Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Parshas Pekudei - Chazak!

אלה פקודי המשכן משכן העדת (38:21)

המשכן משכן - שני פעמים רמז למקדש שנתמשכן בשני חורבנין על עונותיהן של ישראל (רש"י)

Rashi explains that the repetition of the word משכן alludes to the fact that the Temple was taken from us by Hashem as collateral (משכון) for our sins. However, regarding a human creditor, the law is (22:25) that if he takes an object from the borrower, such as an item of clothing, to secure the payment of the loan, he is required to return it before sunset so that the borrower may use it. If so, why have we remained in exile without the Beis HaMikdash for almost 2,000 years? Why hasn’t Hashem honored the legal requirement to return our collateral to us the same way that we are required to do so for others?

Rav Zalmeleh Volozhiner answers these questions with a powerful lesson. The Torah explains that the reason the lender must return the item is because it is critical to the debtor. As he has no replacement for this garment, he will be left with nothing in which to sleep at night. He will cry out in his pain to Hashem, Who will listen in His infinite compassion.

If so, we must conclude that the reason we remain bereft of the Temple after so many years can only be that we don’t assign it the same significance that the borrow does to his clothing. We don’t feel lost and hopeless without it, having found other acceptable substitutes throughout the generations. Because we don’t truly cry out for the return of our collateral, Hashem has yet to return it to us.

Rav Zalmeleh adds, however, that any individual who is genuinely pained at the absence of the Temple and emotionally implores Hashem to give it back will merit a Heavenly gift of the identical blessing and Divine presence that he would receive if the Beis HaMikdash was actually extant!


ובצלאל בן אורי בן חור למטה יהודה עשה את כל אשר צוה ד' את משה (38:22)

In discussing the construction and assembly of the Mishkan and its vessels with Betzalel, Rashi writes that Moshe initially suggested that the vessels should be built before the Mishkan itself. Betzalel disagreed and maintained that the structure should be constructed before its contents so that the utensils would have a place to rest upon their completion, a position to which Moshe subsequently acquiesced. Tosefos (Berachos 55a) notes that the wording of the verses in Parshas Terumah seems to support the opinion of Moshe, while the order used in Parshas Ki Sisa is in accord with Betzalel’s position.

I once read a beautiful explanation of the dispute between Moshe and Betzalel based on a comparison to a similar disagreement. The Gemora in Chagigah (12a) records that Beis Hillel claimed that the Earth was created before the Heavens, while Beis Shammai maintained the opposite. Beis Hillel issued a challenge strikingly similar to that of Betzalel, asking Beis Shammai whether it is customary for a person to first build an attic (the Heavens) and only afterward the house (Earth).

The Rogatchover explains that this dispute was over a more profound question: which has more importance, the means to accomplish a goal or the goal itself? The ultimate purpose of life is to earn a portion in the World to Come, yet the mechanism for doing so is the performance of mitzvos in this world. Beis Shammai focused on the goal and held that the Heavens were created first, while Beis Hillel argued that because it is impossible to get there without the proper means, the Earth was created first.

Similarly, the focus of our lives is to elevate and perfect our souls, but the mechanism for doing so is the observance of the Torah with our bodies. Initially, a person’s soul was dominant, but after Adam sinned the body became superior. The mystics write that although the Gemora rules in accordance with the opinion of Beis Hillel, in the Messianic era the law will be like the position of Beis Shammai.

We may symbolically explain that at present, the body (means) prevails and we follow the rulings of Beis Hillel. When Moshiach comes, the soul (purpose) will once again be dominant as it initially was, and we will conduct ourselves according to Beis Shammai. When the Jewish people enthusiastically accepted the Torah at Mount Sinai, they purified themselves to reach Adam’s pre-sin level (Shabbos 146a). This new state was brief in duration, as they lost it when they sinned with the golden calf.

With this introduction, we can now explain that the purpose of the Mishkan was the Divine Service which took place inside through its vessels, while the Mishkan itself merely represented the means to accomplish this goal. Moshe wasn’t present during the sin of the golden calf and didn’t recognize the spiritual decline which had befallen the people. As such, he instructed Betzalel to make the vessels and then the Mishkan as he had been instructed in Parshas Terumah before the sin of the golden calf, when the Jewish people were on a level to follow the opinion of Beis Shammai.

Betzalel, on the other hand, recognized what had transpired and knew that they were no longer able to conduct themselves on such a lofty plane. He therefore suggested following the order of Parshas Ki Sisa, which was given after the sin of the golden calf (Rashi 31:18). Moshe recognized the unfortunate truth behind Betzalel’s logic and conceded that his opinion was to be followed, remarking, “You were in the shadow of Hashem.” Moshe was hinting that, unlike himself, Betzalel had witnessed the national downfall during the sin of the golden calf when the people returned to living in Hashem’s “shadow” without a soul-dominated clarity of understanding, and therefore Beis Hillel’s logic once again prevailed!


ויהי בחדש הראשון בשנה השנית באחד לחדש הוקם המשכן (40:17)

In Shir HaShirim (3:11), Shlomo HaMelech refers to an event which occurred “on the day of his wedding and on the day of his heart’s rejoicing.” The Mishnah (Taanis 4:8) homiletically interprets “the wedding day” as referring to the giving of the Torah at Sinai, which represents the marriage between Hashem and the Jews, and “the day of the heart’s happiness” as a reference to the building of the Temple.

Rav Shach explains the comparison by questioning how Shlomo could refer to the day of his heart’s gladness separately from his wedding day, implying that he didn’t rejoice at his own wedding. He answers that although Shlomo was certainly happy when he married, his joy was limited to the extent that he knew his bride and recognized her positive qualities. Many people get engaged after dating for a few short weeks or months and get married following an engagement of not much longer.

This may be a sufficient period of time to determine that one has found his life partner. However, this stage, due to its brevity and the unnatural relationship that exists, isn’t conducive to fully appreciating the greatness of one’s fiancé or forming a deep relationship based on mutual trust and understanding.

It is only through years of living together, raising a family, and jointly confronting life’s challenges that a person comes to a real awareness of the wonderful decision he made in choosing his spouse. While it is unlikely that any single event will ever bring the same joy that one felt at his wedding, Shlomo is hinting that the lasting period of inner happiness resulting from a true bond lies in the future.

Similarly, at Mount Sinai the Jews showed great faith in their “Groom” by declaring (24:7) נעשה ונשמע. They committed themselves to doing His will without even knowing what it is and were rewarded by being selected as His chosen people. Nevertheless, there was a certain lacking in the closeness of the bond, as the bride hadn’t yet recognized the greatness of the Groom. It was only after the wedding, when they learned the mitzvos and began performing them, that a deeper relationship began to develop.

The pinnacle of that closeness came when the bride built a magnificent dwelling place where she could come to draw near to her Groom. This allowed for a full recognition of her tremendous fortune in being selected as Hashem’s bride. As the Ramban writes in his introduction to Sefer Shemos, the Mishkan was the spiritual culmination of the Exodus from Egypt. The relationship which began centuries earlier with Avrohom and continued through the Exodus and the “marriage” at Mount Sinai was finally consummated with the event which brought true rejoicing to our hearts.


Answers to the weekly Points to Ponder are now available!

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Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):

1) Rashi writes (38:22) that in discussing the construction of the Mishkan and its vessels with Betzalel, Moshe initially suggested that the vessels should be built before the Mishkan itself. Betzalel disagreed and maintained that the structure should be constructed before its contents so that the utensils would have a place to rest upon their completion, a position to which Moshe subsequently acquiesced. The Tur writes (Orach Chaim 684) that the vessels were completed on Chanuka (25 Kislev), yet the Mishkan wasn’t actually erected until Rosh Chodesh Nissan (Taz Orach Chaim 684:1), some three months later. As the vessels remained idle for this entire period, what practical relevance did the dispute between Moshe and Betzalel regarding the order of the construction actually make? (Rav Nosson Adler quoted in Shu”t Chasam Sofer Orach Chaim 188, P’nei Yehoshua Berachos 55a, Kli Chemdah, Shu”t Tzitz Eliezer 14:62, Taam V’Daas)

2) The Medrash explains (Tanchuma 7) that Moshe made an accounting for the use of the various materials which were donated for the Mishkan (38:27-31) because there were Jews who questioned where all of their donations had gone and whether Moshe had kept any of them for himself. Why didn’t they similarly demand an accounting from Aharon, who collected a large amount of gold from them and managed to produce from it only one small golden calf (32:3-4)? (Oznayim L’Torah, Rav Meir Shapiro quoted in Bishvilei HaParsha)

3) Why throughout Parshas Pekudei (e.g. 39:1) does the Torah repeatedly emphasize regarding each of the garments of the Kohanim that it was made “just as Hashem had commanded Moshe,” yet no such mention is made in Parshas Vayakhel regarding the construction of the vessels for the Mishkan? (Meshech Chochmah)

4) The Mishnah in Shekalim (1:3) exempts women from the obligation (30:13) to donate a half-shekel from which communal offerings were purchased. As the Gemora in Berachos (26b) teaches that the Mussaf prayer service was established corresponding to the communal Mussaf sacrifice which was offered on Shabbos and Yomim Tovim, are women exempt from the Mussaf prayer service just as they were exempt from the sacrifices to which it corresponds, and if not, why not? (Shu”t Rav Akiva Eiger 9, Hagahos Rav Akiva Eiger Orach Chaim 106, Tzelach Berachos 26a, Shu”t Besamim Rosh 89, Shu”t Maharam Schick Orach Chaim 90, Shu”t Be’er Yitzchok 20:3, Shu”t Beis Yitzchok Orach Chaim 17:2, Magen Giborim 106, Kaf HaChaim 286:7, Mishnah Berurah 106:4, Mikraei Kodesh Purim 10, Chavatzeles HaSharon, M’rafsin Igri)


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