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Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum
Hebrew Academy of Cleveland


These are the objects that Hashem has commanded that they be made. (35:2)

Horav S. R. Hirsch, zl, observes that the above pasuk, Eilah ha'devarim, "These are the objects," alludes to the various categories of labor required to construct the Mishkan. It represents the concept of meleches Shabbos, that which constitutes labor on Shabbos. In pasuk 4, the orders for building the Mishkan are introduced in a similar vernacular, Zeh hadavar asher tzivah Hashem laasos, "This is what G-d has commanded." Thus, the (eilah ha)'devarim of the above pasuk refer only to those forms of labor which are vital to the construction of the Mishkan. These are the forms of labor which are specifically prohibited on Shabbos - even for the purpose of the construction of the Mishkan. Chazal posit that, indeed, all of the activities required for the construction of the Mishkan constitute and define that which is considered a melachah, acts of labor prohibited on Shabbos. Each one of the activities which are necessary laasos osam, "that they be made" (which means that they are requisites for the construction of the Mishkan) may only be undertaken during the six work days of the week.

Chazal compute thirty-nine avos melachos, heads of labor categories, which comprise meleches ha'Mishkan, and, thus, comprise the 39 avos melachah of Shabbos, the list of acts of labor prohibited on Shabbos. As Rav Hirsch explains, the building of the Mishkan is a sanctification of human labor for a sublime ideal. When man refrains from executing these forms of labor on Shabbos, he thereby acknowledges his allegiance to Hashem, since he now eschews that labor which has up until now been dedicated to Hashem. Every activity which was critical to the Mishkan is, likewise, represented among the 39 avos melachos of Shabbos. These activities are not merely acts of "doing." They must be laasos osam - with intention to produce the actual result of the action. Thus, melachah she'einah tzerichah l'gufah, labor that is not needed or performed for its purpose and result, is not prohibited. The same is true for: davar she'ein miskaven, work that is unintended; and mekalkel, destructive, non-productive labor. Creating-- production, with intention for the result-- defines the thirty-nine forms of restricted Shabbos labor.

Our Sages have divided the thirty-nine avos melachah into those labors critical for making bread, sewing, writing and building. Together, they amount to thirty-eight forms of productive labor. Finally, there is number thirty-nine, hotzaah, the act of transferring an object from one domain to another, such as from a public domain to a private domain, or vice versa, or carrying an object four cubits in a public domain. Hotzaah is called a melachah geruah, small, weak, example of labor. One would be hard-pressed to posit that transferring an object is a productive or constructive activity. Cleary, it is not on the same level of labor as the other thirty-eight. Nonetheless, despite being called a melachah geruah, it has distinction equal to that of the other melachos. Indeed, the Navi Yirmiyahu strongly exhorts the nation concerning the prohibition of carrying on Shabbos. How are we to understand the melachah of hotzaah in the context of the thirty-nine melachos?

Rav Hirsch masterfully explains the underlying motif of meleches Shabbos, thereby giving us an insight into all melachos, including melaches hotzaah. With regard to the melachos, we observe one common thread: they are all productive or constructive activities, by which the object becomes transformed by the intentional work performed. Man's power and mastery over matter is thus demonstrated. Therefore, when man refrains from exercising his "power" on Shabbos, it becomes his way of indicating his allegiance to the Creator, to Whom man, in his mastery over matter and with his creative powers, is nothing more than a leasee, a servant. It is only the last - the thirty-ninth melachah-- the transfer of an object from one domain to another, which does not seem to coincide with the other melachos with regard to our concept of productive or constructive activity. In transferring, nothing changes. The object stays the same. It has simply moved.

We have affirmed that all melachos show that man lords over physical matter. Hotzaah, however, is an activity that finds itself more closely associated with the social world. Social life means not living in an isolated world, devoid of friends and community. Social activity represents the individual's act of giving to the community and the reciprocity through which the community gives the individual. Likewise, what the individual takes from his private/personal possessions and pays to the community collective, and vice versa, what he receives from the community, and the furthering of one's public purposes and needs in the public domain - are all represented by meleches hotzaah.

