1. ‘And Moshe gathered.’ (Shemos* 35.1) Moshe gathered together the Jewish people and then he told them about the mitzvah* of Shabbos*. Rebbe* Pinchas of Koretz explained in depth the importance of the unity of the Jewish people. [All Jews should feel as if they were part of a single people and not be divided in their hearts one from the other.] This is the meaning of ‘and he gathered’. Moshe [when he called them together] made them to feel as if they were one. Then Moshe told them the mitzvah of Shabbos. The reason is that Shabbos shows our unity. It is like a private domain [i.e. a place where a single person dwells.] Also the Torah* was given on Shabbos, because [as Chazal* teach us] Shabbos is equal to all of the other mitzvos of the Torah. [The Talmud* teaches that someone who violates Shabbos is considered as one who violates all of the Torah.] The reason [that the Torah was given on Shabbos] is that the Torah could not have been given without the unity of the Jewish people as Chazal explain with regards to the verse, ‘”and Israel rested there” [as if they were one person’. From this verse we see that] Moshe was able to bring all of the Jewish people to the level of unity as Rashi explains that they came together at the call of Moshe. [Just as the Torah required this unity, so the Shabbos reminds us of this unity.] (p. 15 # 91 sefer Imrei Pinchas teachings of Rebbe Pinchas of Koretz.) * * * 2. ‘These are the things that HaShem* commanded you to do.’ (Shemos 35.1) We can explain this according to the Midrash* from Parshas* Ekev. “You considered that it was to do something evil to you that I gave you the Shabbos, however I only gave it to you for your own good. How is that the case? Rebbi Chiya the son of Rebbi Aba said, ‘You make holy the Shabbos with food, drink, clean sheets, and those things that bring enjoyment to your soul, and I will give you a reward for that.'” We need to understand how it is possible that they could think that He gave them the Shabbos for an evil reason? Shabbos is called in the Talmud a ‘good present that was hidden in His treasure house.’ I explained that Midrash according to what Chazal have taught, ‘Everyone who observes Shabbos according to the halacha, even if he worshipped idols like the generation of Enosh, will be forgiven of his sins. As it says, “[He who] observes Shabbos and does not desecrate it” [Heb. M’chalallilo]. Don’t read “does not desecrate
it” but “he is forgiven”‘ [Heb mochol lo].
It is possible that because of this teaching a person could say, I will do whatever my heart desires, and then I will observe Shabbos and He will forgive me. After all the main purpose that He gave this gift [of Shabbos] is to remove the evil in us and not for any other reason. [As this teaching of the Talmud seems to indicate.] Because of this [line of reasoning] the Midrash comes and tells us that the main purpose of the observance of Shabbos is to do good. [And it is not in order that he should be forgiven from sins.] This means that during the six days of the week he should be careful to keep himself from any sin, and to rectify any sin he may have done. Then when the holy Shabbos comes he should sanctify the Shabbos by doing good, i.e. to enjoy himself with food and drink. From this he will receive a new reward because of this enjoyment of the Shabbos. That is the meaning of what the Midrash says, ‘for evil I gave you the Shabbos.’ This means that perhaps you would think that the only purpose of the giving of Shabbos was in order to gain forgiveness for your sins that you did during the six days of the week. However ‘I didn’t give it to you except for your own good.’ [i.e. in order that you should do good ‘all the six days of the week and then receive a greater reward for sanctifying the Shabbos.] That is the main gift of the Shabbos, to eat and drink etc, and to remove all evil from yourself during the six days of the week. Then you will receive a new reward because of your enjoyment of the Shabbos. This is the meaning of the verse [in the song sung on Shabbos] ‘all the descendants of Yaakov should honor it [Shabbos] according to the words of the King and His laws. To rest in it, and to be joyful with the pleasure of food and drink.’ [i.e. the main purpose of Shabbos is to prepare all week doing the will of HaShem so that on Shabbos he can reach a higher level of enjoyment and reward.] This is then the meaning of the verse, ‘These are the things that HaShem commanded you to do.’ Specifically to do [i.e. with food and drink after preparing oneself the whole week.] The main intention of HaShem in giving the Shabbos was that you should ‘do’. i.e. enjoy yourself with doing good, and not with the removal of evil alone. This can also be the meaning of the next verse, ‘six days you should do your work.’ This refers to work for the Shabbos, and His service, so that you will rectify your sins by your service of Him. ‘And the seventh day shall be holy to you.’ This is the extra holiness, the extra fear and love of HaShem that comes. And we receive an extra reward for enjoying the Shabbos. (p. 118 sefer Ahavas Shalom teachings of Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Kosov.) * * * II. Holy thoughts 3. ‘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.) * * * III. Learning Torah 4. ‘And Moshe gathered all the congregation of Israel and he said to them, these are the things that HaShem commanded you to do.’ (Shemos* 35.1) The sefer M’or V’Shamash asked on this verse: 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. 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 it uses 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. (Mori* HaRav Shmuel Kraus Z’L*) * * * IV. Shabbos Shekalim 5. We read the parsha about the giving of the Shekalim to the Beis HaMikdash* on the Shabbos before the beginning of the month of Adar because we do not have a holy Temple today. This is according to what Chazal have taught in the Talmud. However today, when we don’t have a Temple or alter, we shouldn’t consider that the saying of these verses is in the place of giving the shekalim, as it is with the verses dealing with the sacrifices [that we say nowadays in place of the sacrifices.] Since the main purpose of the shekalim was to purchase sacrifices, of what use are they when there is no alter? [If we intended our recital to be in the place of giving the shekalim, we still would not have done anything.] However the idea is this. It says [with regards to the giving of the shekalim], ‘to give the offering of HaShem to atone for your souls.’ On a simple level we need to understand what atonement was achieved via the shekalim? The average Jew had nothing to do with the daily sacrifices. He would give his shekalim to the temple. Then the officers of the temple would purchase the daily offerings and the additional offerings for Shabbos and then the priests would sacrifice them. [But he would do none of these actions.] Since the Jew had already separated his shekel, he has finished his action, and his atonement is completed. Therefore it is called the ‘atonement money’ because when the shekalim are given the atonement is finished for the Jew who has given the shekalim. This is what the special piyyut for this Shabbos says, ‘Let the words of our lips be like the offering of bullocks because the silver shekalim of atonement are no longer here.’ By the reading of the parsha of shekalim it is as if they were measuring the shekalim and
their atonement is complete just as it would have been in the time of the temple when after they had measured out their shekalim they had their atonement. (p. 124 vol 2 sefer P’ri Tzaddik teachings of Rebbe Tzadok HaKohen of Lublin.)
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.)
Copyright (c) 1997 by Moshe Shulman ([email protected]) All rights reserved.
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