Back to This Week's Parsha

Peninim on the Torah

subscribe.gif (2332 bytes)

Previous issues

Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum
Hebrew Academy of Cleveland


They shall make a Sanctuary for Me - so that I may dwell among them. (25:8)

The construction of the Mishkan / Sanctuary and later on the Bais Hamikdash / Temple is unlike that of any other edifice. An ordinary home or any other type of building is built once, and that is it. The Sanctuary is different. Horav Dovid Povarsky, zl, explains that the Sanctuary must be "continually" built. In order to ensure that it is imbued with kedushah, holiness, it needs to be guarded and rededicated constantly via the people's devotion to the ideals that it represents. A mikdash is not a "one-time deal" - build it up and it is there forever. No, we are not talking about the mere construction of bricks and mortar. A mikdash must be watched to make sure that it does not lose its kedushah. This is why the Torah writes V'asu li mikdash - not mishkan. We are to create a place of kedushah. Building the Mishkan is an endeavor that must be repeated constantly.

The Rosh Yeshivah renders this idea to explain the pasuk in Shemos 29:45, 46, "I shall rest among Bnei Yisrael, and I shall be their G-d. They shall know that I am Hashem, their G-d, Who took them out of the land of Egypt to rest My Presence among them." It seems strange that the miracles of the Exodus-- followed by the Splitting of the Red Sea and the Giving of the Torah amid the greatest Revelation of Hashem's glory-- was not sufficient to convince Bnei Yisrael of the notion that "they shall know that I am Hashem." This teaches us that the construction of the Mishkan is different from the other revelations of the Almighty. They were singular miraculous events which, when completed, are totally over. The Mishkan, however, is a holy edifice that is to continue on and on. It is a continuous experience of yedias Hashem, knowing G-d. The Mishkan was an edifice that was imbued with holiness, and it maintained its status of kedushah through the dedication of the people, thus catalyzing Hashem's Presence to remain among them. The Mishkan was a constant lesson in knowing Hashem, in contrast to the previous miracles which had occurred once. They were certainly seminal events, but "one time" seminal events.

Rav Povarsky notes that in contemporary times, the Mishkan as the place for hashroas haShechinah, where the Divine Presence reposes, has been replaced by the yeshivos, Torah centers, which serve as the place where people learn to know Hashem. It is, thus, understandable that building a yeshivah is not simple endeavor, just as the mishkan of Torah does not sustain itself. One does not build a yeshivah by assembling ten students and declaring, "I have a yeshivah!" To paraphrase the Rosh Yeshivah, "A yeshivah is built with tefillos, prayers, and Tehillim, the recitation of Psalms." Only then is there a v'shochanti b'socham, "so that I may dwell among them." Everyone has an enormous responsibility to maintain the holiness of the yeshivah. Otherwise, it is chas v'shalom, Heaven forbid, destroyed-- and the destruction of a yeshivah is the destruction of the House of Hashem. Therefore, every student should study in the yeshivah as if he is contributing to its kedushah. Indeed, it is possible for two students to students to study in a yeshivah simultaneously, such that one is contributing to the maintenance of the yeshivah's kedushah, while the other one is not. He is destroying the yeshivah!"

The Alshich HaKadosh notes the inconsistency in the text. The pasuk begins V'asu li Mikdash, "They shall make a Sanctuary for Me," and concludes, v'shochanti b'socham, "so that I may dwell among them." It should have said instead, "so that I may dwell in it!" Where does the "them" enter into the equation? The Alshich gives his famous explanation that Hashem resides b'soch kol echad v'echad, "within each and every Jew." In other words, Hashem rests His Shechinah on every individual Jew. If so, we wonder why there had to be a Mishkan altogether.

Horav Simcha HaKohen Shepps, zl, explains that in order to have hashro'as ha'Shechinah within the Mishkan, there must first be a unified effort comprised of all of Klal Yisrael contributing toward one goal: hashro'as ha'Shechinah. When the entire nation, as one unit, donates towards the construction of the Mishkan, so that there can be a place on this world in which the Shechinah reposes - then the Shechinah rests in the hearts of each Jew, as well as in the Mishkan. The two work in concert. The Shechinah cannot be among the people unless there is Shechinah in the Mishkan and there cannot be Shechinah in the Mishkan unless the people live in harmony with one goal and purpose in mind: hashro'as ha'Shechinah. The Mishkan serves as the focal point from which the Shechinah overflows into the hearts of Klal Yisrael. The individual creates the general community which is the Mishkan, and then the general community spreads outward to encompass all of the individuals.

