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PARSHAS VAYAKHEL/PEKUDEIMoshe assembled the entire congregation of Bnei Yisrael. (35:1)
The Avnei Nezer explains that as the Mishkan's construction came to a conclusion, Moshe Rabbeinu assembled the entire nation for the purpose of teaching them the importance of harmony. The goal of the Mishkan is to serve as the one unifying place, the singular force towards which all of the Jewish People focus their prayers and sacrifices. Until the completion of the Mishkan, it was permissible to offer sacrifices on Bamos, personal altars. Each and every Jew did his own thing, expressing his service to Hashem on his personal wavelength, exclusive of that of his neighbor. Tefillah was an individual endeavor. It was not b'tzibur, expressed through the entirety of a cohesive communal effort. It was splintered and exclusionary, while the Mishkan was to be cohesive and inclusive.
The power of a unified Klal Yisrael is awesome. In his commentary to Parashas Korach, Be'er Moshe, the Ozrover Rebbe, zl, observes what seems to be an anomaly concerning the Yehi ratzon prayer recited by the chazzan, leader of the prayer service, following Krias HaTorah on Monday and Thursday. This series of prayers which all begin with Yehi ratzon, "May it be the will," contains supplications for the health and continued welfare of the shearis Yisrael, remnant of the Jewish people in exile, for its spiritual leadership and their families. These prayers are followed by a communal supplication which begins, Acheinu kol bais Yisrael, "Our brothers, the entire family of Yisrael," which beseeches the Almighty to deliver from distress and captivity, from pain and misery, any Jew who is in need, regardless of his geographical location. The Rebbe wonders why the last prayer does not begin with Yehi ratzon, as its predecessors do. He explains that the tefillah commences with the invocation, Acheinu kol bais Yisrael, whereby all Jews are united under one family banner. When there is unity among Jews, there is no need to ask Yehi ratzon. The eis ratzon, period of good-will, is aroused by a unified people. There is no greater inspiration for good will than when Jews act toward one another as acheinu, our brother.
Horav Moshe Soloveitchik, zl, suggests that the concept of tefillah b'tzibur, communal prayer with a minyan, quorum of at least ten men, has had a critical impact on the survival of Klal Yisrael. Ordinarily, one would wonder why tefillah b'tzibur is so important; why Chazal were very stringent in underscoring the absolute need for prayers to be recited in a communal gathering place, such as a shul. He explains that if Jews had not been compelled to pray in shul, the average Jew would not have survived the vicissitudes of life's challenges. The only ones who would have gone to the shul would have been the talmidei chachamim, Torah scholars, the spiritual elite, who would all study in the shul. The simple Jew whose life does not revolve around Torah study would have no reason to attend, thus depriving himself of a spiritual relationship with like-minded Jews. A Jew alone in exile in countries where spiritual ascendency is not encouraged needs a brother, and friend, to offer him chizuk, to encourage and embolden him to maintain his spiritual affiliation. This takes place during the daily prayer services when all Jews congregate together to pray as one.
The following story underscores and defines the benefit and true essence of unity. When Napoleon Bonaparte, self-proclaimed emperor of Europe, reached the outskirts of Russia, it was the summer of 1812. He stood at the helm of an army consisting of half a million soldiers. Already having conquered most of Europe, his heart was now set on the Russian bear. He wanted so badly to conquer. He was smart enough, however, to acknowledge that this would not be a simple task. Thus, the emperor decided that, since he was to enter Russia, he would pay a visit to Horav Chaim Volozhiner, zl, and seek his sage advice.
"What counsel do you suggest concerning my forthcoming battle with the Russians? Will this war end in victory for me, or does a catastrophic end await my army?" Napoleon asked Rav Chaim.
Rav Chaim replied with an analogy. A prince once traveled through the countryside in a carriage that was fashioned from the finest woods. His horses were among the finest steeds in the country, each imported from a foreign land, each with its own unique pedigree. They traveled quickly through the day until nightfall, at which point the horses could not see that well. The driver, fearing for his health if the prince were to be held up, pushed the horses even harder to go faster. The road changed and became very muddy, causing the horses to slip. Once the first horse fell, the second followed, until all four horses had slipped, causing the carriage to turn over and distribute its distinguished passengers into the mud.
