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Peninim on the Torah

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Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum
Hebrew Academy of Cleveland


And Moshe assembled the entire assembly of Bnei Yisrael. (35:1)

Rashi tells us that the word Vayakhel, "and (Moshe) [he] assembled", is written in the hifil, causative, to teach us that Moshe Rabbeinu did not gather the people directly. Rather, he caused them to gather themselves. What is Rashi teaching us? Certainly, he did not gather them by hand. The Satmar Rebbe, zl, explains that the objective of this assembly was unique in that Moshe sought to assemble only those who were Jews, not members of the eirev rav, mixed multitude, the creators of the eigal, Golden Calf. Moshe was not assembling people "by hand," for no specific purpose other than to make an assembly. No! Moshe sought to gather together the Jews of the same weltanschau'ung, perspective on life.

One can gather a group of people together for the purpose of having a group - or one can gather a group of people together in a manner that suggests that he is the one in charge of the group, such that his perspective guides the entire group. Moshe wanted the group to be as one: one G-d; one Torah; one leader - Moshe Rabbeinu. Moshe's words were the koach hame'achad, force/glue that was the mutual bond between them. Every assembly must have a goal in order for it to succeed. Their goal was realized, as they severed their relationship with the eirav rav and became one harmonious group.

Horav Yaakov Kaminetzky, zl, takes a somewhat similar approach. He explains that when the Torah was given to Klal Yisrael, the Jewish people had achieved an unprecedented level of achdus, unity. They were k'ish echad b'lev echad, "as one person with one heart". All their hearts beat as one. When the eigal was made, this unity was shattered. Indeed, the Talmud Yerushalmi, Sanhedrin 10:2 contends that each Shevet, tribe, had its own little eigal. Even then, they could not see eye to eye! Each one had his own individual perspective on how to rebel against Hashem! What a sad commentary on the Jewish People, suggesting that we have not changed much today. Every group that is not Torah-oriented has its own little eigal. Moshe Rabbeinu had to bring the people together first, under one banner with one outlook. He first had to make a vayakahel, and assemble the people together to give them one goal and one purpose. Then he could instruct them in the next step: building a Sanctuary.

But the seventh day…shall be holy for you, a day of complete rest for Hashem. (35:2)

The various commands and admonishments concerning Shabbos Kodesh are reiterated in the Torah a number of times. This clearly indicates the overriding significance of Shabbos to Klal Yisrael. In the beginning of our parsha, as Moshe Rabbeinu assembles Klal Yisrael to instruct them about the building of the Mishkan, he prefaces his talk with a reminder about Kedushas Shabbos, the sanctity of the seventh day. Chazal derive from here that the building of the Mishkan does not supercede the mitzvah of Shabbos. Interestingly, the avodas ha'korban, sacrificial service, was performed on Shabbos. The holy day was "set aside" for the holy sacrifices. Apparently, the building of the Mishkan, which was only a hechsher - preparation, - for the actual mitzvah of offering korbanos, does not override the mitzvah.

The fact that the Torah found it necessary to imply that the building of the Mishkan does not countermand Shabbos, indicates that there is a logical assumption for building the Mishkan, even on Shabbos. After all, we have a have a halachic axiom, Aseih docheh Lo Saaseh, "a positive commandment prevails over a negative commandment". To build the Mishkan is a positive dictate which should dominate over the negative canon of Shabbos.

The Abarbanel explains that by giving precedence to the positive/active mitzvah of building the Mishkan over the negative commandment, one might be led to believe that enterprise, positive activity, is a greater indication of one's belief in Hashem than passively withholding oneself from transgression. This is not true. While it was crucial that Klal Yisrael build the Mishkan, it did not give them license to eliminate Shabbos. While this demonstrates the significance of Shabbos, it still does not explain why the building of the Mishkan did not eclipse Shabbos. Furthermore, why should positive activity not surpass the restraint that is part and parcel of a negative command?

