Parsha Potpourri: Parshas Vayakhel


Vayeitz’u kol adas B’nei Yisroel mi’lifnei Moshe (35:20)

Parshas Vayakhel begins by relating that Moshe gathered together all of the Jews to instruct them about observing Shabbos and building the Mishkan. Nineteen verses later, after he concluded his instructions, the Torah relates that the Jews left “from in front of Moshe.” As the Torah doesn’t write an unnecessary letter, why was it necessary to emphasize a fact that should have been obvious, as Moshe gathered them together at the beginning of the parsha and they hadn’t gone anywhere in the interim?

Rav Eliyahu Lopian explains that when encountering a person in the street, it is generally impossible to discern from his appearance and actions where he is coming from. The apparently superfluous wording is coming to indicate that in this case, it was clear to any passerby that the Jews had just left the presence of Moshe.

In what way was this recognizable? Although they had just spent time learning about Shabbos and the Mishkan from Moshe, this factual knowledge wasn’t discernible to the naked eye. Rather, their conduct and interactions with other people were on such a lofty level that it was apparent that they had just been studying Torah.

The Gemora in Yoma (86a) teaches that part of the mitzvah to love Hashem is to cause Hashem to be loved and praised through our actions. The Jews who merited learning Torah directly from the mouth of Moshe reached such levels in sensitivity and caring that anybody who saw them would immediately understand from where it originated and would bless Hashem and His Torah for producing such conduct.

This lesson is illustrated in a story about the Brisker Rav, who was renowned for his diligence and toil in the study of Torah. When his daughter once returned home with an axe that she found, he realized that this was a golden and rare opportunity to fulfill the mitzvah of returning a lost object to its owner (Devorim 22:1-3). The Brisker Rav recognized that it belonged to a man who lived several miles away on the edge of the forest. He took his daughter and the axe and set out on the long, arduous journey. They finally arrived at the owner’s home and knocked on his door.

The Brisker Rav assumed that the owner would express his gratitude for their efforts and exertion in returning his axe to him, but he was taken by surprise by what happened next. When the man answered his door and realized what had transpired, he was so moved by the Rav’s actions that he literally bowed and prostrated himself on the ground, exclaiming, “Blessed is the Jewish G-d Who has given His people a Torah which causes them to act with such compassion and mercy!”

The message of Parshas Vayakhel is that we should conduct ourselves in a manner which loudly declares that we study the Torah and are elevated by it. The typical person with whom we interact will not be able to discern this from the number of penetrating insights we deliver into the words of the Ketzos or even the weekly Torah portion, but rather through our acts of kindness and exemplary interpersonal conduct, which will sanctify the name of Hashem and His Holy Torah.

V’ham’lacha haysa dayam l’kol ham’lacha la’asos osah v’hosar (36:7)

There seems to be an internal inconsistency in our verse with which a number of commentators grapple. The Torah says simultaneously that the communal work for the Mishkan was both sufficient, which would seem to imply that it was exactly enough, and that there remained leftovers. How can these two apparently contradictory statements be resolved?

Rav Mordechai Kamenetzky relates that a small town once held a tightly-contested election for mayor. After all of the ballots were counted, a victor emerged by a narrow margin of one vote. His initial joy over winning the election quickly dissipated when every person he encountered claimed that the vote which represented the winning margin was his, and demanded that the new mayor remain indebted to him throughout his term in office.

Similarly, the Sichos Tzaddikim suggests that if the donations for the Mishkan had been precisely sufficient, every contributor would claim that the success of the Mishkan was dependent upon his personal contribution, without which the entire project would have failed. This would result in tremendous communal conceit, and the Gemora in Sotah (5a) teaches that arrogant people prevent the presence of the Shechinah. As the entire purpose of the Mishkan was to create a place for Hashem’s Presence to rest, it was necessary that the donations be slightly more than required in order to be considered sufficient.

Alternatively, the Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh answers that in reality, the Jews enthusiastically donated so much that the total contributions were actually more than was necessary for the building of the Mishkan. Hashem was afraid that if there were leftovers after the Mishkan was complete, some Jews may be saddened at the thought that their donations hadn’t been used. He therefore made a miracle and arranged that everything should be put to use, causing the excessive donations to appear to be just right.

The Manchester Rosh Yeshiva suggests that this lesson applies to all matters of spirituality. Even if a project appears to have yielded no practical results, no pure action performed for Hashem’s sake ever goes to waste. For example, at the time of the sin of the golden calf, Chur attempted to protest the sinful actions of the people and was killed for his zealotry (Rashi 32:5). The Daas Z’keinim writes (35:30) that Betzalel was chosen as the primary builder of the Mishkan specifically in the merit of the actions of his grandfather Chur, as one of the purposes of the Mishkan was to atone for the sin of the golden calf.

Although the society in which we live attempts to convince us that nothing matters but the bottom line, the Torah teaches that Hashem cares about our sincere intentions and efforts to increase His glory, and they will never go to waste.

Vaya’as shnei Keruvim zahav miksha asah osam mi’shnei ketzos ha’kapores (37:7)

Although the Torah specifies that the utensils used in the Mishkan are to be made from gold, the Mechilta rules that this isn’t an absolute requirement. Although this is the preferable way for them to be made, they may still be used if they are made from a different metal, with one exception. With respect to the Cherubim which rest on top of the Aron, the obligation to make them from gold is absolute. Should they be formed from any other material for any reason, they are invalid for use in the Mishkan. Why is the law regarding the Cherubim different than that regarding all of the other vessels?

Rav Meir Shapiro explains that the Cherubim symbolize Jewish children, as Rashi writes that they had the faces of young children. Their placement on top of the Ark represents their Torah education and upbringing. Should there be a time in the future when money is scarce and gold cannot be obtained due to financial constraints, Hashem is willing to overlook His honor with respect to the construction of the utensils used to serve Him. However, when it comes to teaching our children, who represent the future of the Jewish people, there can be no possible excuse for sacrificing the quality of their education and second-best is completely unacceptable.

Answers to the weekly Points to Ponder are now available!
To receive the full version with answers email the author at [email protected].

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

1)     Parshas Vayakhel begins with a commandment not to do work on Shabbos (35:2). The Shulchan Aruch rules (Orach Chaim 306:4) that it is prohibited to pay somebody for permissible work that is done on Shabbos. Is the prohibition on the person who pays the money, on the worker who receives the money, or on both of them? (Tehila L’Dovid 306:7, Chai Odom 60:8, Shu”t Hisorerus Teshuva Orach Chaim 149:3, Menorah HaTehora 247:2, Ma’adanei Asher 5769)

2)     Moshe told the Jewish people that Hashem selected Betzalel to build the Mishkan and explained to them that He also bestowed upon Betzalel all of the necessary talents and skills to perform the job. One of the qualities Moshe mentioned is (35:34) the ability to teach. Once Betzalel possessed the requisite knowledge, why was it necessary to specifically give him the ability to teach? (Ibn Ezra, Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh, Ayeles HaShachar)

3)     As the Mishkan is considered to be a microcosm of the entire universe, its building and assembly should be similar to the creation of the world in Parshas Bereishis. What parallels can you find between the two? (Ohr Gedalyahu)

© 2010 by Oizer Alport.