In This Issue:
Rabbi Chaim Jachter
The Torah records the workers of the Mishkan as telling Moshe, "Marbim HaAm LeHavi Midei HaAvodah," "The people are bringing more than enough for the labor" (Shemot 36:5).
The Mei HaShiloach raises a difficulty: the Torah seems to praise the people for donating their money to the Mishkan as if they were being extremely generous. Would not, however, everyone want to donate to the building of Hashem's home, thus rendering this perceived generosity as mere common inclination?
The Mei HaShiloach answers by explaining a phenomenon in the performance of Mitzvot. Usually, the first time one does a Mitzvah, he is extremely excited and enthusiastic about it. But after he does the Mitzvah a few times, the enthusiasm starts to disappear, showing that the performer is not really a dedicated person. Regarding donations to the Mishkan, however, the Torah states "more than enough," indicating that the nation kept bringing more and more without giving up their enthusiasm. This statement of the Torah proves that the nation truly was generous and did not donate to the Mishkan simply because it was the home of Hashem.
While discussing the Kiyor, the Torah notes that it was wrought, "BeMarot HaTzove'ot Asher Tzave'u Petach Ohel Moeid," "From the mirrors of the legions who amassed at the entrance of the Ohel Moeid" (Shemot 38:8). What compelled Moshe to create the Kiyor from mirrors?
The Baal Shem Tov explains that the flaws one sees in others are projections of his own faults. Just as a mirror reflects our "uglier" parts, the negative traits we see in others are reflections of our own. The Kohanim's mandatory ablution in the Kiyor sought to cleanse both physical and spiritual filthiness. The Kiyor's origin (mirrors) would allow a Kohen to look inside himself and thereby discern if he needed spiritual cleaning by analyzing his perspective on others. This mirror image is a recurring trait in the Baal Shem Tov's life. Upon seeing a Jew desecrating Shabbat, the Baal Shem Tov became angry with himself, because he understood that in order to warrant seeing such a terrible Aveirah, he must have had a personal connection with that particular sin. He remembered that once he did not vehemently protest when a person was mocking a Torah scholar. Since, as the Zohar states, a Torah scholar embodies Shabbat, the Baal Shem Tov
figuratively violated Shabbat; ergo, the Jew's desecration of Shabbat mirrored his own. Likewise, the Kiyor's mirrors allow the Kohanim to help themselves, since they were able to improve themselves by analyzing their outlook on others.
Often, many are too quick to critique others. Whether this critique is apt or not, one must realize, in accordance with the Baal Shem Tov's lesson, that this criticism might mirror his own character, which should make him think twice before hypocritically berating someone else.
Parashat VaYakheil is loosely divided into two sections, the first dealing with Bnei Yisrael donating the materials for the building of the Mishkan and the second describing the actual building of the Mishkan. Only the first, though, details the method through which communal harmony can be achieved. It is, as the section demonstrates, through the collective compilation of everybody's strengths and talents, however impressive or miniscule, that one can feel comfortable in his or her surroundings.
For the Mishkan to be built, vast quantities of natural resources and large amounts of manual labor were needed. So Moshe told Bnei Yisrael that "Kol Nediv Libo," "everyone who is generous of heart" (Shemot 35:5) should donate a portion of what he or she had as a gift to Hashem. Moshe's statement is gender-neutral - both men and women participated. The Pesukim then go on to detail what exactly was needed for the Mishkan. The first things detailed are tangible items, subdivided into three groups listed in ascending value. The first group of requested material donations was gold, silver, and copper: three metals that, while valuable, had been reasonably abundant among Bnei Yisrael since their exodus from Egypt. The second group contained valuables that were less ubiquitous: turquoise-, purple-, and scarlet-dyed wools; linens, animal skins, and pelts; woods, oils, and spices. As such, only wealthier individuals would have been able to donate
them. Finally, the last group, the precious stones for the Kohen Gadol's breastplate and shoulder plates, is listed; only the wealthiest individuals among the nation would have been able to donate them. The list was designed and ordered so that it was applicable to everyone; each person was able to donate some goods to the Mishkan, thereby allowing everyone to be a partner in the creation of Hashem's house.
