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Parshas VaYakal Pekudei and Parshas Porah ~ Torah Gems

 V’Yakal/Pekudei/Parshas Porah

I. Learning

1. ‘These are the reckonings of the Mishkan*, the Mishkan…’ (Shemos* 38.)21 We can explain the repetition of the word ‘Mishkan’ as follows: The word ‘Mishkan’ is similar to the word ‘bring down.’ [Heb. hemshacha] When you wish to make a reckoning of the Mishkan, this means that you wish to bring down upon yourself again [what you had previously had.] As is known there is a great segulah* [to bring holiness on a person.] He should attach himself to learning the Torah*. Immediately after he has prayed he should learn Torah, even if it is only a little bit. This is the meaning of the verse: ‘The reckonings of the Mishkan.’ The [holiness] that you brought down during prayer. ‘The Mishkan of testimony.’ You should attach yourself to the Torah, which is called ‘testimony.’ He should not immediately go to mundane affairs [but concentrate on spiritual things first.] This is because he will be close to sin (G-d forbid.) (p. 86 sefer Degel Machnah Ephraim teachings of Rebbe* Moshe Chaim Ephraim of Sedelkov)                                 * * * II. Recognizing the greatness of HaShem* 2. ‘These are the reckonings of the Mishkan’ (Shemos 38.21) There are two levels with regards to the service of HaShem. The first is that one sees the miracles and wonders that HaShem does. Where He changes the nature of the world. And from that he recognizes that He is the one who rules over the world and does everything according to what He wishes. For this reason everyone is required to serve Him with fear. The second level is where he recognizes His greatness. [He serves HaShem] just because He is the creator of the world, and hence He is worthy of being served. [Even without there being any other miracles at all.] The difference between these two ways is as follows. If one only recognizes the greatness of HaShem based on His actions and wonders, like those which were done in Egypt or at the crossing of the sea, these wonders are [what is] great in his eyes. However he only recognizes His greatness because of them. However if he recognizes His greatness and knows the truth that He is the creator of all, then the miracles are not so great in his eyes. That’s because it is not a wonder that the One who created all can do with his creation what he wishes since he created them.  However the miracle does have an importance to him because it shows HaShem’s love for the Jewish people. When the Jewish people went out of Egypt they were on a very low level and were only able to recognize HaShem’s greatness due to the miracles. However by the time they received the Torah [on Mount Sinai] they had been purified and could recognize the greatness of HaShem on the second level, because he is the creator of the world. They then understood that all the miracles and wonders that HaShem had done in Egypt and by the sea were not a wonder at all. They only showed his great love of the Jewish people. With this idea we can understand why it is that on Pesach* we are commanded to eat Matzoh. Also with the sacrifice in the Temple we are to bring matzoh. However on Shevous* there are specifically two breads make of leavened bread (and not matzoh), and the offering of thanksgiving was from both matzoh and leavened bread. The reason is that matzoh is a remez* of those who serve HaShem based on the miracles that He has done. The simple meaning of why we eat matzoh is to remind us that the Egyptians rushed the Jewish people out of Egypt [because of miraculous plagues.] Therefore what we eat on Pesach is to remind us of this. However by the giving of the Torah [which was on Shevous], they recognized the truth, and didn’t acknowledge the miracles as miracles in and of themselves. But they understood that they were a part of everything that He alone made through his speech. Therefore they did not need to serve Him because of the miracles. And for that reason on Shevous they were not commanded to bring matzoh, because that would refer to the miracles, and on Shevous they do not need to serve HaShem on that level. The thanksgiving offering [that is brought on Shevous and at other times] was brought because of a miracle that was done [to the person bringing it.]  When HaShem does a miracle one reaches the first level of service.  However after that, because of the miracle, he becomes more diligent in his service of HaShem, and he rises to the second level, which is like the giving of the Torah. He rises up to this level because of his understanding based on what has already happened at Sinai [where the Torah was given.] For that reason [on Shevous] he brings BOTH matzoh [which is the first level] and leavened bread [which is the second higher level.] One before the miracle, and one after the miracle. When the Jewish people made the golden calf, they lost these two levels of service. However when they made the mishkan, they received the first one, which is based on miracles, again. However the second level did not return. It returns only if they serve HaShem with mesiras nefesh*. And then only little by little as they perfect their service of HaShem. The word ‘reckoning’ indicates something that is lacking in some way. And this is what the verse is saying, ‘these are the reckonings of the mishkan.’ This means these are the things that are lacking in the mishkan. That is, even though they have returned to the first level which is based on perceiving miracles, they are still lacking the second one based on their recognition that HaShem is the creator. Their service is still not complete. The verse explains what is lacking. It says, ‘the mishkan of testimony.’ Their service is one that is only a testimony (i.e. of the miracles] but it is not a service that is based on their recognition of the truth that HaShem is the creator of all as it was at Sinai. (p. 58b sefer Kedushas Levi teachings of Rebbe Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev)                                 * * * III. Coming together on Shabbos 3. ‘And Moshe assembled the entire congregation of the children of Israel, and he said to them, “These are the things that HaShem has commanded to do them. Six days you shall work and the seventh day shall be holy for you.’ (Shemos 35.1-2) Rashi* says that the language of this verse implies that he didn’t physically gather them, but that they were gathered by what he said. We can ask a number of questions about these verses. [1.] What is the meaning of the words, “These are the ‘words’ that HaShem has commanded to do them.” [The Hebrew word for ‘words’ and ‘things’ is the same.] Is there any relationship between words and ‘doing’?  [‘Words’ refers to speech and ‘doing’ to some type of an action.  Speech is not generally considered an action.] [2.] It should have said, ‘These are the mitzvos that Hashem has commanded’ or ‘These are the actions that HaShem has commanded.’ [3.] Also what is the relationship between the observance of Shabbos and the building of the mishkan, which appears in the verses that follow? [4.] Chazal* say that this teaches that the building of the mishkan [even though it is a mitzvah*] does not allow one to violate the Shabbos. [However] this was already stated above in the parsha* of Ki Sisa on the verses ‘See I have called by name Betzalal…’ [5.] Even more it is difficult to understand why it says here ‘To do them.’ All of the mitzvos of Shabbos involve NOT doing things, as is known. All the prohibitions of the Shabbos are negative commands [i.e. ones referring to actions one must refrain from doing.] [6.] Also the language of Rashi is difficult to understand. ‘He did not gather them with his hands [i.e. physically] but with his words.’ This is difficult. [Does he mean] that Moshe called each and every one of the Jewish people to come to the gathering. Even though we could say he meant that he commanded that it should be announced through other people, he should have said that if that was his intention. In a later verse, ‘And Moshe commanded, and the word went out in the camp’ he does this.  Here the verse says, ‘And Moshe gathered’ which implies that Moshe by himself gathered them. This is difficult to understand how he could have gathered them by himself with his words. It seems that we can explain the simple meaning of these verses as follows:  We find in every generation, including this generation, that there is a Tzaddik in that generation who makes himself holy, and purifies himself in all manners of holiness. He constantly learns Torah, prays and does mitzvos and good deeds. All for the sake of HaShem alone. To this person is gathered in every generation many people to hear from him the Torah of HaShem, good advice to serve HaShem, and prayer. Also, this Tzaddik enlightens them in various aspects of the service of HaShem with truth and enthusiasm. They are inspired to do tshuva* completely [for all their sins.] In this manner they acted in the time of the Tannaim* and Amoraim*, when they had very large yeshivos*. The time when they would gather together was on Shabbos, when they would usually talk to them in Torah and how to truthfully serve HaShem, as is known from the words of Chazal in the Talmud* in many places in Bava Metzia* and Bava Basra*. The main time they would gather together was on Shabbos. This was because on the Shabbos the Tzaddik has a greater holiness and a deeper understanding of Torah and musar*. [For this reason] he is able to instruct the people in the proper way of serving HaShem. For this reason almost every Shabbos this Tzaddik has a number of people and groups gathered to him. This is because Shabbos is called the ‘Queen Shabbos’ and ‘Royalty’ is compared [in the Zohar] to the mouth, and the Oral Torah. This means, as I said above, the Tzaddik, who purifies his mouth with Torah and prayer, has the power on Shabbos in his mouth to explain the Oral Torah according to the Written Torah. This is the meaning of the above verses: ‘And Moshe assembled the entire congregation of the children of Israel.’ This occurred on the day after Yom Kippur* [as is stated in Chazal.] Moshe descended from the mountain with a great measure of holiness that he received while he was there for 40 days. Therefore all the Jewish people gathered themselves to him since they understood that they would hear holy words from him. New words of Torah that they had never been heard in the world until then. That is what Rashi means when he says ‘With his words they were gathered.’ Because he had holy words [to relate] they gathered by themselves to him to hear from him words of Torah and advice in the service of HaShem. ‘And he said to them, “These are the things that HaShem has commanded to do them.’ The meaning is just as you are gathered to me [Moshe] because you are hearing from me holy words and new teachings of the Torah, so you shall do. You should also make yourselves holy in all manner of holiness in order that you should also have holy words. And you shall be able to gather around yourself groups of men to receive from you Torah, holiness and advice in the service of HaShem. That is why these words are near, ‘Six days you shall work and the seventh day shall be holy for you.’ This means that you should have an extra holiness on the Shabbos. From that you will have the power to gather people [to yourself] to instruct them in the way to serve HaShem. (p. 109b sefer M’Or V’Shamash teachings of Rebbe Kolonymus Kalman of Krakow.)                                 * * * IV. Holy thoughts 4. ‘Every wise hearted man among you shall come and make…’ (Shemos 35.10) The words in this verse ‘among you’ appear to be extra. However it seems to be a remez to an idea that we have learned before.  When it comes to the performance of the mitzvos the important thing is what you have in your heart and the holy thoughts that you have when doing each specific mitzvah. Even though this is the case, it is still not possible to do the mitzvah with your thought alone [without any action] as thoughts are continually moving from one idea to another. This one comes and quickly another one takes it’s place. Therefore the thought alone is not good without the actual action of the mitzvah, and by this action you will fulfil your requirement of intention.  