They shall make a Sanctuary for Me, so that I may dwell among them. (25:8)

Should it not have been written: v'shochanti b'socho, "so that I may dwell in it"? Hashem is to dwell in the Mikdash. Why does the Torah not say that? The Alshich HaKadosh explains that Hashem resides within the heart of each and every Jew. Horav Eliyahu Schlessinger, Shlita explains that the Torah is actually referring to two separate Sanctuaries in this pasuk. He first cites the pasuk which instructs us to construct the pillars of the Mishkan. "You shall make the Kerashim, planks of the Mishkan, of acacia wood, standing erect" (ibid 26:15). Is the Torah speaking about specific Kerashim, as it writes Ha'Kerashim, the planks, as if it is referring to specific planks? Rashi explains that, indeed, Yaakov Avinu set aside trees which he brought from Eretz Yisrael for the exclusive purpose of constructing the Mishkan. We wonder why it was necessary to "shlep" trees all the way from Eretz Yisrael to Egypt, so that hundreds of years later they would be incorporated into the Mishkan.

Horav Pinchas Friedman, Shlita, cites the Zohar Hakadosh which makes what seems to be an ambiguous comment concerning the Briach HaTichon, Middle Bar that was placed inside of the planks and miraculously wove its way through, connecting them all together. The Zohar states that Yaakov Avinu was the Briach HaTichon that connected both sides of the planks and cites the pasuk describing Yaakov's essence as an ish tam yosheiv ohalim, "wholesome man abiding in tents" (Bereishis 25:27). It does not say yosheiv ohel, abiding in a tent; rather, it says ohalim, tents. Thus, the Zohar explains that Yaakov connected the "tents." What is the Zohar telling us? To what is it referring?

Rav Friedman explains that Avraham Avinu exemplified the middah, attribute, of chesed, loving-kindness, while Yitzchak Avinu characterized the middah of gevurah, strength. Yaakov was a synthesis of both middos, creating the middah of tiferes, beauty. This is the symbolic meaning of Yaakov sitting between two tents - the tent of Avraham and the tent of Yitzchak. He was the middle bar that created a beautiful harmony, integrating both middos together. What, however, does this have to do with the Mishkan? How is Yaakov involved in the kedushah, sanctity, of the Sanctuary?

He cites Horav Aharon, zl, m'Belz who relates in the name of his father, Horav Yissachar Dov, zl, that each of the Avos, Patriarchs, merited the holiness associated with the Bais Hamikdash. Avraham achieved this during the Akeidah on Har HaMoriah, which was the future site of the Bais Hamikdash. Yitzchak accomplished this when he prayed Minchah in the "field," a place which the Talmud in Pesachim 88A says was the makom, place, of the Mikdash. Yaakov, however, merited the kedushah of the Mikdash, but not in its designated site. We find Yaakov exclaiming that he passed by the "place" where his ancestors had prayed, and he did not pray there. Immediately, the land "jumped," and the "place" was brought to him. This was the makom ha'Mikdash. In other words, Yaakov merited bringing the kedushas Bais Hamikdash, which was situated in the Holy Land, to the Diaspora.

This phenomenon is explained by the Belzer Rebbe as a preparation for Yaakov's progeny who will be living in exile. In this way, whenever they establish a bais ha'knesses, shul, or bais medrash, house of study, it has the kedushas Bais Ha'Mikdash.

When Yaakov Avinu woke up from his famous dream, he remarked that this place is Bais Elokim, House of G-d, and Shaar HaShomayim, Gate of Heaven. Rashi explains this to mean that the Bais HaMikdash in Heaven corresponds with the earthly Bais HaMikdash. When we consider it, Rashi should have said the exact opposite. The earthly Sanctuary corresponds with the one in Heaven. This occurs a number of times in Chumash where the statement is made concerning the "position" of the Heavenly Bais HaMikdash: it always corresponds to the position of the one on earth. Why? We do, however, find one instance in which Klal Yisrael sang Shirah that Rashi says: The Bais HaMikdash of earth corresponds with one in Heaven. What determines the change in sequence?