Horav Moshe Reis, Shlita, suggests that a deeper aspect to Shabbos is often ignored. The Torah in Parashas Ki Sisa (31:14) sums up its characterization of Shabbos with the words, Kodesh he lechem, "For it is holy to you." To the one who views Shabbos superficially, it is nothing more than an inert mitzvah which demands of us that we desist from labor on Shabbos. This does not, however, accurately characterize Shabbos. Perhaps its body is the various constraints placed upon the Jews, but its soul is something much more profound. The essence of Shabbos is its kedushah, sanctity. Thus, the various prohibitions that are involved in the mitzvah of Shabbos reflect kedushas Shabbos, its hallowedness. This idea is reiterated in our parsha when the Torah tells us that Shabbos "shall be holy for you, a day of complete rest for Hashem." Sanctity demands the prohibition of mundane activity, because the day belongs to Hashem, Who has consecrated it. Just as there is a sanctuary which is erected in the holiest place, so too, is there a sanctuary for time. Shabbos is our sanctuary of time - the seventh day, designated by Hashem as the holiest day for Him. The kedushah of the Sanctuary obligates one to maintain a high personal level of holiness and purity. Likewise, the sanctuary of time requires one to act appropriately.

Shabbos attests to the creation of the world. It is a positive reinforcement that on the Seventh Day Hashem rested from Creation. It is a mitzvah that serves as testimony to Hashem's creation of the world, and, as such, it is a sanctuary of time, which cannot be overridden by the mitzvah of building the Mishkan. The command to erect a sanctuary in space does not take precedence over the observance of the sanctuary in time.

We suggest another aspect of Shabbos that precludes it from being superceded by the building of the Mishkan. We think of Shabbos as a body of laws which prohibit various forms of labor on the seventh day. While it is true that these labors are prohibited, it is not a negative aspect of Shabbos. On the contrary, it is specifically these prohibited labors that indicate to us the actual character of the mitzvah of Shabbos. Shabbos is an experience which is spiritual in nature. It is elevated above what the human being can physically perceive and absorb. Thus, he must elevate himself above the physical dimension which holds him captive - and cling to Hashem. Shabbos is a day when the Jew transcends the physical and enters into the spiritual realm.

It is regarding this concept that the Zohar HaKadosh writes that "Shabbos is the day of the neshamah, soul." One, therefore, prepares himself prior to Shabbos, divesting himself of the shackles of the physical dimension as he anticipates entering into the spiritual realm. The prohibitions of Shabbos are more than merely a passive form of observance. They are actually a positive aspect of Shabbos, for they help divest the person of his physical encumbrances.

We now understand why one may not construct the Mishkan on Shabbos. By transgressing the "negative" commandments that enhance the Shabbos, one destroys the character of the mitzvah and undermines its spiritual aspect. Without the spiritual qualities of Shabbos, it becomes just another day of the week.

Everyone whose heart motivates him shall bring it. (35:5)

Sincerity is the key word when it comes to contributing to a Torah cause. The amount that one gives is not important. Rather, it is the manner in which one gives: with what attitude, with what sensitivity, with what feeling. Hashem does not need our contributions. What is important to Him is the contributor's inner desire to elevate and coalesce himself with the Almighty. There are people with small hearts who give big checks. The manner in which - and to whom - they give attests to this. There are also those whose checks are much less significant, but they manage to give with a big heart. They will help the "little guy" whose only recognition will be a warm smile, a bowed head and a profound "thank you." These are the "nediv lev's," who open their hearts as well as their wallets.

I recently came across a meaningful story in Rabbi Paysach Krohn's latest publication. The story is compelling, as is Rabbi Krohn's postscript - to which I would like to supplement my own personal comment as well. Reb Reuven Mendlowitz, the brother of Rabbi Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz, zl, had a grocery store in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. While we may call it a grocery store, some of those little stores maintained a standard of kedushah, holiness, that would parallel some yeshivos. On the day of Reb Shraga Feivel's levayah, funeral, the streets of Williamsburg were packed, as thousands of people assembled in Mesivta Torah Vodaath to pay a last tribute to the man who shaped the map of Torah in America. On his way to his brother's funeral, Reb Reuven stopped suddenly and entered a small grocery store along the way.

The people accompanying Reb Reuven were slightly taken aback at this diversion. What could be so important that would take precedence over the levayah? Out of respect for Reb Reuven's piety no one said anything. Yet, it continued to bother them. During the shivah, seven-day mourning period, one of the people summoned the courage to ask Reb Reuven what it was that was so important that day.

Reb Reuven's answer teaches us a lesson in sensitivity and charity. It seems there was a very poor man who daily came to Reb Reuven's grocery to "purchase" bread and milk for his family. Knowing that the man had no money, Reb Reuven never charged him for those necessities. To preserve his dignity, however, he would mark the amount due in a ledger - which both of them knew would probably never be cleared. It was a silent agreement between them. He gave, and he took, and that was the end of it.

