In this week's parashah, the construction of the Mishkan is
completed. The parashah opens: "These are the accountings of the
Tabernacle, the Tabernacle of Testimony, which were reckoned at
Moshe's bidding." The Sages say that the accounting was actually
taken from Moshe! Why, asks R' Moshe Gruenwald z"l (died 1853-
1911; rabbi of Khust, Hungary), was an accounting required from
Moshe? We read about the workers in the first Bet Hamikdash
(Melachim II 12:16), "They did not make an accounting with the
men into whose hands they gave the money to pay out to the
workmen, for they acted with emunah / integrity." Furthermore,
why wasn't an accounting taken from Bezalel and his helpers?
Also, Chazal teach that Moshe could not give a complete
accounting, and a bat kol / Heavenly proclamation had to vouch
for him. If so, what was the purpose of even beginning the
R' Gruenwald explains: The purpose of the accounting was to
teach us a lesson. Many commentaries explain how the various
parts of the Mishkan and its furnishing allude to different parts
of man's body and to his strengths. Each of us must learn to
take an accounting of himself. Are we using our organs and our
abilities as intended?
In a similar vein, R' Gruenwald asks: Why do we reckon
according to a lunar calendar? After all, the sun is more
distinguished! Because we can learn a lesson in proper behavior
from the moon. Every month, the moon waxes and wanes. So, too,
we must undergo cycles of growth and contraction. Periodically,
preferably every day, man must humble himself and reflect on what
he has accomplished. Then he must grow some more and begin the
cycle anew. (Aarugas Habosem)
"The stones were according to [literally, `were on'] the
names of the sons of Yisrael . . ."
The names of the Twelve Tribes were engraved on the stones of
the Kohen Gadol's breastplate, and the letters of those names
were used by G-d to communicate with the Jewish people. The
Gemara (Yoma 93b) therefore asks: "But there is no letter `tzadi'
in the names of the tribes!"
The Gemara answers: "The names of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov
also were engraved on the stones." (The name Yitzchak contains a
The Gemara then asks: "But still, there is no letter `tet'!"
The Gemara answers: "The words `Shivtei Yeshurun' / `Tribes of
Yeshurun' were also engraved on the stones." (Thus concludes the
This Gemara presents several difficulties. Firstly, why did
the Gemara remark on the absence of the letter tzadi before it
noted the absence of the letter tet? After all, tet precedes
tzadi in the Aleph-Bet. Moreover, if the questioner in the
Gemara did not know that the names of Avraham, Yitzchak and
Yaakov were engraved on the stones, as he apparently did not, why
did he not remark first that the letter `chet' was missing?
R' Yechiel Michel Stern shlita (rabbi of the Ezrat Torah
neighborhood of Yerushalayim) quotes the work Pirchei Nissan,
which explains as follows:
The questioner read our verse, "The stones were on the names of
the sons of Yisrael," and he thought that the names of the stones
were engraved on the breastplate above the names of the tribes,
Odem Pitda Bareket Nofach
Reuven Shimon Levi Yehuda etc.
Had that been the case, then all the letters of the Aleph-Bet
would have been present except for tzadi.
What then is the meaning of the verse? It means that the names
of the Patriarchs, Avraham Yitzchak and Yaakov, were on top of
the names of the tribes. The patriarchs are called "stones," as
in the following verses: "From there, he shepherded the stone of
Yisrael" (Bereishit 49:24). "For from its origins, I see it rock-
like" (Bemidbar 23:9). "Look to the rock from which you were
hewn" (Yishayah 51:1). All of these are interpreted by the sages
as references to the Patriarchs, for they were the foundation
stone of the Jewish people.
(Chumash Midrash Halachah)
R' Eliyahu Hakohen z"l (Izmir, Turkey; died 1729) observes that
the phrase "As G-d commanded Moshe" appears 18 (chai) times in
this parashah. This alludes to the fact that Bnei Yisrael were
sentenced to death for the sin of the Golden Calf, but they
achieved life (chaim) because of Moshe's self sacrifice. After
each time that the phrase "As G-d commanded Moshe" appears, the
Torah then relates that Bnei Yisrael made another part of the
Mishkan. This alludes to the fact that all of their actions were
possible only because Moshe prayed for them.
R' Yishayah Halevi Horowitz z"l (the Shelah Hakadosh) writes:
The Holy Shabbat! The day is sanctified to G-d. It is the root
of all other days. Therefore, a person must be more exacting in
his actions and more fearful lest he lose his attachment to the
Blessed G-d. One should also be more stringent if he is in doubt
regarding a law of Shabbat than he is regarding doubts about
other laws. This is learned from the Mishnah (Demai 4:1): "If
one buys produce from a person who is not trusted regarding
tithing, and he (the buyer) forgets to tithe them, if he asks the
seller on Shabbat whether he tithed, he (the buyer) may believe
him (the seller)." [Tithing is prohibited on Shabbat.] R'
Ovadiah of Bartenura explains why the otherwise untrustworthy
seller is believed under these circumstances: "The awe of Shabbat
is upon him, and he is afraid to sin or to lie on Shabbat more so
than on a weekday." [The Shelah Hakadosh continues:] If even an
unlettered person is more afraid of sin on Shabbat than on a
weekday, how much more so one who has been granted wisdom and
understanding, one who understands the holiness of Shabbat and
the secret of the neshamah yetairah, one who seeks holiness.