If, accordingly, the prohibition of meleches Shabbos expresses the idea of man's subordination of the use of his powers over physical matter to the will of Hashem, then, the prohibition of hotzaah may well express the notion of placing man's social life all under the dictates of Hashem. Thus, Shabbos provides us with the idea that, as the conceptualization of our world is comprised of both nature/physical matter and community, social engagement, so too, does G-d's mastery over the world include both nature and history. The establishment of Malchus Hashem, G-d's Kingdom, on earth will be built upon the recognition of the Shabbos: That man makes the rules for his own working life - both with regard to his connection with physical matter, and concerning his social/national life - all dedicated and adhering to Divine dictate. We now have an idea why Shabbos is so significant in the life and religious demeanor of a Jew. Without Shabbos observance one undermines, and, quite possibly, denies Hashem's sovereignty over the world.

We now better understand the dual motives that the Torah gives us for Shabbos observance: the creation of heaven and earth; the exodus from Egypt. These two motives actually complement one another. The creation of the world is the premise upon which Hashem's mastery over the world rests. The geulah, liberation from Egypt, represents Hashem's mastery over state/social life.

In summation: the prohibition of hotzaah places the Jewish community and the activities of the individual Jew vis-?-vis the community, as well as governance of all affairs of the Jewish community, obediently under the rule and law of Hashem. This is why the Navi Yirmiyahu was so adamant in his admonition of Klal Yisrael concerning their desecrating Shabbos by transgressing the prohibition of hotzaah. The prohibition of carrying on Shabbos imprints the seal of Hashem on the community of Klal Yisrael. Carrying on Shabbos wrests Hashem's banner from the collective community of the Jewish People.

And Moshe said to Bnei Yisrael, "See, Hashem has proclaimed by name, Betzalel ben Uri ben Chur, to the Tribe of Yehudah." (35:30)

Chazal teach that no deed goes unrequited. While, at times, we see individuals laboring in Torah, indeed, sacrificing themselves for the pursuit of Torah study and its dissemination, although their incredible reward does not seem to materialize. This is literally due to our shortsightedness. We must understand that reward does not necessarily occur immediately. It might take generations for that reward to be actualized, but it will definitely come. Horav Yaakov Galinsky, zl, quotes the Binah L'Ittim, who notes that there are times when a person toils to understand a difficult Talmudic passage or halachah, which apparently, he is not destined to understand; he should not become dejected, for the greatest triumph is not understanding the concept - it is the toil, the labor that he expended in order to understand; this is his greatest gift. Furthermore, as the Shlah HaKadosh writes, not only is one rewarded for his toil; ultimately, in the World to Come, he also is taught the true explanation of those passages over which he slaved. Whatever a person does not achieve in this world - if, in fact, he expended effort, but did not see fruits to his labor - he will be taught in the next world whatever he had been unable to achieve in this world.

Rav Galinsky supports the concept of unrequited reward from the Midrash's commentary to our parsha: "Moshe said to Bnei Yisrael, 'See, Hashem has proclaimed by name, Betzalel, ben Uri, ben Chur, of the Tribe of Yehudah'" (ibid 35:30). What is the meaning of Reu, 'see'? What is there about Betzalel being addressed by name that is so important? Furthermore, why does the Torah detail Betzalel's lineage back to his grandfather? Also, why is his appointment as the Mishkan's architect repeated again in Parashas Vayakhel? The Midrash explains that Betzalel's maternal grandfather, Chur, stood up to the mutinous Jews who were bent on creating a molten replacement for Moshe Rabbeinu. As a result of his courageous stand, Chur was brutally murdered by the mutineers. Hashem said to Chur, "By your life, I will reward your devotion."

The reward was a grandson, Betzazel, who became the Mishkan's architect. To explain this idea further, Chazal present an analogy. A group of disgruntled soldiers were preparing to rebel against their king. Hearing of the incursion, a general admonished them, "How dare you rebel against our king?" The soldiers were going forward with their rebellion. Anyone who stood in their way was a danger and an impediment to their cause. They killed the general. When the king heard of this, he said, "Had he (the general) laid out an enormous sum of money on my behalf, I would certainly have repaid him. Now that he paid with his life, I will reward him commensurately. His descendants will all receive noble positions in my kingdom."