The horses could not pull the carriage out of the mud. A few hours went by and a simple farmer appeared, riding his wagon which was pulled by three horses that seemed to have been left over from "Pharoah's" time. This was the region's idea of AAA road service. The prince was quite incredulous when the farmer offered to help. After all, what could the farmer's three "has been" horses do, that his own precious horses could not do? Well, it took the farmer five minutes to pull the carriage from the mud. Shocked, the prince asked, "How could your horses achieve what my horses failed to do?"
The farmer explained, "Sir, it is simple. Your horses are aristocratic, each one among the finest and most exalted steeds in its respective country. When you give a signal or touch them with your whip - each individual horse does what is best for it. It pulls the way it wants to go. It is not part of a collective team, because each horse is from a different land.
"My three horses are family, all born to the same mare. They were raised together on the same farm. While individually - horse for horse - they are no match for any of your horses, as a team - they excel! They are all one family."
"The lesson," explained Rav Chaim, "is quite simple. As the Emperor Napoleon, you have gathered a fine army of soldiers from throughout the world! They may be individually great, but, as a team, they are lacking. The Russian army, however, is comprised of soldiers who are all from within the government's region. They are family, with each soldier feeling a sense of empathy for his brother soldier. This is an unbeatable combination. It is for this reason that I question your ability to triumph over them."
History has proven the brilliance of Rav Chaim's advice. Nothing can overcome the power of achdus, a unified group whose members work together cohesively as one.
An elderly Jew, a survivor from the European Holocaust, related the following incident which took place in the concentration camp where he was interned. The Germans employed their Jewish compatriots as guards to police themselves. In other words, if something was not perfect, the Jewish guards were taken to task. It was a "no win" situation, whereby the Jewish police were stuck between a "rock and a hard place." One day, something was taken from the commandant's office. The Gestapo came in en masse, armed to the teeth, demanding the identity of the culprit. "Who is responsible for this dastardly act?" they asked.
"We are all responsible," the prisoners answered in unison. "It is all our fault. We are all prepared to pay for our sin!"
The Gestapo were shocked by this display of unity among the prisoners. This was something to which they were not accustomed. They let them all go back to the block, with no punishment.
Every man and woman whose heart motivated them to bring for any work… brought a free-willed offering to Hashem. (35:29)
If one follows the translation of this pasuk - "Every man and woman whose heart motivated them to bring - brought a free-willed offering" - seems redundant: "Whoever was motivated to bring - brought." Is there any question concerning their offering? The commentators respond to this redundancy, each in his inimitable manner. I will focus on one such interpretation.
Horav Yehonasan Eibushitz, zl, offers a practical explanation. When Moshe Rabbeinu made his appeal for the Mishkan, the entire Jewish nation responded positively - even the erev rav, mixed-multitude. This created a problem, since the members of the erev rav were now persona non grata, after their involvement in the eigal ha'zahav, Golden Calf, debacle. Indeed, they were the initiators of the sin that cost the Jewish people dearly. They had the perverse audacity to lead the nation in serving the Golden Calf. The Mishkan was to serve as an atonement for the Golden Calf. Here they were once again at the forefront of the tumult to contribute towards the Mishkan. What unmitigated chutzpah!
The nation had no intention of accepting their contributions and allowing them access to the Mishkan. There was, however, one problem: How were they going to make up the money which the erev rav would have donated? By not including their donations, there would be a shortfall. The people came to a decision. The erev rav would not be included, yet there would be no shortfall. Why? The people would make up the difference. They would pay the erev rav's portion from their own pockets, but then would not permit the erev rav to mix in to their collective atonement. They would pay the money - all of them - just as long as the erev rav did not have a role in the Mishkan. This is what is meant by the pasuk when it implies that Bnei Yisrael gave twice. When the people saw that the kol ish v'isha, every man and woman, (referring to the erev rav), came with his or her contribution, Bnei Yisrael immediately upped the ante and gave more money to cover the shortfall. They put their money where their mouths were. It is easy to refuse the erev rav, but are we willing to pay the tab?