Horav Yehoshua Belzer, zl, explains that when Klal Yisrael merits the kedushas Bais HaMikdash in its designated place on Har HaMoriah, the Bais HaMikdash of this world corresponds to the Heavenly Sanctuary, because the Heavenly one came first. If anything, when Klal Yisrael built the Bais HaMikdash, it was on the place designated specifically to coincide with the Heavenly Sanctuary. When Klal Yisrael is in exile, however, and they no longer have the Bais Hamikdash in its designated place, then the shuls and batei medrash which they established draw their kedushah from the Heavenly Bais HaMikdash. Out of His boundless love for the Jewish People, Hashem brings the Bais HaMikdash from its Heavenly place to correspond with the holy earthly endeavors. When Yaakov had his dream, he was no longer in the place of the Mikdash. Hashem moved the Mikdash to him. Thus, Rashi says the Mikdash of Heaven corresponds to the Mikdash on earth. During the Shirah, Moshe Rabbeinu was praying that Klal Yisrael would merit the kedushas Bais HaMikdash in Eretz Yisrael. He was focusing on Eretz Yisrael. Thus, the Bais HaMikdash of earth corresponds to the Bais Hamikdash of Heaven.

Yaakov is able to draw the sanctity of the Heavenly Bais HaMikdash down to this world, even when the earthly Bais HaMikdash is not beneath its Heavenly counterpart. Indeed, this quite possibly is denoted by the ladder that stood on the ground in this world with its apex in the heavens. Hashem was demonstrating to Yaakov that he had the ability to connect the two Sanctuaries.

When Hashem commanded Klal Yisrael to construct a Mishkan in the wilderness, it was necessary to have the kedushas ha'Mikdash from Har HaMoriah in Eretz Yisrael "redirected" to the wilderness, thereby drawing along with it the source of Heavenly Kedushah from the Bais HaMikdash shel Maalah, Heavenly Sanctuary. This is the meaning of Yaakov serving as the Briach Ha'Tichon: Through his power, he draws the kedushah from Heaven to the Mishkan in the wilderness. The Torah alludes to this with the description of "a wholesome man residing in tents." This is a reference to the "tent" of the earthly Mikdash and the "tent" of the Heavenly Mikdash.

We also now understand why Yaakov brought the Kerashim from Eretz Yisrael, exemplifying his ability to transfer kedushah from one place to another.

Returning to the original question of the Alshich concerning why the Torah does not say that Hashem resides b'socho, within it / the Mishkan. Now that we have established that there are two Batei Mikdash, with the kedushah from the Heavenly Mikdash also being drawn to the earthly Mikdash, it is clear that Hashem is saying, "Make for Me a Mikdash on earth, so that I may reside b'socham, in both Batei Mikdash: in Heaven and on earth."

They shall make an Ark of acacia wood. (25:10)

The Talmud in Meseches Yoma 72b cites the pasuk in Devarim 10:1, "Make a wooden Ark for yourself," in which Hashem instructs Moshe Rabbeinu to make a wooden ark to serve as a temporary receptacle to hold the second Luchos and the shards of the first Luchos until the construction of the permanent Ark. The Talmud questions why, in our parshah, Klal Yisrael as a unit were instructed in the building of the Ark while, later on, it is only Moshe who receives this command. Chazal derive from here that the needs of a talmid chacham, Torah scholar, must be addressed by the people of his community. They should do his work. The Bais HaLevi comments on the Torah's instruction, "You shall cover it (the Aron) with pure gold, from within and from without shall you cover it," (ibid 25:11) is a reference addressing to what extent the community should support its Torah scholars. They should not say, "I will sustain his 'basic' needs, but I have no obligation to support him in a dignified manner. I do not have to supply him with a 'nice' home, etc. He needs simple basics; the rest is his worry." The Torah tells us that such an attitude is incorrect. Mibayis u'mibachutz tetzapenu, "from within and from without": He and his family should have what to eat from within - and also from without - He should be able to dress in a dignified manner and live in a home becoming his exalted position. The Torah demands that the members of the community treat the talmid chacham in the manner that he deserves.