Chur's reward was not simply to have his grandson receive a noble position. Indeed, it was much greater, for the Mishkan served as an atonement for the very Golden Calf, the creation of which he gave his life to prevent.

This pattern, notes Rav Galinsky, has occurred throughout history. (Perhaps, if we would peruse history with an eye for Hashgachah, Divine Providence, we would observe this phenomenon occurring constantly.) Avraham Avinu dedicated himself to disseminating Hashem's Name throughout a world replete with paganistic belief. He turned thousands towards the monotheistic faith. He changed the course of a world gone mad with idol worship. Where did this all begin? What was our Patriarch's genesis? Why was he specifically the one who changed the world? Chazal teach that Avraham was a unique personality, a prolific and captivating orator, who had an uncanny ability to draw people into his circle and inspire them. According to one Midrash, our Patriarch had a special diamond that he wore around his neck. This diamond had the ability to heal anyone who looked at it. Nonetheless, this does not explain his personal z'chus, merit: that he was designated to triumph over paganism.

The Midrash (Tanna Dvei Eliyahu) comments on the pasuk, V'lo yevoshu ami l'olam, "And my nation will forever not be ashamed" (Yoel 2:27). What is the meaning of l'olam, forever? Chazal explain that a person can, at times, endeavor with great self-sacrifice for the glory of Heaven - but, for all intents and purposes, it appears that his labors were for naught. He did not succeed in his goals. The pasuk is rendering an assurance that one's toil in the vineyards of endeavor for Hashem will never go unrequited. It might take time - even a number of generations - but he will ultimately be rewarded. Shem ben Noach prophesized for four hundred years, reaching out to four centuries of paganistic dogma. He did not succeed. His reward, however, was that his descendant Avraham would emerge triumphant where his great ancestor had failed. Nachas came a little late - but it came.

Shlomo Hamelech built the Bais Hamikdash, but it was his father, David Hamelech, who sacrificed himself to see its construction. David did not actually build the Temple; yet, it is referred to as the House of David. Mizmor shir chanukas ha'Bayis l'David, "A Psalm - a song for the inauguration of the Temple - by David" (Tehillim 30:1).

We never know in whose merit we achieve success. Rav Galinsky relates the story of a young teenager from the unobservant kibbutz, HaShomer HaTzair, who arrived at the Ponevez Yeshivah, intent on enrolling as a student. He was accepted, and eventually became a Torah scholar of note. How did a boy raised in an environment totally antithetical to Torah dictate, to the point that they actually revile and prevent one's ability to observe the Torah, come to Ponevez and develop into such as scholar?

The Chazon Ish, zl, explained to Rav Galinsky, that this boy was the product of parents who had rebelled against their own parents by eschewing the yoke of religious observance. When this boy's father left home to join the kibbutz, his father (the boy's grandfather) cried bitter tears and sat shivah, mourned over his son's spiritual demise. "The tears of the grandfather did not help his son; but the tears were not wasted. Hashem saved those tears, and they became the 'ticket'for the grandson's return to Torah Judaism. This boy became a scholar as a result of his grandfather's bitter tears." Nothing is ever wasted.


And they made… as Hashem had commanded Moshe. (39:1)

The Torah emphasizes the fact that all of the work for the Mishkan was done according to Hashem's command to Moshe Rabbeinu. This means that they followed the word of G-d to a "T." One wonders concerning the superfluity of this statement. Is there a question for one moment that Hashem's instructions would not be followed to the most minute detail? What, then, is the meaning of underscoring the people's adherence to Hashem's command to Moshe? Horav Meir Rubman, zl, derives a powerful lesson from here. Being Jewish means being completely, totally and unequivocally Jewish. "Almost" - "just about" - "sort of" - is not Jewish. One either does it right, or it is not done - period!

Every mitzvah has halachos that guide us in the proper and correct observance of the mitzvah. Anything less than total commitment is no commitment. Imagine owing someone five thousand dollars and paying half of the loan. Certainly, this would not be acceptable. Why should Judaism be any different?

We are taught that one must toil in Torah. Without exerting toil, the actual study is not only deficient, it will lead to a lack of mitzvah observance-which is the beginning of one's ultimate alienation from Judaism. Why is this? Just because he did not follow the required path of Torah study, does that make him a deficient Jew? It is "almost" right - is it not? Apparently, "almost" is nothing! One either carries out the mitzvah in accordance with the prescribed outline given by Hashem as interpreted by Chazal - or he does not. There is no grey area in our allegiance to Hashem. One is either loyal - or he is not.

