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Parashat Vayakhel-Pekudei


A Series of Halachot According to the Order of the Shulhan Aruch,

Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a

By Rav David Yossef shlit"a, Rosh Bet Midrash Yehaveh Da'at

The sources and explanations behind these halachot will appear in a major work which will soon be publushed, Be"H.

Chapter 4: The Laws of Washing One's Hands in the Morning

continued from last week

Other Times When Washing is Required

Optimally, one should not bring food or beverages into the bathroom or washroom with toilet facilities. This stringency applies as well to public bathhouses and "mikvaot."

One who is carrying a food item and needs to go into the bathroom should, when possible, leave the food outside. If there is no place to leave the food outside, then he should cover the food with his clothing or place it in a plastic or paper bag, or in his pocket. One may then enter the bathroom with the food, even "lechatehilah."

If one did bring food into the bathroom without covering it first, one should wash it three times, when this is possible (such as in a case of fruits or other foods which can be rinsed). Foods which cannot be washed, such as bread and cake, may be eaten, though one who is stringent in this regard is deserving of blessing.

One may, even "lechatehilah," bring food into a washroom with no toilet facilities, even without covering the food at all. Furthermore, one may even leave food there for a long time. Nevertheless, one who is stringent in this regard is deserving of blessing.

One who goes to the washroom or bathhouse to shower or bathe must wash his hands when he leaves after having washed his body. However, he needs to wash only once, not three times as one does in the morning. If, however, he enters the bathhouse not to bathe, he does not have to wash upon his departure. Here, too, one who is stringent is deserving of blessing.

However, when one enters the washroom not to bathe, and the washroom does not have toilet facilities, there is no room for stringency whatsoever with regard to washing one's hands.

One may wash his hands in a washroom with no toilet facilities both for eating bread and for the morning washing. When doing so, the berachah ("al netilat yadayim") should be recited outside the washroom.

One must wash his hands after cutting his nails, even if he cut only some of his nails. One who has his nails cut by someone else also must wash his hands, though the one who cut the nails does not need to wash his hands, even if his hands came in contact with the nails. One who cuts his nails requires only one washing, not three. If, however, his nails extended beyond the point of the flesh on his fingers, then according to Kabbalistic sources he should wash his hands three times in alternating fashion. One must wash his hands even after cutting his nails with his teeth. One must also wash after cutting his toenails, even if his toes were clean.

One who hears "kaddish" or "kedushah" while cutting his nails should stop and respond together with the congregation. Similarly, one who sees lightening or hears thunder while cutting his nails should stop and recite the appropriate berachah.

One who takes a haircut must also wash his hands once, even if only part of his hair was cut. This applies even when someone else cut his hair. The one who gave the haircut must also wash his hands, for he touched the other person's hair.


Rabbi Nissim Nahum zs"l

Our parashah opens with the commandment to observe Shabbat. An amazing story circulated in the community of Lov about a woman named Rivkah, the wife of Kaflalah Nahum. He was among the prominent members of the city of Tripoli and the head "gabbai" of the main Bet Kenesset. She would ensure that her Shabbat preparations were finished Friday morning, so that on Friday afternoon she could go from Bet Kenesset to Bet Kenesset, cleaning and preparing them for Shabbat, mopping the floors, rinsing the lamps and renewing the oil and wicks.

Once, as she was working, a rusty nail scratched her foot and injured her quite severely. Two days later, the foot became inflamed and she suffered bitterly. By the following Friday, although she could barely move her foot, she refused to forgo on her weekly missvah. She went about her normal routine, even though each step required tremendous effort and strain. She bit her lips so as not to shout in pain, but the tears poured from her eyes.

Suddenly, she saw across from her a man dressed in white, his face wearing a radiant countenance. "What is wrong, my dear woman?" he asked warmly.

"My foot was injured by a rusty nail, and now I can hardly walk," she replied.

"So why are you walking around out here? Why don't you just stay home?" asked the stranger.

"I have a missvah to do," she explained, "and I cannot neglect my responsibility."

