem.’” mentions the discussion of the commentaries regarding the uniqueness of this mitsva, Shabbos. No other mitsva was preceded by such fanfare, the gathering of the entire congregation of Israel. Furthermore, the mitsva of Shabbos was already mentioned a number of times. Why all the attention now? Further still, why does Moshe introduce Shabbos saying it is what Hashem “commands you to do”? The next verses go on to say that if we do do on Shabbos we will be killed. Shabbos is about not doing. What are we supposed to do?

Rashi offers us insight into answering these questions with his ‘historical’ explanation of the event at hand. He says brings the Seder Olam who says Moshe is speaking to Israel on the 11th of Tishrei. The day before, which was Yom Kippur, Hashem had forgiven Israel for the sin of the golden calf and Moshe came down from Mt. Sinai with the second set of Luchos- Tablets. In other words, Moshe's addressing Israel at this time is to impress upon them the import and magnitude of what had just taken place. Tshuva- Repentance and Forgiveness.

The Gemorah Avoda Zara says the only reason Israel sinned by the golden calf is to teach the reality of tshuva to the masses and Moshe is telling Israel that the good path to tshuva is with the power of Shabbos. Hashem told Moshe that the sin of the calf was “a great sin.” Considering the source, the word “great” is not to be taken light. But there is also a great instrument of atonement. Shabbos. As it says in Gemorah Shabbos, “All who keep Shabbos, according to its laws, will be forgiven, even if they had worshiped idols like the generation of Enosh.”

The Meam Loez Torah Anthology spends a couple pages on the generation of Enosh, the grandson of Adam. In short, his was the first generation to worship idols. It started out as giving honor to Hashem’s ministers (sun, moon, stars). Honoring the ministers is honoring the king. It was only a matter of time till the ministers became the kings. Soon after, idols were introduced and false prophets arose who’d steer people even farther astray. Idolatry had gotten so bad that Hashem was completely and totally forgotten about! There were the philosophical few who were able to rationalize that there were nothing to the idols. Still they thought it was the sun and stars that ruled the universe. (An interesting comment on philosophy.) Only a handful of people had any awareness of Hashem.

The Midrash, on Bereishis, says that since mankind had decided that nature was god, Hashem therefore let nature rule over them, so to speak. In other words, mankind was punished in 4 “natural” ways. [Science buffs, pay attention.] 1) The nature of dark forces was to no longer fear man. [Well, that one wasn’t so scientific.] 2) Worms were allowed into the grave. [Now we’re talking.] 3) People of that generation lost the beautiful appearance of their divinely sculptured grandparents and began looking like apes. [Sorry, say that one again?!] And 4) beautiful, picnic-able mountains were transformed into useless, rocky crags. [Over a million years, right?]

The worst sinners, the Gemorah Shabbos tells us, even the likes of the generation of Enosh, would have an atonement with the observance of a single Shabbos. Not surprising, says the Slonomer Rebbe, since Shabbos is at the core of love and closeness to Hashem.

The Rambam in his laws of Tshuva, regarding the mitsva of loving Hashem, writes how much are we supposed to love Him. So much that we become love-sick from Him. So much that we can’t get Him out of our minds. From when we wake till we sleep, when we eat, when we drink, all we can think about is Hashem. This mitsva to love Hashem we say twice a day in the Shema, “to love Hashem with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might.” The Bnei Yissaschar writes that the gematria of “love with all heart, love with all soul, love with all might”- ahava b’kol lev, ahava b’kol nefesh, ahava b’kol me’ode = 702 = Shabbos!

How does a person go from absolute idolatry to keeping Shabbos to the letter of the law? The answer is “And Moshe gathered the entire congregation of Israel… the seventh day will be holy to you, a day of certain rest for Hashem.” Granted for an individual Jew it would be very difficult to make such a transition. But with Israel gathered and united they’d have the power to do it. The Midrash on Bereishis says that all the days were created in pairs. Shabbos, the 7th day, asked Hashem who is her pair? When the multitude of Jews sit in brotherhood with unified hearts, that is the pair of Shabbos. The power of Shabbos with the power of unity can redeem any Jew from any situation.

The Rebbe of Varshdai offers a related insight into the Friday night song Eishes Chayil- Woman of Valor. Cloaked in allegory, the song has been interpreted as referring to Shabbos, among other things. In it we say, “Chagore natnah lacanaani”- She gives a belt to the peddler. Canaani can also refer to a Canaanite. She gives a belt to the Canaanite. She, being Shabbos, throws a belt, a lifeline, out to the ‘Canaanite’, the idolatrous Jew. When someone is at risk of drowning, as long as that line is in their hands they are hanging on to life.

I once took a water-skiing lesson. We were in a lagoon so there was no fear of sharks, high tide, nor sinking 2 miles to the ocean floor. The trainer’s advice was wise and justified. “When you fall, let go of the rope!” When I fell, I held onto that rope for dear life. I didn’t care how much water I was displacing with my face. That’s Shabbos!