These are the reckonings of the Mishkan… which were reckoned at Moshe's bidding. (38:21)
Imagine, Moshe Rabbeinu gave an accounting of every item used for the construction of the Mishkan. He gave this accounting to the Jewish People to allay any fears that they might have concerning the propriety of his leadership. It is astounding - almost unreal- that the adon haneviim, master of all prophets, the quintessential leader of the Jewish nation, had to prove himself. Concerning Moshe, Hashem attests: B'chol Beisi ne'eman hu, "In all My house he is trusted." Yet, Moshe felt it necessary to give a clear accounting to the people of every piece of gold, silver, copper and precious stones. Why did he do this? Was it not below his dignity?
Chazal teach us that Moshe was responding to the leitzanei ha'dor, jokers/scoffers of the generation, who grumbled that he had pocketed some of the funds. It was to this group of malcontents, individuals who liked to talk, slander, degrade and undermine, that Moshe reacted. Hashem did not ask for an accounting. The nation did not question his propriety. It was the work of a few sick individuals, the usual complainers, the ones that just have to talk, for whom whatever one does for them is still insufficient, that Moshe gave a reckoning. It seems ludicrous, but Moshe was not permitting this to fester without giving a response, which is why he presented a complete accounting of the Mishkan.
Clearly, those who spoke against Moshe were uncouth individuals, who represented the nadir of the nascent nation's citizenry. Yet, Moshe nonetheless responded. Why? Furthermore, what basis did these scoffers have? Even a joke must have some truth to it. What rationale did they have for maligning Moshe?
Be'er Yosef explains that, following Krias Yam Suf, all of Klal Yisrael became wealthy overnight. The bizas ha'yam, spoils of the Red Sea, were so vast that the Talmud ascribes enormous sums of gold, silver and precious stones to each and every Jew. Moshe, however, became wealthy neither from the spoils of Egypt, nor from the spoils of the Red Sea. He was preoccupied with locating and salvaging Yosef HaTzaddik's coffin. This mitzvah was more precious to him than "cleaning out" Egypt. Yet, Moshe was quite wealthy. What was the source of our leader's newly-found wealth? Rashi explains that when Hashem commanded Moshe to engrave the second set of Luchos, He also told him that the pesoles, carvings and chips belonged to him. These were extremely precious stones valued at a considerable sum. Moshe's bank account soared due to this pesoles.
There is, however, one catch: Hashem commanded Moshe to prepare a second set of Luchos on Tammuz 18. Moshe immediately ascended Har Sinai for a second forty-day visit. He returned on Yom Kippur. The next day, he made the appeal for the Mishkan. A few days later, the people noticed that Moshe seemed to have somehow increased his financial portfolio. How did this happen? What business deal did he arrange that netted him such profit? Overnight, their leader was transformed from living a life of abject poverty to becoming wealthy beyond the norm. Something was wrong. Moshe should be asked to explain. Apparently, the people were unaware of the pesoles of the Luchos. They had no idea that, prior to ascending Har Sinai, Moshe had fashioned the second Luchos, with a healthy profit of its pesoles going to his bank account. Thus, the people had "reason" to suspect.
Having explained the above, we still wonder why the people are considered litzanei ha'dor, scoffers of the generations. Call them slanderers, untrusting, even foolish - but why heretics? Horav Reuven Karlinstein, Shlita, explains that, after all is said and done, the situation may be quite damaging: one does not suspect and slander a tzaddik. He should always be given the benefit of the doubt. One who does not trust a tzaddik, an individual who - at the slightest provocation, a shred of impropriety- immediately turns against the tzaddik, is a truly evil person!
The lesson we derive from here is compelling. One can have abundant rationale to justify his claim against the tzaddik; the scenario appears quite bleak; in fact, there is no way to justify the tzaddik's action. Yet - if it is a tzaddik about whom one speaks, he is a slanderer, a leitz, scoffer, and his name will descend to infamy - together with all of the other wicked throughout time. The choice is simple; the ramifications are not quite so simple.
