In This Issue:
Rabbi Joel Grossman
Rabbi Chaim Jachter
Towards the end of Parashat Pekudei, the Pasuk reads “VeLo Yachol Moshe Lavo El Ohel Moed Ki Shachan Alav HeAnan” “Moshe could not go into the Tent of Meeting because the cloud rested upon it” (40:35). Rav Moshe Feinstein in Darash Moshe asks, why was it impossible for Moshe to enter the Ohel Moed when the cloud rested upon it? When the cloud rested on Har Sinai, Moshe did not refrain from going up to accept the Torah.
Rav Moshe answers that the presence of the cloud over the Ohel Moed was a sign from Hashem that Moshe was not allowed to enter the tent. In this context, the phrase “Lo Yachol” means that Moshe was not allowed to enter the Tent of Meeting while the cloud was resting upon it. However, Rav Moshe did not merely offer this as an explanation to this Pasuk, rather he incorporated it into his own lifestyle. He was once at a convention to deliver a speech where he davened Maariv before going to the convention. Then, after the convention was over, there was a minyan for Maariv. However, Rav Moshe and the person driving him home were walking towards the exit. Suddenly Rav Moshe stopped in his tracks, and the person asked him why he stopped? He responded that I cannot move because the person in our path is in the middle of Shemoneh Esreih and the Halacha does not allow me to walk in front of him. This shows that Rav Moshe lived the Torah, and not only interpreted it.
When describing Moshe’s assembly of the Mishkan, the Torah repeatedly uses the phrase, “KaAsher Tzivah Hashem Et Moshe,” “As Hashem commanded Moshe” (for example, Shemot 40:19). The Ba’al HaTurim points out that the purpose of the repetition is to mention Moshe’s name as a reminder that Bnei Yisrael were absolved of Cheit HaEigel. Since Moshe requested Hashem erase his name from the Torah if Hashem did not forgive Bnei Yisrael, every mention of Moshe’s name reminds us that Hashem listened to Moshe and forgave the nation. Additionally, the Ba’al HaTurim comments that the eighteen Berachot of Shemoneh Esreih correspond to the eighteen times “KaAsher Tzivah Hashem Et Moshe” or a similar phrase is repeated in this section of Parashat Pekudei.
What is the connection between the reminder of Hashem’s forgiveness and the eighteen Berachot of Shemoneh Esreih?
Rav Matis Blum, in his Sefer Torah LaDaat, answers that the Tefillot themselves were established to correspond to the three Avot (see Berachot 26b). However, after Cheit HaEigel, Hashem’s original intention was to destroy the nation and begin a new nation with Moshe as the sole forefather. Moshe, in his defense of Bnei Yisrael, protected the dignity of the Avot. He told Hashem, “Zechor LeAvraham LeYitzchak ULeYisrael,” “Remember for the sake of Avraham, for the sake of Yitzchak, and for the sake of Yisrael (Yaakov)” (32:13). As Rashi (ibid.) explains, Moshe said, “If a chair with three legs cannot stand before You at the time of Your anger, how much more so a chair with one leg!” Moshe insures that the chair, Bnei Yisrael, remains supported by the original three legs. The survival of the Avot’s status as Avot allowed their three Tefillot to survive as well. Since Moshe insured their survival through Hashem’s forgiveness of Bnei Yisrael, he was granted a place in the Tefillot by having the number of Berachot correspond to him. This explains how Moshe’s arguments after Cheit HaEigel are connected to his place in Shemoneh Esreih.
An important lesson emerges from our treatment of Moshe. As Hakarat HaTov for his protection of the dignity of the Avot, Moshe is given an important part of Tefillah, making him almost an Av himself. In truth, however, it is not only Moshe who deserves this Hakarat HaTov. Each observant Jew’s parents and teachers act as modern Avot by continuing the messages of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov, just as Moshe did. Just as we show Hakarat HaTov to Moshe three times every day, we should constantly remember and thank everyone who helps support the three great legs of our chair.
VaYakheil and Pekudei are usually seen as parallel Parshiyot. VaYakheil is a review of the construction of the Mishkan and Pekudei is a review of the Bigdei Kehunah. There is, however, an inconsistency in the Parshiyot: in Pekudei, the phrase “KaAsher Tzivah Hashem Et Moshe,” “As Hashem commanded Moshe,” frequents the Parashah, appearing in almost every section. VaYakheil, however, does not once use this phrase. The Brisker Rav explains this inconsistency. The Gemara (Kiddushin 29a) teaches that whenever the verb “Tzivah” or “command” is used, it teaches that the command was not only for that time, but for the future as well. This explains the inconsistency. The Mishkan was a one-time Mitzvah built specifically for the desert; when we came to Israel, we would build a Beit HaMikdash, and we would no longer need to know how to build the Mishkan. The Bigdei Kehunah, however, would be used again in the Beit HaMikdash, and we would therefore need to know the laws for the future; therefore, the verb “Tzav” is applicable.
An objection is raised to this answer: while VaYakheil does deal with the construction of the Mishkan, it also deals with some of the Keilim that were in the Mishkan, such as the Menorah and the Shulchan; why isn’t the verb “command” used in those cases? The answer to this, the Brisker Rav explains, is that while these figures, such as the weight of the Menorah and the number of knobs on it, are applicable for all times, the exact form and shape had to follow specific instruction given by Moshe through Nevuah, and this small facet, used only in the desert, would not be used for future generations. Such an aspect did not apply to the Bigdei Kehunah (the Bigdei Kehunah never changed from the description in the Torah), so the word “command” is still applicable.