Likewise, diligence in Torah study is determined by the pasuk V'higissa bo yomam valaylah, "You should delve in it day and night." In Mishlei 2, Shlomo Hamelech writes that one should seek Torah "like silver and precious jewels." Are we at that point yet? One can be studious, diligent and committed, but if his Torah devotion does not meet the above standards, he is failing. True, he is doing well, but "doing well" and "almost there" do not achieve one's obligation as a Jew. This is why the Torah underscores the phenomenon of completing everything in accordance with Hashem's command.

Horav Mordechai Gifter, zl, personified the concept of total immersion in Torah. The Rosh Yeshivah was concerned that this would be a problem for the American mindset, which viewed material achievement as a primary goal with which to infuse their children. He worried that the American Jewish parent would want to raise a frum, observant, child, but not one who would place gadlus, greatness, in Torah as his overriding priority in life. In a letter to Jewish parents, he wrote, "If Jewish parents wish to guarantee a truly Jewish life of mitzvah performance (for their child), they must expend the greatest possible effort and they must sacrifice to help create outstanding Torah personalities from among the American youth." A frum Jew who is a mediocre scholar and who views Torah study as secondary to everything else is risking his observance. One is either "in" or "out."

"We understand the need for a Jonas Salk to combat the crippling effect of infantile paralysis, but we do not even begin to comprehend our need for the Torah giant who will combat the paralysis caused by superficiality in Jewish life, and, because of this, we fail to respond to the most compelling needs of our time."

"Kaasher tzivah Hashem es Moshe" is viewed from a spiritual perspective as the recipe for mitzvah observance: all or nothing. We do not settle for partial observance. It must be executed accurately, according to Hashem's command. Perusing through Rabbi Yechiel Spero's biography of Rav Gifter, I came across an episode that teaches the significance of this perspective from a practical point of view.

The Rosh Yeshivah traveled to Mexico on a fund-raising trip on behalf of the yeshivah. He attempted to meet with a man who was well-known both for his wealth and for his lack of time for appointments. It was hardly possible to meet with him, he was so immersed in his businesses. Finally, Rav Gifter was able to obtain an appointment for very early in the morning, a few hours before the traditional workday began. When he entered the office, he saw the man was completely immersed in his business. The man was respectful, and he told the Rosh Yeshivah, "I am very sorry, but I simply do not have the time to talk to you now."

Rav Gifter was undeterred, "Let us not converse about money. I simply want to ask you a question. When I first tried to meet with you, I went to your house. I was greatly impressed by its beauty, its sheer magnificence, and the various amenities that adorn the rooms of your mansion. My question is: Since you work so hard and are so engrossed in your business, when do you have the time to enjoy your home?"

The Jew looked at Rav Gifter, somewhat incredulously, and said, "Rebbe, the house is not for me. I have nothing from my mansion. It is for my wife and children. My life is my business, and this is where I spend my every waking moment. Rebbe, oib mir villen matzliach zein, broch men liggen in gesheft. 'If one wants to achieve success (in business), he must be totally immersed in (his) business.'"

Rav Gifter looked at the man, and said, "You do not have to give me any money. You have given me something more precious than money. You have taught me a lesson which I can impart to my students. If you want to succeed, you must be totally immersed in your business. Our business is Torah!"

Oib mir villen matzliach zein, broch men liggen in gesheft. One is either in the business or he is out. Part time businessmen are not very successful.

In the first month of the second year on the first of the month that the Mishkan was erected. (40:17)

In an earlier commentary (ibid 39:33), Rashi explains how the Mishkan was erected. Apparently, the people presented the finished components to Moshe Rabbeinu, who had not previously been involved with the actual construction of the Mishkan. Hashem had left the placement of the Mishkan, its erection, up to Moshe. The reason for this was quite simple: It was too heavy. No one was able to erect the Mishkan due to the weight of the Kerashim, beams. Moshe was able to stand them upright - by himself. How did he do it? True, he was strong, but not that strong. Moshe asked Hashem, "How can the erection of the Mishkan be facilitated by man?" Hashem replied, "Involve yourself in erecting the Mishkan with your hand and it will appear as if you were setting it up, but (actually) it will stand upright by itself." This is the meaning of hukam ha'Mishkan, "The Mishkan was erected." The passive verb implies that it was set up on its own.

