Hamaayan / The Torah Spring
Edited by Shlomo Katz
Volume XII, Number 18
23 Adar 5758
March 21 1998.
The Marwick family,
iin memory of Joel L. Slotsky a"h
Jules and Bobbi Meisler,
on the yahrzeit of Irving Meisler a"h
Jerry Belsh, Marilyn Berger,
and Shelley Phillips
on the yahrzeit of their father
Shmuel David ben Yitzchak Belsh a"h
Vayakhel - Pekudei
The commentators note that there are many differences between
G-d's commands regarding the construction of the mishkan (as
described in Parashat Terumah) and the way the construction was
actually carried out (as described in this week's combined
parashot, Vayakhel and Pekudei). Most notable among these
differences is the fact that despite Hashem's original command
that the utensils of the mishkan - such as the aron (Ark),
shulchan (Table), and menorah - be built before the mishkan
itself, Bnei Yisrael did the opposite. Commentators also note
that despite the implication found in Parashat Terumah that Moshe
himself was to build the mishkan, in Parashat Ki Tisah we read,
"Behold, I [G-d] have called upon Betzalel [to build the
mishkan]." Why did all of these changes occur?
R' Yehoshua Heller z"l (mid-19th century rabbi of Telz and
Vilna) writes that the changes that occurred in the construction
of the mishkan reflect a change that occurred in Bnei Yisrael
themselves between the time that the building of the mishkan was
commanded and the time that the construction took place. This
change was the making of the golden calf and the resulting
decline in Bnei Yisrael's spiritual level. R' Heller explains as
There are two different levels in the service of Hashem, one of
which is analogous to the period of a couple's engagement, and
the other, to their marriage. The period of engagement is a time
when love between the couple is first developing. During this
period, the future bride and groom perform actions whose purpose
is to further the growth of their love for each other. The
period of marriage is different, for while the couple's love
continues to grow, the husband and wife are already united by
their earlier love for each other, and they now serve each other
because of that love.
So it is in the service of Hashem. On a "beginner's" level, a
person does mitzvot in order to increase his love for G-d, while
at a more advanced level, a person serves Hashem because he
already loves Him.
When Bnei Yisrael stood at Har Sinai, they achieved the highest
level of service of Hashem, corresponding to the higher of the
two levels described above. This is known as "The level of Adam
before his sin," and is the level we will again attain in the
days of mashiach. Had Bnei Yisrael not sinned, but rather
remained on this level, Moshe would have entered Eretz Yisrael
with them and he would have built the first - and only - Bet
Hamikdash, one which would never have been destroyed.
Unfortunately, Bnei Yisrael did sin, and they immediately fell
to a lower level of service of G-d. They now had to work their
way back up the ladder of service, always hoping to reach, but
never quite reaching, the level of Adam before his sin. They had
to experience again the engagement period, to be "married" again
with the future arrival of mashiach. We continue this service,
and its tools are the performance of mitzvot, the gifts that we -
the bride - send to Hashem - the groom - during our engagement
The mitzvah to build the mishkan was originally commanded
before the sin of the golden calf, and Moshe was to build it, for
he could invest it with the "spiritual power" to stand forever,
just as Bnei Yisrael were to remain forever on the lofty level
that they had achieved. When Bnei Yisrael sinned, however, the
fate of the mishkan (and later the Bet Hamikdash) was sealed for
eventual destruction. Now Moshe could not build it, and he was
commanded to appoint Betzalel as overseer of the mishkan's
The order of the mishkan's construction changed as well. The
utensils inside the mishkan - the aron, the menorah, and all the
others - represent man's innermost desire to serve Hashem,
whereas the outer covering (the "ohel" or "tent") represents the
outer distractions which prevent man's innermost feelings from
showing. Before the sin of the golden calf, Hashem commanded
that the mishkan's internal utensils be built first, for on Bnei
Yisrael's lofty level, their innermost feelings of love for G-d
shone through brightly. After Bnei Yisrael sinned, however, G-d
altered the plans, for just as Bnei Yisrael now had to toil to
peel away the distractions which separated them from their loved
One - Hashem - so Bnei Yisrael had to be separated from the
construction of the internal utensils of the mishkan by the walls
and roof of the ohel mo'ed.
