In addition to Parashat Terumah, this week's reading includes
Parashat Zachor, which contains the commandment to remember how
the people of Amalek attacked our ancestors, and the commandment
to destroy Amalek. Why are we commanded to eradicate Amalek?
Why is that nation's fate so much harsher than the fate of the
other enemies of Israel?
R' Chaim Friedlander z"l (mashgiach of the Ponovezh Yeshiva;
died 1986) explains: Amalek represents and espouses "zilzul" /
disparagement or belittling of the values which the world
respects. The Sages observe that the verse in Parashat Zachor
(Devarim 25:18), "Asher karcha ba'derech" / "He happened upon
you on the way," can also be translated, "He cooled you off on
the way." The Sages explain by likening Amalek's unprovoked
attack on Bnei Yisrael shortly after the latter's Exodus from
Egypt - the very first attack on the Jewish people following the
miraculous splitting of the Yam Suf - to jumping into a scalding
bath. All the nations of the world were afraid to enter the
bath, i.e., they were in awe of G-d's power and of His protection
of the Jewish people, but Amalek said, "Even if I am burnt by the
bath, I will at least cool it down. I will demonstrate that G-d
and His people are not invincible."
Based on the proximity of two verses (Shmot 17:1 and 7), the
Sages teach that Amalek's attack was a consequence of Bnei
Yisrael's bittul Torah / neglect of Torah study. Why was this a
fitting punishment for bittul Torah? Because neglecting Torah
study is also a disparagement or belittling of that which is most
valuable. One who recognizes the worth of Torah study does not
neglect it. (Siftei Chaim: Purim p. 165)
"They shall make a sanctuary for Me so that I may dwell
among them." (25:8)
Why didn't Hashem say, "You (plural) shall make a sanctuary. so
that I may dwell amongst you"? R' Shmuel Tayib z"l (Tunisia; mid-
19th century) explains:
The entire Mishkan / Sanctuary and all of its vessels were
simply tools designed to assist Bnei Yisrael in preparing their
hearts to be resting places for the Shechinah. The righteous,
such as Moshe, do not need this assistance, for they are
themselves the "Merkavah" / "chariot" for the Shechinah.
Therefore, Hashem could not say to Moshe, "You shall make a
sanctuary . . . so that I may dwell amongst you"; Moshe himself
did not need this. Only "They," i.e., Bnei Yisrael, needed the
We read in Melachim I that King Shlomo prayed at the dedication
of the Bet Hamikdash (8:57), "May Hashem, our G-d, be with us, as
He was with our forefathers . . ." R' Tayib explains that King
Shlomo was expressing the same idea stated above: It is our hope
that You will rest Your Shechinah on us -- through the Temple if
necessary -- but our real hope is that we merit to become the
carriers for the Shechinah just as our forefathers did without
having a Bet Hamikdash.
R' Ben Zion Halevi Bamberger z"l (mashgiach of the Ponovezh
Yeshiva in Bnei Brak; died 1980) writes similarly:
Our Sages have already pointed out that the Torah does not say,
"Make a Sanctuary for Me . . . so that I may dwell in it [i.e.,
the Mishkan]," but rather, "So that I may dwell among them [i.e.,
the People]." This is more than a nice expression. G-d is not
primarily concerned with a temple of wood and stone; the purpose
of the physical temple is to inspire us to make _ourselves_ into
temples for the Shechinah.
R' Bamberger continues: "Coming close to the Shechinah" may be
a concept to which most of us have difficulty relating. However,
we all aspire to reach Olam Haba / The World-to-Come, and what is
Olam Haba if not basking in the aura of the Shechinah?! Indeed,
Hashem's very reason for creating the world was to make it
possible for a being (us) to bask in His "light." Therefore,
every person must evaluate how he will reach that end.
(Sha'arei Zion p. 88)
"You shall make a table . . . and you shall cover it with
zahav / gold." (25:23-24)
R' Chaim ben Betzalel z"l (1515-1588; brother of the Maharal of
Prague) notes that "Zahav" is an acronym for the three blessings
of Birkat Hamazon ("bentching") which are ordained by the Torah:
"zayin" for "zahn"; "heh" for "ha'aretz"; and "bet" for "boneh."
