Hamaayan / The Torah Spring
Edited by Shlomo Katz
Vayakhel: The Light of Shabbat
Volume XVII, No. 22
27 Adar I 5763
March 1, 2003
Dedicated "l'ilui nishmat"
Ilan ben Eliezer a"h, on his Shloshim
Sponsored by Eli, Rachel Adina and Daniel Avraham Rutstein,
in honor of the birthday of wife and mother Galit Rutstein
Elaine and Jerry Taragin, in memory of Asriel Taragin a"h
Daf Yomi (Bavli): Shevuot 36
Daf Yomi (Yerushalmi): Pesachim 63
Last week's parashah ends: "When Bnei Yisrael saw Moshe's face,
that the `ohr' / skin of Moshe's face had become radiant, Moshe
put the mask back on his face until he came to speak with Him."
This week's parashah then opens with the laws of Shabbat.
R' Shlomo Halberstam z"l (1907-2000; the Bobover Rav) explains
the connection between these two sections as follows:
Following Adam's sin of eating from the Tree of Knowledge, the
Torah states (Bereishit 3:21): "Hashem G-d made for Adam and his
wife garments of `ohr' / skin." Chazal say that in the Sefer
Torah of the sage Rabbi Meir, this verse said -- instead of
"garments of `ohr' [with an `ayin', meaning `skin']" -- "garments
of `ohr' [with an `aleph', meaning `light']." Commentaries
explain that this midrash refers to Rabbi Meir's ability to look
beneath the coarse "garments" that hide the spirituality inherent
in the world and to extract the "light." Thus, for example, the
Gemara (Chagigah 15a) relates that Rabbi Meir continued to study
Torah from the sage Elisha ben Avuyah after the latter became a
heretic. The Gemara says of Rabbi Meir's relationship with his
teacher: "He (Rabbi Meir) found a pomegranate - he ate the fruit
and discarded the rind."
When Bnei Yisrael committed the sin of the Golden Calf, they
fell from their lofty spiritual level, exactly as Adam had
through his sin. All of the "light" that Bnei Yisrael forfeited
thereby was given to Moshe, and it was that light that created
the radiance seen on the skin of Moshe's face. However, we say
in the Shabbat morning prayers: "Moshe rejoices in the gift of
his portion, that You have called him a faithful servant." The
gift in which Moshe rejoices is that radiance, but like a
faithful servant, Moshe shares that radiance with his people.
When? On Shabbat. This is alluded to in the opening verse of
our parashah: "Moshe assembled the entire `eidah' / assembly of
Bnei Yisrael." The word "eidah" reminds us of the "eid" /
"jewelry" of which Bnei Yisrael were stripped after the sin of
the Golden Calf (see Shmot 33:6). For Shabbat, Moshe gave that
"jewelry" back to the people. (Quoted in Otzrot Tzaddikei
"He made the parochet of turquoise, purple and scarlet wool,
and linen, twisted; he made it with a woven design of
R' Yitzchok Isaac Halevi Herzog z"l (1889-1959; Ashkenazic
Chief Rabbi of Israel) wrote the following on 10 Kislev 5708 /
November 23, 1947 to a synagogue designing a parochet / covering
for an aron kodesh:
"If you heed my advice, you will not place a picture of any
living thing in the shul, and certainly not on the aron kodesh.
Your intentions - to beautify the holy sanctuary - are good.
However, the designs you propose are not permitted according to
some authorities, and some of our great masters of halachah, as
well as masters of kabbalah (may their merit protect us), object
strenuously to such designs. Our brethren the Sephardim (may G-d
protect them) are very strict about this. There is another
reason for their strictness, i.e., that their Moslem neighbors
view such images as absolutely prohibited. Considering that the
Moslem aversion to images derived from our own, it would
constitute a chillul Hashem / desecration of G-d's Name to place
such decorations in our houses of prayer. If you wish to include
artwork in your shul, there are many other options, including
plants, the Temple implements (except the cherubs), such as a
menorah, musical instruments, or images from Temple-era coins.
"[That is my advice.] However, if you want to know the letter
of the law, since most early authorities, and at their head, the
Rambam, permit even the form of a lion - even though this is one
of the four faces on the Divine Chariot - there is no halachic
concern about what you proposed. This is especially true because
in this part of the world, no one worships lions. Moreover, the
sketch you sent me shows only the profile of a lion. Since we
have seen such images in synagogues in the diaspora, even in the
most halachically meticulous congregations, I cannot say it is
"Nevertheless, the image you sent me of a lion with wings --
that I absolutely prohibit because its roots are in ancient pagan
mythology. Blessed is He who uprooted paganism from these lands.
G-d forbid that we should create a memory of that paganism in our
shuls. Perish even the thought! If you wish to include an image
of a lion to remind yourselves to be strong like lions to do the
will of your Father in Heaven, make it like the sketch you sent
me - in profile, and absolutely without wings. I am too busy now
to clarify the law as much as I would wish. If you desire a more
developed discussion of the halachah, let me know, and I will
attempt to do your desire.