How often does the situation present itself in which circumstances imply that an individual of distinguished repute "seems" to be guilty of behavior unbecoming his station in life? This is a person who has an impeccable reputation of piety and virtue. The choice is up to us: Do we look at the "purported" facts, or do we trust the man's distinguished track record? The choice we make will determine our spiritual status on the Heavenly scale.
Moshe saw the entire work, and behold! - they had done it… and Moshe blessed them. (39:43)
Blessing an individual who was involved in the creation and successful completion of a project is more than a token of encouragement. It ratifies his work and shows that it is appreciated. When Klal Yisrael completed the Mishkan, Moshe Rabbeinu blessed them. Rashi quotes the text of the blessing. "Yehi ratzon, may it be Hashem's Will that the Shechinah rests upon your handiwork. As you successfully completed the Mishkan, so should you merit to go on to build the Bais Hamikdash." Ralbag writes that it is appropriate for the pre-eminent leader of the generation (or any other spiritual leader, for that matter) to bless the people whenever they follow his instructions by carrying out the mission he had given them. By doing this, he will ensure an alacritous response the next time he calls upon them.
Blessings make an enormous difference. Horav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, posits that a brachah can catalyze good fortune - if the petitioner believes that Hashem will respond favorably as a result of the blessing. He believes in the merit of the tzaddik, righteous person, to intercede with Hashem, and he believes that the Almighty will listen. Indeed, when the Jews of Dvinsk would petition the Rogatchover Gaon, zl, for a blessing, he would instruct them to "go to the Kohen," a reference to the "other" Rav of Dvinsk, Horav Meir Simchah HaKohen, the Ohr Sameach. Rav Meir Simchah was known to greet anyone who would solicit his blessing with a pleasing countenance and offered abundant blessing. He was wont to say to the petitioner, "Since you believe that my blessing will have efficacy - then be blessed, my son."
Even the most efficacious blessing must be affirmed by the petitioner, or else it remains lacking. The following episode underscores this idea. A well-known segulah, omen, for success, salvation and good fortune is the purchase of Maftir Yonah on Yom Kippur. The Torah reading for Minchah on Yom Kippur is auspicious, and the Haftorah is equally so, serving as a symbol for teshuvah, repentance. One year, the Zichron Moshe Shul in Yerushalayim was the scene of a bidding war between two congregants - each wanting the z'chus, merit, of Maftir Yonah. The price kept rising quickly, until it was beyond the reach of the man who had been its fortunate annual beneficiary. He turned to the venerable Rav of the shul, Horav Yisrael Yaakov Fisher, zl, and asked, "What should I do? I cannot go any higher."
Rav Fisher replied, "So you will not have it one year. Allow the other person to have it."
"No, it is a segulah for arichas yamim, longevity. That is something that I will not forego," the fellow replied.
"If that is the sole reason that you are bidding for it," Rav Fisher said, "Then I bless you with all my heart that you live a long time." Rav Fisher repeated the blessing a number of times. The other fellow bought Maftir Yonah for the first time. Everybody went home happy.
Sadly, the man who was mevater, complied with Rav Fisher's request, did not even live out the coming year. His family was grief-stricken, especially inconsolable concerning the awareness that had their father not given in, he might quite possibly still be alive. When Rav Fisher visited the family during the shivah, seven days of mourning, he was immediately questioned accusingly, "The Rav convinced our father to 'take the money and run.' Had our father hung in there, he quite possibly would still be alive. What happened to the Rav's blessing?" the family asked.
The Rav replied, "The blessing was a good and proper blessing. Indeed, I reiterated it a number of times. There was, however, one hindrance: your father did not answer Amen. A blessing which is not affirmed is restricted and stunted."
Who has the ability to offer the blessing? Does it have to be a distinguished scholar, Torah leader or tzaddik, righteous person? Normally, one would suggest that all of the above are criteria for establishing one's credentials to grant blessing. The following story indicates otherwise.