(The fourth berachah is rabbinically ordained.) "You shall make
a table and you shall recite Birkat Hamazon on it."
"The Queen was greatly distressed; she sent garments to
clothe Mordechai so that he might take off his sackcloth,
but he would not accept them." (4:4)
Presumably, says R' David Soloveitchik shlita (in the name of
his father, the "Brisker Rav" z"l), the reason Esther wanted to
send clothes to Mordechai was so that he could enter the palace
to confer with her on a plan to counter Haman's decree. (After
all, Mordechai had his own clothes at home!) Why then did
Mordechai refuse? Because the halachah states that when an evil
decree is made against us, we must dress in sackcloth, fast and
pray. This is the first order of the day and it takes precedence
over meeting with politicians or lobbyists to work against the
(Quoted in Haggadah Shel Pesach Shai La'Torah p. 417)
"Mordechai left the king's presence clad in royal apparel of
turquoise and white with a large gold crown . . . ; and the
city of Shushan was cheerful and glad." (8:15)
Was the city of Shushan cheerful and glad because Mordechai was
wearing these royal garments, or does the verse contain two
separate pieces of information?
R' David Soloveitchik shlita answers in the name of his father:
We say in the hymn recited after the Megillah reading, "Shoshanat
Yaakov . . ." / "The rose of Yaakov was cheerful and glad when
they jointly saw Mordechai robed in royal blue." It appears,
therefore, that Mordechai's garb was the cause of Shushan's joy.
After Haman was forced to lead Mordechai around Shushan on the
king's horse, the verse says (6:12), "Mordechai returned to the
king's gate." The gemara states that Mordechai returned to
wearing sackcloth and fasting at the king's gate. Why? Because
although he had personally triumphed over Haman, the Jewish
people were still in danger. That was what concerned Mordechai,
and he would not remove his sackcloth until the Jews were safe.
It follows, then, that when Mordechai did remove his sackcloth
and don royal robes, it was a sign for the people of Shushan to
be cheerful and glad that Haman's evil plot had been defeated.
(Quoted in Haggadah Shel Pesach Shai La'Torah p. 425)
Introductions . . .
This week, we offer part of the introduction to Sefer
Hachinuch, a 13th century encyclopedia of the 613 mitzvot.
Although the author of this work identifies himself only as
"a Jewish man from the house of Levi, from Barcelona
[Spain]," and his true identity is unknown, Sefer Hachinuch
has become a classic of Torah literature and is regularly
studied either on its own or together with the 19th century
commentary, Minchat Chinuch.
Anything that has been agreed upon by the majority of the
world's population is considered by mankind to be true. And, the
majority of the world has agreed that the testimony of witnesses
should be believed. The more witnesses that there are, the more
that people tend to believe the witnesses' testimony. The
testimony of witnesses is considered so reliable that most
societies will condemn a man to death based on the testimony of
two or three witnesses.
It is also common that people accept their parents' and
grandparents' accounts of their experiences or of their
ancestors' experiences. Certainly, the greater the number of
parents that witnessed an event and related it to their children,
the greater the children's acceptance of the account will be.
This is why, when Hashem wanted to give the Torah to Israel, He
gave it before 600,000 people, a number which does not include
the women and children. Also, in order that their testimony
would be stronger and more reliable, He gave them all the power
of prophecy, because that which becomes known through prophecy
cannot be questioned. This is the meaning of the verse which
Hashem said to Moshe (Shmot 19:9), "So that the people will hear
as I speak to you, and they will also believe in you forever."
In other words, [Hashem said,] they and their children forever
will believe in Moshe and his prophecy, for they will know for
certain "that Hashem will speak to a person and he can live"
If not for the fact that Bnei Yisrael merited to see through
prophecy all of the wonders that Moshe did before the eyes of
Pharaoh [-- Ed. note: the majority of Jews did not, of course,
observe personally that Moshe caused the plagues --] someone
might argue: who knows whether Moshe did the whole thing through
black magic etc.? . . . After experiencing prophecy, however, no
one could have any doubt, and everyone knew clearly that
everything that was done was done at the command of the Master of
the World, and from His hand this came to them. - To be
The Dimont family
on the bar mitzvah of grandson Elazar Ginsburg