The Midrash Rabbah (51:8) questions the significance of the word, “Ve’eileh.” Why does the Parsha begin with this word? This Midrash ultimately concludes that this “Ve’eileh” is connected to the one in Shemot (32:4), mentioned in reference to the Eigel Hazahav, where Bnei Yisrael exclaimed, “Eileh Elokecha,” “this is your G-d.” Through this term “Ve’eileh” we both angered and appeased Hashem. However, the Mishkan, in a sense, achieved atonement for the episode of the Eigel.
The first idea reported by this Midrash on its way to reaching this conclusion is that when Hashem gave the Torah to Bnei Yisrael they were exempted from the rule of the Angel of Death. This is seen from the fact that in Shemot 32:6 we are told that Hashem’s writing was “Charut,” engraved on the tablets. The words were etched in such a way that they were essentially “Cherut,” free from and unattached to the tablets. Consequently, we were also “Cherut,” free from the Angel of Death, because the splendor of the Torah protected us. Rabi Yochanan says that this splendor was symbolized by Hashem adorning us with crowns. These crowns represent our connection to Hashem through His Torah.
I believe that these crowns and their meaning to us can also be manifested through our Rabbeim, people whose every breath echoes the messages of Torah. In observing the Sheloshim of my Rebbe, Harav Yechiel Michel Katz zt''l this past week, I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge one of the crowns of Torah we were privileged to wear for many years. Yeshiva University has been privileged to have many Torah giants grace its hallways. Harav Katz zt''l was one such person. I cannot within the confines of this publication properly articulate the ways that this Rebbe touched my life. His greatness in Torah was matched by greatness in Midot which enabled this Kohen Gadol to gracefully affect so many Talmidim.
Klal Yisrael is not, at present time, exempt from the rule of the Angel of Death. The Torah, however, is most certainly exempt. The influence that Harav Katz zt''l had on his Talmidim will certainly permeate and resonate within their souls forever, similar to the way that the letters floated free within the tablets, unencumbered by physical surroundings. May this crown bask in the light of Hashem and may this Rebbe be a Bracha to us all. Yehi Zichro Baruch.
Get Now, Achieve Later
by Dov Rossman
Parshat Pekudei describes the construction of the structure of the Mishkan (40:17-19): “And it was in the first month, in the second year, on the first of the month, that the Mishkan was erected. Moshe erected the Mishkan, and he fastened its sockets and set its boards and inserted its bars and erected its pillars. He spread the tent over the Mishkan and set the covering of the tent over it, as God commanded Moshe.”
Chazal teach us that “Moshe erected the Mishkan” refers to the lower curtains. As it is stated in Shabbat 28a: “Only the Mishkan itself is called Mishkan; the beams are not called Mishkan.” Accordingly, the word Mishkan does not refer to the beams of the Mishkan, but rather to the lower curtains.
Rashi interprets the words “he spread the tent” to refer to the goat-hair covering the lower curtain. We see from this that the lower curtains were already in place. We can now better understand the order in which the Mishkan was constructed. The lower curtains were first spread, then the beams were put together, and finally the goat-hair covering was placed on. This can be confirmed by Seforno’s comments on Pasuk 18: “The ten skillfully woven curtains called Mishkan were erected before the beams.”
The Sefer Shem Mishmuel (rendered into English by Rabbi Zvi Belovski) comments on how remarkable it is that the curtains were spread before the supports were placed underneath. This could have only been possible if the people were holding up the curtains while the beams were placed underneath, or if this occurred through a miracle! He proceeds to ask why we have to go through this difficult and complicated process. Would it not have been much easier and more convenient had the beams been placed before the curtains?
He answers based on the idea that the Mishkan was meant to be a place where the Shechinah rested, as can easily be proven from the fact that the word “Mishkan” itself means a “resting place.” Additionally, when the idea of a Mishkan is first introduced by the Torah, the Pesukim state: “Make a sanctuary for Me, and I shall dwell among them” (Shemot 25:8). This means that everything having to do with the Mishkan was done with the goal of bringing the Shechinah down to Earth. All of the vessels were created with the goal of instilling the presence of Hashem within them. This is similar to the connection between a person and his Neshamah. Just as the body is a means of transportation for the soul in this world, the Mishkan was a place that was meant to make the presence of Hashem apparent on earth.
After the Chet HaEgel, Bnei Yisrael were spiritually impure and felt disconnected from Hashem. Hashem gave us the Mishkan to take us out of that spiritual impurity. Once the Mishkan was built, they were presented with a model on how to connect with Hashem. Their goal became to be like the vessels of the Mishkan, to bring the Shechinah down to earth.