Not only that but the action will cause you to have the thoughts that apply to this action. When you have finished this action then there remains with you an impression of that good thought, and so a part of the action will remain forever. This is the meaning of what we say before performing any of the mitzvos ‘you have made us holy with your mitzvos.’ Through your command to do the action of the mitzvah you cause us to become holy. This action causes holy thoughts [that apply to this mitzvah] and they establish themselves with a greater strength and power. All this is because this world is the world of action. [Action is the main purpose of this world, as Chazal say, ‘the learning is not the important thing, the action is.’] This is what it says in the Megilah*, ‘These days should be remembered and kept.’ The command applies to both the action [i.e. kept] and the remembrance, because it is not sufficient that it should be remembered alone, i.e. in thought. Without any action [since thoughts disappear quickly.] That is the meaning of the verse, ‘Every wise hearted man.’ ‘Wise’ ‘Heart’ refers to wisdom and understanding.  This means everyone who HaShem has bestowed from above with good thoughts of wisdom and understanding in his mind. ‘He should bring’, he should do the mitzvos in action and not just thought. He will go out from there to the light and HaShem’s word will be established forever. (p. 145 sefer Tepheres Shlomoh teachings of Rebbe Shlomoh of Radomsk.)                                 * * * V. Parshas Porah 5. The sefer M’or V’Shamash asked on the verse, ‘And Moshe gathered all the congregation of Israel and he said to them, these are the things that HaShem commanded you to do.’: what does it mean by ‘these are the things that HaShem commanded you to do?’ There are no positive commandments with regards to Shabbos except to remember the Shabbos and to make Kiddish. And from the Torah the remembrance alone is sufficient. The Rabbis later added that one has to make Kiddish on wine [as a remembrance.] All the mitzvos of Shabbos are negative ones, [that tell us things we should not do. How can the verse say that Moshe was teaching them the things to ‘do’ as if there were some action that was required when there are none?] He answers that Moshe Rabbeinu gathered them together every Shabbos and taught them the Torah, and gave them moral instruction on how they should act. This is [being said] to show for later generations how they should act in every generation. That they should gather themselves around the Tzaddik that is in their generation to hear from him words of Torah. This is the meaning ‘to do’, i.e. in every generation they should gather together with the Tzaddik to hear his words. [See #3 above where this teaching is brought.] It is well known that the Hebrew word ‘and he gathered’ [Heb. V’yakel] is the same gematria* as mikvah*. This is because the words of Torah that are heard from a Tzaddik purify the soul of the person who hears them [the same as if he had immersed himself in a mikvah.] He is able to immerse himself in these words of Torah and they are like the water of a mikva which purify him. The Yeitiv Lev says on the verse, ‘The priest’s lip should keep knowledge and they should seek Torah from his mouth [for he is a messenger [Heb. malach] of HaShem of hosts.]’ Chazal say, if your Rav* is like an angel [Heb. malach] of Hashem you should seek Torah from his mouth, and if not you should not seek Torah from his mouth. The question is why does the verse use the word ‘seek’? [It should have said ‘listen to’, or ‘learn from’.] The Yeitiv Lev explains that in the Talmud it says that ‘the common speech of a Talmud Chocham must be studied’ because within their common speech is to be found words of Torah. And that is the meaning of ‘if your Rav is like an angel of HaShem’ then you need to seek Torah from him, i.e. that Torah that is hidden within his common speech. However if someone else says over words of Torah, even if he is not like an angel of HaShem one should not care. He should accept what he says as it says in Pirkei Avos, ‘Who is wise? He who learns from every person.’ But to seek for words of Torah in his common speech, that you should not do unless he is a Rav who is like an angel of HaShem. This is the virtue of words of Torah that they are able to purify those who hear them no matter who is the one saying them. This is because the Torah is eternal and relates to each and every generation. One should not search out to see if the one saying the words of Torah is like an angel or not. One needs to accept from every person and from that he will be able to purify himself. With this we can understand what it says in Parshas Porah, ‘And HaShem said to Moshe and Aharon saying, this is the decree of the Torah that HaShem commands to say. Speak to the Children of Israel and tell them they should take to you…’ It would appear that the words ‘This is the decree of the Torah’ is extra. Also there is a well known question. The verse should have said, ‘This is the decree of the Porah.’ The explanation is that HaShem wanted to show the Jewish people that even after the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash*, when they would not have the ashes of the Red Heifer, they would still be able to purify themselves through the Torah. The meaning is that when the Jewish people will gather themselves together around a holy Tzaddik who will teach words of Torah, through that it is as if they were immersing in a mikvah and becoming pure. HaShem was telling Moshe beforehand what they should do when there would no longer be the ashes of the Red Heifer.. Then it will be ‘This is the decree of the Torah that HaShem commands you to say.’ Through the saying of words of Torah it will be as if they fulfilled the laws of the Red Heifer and they will be purified. (Heard from Mori* HaRav Shmuel Kraus Z’L* on the last Shabbos I was with him,