"If so, then it you must be cured," said the man. Suddenly, she felt the pain subside, to the point where she felt no pain whatsoever.

"You are the angel Refael," she cried.

"No," corrected the man. "I am Eliyahu Hanavi, and in the merit of your missvah you will bear a son who will illuminate the eyes of Torah scholars." The man then disappeared. Indeed, she soon gave birth to the ssadik Rabbi Nissim Nahum, who became a renowned Torah scholar as well as a generous supporter of other Torah scholars.


The mystical underpinnings of the mishkan and its accessories lie well beyond the limits of our comprehension. Hazal hinted to us the profound concept of the mishkan through their comment that Bezalel, the chief architect of the mishkan, knew how to combine the letters through which the universe was initially created. These mystical allusions refer to a level of understanding which we cannot even approach. For this reason, the Torah constantly repeats the fact that the mishkan was assembled "as Hashem commanded Moshe," meaning that the mishkan was constructed according to the deepest intentions of Moshe, the father of all prophets.

Nevertheless, neither Moshe nor Bezalel receive exclusive credit for the construction of the mishkan: "Benei Yisrael did in accordance with everything that Hashem commanded Moshe, so they did." In this pasuk, the Torah teaches us that once they acted in accordance with Hashem's instructions, and they meticulously adhered to the details outlined by the Almighty, then the act itself contains all the profound thoughts and intentions of Moshe, all that which is laden in Hashem's instructions.

Similarly, a person who lays tefillin and ensures that they are made and placed in accordance with halachah can affect in the upper spheres all the deepest intentions of the Ar"i and the Zohar. All these exalted qualities are contained within this seemingly simple act.

Thus, Moshe remarks after the mishkan is completed, "May it be His will that the Shechinah will reside in your work." We fulfill the misvah properly, and Hashem responds by instilling the Shechinah within the act.


Imagine that we live not in a democracy, but in a monarchy. We are subject to a king who is capable, at whim, to raise an individual to the highest levels of wealth, honor and prestige and, conversely, can have him hung on the gallows in an instant. Now think for a moment that this powerful king decides to have a gold monument erected in his honor, an ornate edifice decorated with precious jewels and diamonds. Masses of people would make regular pilgrimages to this monument to pay homage to the king, and thereby merit the grace and kindness of the monarch.

Would any of us volunteer to do the work? Perhaps we would gladly offer our services with regard to the administration and general supervision of the project. But would any of us, given our inexperience, volunteer to pick up the instruments and actually perform the labor? Knowing full well that this monument is to glorify the powerful king and reflect his honor and majesty, we would any of us want to run the risk of producing an imperfect work, crooked and unbalanced, thereby violating the royal quality which this monument is to represent?

"Who is the wise person? The one who understands his place." Nobody would risk their lives by assuming responsibilities beyond his capability. Yet, those who built the mishkan felt otherwise. The Creator of the universe commanded the people to build Him a mishkan, an abode for the Shechinah, as it were. This project entailed complex work with wood and metal, gold, silver and brass. Each thread used in the work was woven from twenty-four strings. The people called upon for the work were slaves just six months earlier. Their lives involved nothing more than bricks, mud and straw. There were no smiths, carpenters, diamond-cutters, jewelers, weavers, tanners or any other skilled professionals. So how did the nation choose qualified people for the work of the mishkan? "Every person whose heart carried him." The Ramban explains, "There was no one among them who was trained in this work by a professional or who trained himself. But there were those who by nature knew what to do and whose heart was inspired by the ways of Hashem to approach Moshe and say, 'I will do everything my master tells me!'"

How were these people not afraid that their work would be clumsy and unprofessional, thereby arousing the divine anger against them? The answer is clear. Clearly, if we were dealing with a human king, no one would have the gall to volunteer for this task without proper training. But when dealing with the monument for the Almighty God, the King of Kings, then the rules are different - "Rahamana liba ba'i" - Hashem is interested, first and foremost, with our thoughts and intentions. The moment He saw their sincere and genuine desire to serve Him, He provided them with the necessary skills and knowledge, and their work was perfect. After all, He is the source of everything, and He provides us with the strength and capabilities to do everything we do - nothing is too difficult for Him!