On a more serious note, Rabbi Berel Wein remembers, as a kid, walking with his father to shul on Shabbos. They were going to the 9am late minyan. He recalls seeing hundreds of people leaving from the early minyan. His father explained that these people feared losing their jobs more than losing G-d and that meant working on Shabbos. They prayed early and then went to work. Not even one generation later there were no longer 100’s of people coming out of shul, at all. Giving up on Shabbos, is giving up on life. Or rather its gaining the 7 day work schedule of a Canaanite.

Answering our questions, Shabbos is about don’ts, so what does Hashem say to do? Gather the entire congregation of Israel. Gather as many as we can together in brotherhood with a unified heart on Shabbos and it will save the lost Jews no matter how far they’ve drifted. Moshe gathered Israel to again mention Shabbos because this was right after the sin of the golden calf. Israel needed to learn the power of tshuva which resides within the power of Shabbos.

Echo’s of this idea are found in the Paschal Lamb as well. Every sacrifice that was eaten had its individual’s who ate it. Only the Paschal lamb was to be eaten by groups of people and they had to be designated groups. You couldn’t have in mind to eat goat with the Goldbergs and after the offering decide to join the Feinsteins for lamb. That meant not only eating in groups but with a unified heart. From the 49th level of spiritual impurity the Jews were unified in the korban Pesach for redemption, and then they encamped at Mt. Sinai as one man with one heart and they merited receiving the Torah. Rashi says at the beginning of Bechukosai,  there is no comparing when a few keep Torah to when the masses keep Torah. And if the Torah we keep is Toras Shabbos, our Rabbis tell us that keeping one Shabbos would immediately bring the Mashiach. Could it be any other way?

Rav Moshe Wolfson offers some insights on the last 2/3’s of this weeks triple header,

Parshas Pekudai – Parshas Hachodesh.

This Shabbos concludes the month of Adar as it simultaneously introduces the month of Nissan. Not just because this Shabbos we bless the new month. We also take a second Sefer Torah and read the last of the 4 special Torah portions associated with Purim, the portion in which Hashem tells Moshe to command Israel of their very first national mitsva, hachodesh hazeh lachem- this month is to you. Nissan is the head of the months. Adar, therefore, is the last of the months.

Since time, space and soul are three manifestations of the same source, Nissan correlates to the Tribe of Yehudah, the head of the procession of Israel when in the desert. Yehudah’s prince will be the first to bring the inaugural sacrifice at the dedication of the Mishkan- Sanctuary, just completed in this week’s parsha. Adar correlates to the Tribe of Dan, the last in the procession, the back of the line. But according to the inaugural sacrifices and to the listing of the flags, Naphtali is listed last, not Dan?

The 12 tribes of Israel camped in a square, three tribes to a side. Each side traveled under a central flag. Naftali was on the side with Dan. So they had their own flag while also traveling under the flag of Dan. The letters of Naphtali can be switched to read Naphalti- I fell, an allusion to Dan whose members fell in their fear of G-d and were self-ejected from the Clouds of Glory, allowing themselves to fall prey to Amaleik’s attack of the back of the camp. Dan was last, and even when Naphtali is listed last, it’s still a reflection of Dan.

Mutual to Adar and to Parshas Hachodesh is Purim. The Purim story was about a ‘last’ generation of Jews. A generation (in hindsight) just prior to the rebuilding of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. They were an Adar generation. Their actions had self-ejected themselves from the protection of Hashem, thereby falling prey to the descendant of Amaleik. Our generation is hopefully an Adar generation. A generation at the end of the procession of Jewish exile. A Dan generation. A 13 century Sage, the Roke’ach, says that the name Haman appears 54 times in Megillas Esther, as part of the reparation for the tribe/generation of Dan, being that Dan has a gematria- numeric value of 54. Hold this thought.

Three of Job’s friends came to suffer with him. He engaged all three in a philosophical discussion of pain and suffering. Each friend failed to properly argue Hashem’s side. Then Elihu, son of Barachel spoke up. Addressing G-d’s justice he says, “[Hashem] does not favor leaders nor lets a noble be given recognition over a pauper.”

Amos, one of the 12 prophets who warns Israel of the imminent exile should they not change their ways, he ends his prophecy saying, “Behold, you are like the children of the Cushites [to Hashem].” The Cushites are a dark skinned people. Why that reference? Because only the skin of the Cushite makes him appear different than anyone else. When Israel is steeped in sin and we appear no different than Canaanites, it is only a superficial difference. Hashem does not let the noble (us as a nation of priests) be given recognition over a pauper (us as the prey of Amaleik).

Tying this in with our previous thought, “These are the reckonings of the Mishkan,” is how this week’s parsha starts. “…and Betsalel, son of Uri, son of Hur, of the Tribe of Yehudah, did everything that Hashem commanded Moshe… And with him was Ohaliav, son of Achisamach, of the Tribe of Dan.” Betsalel of Yehudah worked side by side with Ohaliav of Dan. The head of the camp is paired off with the end of the camp. The leader in partnership with the sinner. Because Hashem does not let the noble be given recognition over a pauper. We are “like the children of the Cushites”- K’vnei Cushiim = 462 = v’ito Ohaliav- “And with him was Ohaliav.”