(Ohel Yehoshua: D'rush 1)
"The nation was held back from bringing [donations]." (36:6)
True, Moshe commanded them not to bring more donations, says R'
Aharon Lewin z"l hy"d (the "Reisha Rav"), but what "held them
He answers: The sage Hilled said, "My legs take me where I
want to go" - as if on their own. Similarly, when a person is
in control of his inclinations, that which he is commanded not to
do becomes impossible to do. Moshe's command held Bnei Yisrael
(Hadrash Ve'haiyun No. 296)
Hashem told Avraham that Bnei Yisrael would be enslaved in a
foreign land for 400 years, but the exile in Egypt lasted only
210 years (and the enslavement, even less). One popular
explanation for how Hashem "justified" taking Bnei Yisrael out of
Egypt after fewer than 400 years is that Bnei Yisrael were worked
harder. But harder than what? asks R' Avraham Shmuel Binyamin
Sofer (the Ketav Sofer). There is no record that Hashem ever
specified how hard the Jews would work during their enslavement.
He answers: Hashem never told Avraham in what country the
enslavement of his descendants would occur. The mere fact that
the enslavement occurred in Egypt made it more difficult for Bnei
Yisrael than it would have been had it had occurred elsewhere.
After all that Yosef had done for Egypt, the Egyptians' turning
against the Jews was more than Bnei Yisrael could bear.
(Ketav Sofer, Parashat Bo)
We say in the Haggadah:
"Even if we all were sages, even if we
all were understanding . . .
it still would be incumbent upon us
to retell the story of the Exodus."
Rav Azaryah Berzon shlita explains this in light of the gemara
(Menachot 99b) which relates that a man named Ben Damah asked his
uncle, Rabbi Yishmael, "Since I have learned the entire Torah,
may I study Greek wisdom?"
Rabbi Yishmael responded, "One is commanded to speak Torah day
and night (Yehoshua 1:8). Find a time which is neither day nor
night and study Greek wisdom." What was the logic behind the
question and what was the answer?
Ben Damah thought that the purpose of Torah study is to know
the Torah. Rabbi Yishmael responded that that is only one
aspect. There is another mitzvah, which is to occupy oneself
Similarly, the Haggadah is teaching us that the purpose of
retelling the story of the Exodus is not (only) to know the
story. Rather, telling the story is an end and a mitzvah in and
(Printed in Hadarom, No. 53, Nissan 5754)
During the plague of locust, Pharaoh hurried to call Moshe and
Aharon, and to repent. Then Pharaoh changed his mind. What
Rav Yehoshua Leib Diskin z"l explains that each of the previous
plagues had lasted seven days. Therefore, Pharaoh thought that
if he "repented" quickly, he could save his crops. However,
after the locust departed, Pharaoh learned how much damage
actually had been done, and he decided that there was nothing to
gain from repentance.
R' Avraham Abulafia z"l
born 1240 - died after 1291
In his own day, R' Avraham was considered by many to be a false
messiah. Five hundred years later, however, the widely accepted
posek/halachic authority, R' Chaim Yosef David Azulai ("Chida")
You should know that Rashba in his responsa, No. 548, and
Rav Yashar [i.e., R' Yosef Shlomo Delmedigo] denigrated him
[i.e., R' Avraham] like one of the lowliest people.
However, I will tell you the truth that I saw a great rabbi,
from the masters of kabbalah whose name is great amongst the
Jews and whose word no one can doubt, who drew [R' Avraham's
Later writers stated that the "great Rabbi" referred to was R'
Moshe Cordevero. R' Chaim Vital also quotes R' Avraham
At age 20, R' Avraham set out in search of the ten lost tribes,
but he was turned back by the Crusaders when he reached Akko
(Acre). On his return trip to Spain, he stopped in Italy, where
he studied Rambam's Moreh Nevuchim/Guide to the Perplexed.
Dissatisfied with this branch of learning, he turned to kabbalah.
Later, he wrote a kabbalistic commentary to Moreh Nevuchim called
After settling in Spain, he devoted himself to studying the
ancient work Sefer Yetzirah, with the commentary, in particular,
of R' Elazar of Worms. R' Avraham also began teaching his own
students, most notable among them, R' Yosef Gikatilla.
After 1280, R' Avraham settled in Messina, Sicily, where he
began preaching of the imminent coming of mashiach. The confused
citizens of Messina turned to Rashba, the generation's foremost
Torah authority, for advice, and he warned the community not to
become involved with a false messianic movement.
Next, R' Avraham moved to Greece, where he composed several
works in his own defense. He also composed additional
kabbalistic works, leaving behind 48 books in total. (Sources:
The Artscroll Rishonim, p. 94; She'eilot U'teshuvot Ha'Rashba
Vol. I No.548; Shem Ha'gedolim, Ma'arechet Sefarim, Erech "Chayei
Olam"; Ohr Hachaim No. 249)
Copyright © 1998 by Shlomo Katz
and Project Genesis, Inc.
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