Horav Mordechai Gifter, zl, comments that this idea was also true with regard to the construction of the Bais Hamikdash. In Melachim 1:6:7, the Navi states, V'haBayis b'hibanoso, "And the House (Bais Hamikdash)." The Midrash explains the use of the passive conjugation that, meiatzmo hayah nivneh, lefichach b'maasei nissim nivnah, "From itself it was built; therefore, it was built miraculously."

The Rosh Yeshivah quotes the Ponevezer Rav, zl, who posits that concerning anything involving Olam Hazeh, this mundane, physical world, nothing is accomplished without siyata d'Shmaya, Divine assistance. When it concerns Torah and building a place of Torah study, there is no need for Divine assistance, because Hashem does it all alone. He is neither "assisting" nor "enabling" - He is "doing." The Bais Hamikdash and the Mishkan were built solely by Hashem (with man placing his finger/hand on it to make it seem that there was human input). Likewise, every makom Torah, Torah edifice, is built by Hashem.

The Ponevezer Rav undertook the seemingly impossible; yet, he succeeded. He said the following in a speech delivered at the yeshivah's Batei HaNetzivim, "People are in the habit of extolling the Ponevezer Rav as being larger than life… chas v'challilah, Heaven forbid… I have no special abilities… Rather, there are those who make calculations regarding building costs and only do what common sense justifies. Whereas we are building Ponevez without making those calculations, without knowing from where the necessary funds will come. Everything is being erected by, 'He, Who performs great wonders alone' (Tehillim 136:4)." True to his word, the Ponevezer Rav placed no limits on his undertakings. He did what was necessary, and placed the 'burden' on Hashem.

Rav Gifter asks what man's tafkid, role, is in building a Torah edifice. He quotes the Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni, Melachim I,6 (182)) that relates that when Rabbi Chaninah ben Dosa would observe the olei regel, pilgrims ascending to Yerushalayim for the Festival, he, too, badly wanted to join them. Sadly, he was unable to do so, as a result of his abject poverty.

Rav Chaninah went outside and chanced upon a large rock: "I will bring this stone to Yerushalayim." With great skill, he was able to cut it down to size, and then he went to the market in search for porters to carry it. Heaven sent angels in the guise of porters to help him. They insisted, however, on one condition, "You must place your finger alongside us" (to make it appear as if he was participating in carrying it). He did this, and immediately (miraculously), he found himself in Yerushalyim. The angels had vanished. This story teaches us that the only endeavor expected of a man who sincerely wants to build a makom Torah is to "place his finger," apply himself to (what is not much more than) superficial endeavor. Hashem will do the rest. He will complete the project.

Va'ani Tefillah

Hu kayam, u'Shemo kayam, v'chiso nachon. He stands, and His Name stands, and His Throne is established.

Horav Yisrael Rizhiner, zl, explains this phrase based upon a pasuk in Shemos 17:16, Ki yad al keis Kah milchamah l'Hashem baAmalek midor dor, "For the hand is on the Throne of G-d: Hashem maintains a war against Amalek from generation to generation." Rashi explains that the spelling of throne/kisei is deficient, (keis) missing the aleph, because as long as Amalek's name is not obliterated, His Throne is not complete. Interestingly, Hashem's Name is spelled with half of the letters, hav, vov, missing Kah, (instead of yud, kay, vov, kay). The Rizhiner explains that, in order for Hashem's Name to be complete, it must have the missing hay and vov. Furthermore, in order for Hashem's Throne to be whole, it requires the aleph at the end. Thus, the missing letters are hay, vov, aleph, which together spell Hu. This is what is alluded to by the above tefillah. Hu Kayam (if hu - hay, vov, aleph are complete - adding these missing letters), then shemo kayam; Hashem's Name is complete (yud, kay, vov, kay). Then we can say that v'chiso nachon, His Throne is established (since now the aleph is added on to keis, making it kisei).

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