Parshas Porah 5748)

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Glossary:

Arizal: Hebrew initials of the words: Adoni Rabbenu Yitzchok    Zechorono LeVaracha our master Rabbi Yitzchok. Better known as    Yitzchok Luria the great 16th century Kabbalist
Chazal: Hebrew initials for: Chochmenu Zichrona Levaracha (Our sages of Blessed memory) Used to refer to Rabbis of the Talmud.
HaShem: Noun used in place of G-d. Lit. The Name
HY’D: Heb. HaShem Yimkom Domov: HaShem should avenge their blood.
Mishleh: One of the books of the Tenach, called in English Proverbs.
Mitzvah (mitzvos): One of the commandments of the Torah.
nashama: Hebrew word for soul.
peshat: A method of Biblical interpretation based on finding the simple meaning in the Torah.
Rashi: The primary commentary on the Tenach.
Rebbe: Leader of a Chassidic group or a teacher
Shabbos: Tractate in the Talmud
Shemos: Second book of the Torah. Called Exodus in English
Talmid (Talmidim): Disciples of a Rebbe.
Talmud: An ancient work of Jewish law.
Tehillim: Hebrew name for Psalms.
Torah: a. First 5 books of the Jewish Bible            b. Also refers to the whole of Jewish law            c. also common term for a chassidic teaching

Tshuva: Hebrew word for repentance

Tzaddik (Tzaddikim): lit. Righteous. Another name for a Chassidic Rebbe.
Yetzer: lit. Inclination. It is Jewish belief that every Jew has both an evil and good inclination within him, that are at ‘war’ to see which of them the person will follow.
Yetzer Tov: Heb. Good Inclination
Yetzer HaRah: Heb. Evil Inclination.
ZT’L: Hebrew initials of the words: Zechor Tzaddik LeVaracha (The memory of a Tzaddik – Righteous person is a blessing.)
ZY’A: Hebrew initials of the words: Zechiso Yagan Aleinu (His merit should protect us.)
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Copyright (c) 1997 by Moshe Shulman ([email protected]) All rights reserved.

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