Indeed, this is what took place - "He instilled within them wisdom to perform all the labor of carpentry and architecture, and weaving...performers of all the work and the designers of all the whom Hashem gave wisdom and understanding, to know how to perform all the work of the sacred service, for everything which Hashem commanded." In the end, as we know, the mishkan emerged perfect and magnificent, a representation of heretofore unseen glory and majesty.

The Torah is eternal, as are its lessons. This parashah, too, presents us with an eternal message, relevant to every individual in every generation. The mishkan symbolizes the internal mishkan, which each one of us is required to build within him to allow for the residence of the Shechinah within his very essence. As the Zohar explains, the "kodesh hakodashim" corresponds to the heart, which, like the aron, is to contain the "luhot," the Torah. The menorah symbolizes the light of wisdom, whereas the ketoret represents the sweetness of character which we are to develop. The Shulhan in the mishkan signifies proper monetary conduct and the "kiyor" (faucet) corresponds to the ultimate level of purity towards which we must strive. Each utensil of the mishkan corresponds to a different value, a different moral lesson.

A person is likely to ask himself, who am I to make these efforts? Why should I even bother trying to reach these exalted levels of sanctity? How can I build a mishkan inside myself, and bring in a menorah, an aron with the luhot, pure thoughts and beliefs? I don't possess the necessary capabilities or experience. Why should I even bother?

Our parashah teaches us that if only we truly desire it, if only we make the decision to come before his spiritual mentor and say, "I will do whatever my master tells me," we will receive divine assistance, the necessary wisdom, insight and intuition, all the qualities necessary for the construction of a magnificent, internal mishkan of the purest elements. All the Almighty demands of us is the first step, the resolve to make the effort. Once we take that step, Hashem responds with an abundance of help and support from above.


The Poisonous Fly

The Tsetse fly, known in Hebrew as "ssah-ssah," became renown for its deadly bite. When it thirsts for blood and bites, microscopic parasites penetrate the victim and enter the bloodstream, causing life-threatening illnesses. Not too long ago, the world declared war against the dangerous fly, only to discover that this fly is no easy foe. The flies quickly developed immunity to the sophisticated poisons which were processed. And when people attempted to destroy the creatures on which the fly feeds and destroy the jungles which had become its natural habitat, the flies simply picked up and moved elsewhere. Further complicating the war efforts was the fact that, unlike other flies, the mother does not lay eggs. Rather, the eggs are kept inside her until they are ready to be born.

The question is, why did Hashem create such a deadly and harmful creature, one which cannot be overcome by human beings? Furthermore, why does this damage occur specifically on the African continent? Hazal teach us that nothing was created for naught. Although we cannot always understand or find the answers to our questions, we know that everything occurs through Divine Providence. Furthermore, no one suffers for no reason - "Hashem is righteous in all His ways, and pious in all His acts." It could be that the African continent still suffers the effects of the curse to Ham. Our ancestor, Shem, received the blessing of Noah, and thus throughout history we have been blessed with prophets and scholars. Each Jew comprises another link in this glorious chain and a weak link threatens the entire chain. Thus, each Jew must ensure to carry out his responsibilities in maintaining this historical chain, dating back to our patriarchs.


Father and Son (6)

Flashback: Two righteous and scholarly brothers lived together, supporting themselves from a store they inherited from their father, until the store could no longer pay for their growing expenses. The younger brother thus decided to go with his family and look for a position and the rabbinate, but he could not find one. He was forced to travel from city to city collecting money, and his journey took him to an inn, where his family was greeted so generously that they began growing suspicious.

Gradually, more people entered the room and stood around them silently. Their elderly host continued serving them graciously, and only when the family finished eating and recited "birkat hamazon" did he speak to the other guests. "Your meal will be served shortly." He then turned to the family and said, "Please, come with me." He brought them to a large, comfortable room with made beds, chairs and cushions. "Rest here for a while," he said pleasantly, "while I have them heat water for the bath." The family continued to wonder why the host was being so hospitable. The brother approached the man and said, "Before you do anything else for us, I should tell you that we have no money whatsoever to pay you for your kindness." The man's face lit up, and he smiled. He then took a large wallet out from his pocket and said, "Do not worry, we can take care of that. Here - this is yours. There is more than enough to cover all the expenses."