If, however, one lives in a community in which its members have conveniently ignored-- or never learned-- this Chazal or lack the sensitivity toward its Torah scholars, due to their own lack of appreciation concerning the value of Torah in their community, he should not refrain from studying Torah - even amidst abject poverty. The mitzvah and obligation to study Torah is not contingent on communal support. If one is lucky - wonderful. If he is not, and he is relegated to study Torah under trying circumstances - so be it. That is the essence of Torah.

Horav Elozar M. Shach, zl, would often relate how the Shaagas Arye, Horav Arye Leib Gunzberg, zl, Rav of Metz and one of the greatest Torah luminaries of the nineteenth century, studied Torah amidst extreme poverty. He was one of those rabbanim for whom quality provisions were not the priority of his community. The Shaagas Arye was so poor that he could not afford paper on which to record his novella. A brilliant scholar, his mind was constantly "turning out" chidushim, novel interpretations and responsa. With no paper, he wrote on the walls of his house. When he no longer had any room on the walls, he wrote on the ceiling. When he also used up this space, he re-plastered the walls with lime and wrote again. The walls of his house were the "parchment" of his sefer Torah. He literally transformed his home into a shtick Torah, an article whose entire essence is Torah. The Chazon Ish added that the Shaagas Arye lived near the river, where there were lime pits. It was the rebbetzin who would dig up the lime and smear the walls, so that her husband could continue writing his chidushim.

And you shall make on it a gold crown all around. (25:11)

The gold crown was actually a gold rim which projected upward to encircle the top of the Aron. This attachment is symbolic of the crown of Torah associated with those who study Torah. The Midrash comments that there are three "crowns": the crown of malchus, monarchy; Kehunah, Priesthood; and the crown of Torah. The word zeir, crown, is written with the tzeirah, vowel beneath it, so that it is read as zeir, crown. If one were to read it without the vowel sound, it is spelled zar, which means strange or alienated. This prompts the Midrash to conclude that if one merits it, the Torah, Priesthood and monarchy become for him a zeir, crown. If he does not merit it, they become zar, estranged.

The simple explanation of this Midrash is that an individual is imbued with spiritual qualities which enable him to achieve great heights - if he uses these qualities wisely. If so, these virtues adorn him with the individual crown of his accomplishment, be it monarchy, Priesthood, or Torah. While one can only be a monarch if he has the necessary pedigree, and Kehunah, Priesthood, is available only for those who are Kohanim, the individual qualities inherent in the positions are available to all.

One who does not take advantage of his spiritual gifts, who flounders and wastes his G-d-given endowments, who acts in a manner unbecoming one who is endowed with unique faculties for success and achievement, will ultimately have these capabilities serve as a zar, source of alienation and even hostility. They will not meld into him, becoming a part of his essence. They will remain extrinsic to his personality. It will be like two people: one who is a simple, ordinary individual; and one who is endowed with exemplary qualities and virtues. Regrettably, these two individuals will have nothing in common with one another.

According to this explanation, the individual possesses the inherent potential for success, but does not allow it to meld into and infuse his essence with these spiritual qualities. The zeir, crown, is there; only he is not wearing it. Horav Baruch Sorotzkin, zl, goes one step further. He contends that the individual loses the crown altogether. Not only is it not a part of him; it is no longer available - period! A person who has a diamond of exceptional brilliance and value in his possession must appreciate his good fortune. If he has no clue concerning the value of the precious stone it remains, as far as he is concerned, nothing more than a piece of glass. In other words, one can possess a diamond, but if he does not know or is unable to acknowledge its value, it is worthless to him. Thus, if one does not appreciate the value of Torah, it has no value to him. Not only does he not wear the crown of Torah - it is gone! He has allowed it to slip through his hands, because he was not conscious of its inestimable value.

One who allows the crown of Torah to slip through his life becomes a zar, alienated to Torah. He is estranged from his birthright, his lifeblood, his connection to Hashem. Torah is life, and life without Torah is mere existence. Regrettably, some people discover this verity only once they have lost it.

I have always wondered why the "gift" that one receives from Hashem for mastery in Torah is a crown. How is Torah similar to the achievement of Kehunah or malchus? Perhaps, herein lies the key to understanding not why one is crowned, but also an insight into how Torah transforms an individual. A crown upon one's head symbolizes mastery and control. When one wears a crown, he indicates that he rules; he is in charge; he is in control. Just as the monarch rules over the people, and the Kohen has reached the highest level of spirituality, the one who wears the crown of Torah rules over himself. He has achieved control over himself. The gadol ba'Torah, giant of Torah, is no ordinary human being. He exhibits a self-control unlike any found by anyone else. The Torah guides his life and, thus, he lives on an entirely different plane.