Then he will connect himself to his nefesh, ruach and neshamah
[i.e., three parts of the soul of which kabbalists speak].
Shabbat is the root of all days, and they are offshoots of
Shabbat. Shabbat, together with the other days, may be seen as a
menorah -- three branches on one side and three branches on the
other side, all pointing to the center, which is the body of the
menorah. In the same way, there are three days before Shabbat,
when one sanctifies himself and prepares himself for Shabbat, one
day each for the nefesh, ruach and neshamah. Also, there are
three days after Shabbat, when the memory of Shabbat lingers in
the nefesh, ruach and neshamah. Then the cycle begins again.
Therefore, a person should search within each day for that day's
share of the sanctity of Shabbat. It also follows that it is not
enough, on Shabbat, to experience the sanctity of the day itself.
One must resolve to carry that sanctity into the days and weeks
To attain these levels -- sanctifying nefesh, ruach and
neshamah -- one must sanctify his deeds, his words, and his
thoughts. All of his tools, i.e., his organs, must be holy and
removed from any sin or hint of sin. This is the "Sur mai'ra" /
"Turn from evil" aspect. Next, a person should practice "Asai
tov" / "Do good," i.e., that he should use all of his organs to
perform mitzvot. After that, one must sanctify his speech,
guarding his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking
deceitfully. Even when it comes to everyday speech, which is not
sinful, I have found nothing better than silence. Finally, one
should sanctify his thoughts, having none that are repugnant, but
only holy thoughts that cause one to cling to Hashem. There is
no mitzvah that does not include the elements of deed, word and
thought. When one does any mitzvah, he should say, "I hereby
perform this mitzvah whose laws are such and such." [In other
words, one should review the mitzvah's laws as he performs the
mitzvah.] Also, one should have in mind the kavanah / meaning of
the mitzvah and its secret, to the extent he is able. In this
way, he combines deed, word and thought.
(Quoted in Musarei Ha'Shelah p.1)
R'Mordechai Wulliger z"l
R' Mordechai Wulliger was born in Bustino, in the Maramarosh
region of Hungary on 9 Cheshvan 5666 / 1895. His father, R'
Moshe, was one of the leading students of R' Zalman Leib
Teitelbaum, the rabbi of Sighet and a leading chassidic rebbe.
As a teenager, young Mordechai studied under R' Moshe Gruenwald
(the Arugas Habosem) and under the Veitzner Rav. However, R'
Wulliger's primary teacher was R' Zalman Leib's grandson, R'
Chaim Zvi Teitelbaum, rabbi of Sighet and author of Atzei Chaim.
(One of the responsa in She'eilot U'teshuvot Atzei Chaim is
addressed to R' Wulliger.)
In 1938, R' Wulliger settled in the United States with his
family. For approximately 50 years, he served as part of the
administration of Yeshiva and Mesivta Torah Vodath in Brooklyn.
(His official title was Chairman of the Students Advisory Board.)
R' Wulliger authored a number of Torah works, beginning with
Pardes Mordechai, published in 1927. In 1962, he published Otzar
Hashas, an encyclopedia of Talmudic topics. He also left about
7000 pages of manuscripts covering many areas of Torah. (Some of
his works have recently been republished in PDF format and are
available on the internet.) R' Wulliger died in his 100th year
on 2 Adar 5755 / 1995.
In Tefilat Mordechai (p.139), R' Wulliger writes: Our parashah
states (39:43), "Moshe saw the entire work [of the Mishkan], and
behold! They had done it as Hashem had commanded, so had they
done. And Moshe blessed them." The Midrash adds, "What was his
blessing? `May it be G-d's Will that the Shechinah will rest on
R' Wulliger explains the significance of Moshe's blessing as
follows: The Gemara teaches that one may not praise G-d except
using the formula that the Sages established. If a person would
begin to praise G-d on his own, he could never stop, for we would
ask him, "Have you exhausted all of your Master's attributes?!"
The Mishkan was intended as a place for man to come close to G-d
through prayer and service, but how can man do that? He can
never praise G-d enough! The answer is that it is proper
etiquette not to praise someone excessively to his face. Thus,
when the Shechinah is present in the Mishkan, one can begin to
praise G-d and stop. In answer to the question "Have you
exhausted all of your Master's attributes?" he can respond that
it is not proper to recite all of G-d's praises to His Face, so-