This idea can be used to explain a difficult Tosefta in the seventh Perek of Menachot. The Tosefta quotes Pasuk 23 of Perek 40, which states that Moshe placed the bread as Hashem commanded, and Pasuk 25, which says he lit the candles of the Menorah as Hashem commanded. The Tosefta asks where we see that Hashem commanded Moshe to do these things, and then answers that the command came from VaYikra Perek 24.
This answer seems very strange as the Tosefta needed only to state that the source for the command came a few Pesukim earlier in Shemot 40:4 where Hashem tells Moshe that he should set up the bread and light the candles. Why did the Tosefta need to look in Sefer VaYikra for the source? The Brisker Rav uses the aforementioned idea to answer the question. He explains that when Hashem told Moshe to set up the bread and light the candles in Pasuk 4, this was done as part of the inaugural ceremony for the Mishkan, not as a ritual to be done for the generations. Therefore, this verse could not be applied to Hashem’s command for the weekly ritual of placing the breads and the daily ritual of lighting the candles, both of which would take place for generations to come. As such, the Tosefta needed to locate another source upon which the actual ritual was based, a source found only in Sefer VaYikra.
After decades of cruelty, punishment, and slavery, Bnei Yisrael had finally left Egypt. Throughout the beginning of Shemot, the dramatic Exodus had begun with God’s revelation to Moshe, the ten plagues, and the commandment of the Pesach offering However, the story of the Jews' flight from Egypt is interrupted by the God’s seemingly irrelevant commandment to declare the month’s beginning: "This month shall be for you the beginning of the months, it shall be for you the first of the months of the year." (Shemot 12:2) The obvious question is, what is the purpose of Rosh Chodesh, and why has Hashem decided to give it to the Jews at this specific time?
Rav Soloveitchik explains that the answer lies in the nature of the Rosh Chodesh mitzvah and its relation to the consequences of the Jews' exodus. For example, when one is held in bondage, as the Jews were in Egypt, time has no relevance; a slave's time is bound to his master’s schedule. As such, a slave’s natural reaction is to ignore time because he does not possess his own right to time. To contrast this image, imagine a hard-working individual who needs to work long hours just to put food on the table for his family. Such an individual views each quantum of time as a precious gold mine; this mentality allows him to accomplish his goals.
Through this picture, it is clear to see the logic behind the placement of the mitzvah of sanctifying the moon, amidst Bnei Yisrael’s pivotal transition from the torturous conditions as worthless slaves to individual servants of the Creator. The Rav explains that now, because Bnei Yisrael left the slave conditions of Egypt, they must realize the importance of worldly time and of utilizing every second in service to Hashem and in performance of His Mitzvot. This transition from total slavery to individual servitude of Hashem was only the beginning of Hashem's elaborate plan to mold the Jewish people into His people.
The recitation of Parashat HaChodesh is oftentimes recited after the lengthy double Parashah of Vayakhel-Pekudei. The theme of these two Parashot is the creation of the Mishkan and the holy vestments donned by Aharon, his sons, and all future Kohanim. However, it is seems strange for the Torah in Shemot to detail these two commandments twice. Once again, a reason for such seemingly useless repetition lies in Parashat HaChodesh, the Jews' exodus from Egypt; and the maturation process of Bnei Yisrael as they leave the slave mentality.
When Bnei Yisrael was given the mitzvah of HaChodesh, the pasuk used the words, “Shall be for you.” This wording shows that the first step in the Jews' growth was an individual endeavor for Bnei Yisrael, to individually cede their existence to the glorification of Hashem. This statement represents a part of the Jewish philosophy, constituting a core value of Judaism, to praise Hashem in a communal fashion. It is for this reason that there is a special mitzvah to daven with a minyan. Creating an atmosphere of praise and love of Hashem is far superior to simple individual endeavors.
The maturation process of Bnei Yisrael then aligns with the core philosophy of communal service. This philosophy is seen in this week’s juxtaposition of Bnei Yisrael’s first step in maturity (HaChodesh) to the greatest manner in which we can praise Hashem in the communal fashion, (the Mishkan and Holy vestments of the Kohanim.) The Jews move to the next level of closeness to Hashem, away from the slave mentality of Egypt. Once again, the Jews use our time involving ourselves in the communal needs of Bnei Yisrael such as, Tzedakah, davening for the sick, Gemilut Chassadim, etc.
The final step in the process of coming closer to Hashem can be achieved only when the Jews are able to combine the two ideas of individual and communal praise and service of Hashem. This combination of roles is found with the Pesach offering. The Torah commands people to form a group to consume the offering, while each individual has a personal obligation in the consumption of the sacrificial meat. We learn from this connection between the two major aspects of Judaism, individualism and communalism, the ultimate way for us to serve Hashem is in a complete manner.
We must internalize and eternalize the concept of Parashat Hachodesh, and live the message it portrays: the true method in which we can leave the slave mentality in the past is to engage in the righteous path towards connecting with Hashem.
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