While this is true of every gadol, and, for that manner, to a different extent, every ben Torah, the distinction of some gedolim in this area is particularly legendary. Horav Chaim Ozer Grodzenski, zl, was the pre-eminent Torah giant in pre- World War II Europe. His modest apartment at Zavalna 17 in Vilna was the nerve center of Torah Jewry for years. People from all walks of life flocked to him from all over, seeking his wisdom, sympathy or sage counsel. No one needed an appointment. He was always available. He was the heart of Klal Yisrael. Indeed, he represented the entire Jewish nation.

So many stories relate his incredible distinction over a world dominated with Torah scholars. Rav Chaim Ozer was just different. He sustained much misfortune and grew from each experience. His greatest personal tribulation began in 1907 when his only child, Malka, became ill with a debilitating disease. Malka was a unique young woman: modest, gentle, and kindhearted. She was the apple of her father's eye. Rav Chaim Ozer cherished every moment with her. She was merely sixteen years old when she became ill.

During the four years in which she laid bedridden, Rav Chaim Ozer consulted physicians everywhere, searching for a cure for his Malka. He was not to achieve a miracle for his only child. Despite his personal pain, never for one moment did his responsibility toward Klal Yisrael wane. His activities both as posek ha'dor, the generation's premier halachic decisor, and as the tower of support for individuals did not diminish. He continued writing his novella and participated in every major conference affecting the Jewish people.

In the winter of 1911, Malka's condition deteriorated, and it was clear that the end was near. In the days before her passing, he quickly responded to all letters that needed immediate attention. He would not be allowed to do this during the shivah, seven-day mourning period. According to one account, he wrote eighty halachic responses during the few days prior to his daughter's death. He could not allow Klal Yisrael to wait for him while he was sitting shivah.

The tragic news of his daughter's death shook the Torah world. Rav Chaim Ozer was torn apart in grief, but his spirit could not be broken. He was in control. He wore the crown of Torah. Indeed, in a private moment with one of his close students, he confided that his constant efforts on behalf of Klal Yisrael did much to suppress any despondency he might have. Rav Chaim Ozer never uttered one word of complaint, not did bitterness escape his lips. He went about his holy work, his Torah study, his fatherly love for all Jews with renewed strength and vigor. He wore the crown of Torah.

Va'ani Tefillah

Shomer Hashem es kol ohavav, v'es kol ha'reshaim yashmid.
Hashem protects all who love Him, but All the wicked He will destroy.

Appearances can be deceiving and, for all intents and purposes, it appears that many of those who really love Hashem do not prosper. Ironically, sometimes those who have earned the mantle of "wicked" seem to be doing quite well. That has been the great question from time immemorial. The answer lies in the above pasuk. We believe that the real life is the one we hope to enjoy in Olam Haba, the World to Come, and, therefore, life over there is what really matters. Siach Yitzchak explains that the word shomer has two connotations: guard and wait. We find in Bereishis 37:11 when Yaakov Avinu hears Yosef's dreams, the Torah writes, v'aviv shomar es ha'davar, "and his father kept the matter in mind." The pasuk teaches us that Hashem is shomer, "guards"/ "protects" the reward due to his loved ones. He does not necessarily pay them in this world, but rather, He is shomer, "waits" throughout their entire lives, so that they receive their true reward in the World to Come. The wicked, however, are reimbursed for their "good" in this world. They are paid back immediately, so that they enjoy it in this temporary world.

In memory of
Our parents, grandparents
and great-grandparents

R' Naftali Michoel ben Nesanel z"l
Maras Sara Riva bas R' Yaakov Meir HaCohen a"h

The Rothner Family

Peninim on the Torah is in its 18th year of publication. The first nine years have been published in book form.

The Ninth volume is available at your local book seller or directly from Rabbi Scheinbaum.

He can be contacted at 216-321-5838 ext. 165 or by fax at 216-321-0588

Discounts are available for bulk orders or Chinuch/Kiruv organizations.


This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper,
provided that this notice is included intact.
For information on subscriptions, archives, and
other Shema Yisrael Classes,
send mail to
Jerusalem, Israel