There are two ways to say “with him in the holy language, imo and ito. Being a holy language there are no synonyms, only different reasons. Here the Torah uses ito. At its root is et, aleph-tav. In Genesis we read Bereshis barah Elokim et hashamyim v’et ha’arets- In the beginning G-d created the heavens and the earth. In this context, et is a grammatical requirement, a definite article. A holy language isn’t limited by rules. The rules are just as holy. Our Rabbis say to read the verse Bereshis barah Elokim et- In the beginning G-d created aleph-tav. Aleph is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet and tav is the last. The first thing G-d created was aleph through tav, the holy language, the periodic table of elements which were going to be combined to fashion every facet of the universe. That is why G-d said “Let there be…” Because everything exists only by power of the combinations of Hashem’s utterances. But this is for another time.

Et, the root of ito, is a pairing off, a partnership between the first letter and the last letter. The Yehuda with the Dan. The noble with the pauper. It [et] is used to pair Betsalel with Ohaliav, instead of imo, because it, et, aleph and tav, is the very expression of their partnership.

As you might have guessed, being a holy language of holy letters, it must be they have holy shapes too.

Those familiar with the script know that at the head of the Aleph is a letter yud. The yud said to be the holiest of the letters, manifest, one way, in it requiring the least amount of ink to write it. Least physicality = most spirituality. At the other end of the spectrum, farthest from the crown of the aleph is the foot of the tav. The Arvei Nachal explains that every letter has its unique level of sanctity and the foot of the tav… it’s like it’s sticking out from sanctity of the letter. Daring to cross over the line. A reference, perhaps, to the warning in Mishlei to beware of enticements since, “Her feet lead to death.” Physical enticements lead to self-ejection from ones level of sanctity and from the protection of Hashem, leaving one prey to the attack of Amaleik. The name of the letter Tav, spelled Tav-yud-vav = 416 = tsei hilachem ba’Amaleik- “Go out and fight Amaleik.” That was Moshe’s command to Yehoshua after Amaleik attacked the enticed and ejected members of Dan.

The Yovel year, the Jubilee year is a halachic reflection of the days to come. On the Yovel year all land returns to its ancestral owner. No matter what deals transpired during the previous 5 decades, no matter who became rich, no matter who became poor, no matter how it was in the end, it all returns to the beginning. Hashem does not let a noble be given recognition over a pauper. The crowning head of the aleph is as precious as the stuck out foot of the tav. Et’s letters, aleph-tav, spelled out aleph-lamed-fey tav-yud-vav = 527 = v’shavu banim ligvulam- your children will return to their border. This promise Hashem made to Rachel who wept over the exile of her children, self-ejected from the level of the sanctity of their land. What happens during the Yovel will happen during the final redemption.

Parshas Pekudai and Parshas Hachodesh is the reparation of Adar which connects it to Nissan. Not just connects it but equates it, the noble with the pauper. Pekudai and Hachodesh are the culmination of the Shabboses of Purim, when a pauper generation made an acquisition on Torah mirroring the acquisition at Mt. Sinai when our noble ancestors were crowned. “This month will be to you”- Hachodesh hazeh lachem = 424 = Mashiach ben David. The head of the months and the anointed one of the head of the tribes are hand in hand in the redemption of Israel. It is no wonder that the word et appears in Pekudai an extraordinary number of times. Et stands for return. Et stands for final redemption. Et = 401 = yimay Purim- The Days of Purim. And redemptive days they were.

Pekudai is the culmination of the book of Shemos, the book of redemption. Why didn’t the book end after the exodus from Egypt? Because leaving Egypt means nothing without a connection to Hashem. No matter were we’d go from Egypt, it would be no better than a desert. But with the Mishkan built and Hashem’s presence amongst Israel, then even a desert is a redemption. Pekudai = 200 = ba’u ha’ovdim… v’hanidachim- they will come, the lost… and the cast-out.

Pekudai is also the culmination of the Mishkan and at the hands of Betsalel. “And Betsalel, son of Uri, son of Hur, of the Tribe of Yehudah” = 808 = “Shnas geulai ba’ah”- the year of redemption comes. That is what Hashem tells Edom before venting His wrath upon him. Now that’s a redemption I’d like to see!

As our Sages have foretold, Yishmael has taken on the attributes of Amaleik, and the contracting pains of these end of days are definitely being felt. Maybe the masses of Israel will be unified this Shabbos with the recognition of our Father’s chastisements and with repentance in their hearts. Then we can be certain of what our Sages also foretold,  that when a multitude of Jews sit in brotherhood with unified hearts, the power of Shabbos with the power of unity can redeem any Jew from any situation.

May we soon greet the Mashiach who’ll gather the entire congregation of Israel, again. And this time entirely within the sanctity and security of Hashem glory.

Shabbat Shalom.

Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues