It is no coincidence that, as we read in Parshat Pekudei (Shemot 40:2), the Mishkan was established on the first day of the month of Nissan. This was exactly one year after the command of “HaChodesh HaZeh Lachem Rosh Chodashim,” “This month shall be for you the first of months” (12:2), the Mitzvah of Rosh Chodesh.
R’ Hirsch explains this parallel as follows. The significance of Rosh Chodesh as a cause for celebration is not the astronomical occurrence of a new moon, but rather that Hashem has built into nature the concept of renewal and revival, which we are to use as a model for our own lives. This is to be understood on both a personal and communal level. We all experience hardships as individuals and as a nation, but we are able to look to the waxing and waning of the moon as an inspiration for strengthening our resolve to pick ourselves up and move on.
The establishment of the Mishkan specifically on Rosh Chodesh Nissan is a reminder that our perception of the presence of the Shechinah in our lives is also something that fluctuates. At times, we feel a strong sense that God is with us, while at other times we feel that He is distant and cannot perceive His presence. Indeed, we live in times of Hester Panim, of Hashem hiding His face, when He does not reveal Himself to us in open, unambiguous ways. The establishment of the Mishkan on Rosh Chodesh Nissan reminds us to strengthen our commitment to God and to patiently await His return to our midst.
by Gavriel Metzger
In today’s world, the most heralded of celebrities are those known by a single name, such as Oprah, Kobe, or Madonna. Similarly, whenever one hears the name Betzalel, one immediately thinks of the chief builder of the Mishkan, appointed by Hashem in last week’s Parsha, Ki Tisa. Interestingly, however, as Moshe relays this appointment to Bnei Yisrael for the first time, and even for several times afterward, Betzalel is referred to as “Betzalel ben Uri ben Chur.” Rav Yissocher Frand asks an obvious question: why does the Torah make a point of introducing Betzalel’s heritage every time he appears? What was the true purpose of repeating the lineage of the ever-famous Betzalel, constructor of the most sacred structure in the Midbar?
Chur, Betzalel’s grandfather, was tragically killed by the Israelite mob as a result of his vehement protests against Bnei Yisrael’s actions at Har Sinai leading up to Cheit HaEigel. In fact, many Mefarshim believe that the death of Chur was what caused Aharon to relent and construct the golden calf. At first glance, Chur’s sacrifice seems pointless, as despite his best efforts, Bnei Yisrael still sinned by worshipping the Eigel HaZahav. The nation was nevertheless sentenced to forty years of wandering in the desert and endured much hardship despite Chur’s death. By repeatedly retracing the great Betzalel’s lineage to his grandfather, the Torah emphasizes that Chur did not die in vain; his sacrifice merited the reward of a grandson who would be the main builder of the Mishkan.
Chazal teach that Hashem chose Betzalel as the constructor of the Mishkan because he was created “BeTzeil Keil,” “in the shadow of God,” as his name states. Betzalel was not chosen because he was a great architect or planner, but rather because he had special qualities which generated a unique connection to Hashem. Such a connection was necessary in order to create a resting place for Hakadosh Baruch Hu. Where did this mysterious “connection” to Hashem come from? It emerged from his lineage. Betzalel inherited the invaluable trait of Mesirut Nefesh from Chur, a statement supported by the Torah’s constant repetition of Betzalel’s ancestry. Chur gave himself up for what he felt was right, and was thus honored with a grandson with credentials like Betzalel’s.
Overall, Chur did not accomplish what he set out to do – that is, to save Bnei Yisrael from sinning with the Eigel. But Chazal teach us that the Mishkan was actually a Kaparah, atonement, for the Cheit HaEigel. Since Betzalel, builder of the Mishkan, descended from Chur as a result of his sacrifice, it was as if Chur’s action brought about the atonement for the Cheit. Therefore, Chur technically accomplished his initial goal, that of stopping the effect of the Eigel on Am Yisrael.
A powerful message can be gleaned from Chur and Betzalel. Nowadays, everyone demands instant gratification and wants everything done as soon as possible, which is the motivation for the invention of most of modern technology. If one cannot see results immediately, it is as if his efforts were completely in vain. However, from Chur we see that even if one’s actions do not have a direct impact, they may still pay off in the long run. --Adapted from a Dvar Torah by Rabbi Yissocher Frand
Restraint in Giving?
by Doniel Sherman
In Parshat Pekudei, the Torah writes that with the half-Shekel coins collected in the census of the Jews, Moshe made the hooks for the pillars. The Pasuk says, “VeEt HaElef UShva HaMei’ot VaChamishah VeShiv’im Asah Vavim LaAmudim,” “And with the one thousand seven hundred and seventy-five [Shekalim] were made the hooks for the pillars” (38:28). We see that Moshe meticulously recorded each item donated and its usage in the building of the Mishkan. The Midrash states that Moshe needed to do this because Bnei Yisrael had begun to question Moshe’s credibility in the collection and usage of items donated. Bnei Yisrael noticed that Moshe had not specified a purpose for the 1,775 Shekalim that had been collected. Hashem alleviated the accusation against Moshe by telling him that they were to be used as the hooks for the pillars.
Rav Moshe Shapiro Z”L noted the differences between the attitudes of Bnei Yisrael regarding the Eigel HaZahav and the Mishkan. In the episode of the Eigel HaZahav , Bnei Yisrael rushed to give much of their jewelry to Aharon to make a small Eigel without caring about an exact account of the appropriation of the money. However, when it came to the Mishkan, they were very concerned about how the money they gave (only a half-Shekel) was used. Why were they so anxious about where their money was going concerning such a holy undertaking?
To comprehend the answer, we must first mention the Beit HaLeivi’s understanding of the Cheit HaEigel. He explains that Bnei Yisrael wanted Hashem to dwell amongst them, and they needed Moshe to be the intermediary to find out how Hashem wanted this task accomplished. While Moshe was away from Bnei Yisrael on Har Sinai, they developed their own plan as to the making of a means for the Shechinah to rest among them – the Eigel HaZahav. Their intentions were good, but Hashem had not instructed Bnei Yisrael to make the Eigel. They did not realize that they could not channel spiritual forces through a physical object without Hashem’s help. The Mishkan was Hashem’s method and plan to create a place for Him to dwell amongst Bnei Yisrael.
The Cheit HaEigel was an example of the need to “do your own thing,” the feeling that one can do anything to satisfy himself without regard to anyone else. Any society which places the emphasis on the community and not the individual will be rejected by a person whose goals revolve solely around himself. Judaism dignifies the individuality of each person, yet does not rationalize complete independence caused by an overly large ego.
Bnei Yisrael were so quick to give to the Cheit HaEigel because they were not restrained in how they gave. Their giving was only to assuage their own egos. When Bnei Yisrael willingly gave to the Mishkan, it showed that they learned to give in accordance with Hashem’s will, and that they were ready to fulfill His requirements. They therefore gave carefully, exactly as Hashem wanted them to give. For that reason, they were very concerned about how much they gave and where their donations went.
by Tzvi Zuckier
When discussing the culmination of the building of the Mishkan in Parshat Pekudei, the Torah states, “KeChol Asher Tzivah Hashem Et Moshe, Kein Asu Bnei Yisrael Eit Kol HaAvodah,” “Like everything that Hashem commanded Moshe, so did Bnei Yisrael do all of the service” (39:42). The next Pasuk goes on to say, “Vayar Moshe Et Kol HaMelachah, VeHinei Asu Otah – Kaasher Tzivah Hashem Kein Asu – Vayvarech Otam Moshe,” “Moshe saw all of the work, and behold they had done it – as Hashem had commanded, so they had done it – and Moshe blessed them.” These two Pesukim present several problems. They are somewhat repetitive, both containing the phrase “Tzivah Hashem,” that Hashem commanded all of the work of the Mishkan. Also, Pasuk 42 uses the word Avodah, service, while Pasuk 43 uses the word Melachah, work. Why do these Pesukim use these two different terms? Finally, why do both Pesukim repeat the fact that Bnei Yisrael built the Mishkan? Pasuk 43 could easily have had Moshe first see the Mishkan and then bless the Bnei Yisrael, without restating Bnei Yisrael’s conformance to Hashem’s command.
The Torat Moshe offers an incredible explanation of these two Pesukim, thereby answering all of our questions. In Pasuk 42, he explains, Avodah is used for its meaning of Kavanah, service of the heart. That Pasuk is trying to deliver the message that the Bnei Yisrael did not simply offer their service, but rather they worked with the correct intentions and reasons – “Kaasher Diber Hashem,” because Hashem commanded them. When Moshe in Pasuk 43 saw the Melachah, all the work and the building of the Mishkan, done completely perfectly, he knew it had been done “Kaasher Tzivah Hashem Et Moshe.” Once he saw that the building of the Mishkan was done without imperfections, he also knew that it was done with the right intent – the proper “Avodah.” This intent was the reason he blessed the Bnei Yisrael at the end of Pasuk 43. Thus, the phrase about Hashem commanding Bnei Yisrael is required in both Pesukim to show both that the Bnei Yisrael built the Mishkan with holy intentions and that Moshe awarded a blessing only because of these intentions. Also, both the words Avodah and Melachah are required – Avodah to convey the notion of Kavanah, and Melachah to describe how the Mishkan was built in an utterly flawless fashion.
We see from Moshe’s blessing that it is extremely important to do Mitzvot with the right Kavanot. Moshe regarded doing Mitzvot with such Kavanah so highly that only when he found out that the Bnei Yisrael built the Mishkan with good intentions did he bless them. Although it is very hard to maintain the right thoughts and Kavanot when performing all Mitzvot, it is an extremely crucial aspect to incorporate into one’s service of Hashem. Not only should we make sure to fulfill the Mitzvot, but we should also ensure that when performing them, we have in mind to serve Hashem with love, not just doing the acts because they are what is required. In the merit of doing so, may we merit a Berachah, a blessing, parallel to the Bnei Yisrael’s blessing in the time of Moshe.
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