"During shivah my store would be closed," Reb Reuven explained, "and this man will have to go to another grocery to get his daily bread and milk. I wanted to make sure that the grocer would not charge my friend, so I went in to assure him that I would personally cover the cost." Incredible! Thoughtfulness, sensitivity and mentlichkeit: all embodied in one person. Rabbi Krohn adds, "If that is what the grocers of that generation were like, can we imagine what the gedolei Yisrael, the Torah leaders, were like?" I would like to add that whatever the grocers were, they attained such heights because they paralleled their gedolim. When the Torah leaders are extraordinary, the common man follows suit.

Every man and woman whose heart motivated them to bring for any of the work… Bnei Yisrael brought a free-willed offering to Hashem. (35:29)

The pasuk begins by pointing out how every man and every woman brought his/her offerings to the Mishkan. Why, then, does it seemingly reiterate its previous statement by saying, "The Bnei Yisrael brought a free-willed offering to Hashem"? Horav Mordechai Rogov, zl, explains that those who give of themselves and their possessions possess a pure and benevolent spirit of generosity which was imbued in them by those who educated them. Chesed, kindness, is taught. It is infused in a person by his rebbeim, teachers, who, along with the scholarly knowledge which they impart, also inculcate their students with ethics and responsibility to reach out with loving-kindness to their fellow Jew.

David Hamelech says in Sefer Tehillim 92:14, "Those who are planted in the house of Hashem will flower in the courtyards of our G-d." It is in the yeshivos and Torah institutions which these individuals attended that they were taught the meaning of chesed. When a person has developed deep roots while he is still in the yeshivah, he will flourish further when he leaves for the courtyards, when he is involved in commerce in the marketplace, when he interacts in the public arena.

Likewise, as the courtyard is a prelude house, a vestibule that accesses entry into the home, these individuals view their secular/mundane endeavors as being close extensions of the bais hamedrash, opportunities for applying the Torah values imparted to them in the yeshivah. It is through these endeavors that their avodas Hashem, service to G-d, flourishes, as they contribute "back" to support the Torah institutions.

Our pasuk tells us of the men and women who came forward wholeheartedly to contribute towards the building of the Mishkan. What inspired them to seize this wonderful opportunity and participate with such enthusiasm? It was that they had been raised in an environment that taught an appreciation of chesed, where it was common that "Bnei Yisrael brought a free-willed offering for Hashem." The ones who had previously responded to support these institutions, in which educating their charges with a sense of responsibility and generosity for the Jewish People, provided Klal Yisrael with men and women of benevolence, who, in turn, then devoted themselves to the construction of the Mishkan. It has to start somewhere. The Torah recognizes the source.


Moshe assembled the entire assembly of Bnei Yisrael…to do them. (35:1)

Horav Dovid Moshe zl, m'Chortkov, explains that there are various levels of comprehending a mitzvah; every person commensurate with his level of understanding, piety and virtue. When it comes to the actual asiyah, performance, of the mitzvah, everyone is equal. Thus, everyone gathered together - laasos osam, to do them. All Jews are the same when it comes to carrying out a mitzvah.


But the seventh day shall be holy for you. (35:2)

The Chida interprets this pasuk as an admonition that even the lachem, the part of Shabbos that is "for you," the eating, drinking and resting - shall be replete with kedushah u'taharah, holiness and purity.


To weave designs to work with gold. (35:32)

Sefas Emes explains this pasuk homiletically. It is essential that one has machshavos, thoughts, which are immediately followed up with laasos, action. Also, the action should not be separated from the thought. It should be a well-thought out action. Thought - action: neither one is good alone. They have to work cooperatively.


And every wise-hearted man. (36:2)

Horav Aharon, zl, m'Karlin was wont to say chochmah, wisdom, without lev, heart, is meaningless.


But the work had been enough… and there was extra. (36:7)

Why, when they collected for the Mishkan, which was an enormous amount, there was extra, but for the Golden Calf, which needed comparatively very little, we do not find that there was extra? Daas Chachamim contends that for the Mishkan, Moshe Rabbeinu was the gabbai, one in charge, and he wasted nothing. Many people were in charge of the Golden Calf. Because everyone was in charge, no one was actually in charge. Therefore, there was barely enough gold.


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