The brother turned pale, having no idea what was happening. The host quickly returned and announced, "Come, the bath is ready for you." He appeared with fresh clothes for his guests. "After you are washed," he continued, "you can join us for minhah and ma'ariv."

The family did not understanding anything about what they were experiencing, but they were simply too worn out to ask any questions. They took turns bathing in the hot bathtub, enjoying this sensation which they had not had for such a long time. They joined the man for the tefilot, and then another meal was served for them and the other guests. Everyone sat around eating to their hearts' content, enjoying the wide array of delicacies and fancy wines. All the meanwhile, the gracious host stood over them and served more and more. Finally, the brother leaned over to the guest sitting next to him and asked, "Tell me please, who is this man?" The man could hardly swallow his food. He whispered, "You don't know about the ssadik?"

"The ssadik?! Who is he?"

"Nobody knows his name. They simply call him, 'the ssadik.' Look how his face shines and radiates! He established this inn with his own money, and serves people for free. He refuses to take even a penny, insisting that no payment amounts to the reward of a missvah." "But how does he earn a living? It must cost a fortune to maintain such an establishment!"

"Nobody knows, so why waste your intellectual energy with these questions?" responded the poor guest. "Eat, drink and rest, and in the morning you can continue along your way."

to be continued...


"Moshe assembled the entire congregation of Benei Yisrael"

The Hid"a zs"l explains this pasuk based on the notion that the 613 missvot correspond to the various parts of the human being. The 245 positive commandments correspond to the 245 limbs, whereas the 365 negative commandments are parallel to the 365 sinews. Many have asked, how can all of the person's limbs shine with the light of the missvot? Nobody can fulfill all the missvot - some missvot apply specifically to kohanim, whereas others apply to everybody but kohanim. And some people do not know how to fulfill the missvah of slaughtering, and many never have the opportunity to fulfill missvot such as "shilu'ah hakein." The answer is that when Benei Yisrael live together in harmony, they blend together into a single, organic unit. Thus, the missvot of one are considered as those of the other. Thus, "Moshe assembled the entire congregation of Benei Yisrael." He gathered them together with unity, thus informing them, "...these are the things which Hashem commanded to do them." Meaning, now that everyone is together in harmony, it is considered as if you all fulfilled all the commandments.

"Moshe assembled the entire congregation of Benei Yisrael"

Hazal derive from this pasuk that Moshe instituted that one should study on Shabbat and Yom Tov the laws relevant to that specific day: "Moshe assembled the entire congregation of Benei Yisrael...and on the seventh day you shall rest." Based on this extrapolation, Rabbi Hayyim Vital zs"l explains the continuation of the pasuk - "These are the things which Hashem commanded to do them." As if to say, just as I gather you now to teach you the laws of Shabbat, so did Hashem instruct you to do for all time - on Shabbat and Yamim Tovim you should gather in the Bet Kenesset for Torah classes, studying the appropriate halachot of Shabbat and the hagim.

"Moshe assembled the entire congregation of Benei Yisrael"

Moshe says in Sefer Devarim, "Hashem gave me the stone tablets, written by the finger of Hashem, and on them were written all the things..." Hazal comment that this refers not only to the written Torah, but also to the Oral Law - the Mishnah, Gemara, Halachah and Aggadah. Even the ideas which schoolchildren will present to their teachers were revealed to Moshe at Sinai. The "Benei Shelomoh" from Morocco writes that this is what is meant, "Moshe assembled the entire congregation of Benei Yisrael." "Adat" - congregation - has the same letters as "da'at," knowledge. In other words, Moshe assembled within the Torah all the knowledge of Benei Yisrael for all time - including the ideas raised by young students. It was all included in the Torah received by Moshe at Har Sinai.

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