The list doesn't stop at that point, though. Moshe explained that not only were materials needed to build the Mishkan, but labor and craftsmanship were needed as well. Every "Chacham Leiv," "wise-hearted person" (35:10), should make the items required for the Mishkan. The Ibn Ezra explains that "wise-hearted people" refers to anyone who can excel at a trade. Moshe continued to specify every item that needed to be created in the Mishkan. In fact, this list is longer than the list of goods that were requested. Moshe could easily have said, "Craftspeople are needed to form the donated goods into the vessels of the Mishkan." His specification of every item whose creation needed craftspeople demonstrated that the value of the labor was equal to, if not greater than, the value of the donation. Moshe thereby did his best to create harmony within Bnei Yisrael by allowing every person to join in the process of building the house of Hashem: both men
and women, both skilled and unskilled, both affluent and poor.
But to appreciate Moshe's success in creating harmony within Bnei Yisrael, it is necessary to see Bnei Yisrael's reaction. In fact, their response to the request was overwhelmingly positive. "VaYavo'u HaAnashim Al HaNashim," "The men came with the women" (35:22) to donate jewelry. Every man who had the valuables enumerated in the above list brought them. Every "Ishah Chachemat Leiv," "wise-hearted woman" (35:25) spun the wool and linen with her hands. Every "Ish Chacham Leiv," "wise-hearted man" (36:1) was called upon to build the sanctuary. In other words, everyone's strengths were utilized. All who had money donated, and all the men and women who had skills were a part of the creation of the Mishkan. And the remarkable aspect of Bnei Yisrael's donation of money and labor is that they gave more than was asked. Clearly, Moshe was successful in his request that Bnei Yisrael donate. Overall, Moshe was immensely successful in bringing Bnei
Yisrael together and in creating harmony within the nation.
It is also important for each of us to recognize that each individual's different strengths must be utilized to their full potential. Everyone has so much to contribute in this world if given the proper opportunity. The crème de la crème sometimes outshine the rest of the group. However, the rest of the group is so valuable that it can contribute as much, if not more, than the elite. May we all internalize Moshe's lesson of utilizing every person's capabilities, thereby meriting a more harmonious society and a speedy coming of the Mashiach.
Parashat VaYakheil marks the beginning of the construction of the Mishkan. Hashem appoints Betzaleil to be the chief contractor. The Netziv describes Betzaleil as having childlike inspiration, and many Meforshim comment that Betzaleil was in fact a child, only 13 years old. Yet, the Yerushalmi in Masechet Peiah tells us that Betzaleil had an even deeper insight and understanding of the words of Hashem regarding the Mishkan than even Moshe Rabbeinu.
The Gemara (Berachot 55a) depicts a conversation between Moshe Rabbeinu and Betzaleil. Hashem told Moshe to construct the Mishkan, Aron, and other Keilim, but yet, when Moshe dictated these instructions to Betzaleil, he rearranged the order, telling Betzaleil to make an Aron , Keilim, and the Mishkan. The brilliant Betzaleil inquired of Moshe as to why he listed them in this seemingly peculiar order. He reasoned that the house that contains the vessels should be made first, and only then the vessels to be placed inside it, politely accusing Moshe of misinterpreting the words of Hashem. Amazed by Betzaleil's intellect, Moshe revealed the truth to Betzaleil. The question arises, though: why did Moshe switch the order of the instructions in the first place?
Moshe thought the spirituality of the Keilim and Mishkan took priority over their physical practicality. Although the common way of the world may have been to first build a house and then the vessels, Moshe saw that the Aron had a higher level of Kedushah than the Mishkan. The Aron was where the Shechinah dwelled, and in Moshe's eyes, that took priority over the Mishkan. However, Betzaleil had a different, more innovative perspective. Betzaleil did not confine himself to the spiritual or physical, but amalgamated the two ideas. Betzaleil incorporated spirituality into the physical constructs of the Mishkan and Keilim, and therefore took physical practicality into consideration as well as spiritual, and was thereby able to discern the true words of Hashem.
Sometimes, the conventional and practical boundaries we set for ourselves have to be shattered. However, we can not abandon the physical considerations altogether. Part of being a Jew, especially in this day and age, is Torah UMadda, incorporating the mundane into Torah and spirituality. The young mind of Betzaleil was not tainted by the outside world; rather, he used it to further his knowledge. We should learn from the actions of this child and not confine ourselves to exclusively conventional thinking, but allow ourselves the freedom to make mental leaps that may initially seem immature and foolish, but could potentially lead to further understanding. We should use the world we live in and all of the wondrous things it has to offer to our advantage in our collective quest to serve Hashem in the greatest way possible.