A couple in Yerushalayim had been married for seventeen years, and, while they were blessed with a wonderful, loving, harmonious marriage, something was missing in their lives: Children. After seventeen years of marriage, with many trips to great Rebbes, both to the living and to those who had passed on, with countless visits to the greatest fertility experts, personal supplication and attempting every segulah known to man, their marriage had not produced a child. Needless to say, they were heartbroken. Indeed, the fellow had done everything, but one thing - given up hope. He still believed that one day they would have a child. He decided to petition Horav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, for help.
After relating everything that the couple had done in the last seventeen years, Rav Chaim replied, "After all that you have done, how can I help you? You have done it all." The young man, whom we will call Reuven, was relentless. He was not giving up that easily. "Please, Rebbe," he wailed, "help me! Take pity on me!"
Finally, Rav Chaim said, "Chazal teach in Meseches Chullin 89a, 'The world exists only on account of one who muzzles himself at a time of provocation and refrains from acting.' Chazal apply the pasuk in Iyov 26:7, 'Toleh eretz al blimah, He suspends the earth on nothingness.' Chazal take the word blimah and separate the syllables, creating two words: bli - mah, referring to someone who does not respond to someone who is bolem es piv, muzzles his mouth." Rav Chaim added, "If one who restrains himself during a dispute, refusing to respond to humiliation, has the power to sustain the world, surely such an individual can effectively bless you with a child."
Easier said than done. Yet, Reuven needed no more. This was his one last thread of hope. Regrettably, locating that rare individual who was so selfless that he would never stick up for himself, that he would accept shame with dignity, was more difficult than he could imagine. Finally, one night as he entered a wedding hall, he noticed his good friend, Moshe, in a dispute with another man. The other man seemed to be winning what appeared to be a one-sided argument, since he was the one who was throwing all of the verbal punches. Moshe had not yet had the opportunity to respond, as this other fellow was heaping scorn after scorn on him.
This was the moment for which Reuven had been waiting. He immediately ran over to Moshe and pulled him aside. "Please do not respond to his diatribe," he said to Moshe. "Ignore him, and he will eventually stop."
"That is easy for you to say," Moshe told Revuen. "You are not the one who is being disgraced."
"Nonetheless, please do not reply," Reuven begged. Meanwhile, the accuser was having a field day. After all, Moshe's lack of response to his accusations proved that they were true. This added fat to the fire, as the accuser began to berate and humiliate Moshe even stronger than before.
"Please do not permit him to get to you," Reuven entreated. "Moshe, you are bigger than this. Do not allow a little humiliation to take you down to his level." Moshe listened, and, after a few more minutes, when people saw that the name-calling was nothing more than that, that there would be no fight, they left. Reuven immediately asked Moshe to bless him with a child.
Moshe was incredulous. "Are you out of your mind? Me? How can I grant you a blessing? I am far from righteous. At best, I am a simple Jew." Reuven was adamant and stood his ground. He would not leave until Moshe blessed him. He did. Reuven answered with a resounding "Amen! May it be Hashem's Will!" Reuven truthfully felt that his wait was over. He and his wife would soon be blessed with a child.
Moshe asked Reuven for an explanation, a request to which Reuven readily complied. "I never thought I could be the address for blessings," Moshe said, "but, if so, I bless you wholeheartedly that a child should soon grace your home." Less than a year later, his blessing was fulfilled.
Hu levado… oseh chadashos. For it is He alone Who… is the Maker of new invention.
If we were to underscore two words which are the basis of this prayer, it would be Hu levado - He alone. This tefillah emphasizes the notion that man is not in charge; rather, it is all Hashem, Who is in total control. He alone is the Maker of all innovations. Indeed, as we peruse history, we note the continuing unfolding of life's events, with the various multifaceted inventions that have proliferated the world. The "ages" of the world each brought about innovative development which overshadowed the chidushim, innovations, of the previous ages. Indeed, inventions as recent as twenty-five years ago are today obsolete, as our technologically advanced society moves forward with remarkable speed. We think that we are "sponsors" of these innovations, that it is our acumen, skill, determination and savvy that have catalyzed these developments. It is not us, but, Hu levado - He alone Who is the Cause of all causes, Master and Source of all innovations. Indeed, He is everything.
l'zechar nishman ha'isha
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