This incident of building the Mishkan and becoming closer to Hashem is symbolized by the order in which the Mishkan was built. The same people who had become spiritually impure from the Chet HaEgel were given the Mishkan before they were at a sufficient level of Taharah to support the spiritual holiness represented by the Mishkan. Just as the supports were only placed under the curtains after they had been place, hence the spiritual uplift of the Mishkan had been placed on Bnei Yisrael before the people could reach the level that they had been given by God.
This is similar to the development of Bnei Yisrael after being taken out of Egypt. While enslaved, Bnei Yisrael had sunk to their lowest level of Tumah. Had they been in Egypt much longer, they would have been unable to be redeemed by Hashem. Even though Bnei Yisrael were not worthy of a miraculous salvation, Hashem redeemed them because of what they were to accomplish in the future - the acceptance of the Torah at Har Sinai nearly two months later. So Hashem took them of Egypt on a higher level then they were on, with the confidence that they could ‘lay down the supports’ within the seven upcoming weeks to Har Sinai.
What a Thought!
by Ben Krinsky
There are many names throughout the Tanach and Divrei Chazal that end with “El.” This ending signifies that these people have some element of Godliness in their character. Generally, these names are those of angels, such as Gavriel and Michael, names given by Hashem, like Yisrael and Yishmael, or names given because of divine service, such as Shmuel. In the last few Parshiot of Sefer Shmot, including this week’s Parsha, we have another instance of such a name – Betzalel, the primary builder of the Mishkan. How did Betzalel earn his name?
To answer this question, we need look no further than a Rashi on the second Pasuk of the Parsha. Rashi wonders why it is necessary to add that Betzalel did “according to everything Hashem had commanded Moshe.” Would it not have been sufficient to say that he did “as Hashem had commanded Moshe?” Rashi explains that the word “Kol,” “everything,” teaches that Betzalel not only did all that Hashem had told Moshe and also what Hashem had not told Moshe. Hashem first commanded the building of the Kelim, the vessels of the Mishkan, and only then discussed the actual structure of the Mishkan. However, Betzalel first built the Mishkan structure and only then did he create the Kelim, reasoning, according to Rashi, that it would not make sense to build the furniture before first building the house. Because he used his powers of reasoning, Moshe commented that Betzalel lived “in the shadow of Hashem,” which enabled him to deduce Hashem’s true will. Betzalel thus merited his name, which literally means “in the shadow of God,” by serving Hashem with his mind.
This clearly demonstrates the importance of thought. Betzalel was rewarded for thinking instead of merely following blindly. Just
think of what we can accomplish if we simply use our minds!
The Mishkan Hakodesh
by Avi Levinson
Over the course of history, both of our Batei Mikdash have been destroyed and looted by our enemies. However, Sforno on the first Pasuk of Parshat Pekudei comments that we never find that any of the vessels from the Mishkan were destroyed or captured by enemies. He offers four reasons for why the Mishkan was so great that its vessels were not destroyed: it was “Mishkan Ha’eidut,” the place of the Luchot of “testimony”; it was commanded by Moshe Rabbeinu, the greatest leader we ever had; the Leviim who served in the Mishkan were under the charge of Itamar Hakohen, who was a great Tzaddik; and the actual construction of the Mishkan was presided over by Betzalel and other Tzaddikim. This last feature differs from the two Batei Mikdash, which were both built largely by foreign laborers. The first was built by men hired from Tzor (Tyre), and the second by men from Tzor and Tzidon (Sidon) commissioned by the Persian king Koresh king. The second Beit Hamikdash also did not have the Aron (it was never found after Yoshiyahu hid it in the times of Bayit Rishon); the Leviim were not present in great numbers in its time (see Ezra Perek Chet); and it was commanded to be built by Koresh, a foreign king. The Batei Mikdash were thus lacking in many of the special qualities of the Mishkan, giving the Mishkan much more Kedushah than either Beit Hamikdash.
Sforno makes a similar comment at the end of Parshat Nasso. He asks why the Torah felt the need to recount the whole combined value of the gifts of the tribal leaders; after all, we can do the math on our own. He answers that it is to be contrasted with the first Beit Hamikdash. The Torah in Nasso says immediately after the account of all the leaders’ gifts that Moshe came to the Mishkan and was able to speak to Hashem. This is different from the times of the first Beit Hamikdash, when absolutely no one could simply walk into the Beit Hamikdash and speak to Hashem. Even though the Korbanot brought at the inauguration of the Mishkan were very few compared to those brought at the inauguration of the first Beit Hamikdash, the Mishkan was so much holier that Moshe could enter and speak to Hashem whenever he felt the need. The quantity was insignificant, but the quality was much higher. This may be why so many Pesukim of the Torah are devoted to the establishment of the Mishkan.
Clearly, then, the Mishkan represented a special, unique phenomenon, a level of Kedushah that history has never seen since.
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