VOLUME 59 NUMBER 10
MARCH 16, 2012
ADAR 22, 5772
Candle-lighting Time: 6:50 PM
This week’s Sparks of Torah is dedicated anonymously in memory of Evelyn Male’s father, who passed away this week. May his memory be for a blessing.
Everyone of Us
By Rabbi Raphael Leban
I would like to take a moment to introduce a new and ideal military. In this ideological troop of soldiers, no post is off-limits to anyone. From the commanding officer to the foot-soldier, everyone is permitted to serve in every capacity.
In this army, each soldier has his or her own complete kitchen mess kit. They fix their own menus, prepare their own meals and wash their own dishes.
Sundays are reserved for grooming, when each soldier cuts his or her bunkmate’s hair (including a shave, as the case may be).
If you want to send a letter to a soldier of your choice, don’t expect it to arrive immediately. Everyone goes to the post office to pick up mail on Thursdays. After they all do their own laundry, that is.
Everyone takes a turn being an officer. Army policy is determined individually by and for each soldier, in accordance with what they feel is appropriate. And when that policy is violated, each soldier personally handles his or her own court-marshal and discharge.
This is the army of ultimate choice and equality, every member serves in every capacity.
Want to send ‘em out to defend the homeland? Not me.
Oddly enough, this seems to be the way the Jewish People functioned when they mobilized to build the Mishkan, the portable Sanctuary, in the desert.
In Parshas Pikudei the Torah says, “And the Jewish People did all that Moshe commanded [in building the Mishkan].” Sounds like they all did it, every last one.
The reality is, of course, that only certain members of the Jewish People did the work. As it says clearly in Parsha Vayakhel, those whose hearts lifted them to come were imbued by their creator with special talents, and they completed the extremely technical workmanship necessary to build the Sanctuary. But that’s not everyone. Not every man, woman and child was on the building crew.
So why does the Torah imply that they all did it?
From here we see a fundamental concept in Jewish thought, the sacred interdependence of each and every Jew. When a few do the work on behalf of the whole, it’s as if the work was done by every individual.
Did you know that it is totally impossible for anyone to do all the mitzvos? Not even Moses could have done them all.
Why? Because they aren’t directed at every individual. Some are specifically for Kohanim, some are for Levites, some are for Israelites. Some mitzvos are only for men, some are only for women. Some mitzvos are for judges, some are for people who own animals, some are for people who dig pits. No single person could ever do them all.
Only together as a people do we fulfill G-d’s will to its fullest. When the Cohen does his service, it counts for me. When a wife does mitzvos, it’s as if her husband did them as well. When a farmer does his mitzvos, it counts for the Jew in the city. Together our people are a vibrant, complete entity, each one of us counting on the other. When each one of us develops ourselves to the utmost, we fulfill our unique and essential role in our national character. When we don’t, we’re off to the new army laundromat, every last one of us.
Even the Mighty Can Fall
By Rabbi Dovid Nussbaum
This week the Torah reviews the entire project of the building the Mishkan. All the details are enumerated and accounted for. However, an aspect that was not previously recorded is alluded to in the parsha. There were special stones that were situated on the garments of the High Priest. They were donated by the princes of each of the tribes. Rashi cites the Midrash that explains what occurred. The tribal leaders said that they would make their contribution to the Mishkan after the people had made their donations. However, the entire nation was so passionate that they gave even more than what was necessary for the construction of the Mishkan. Therefore, nothing remained for the princes to contribute. All that they could give were the special stones that were used for the garments of the High Priest.
This incident doesn’t conclude here. For their lack of zeal in making their own contribution, they tribal leaders were punished. When the Torah records that they gave the special stones, the Hebrew word for princes, nessi’im, is written missing the letter ‘yud’.
We might not think that this is such a punishment, especially since the Torah records for posterity that the princes did participate in the Mishkan. However, as we shall see, this is incorrect.
First, we have to understand what was wrong with the attitude of the princes. After all, it seems as though they should really be lauded for their generosity. They were willing to pay any and all expenses of the Mishkan that remained after the rest of the nation made their contributions. That certainly appears to be very philanthropic. Yet the Torah considers their approach as being objectionable. Why does Hashem find fault in their choice?
Rabbeinu Bachya explains that when a person has an opportunity to perform a mitzvah, he should not defray that option in any way. Although it might seem as though the person is sharing the opportunity to complete the mitzvah, in truth he is really exhibiting apathy. If he was truly interested in doing the mitzvah, he wouldn’t miss the chance to do it as soon as possible! Giving others the merit of performing the mitzvah actually means that the person’s mind-set is blasé. Hashem, who perceives what we are really thinking, revealed to us the real meaning of the princes’ lethargic response to assist in the building of the Mishkan.
Kli Yakar adds another dimension to this incident. We mentioned that the letter missing from the Torah is the letter ‘yud’. Why was that letter specifically left out? He enlightens us with this message. The letter yud is also one of the letters in Hashem’s name. In order to show the eminence of the princes, who were Hashem’s emissaries to help lead the nation, part of Hashem’s name is alluded to in the Hebrew word for prince. However, they abrogated their mission when they displayed arrogance in suggesting that they would donate the necessary funds for the Mishkan even if the people would not. According to Kli Yakar, this was a veiled criticism of the good intent of the nation, exhibiting their arrogance and egotism.
The Mishkan was meant to be a force of unity in the nation and a display of total identification with Hashem. To suggest that the people would show disinterest in building the Mishkan was to imply that they were not seeking to connect with Hashem in the most intimate manner made available to them. The epilogue was that not only did the people show a tremendous outpouring of support for the Mishkan, but the princes felt the wrath of Hashem when He removed His name from them.
A Question for the Rabbis
By Rabbi Mordechai Becher
When the Jewish people finished building the Tabernacle, they brought it to Moses. The Torah states, “And Moses blessed them” (Exodus 39:43). Rashi says that Moses blessed them with a prayer that the Divine Presence would reside in the work of their hands, and he quotes Psalm 90, which begins, “May the pleasantness of G-d be upon us,” as the exact phrase that Moses used. Later authorities cite this as the source for the custom to recite Psalm 90 after the evening service at the end of Shabbos (Avudraham, Seder Motzei Shabbos; Raaviah, Tractate Shabbos 378). Before we begin the work week, we ask G-d that His Divine Presence, His pleasantness, reside in the work of our hands, as the Divine Presence resided in the Tabernacle.
Reprinted with permission from Parsha Partner, a weekly publication of Partners in Torah. Please add us to your Parsha reading list. www.partnersintorah.org/parsha-partner
Byte for Shabbos
The Mishkan (Tabernacle) was a testimonial that G-d forgave us for the sin of the Golden Calf. Although we definitely experienced a serious decline in our spiritual level due to that sin, G-d granted us encouragement and strength by residing with us in the Mishkan.
Joke of the Week
A car hit an elderly Jewish man. The paramedic asked him, “Are you comfortable?”
The man replied, “I make a good living.”