"May it be His Will that the One Who chooses Torah and Zion
will be with you. May it be His Will that your miniature Temple
[i.e., shul] will be built speedily, and we will dedicate it
gloriously amidst the joy of the atchalta de'geulah / initial
stages of the redemption.
"With blessings of the Torah, Zion and Yerushalayim,
Your friend, who loves you immensely,
Yitzchak Isaac Halevi Herzog,
Chief Rabbi of Eretz Yisrael."
(Pesakim U'ktavim, O.C. Vol. I, No. 23)
"Moshe assembled the entire assembly of Bnei Yisrael and
said to them: `These are the things that Hashem commanded to
do them: On six days work shall be done, but the seventh
day shall be holy for you, a day of complete rest for
Hashem; whoever does work on it shall be put to death. You
shall not kindle fire in any of your dwelings on the Sabbath
day'." (From our parashah - 35:1-2)
R' Yosef Eliyahu Henkin z"l (1891-1973) asks: Considering what
follows, should not the Torah have said, "These are the things
that Hashem commanded _not_ to do them"? Also, why does the
Torah use a phrase - "On six days work shall be done" - which
implies that one is _obligated_ to work?
He explains: Shabbat represents two competing concepts that man
is charged with balancing: bitachon / the recognition that
everything that happens is in G-d's control, and hishtadlut /
man's obligation to help himself. In the Aseret Ha'dibrot in
Parashat Yitro (20:11) we read that Shabbat commemorates
Creation. This alludes to man's obligation of hishtadlut, for we
read at the end of the Creation section (Bereishit 2:3), "G-d
blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because on it He
abstained from all His work, which G-d had created _to_do_."
This verse teaches that the first Shabbat was the end of G-d's
regular overt involvement with the world. From that point on,
man would appear to be in charge. And, this verse conveys G-d's
blessing that man will succeed when he uses G-d's creation "to
do" for himself.
However, man can be led astray if he thinks that he alone is in
control. Man must temper his hishtadlut with bitachon.
Therefore, the Aseret Ha'dibrot in Parashat Va'etchanan (5:15)
remind us that Shabbat also commemorates the Exodus. We were
helpless slaves in Egypt, and only because G-d redeemed us did we
become free. (This, explains R' Henkin, is why Shabbat is not
one of the universal Noachide laws. Creation was an event that
affected all of mankind, not only the Jews. However, without the
Exodus, the message of Shabbat would be incomplete and even
In this light, we can understand our verses. The Torah uses a
phrase - "On six days work shall be done" - that implies that one
is obligated to work because man is obligated to engage in some
form of hishtadlut. "These are the things that Hashem commanded
to do them," for if man relied on miracles alone, he would not
even perform mitzvot. Instead, he would believe mistakenly that
G-d's Will will be done whether he (man) lifts a finger or not.
Chazal teach that just as Shabbat is a sign of our covenant
with Hashem, so are tefilin. [This is why we do not wear tefilin
on Shabbat.] R' Henkin observes: The tefilin on the arm alludes
to hishtadlut, for the arm is the instrument of action. The
tefilin on the head alludes to bitachon, for the head is the seat
of the mind, where trust in G-d develops.
(Perushei Ivra, Part II, Ma'amar No. 1)
R' Dr. Arnold Fischel z"l
Little is known about Rabbi Fischel's early life. He was born
in Holland, and apparently received both his semichah and
doctorate in England. Beginning in about 1856, he was the first
permanent "Minister" (as Jewish spiritual leaders in America were
then known) of New York's Shearith Israel Congregation. (Unlike
R' Fischel, most Jewish ministers at that time were shochtim,
mohalim and chazzanim, but not rabbis.) In addition to his
rabbinic post, R' Fischel was the first known chronicler of
American-Jewish history, and he was an occasional lecturer at the
New York Historical Society.
The best known chapter of R' Fischel's life occupied one year
during the Civil War. On July 22, 1861, Congress passed a law
requiring every U.S. Army chaplain to be "a regular ordained
minister of some Christian denomination." At that time, Michael
Allen, a Jew, was the popular chaplain of the mostly Jewish 5th
Pennsylvania Cavalry. When the existence of this non-Christian
chaplain was publicized by the YMCA, Mr. Allen was threatened
with a dishonorable discharge, and on September 23, 1861, he
resigned from the Army. The regiment's leader, Col. Max
Friedman, was determined to appoint another Jewish chaplain, but
he needed a candidate whose credentials were so impeccable that
his rejection (if he was rejected) could be attributed to no
cause other than religious prejudice. On October 17, 1861,
R' Fischel applied for the position, and in a letter dated six
days later, the U.S. Secretary of War himself informed R' Fischel
that non-Christians were not eligible to serve as chaplains.
On December 5, 1861, the Board of Delegates of American
Israelites, a civil rights group composed primarily of Orthodox
congregations, named R' Fischel to supervise "the general
spiritual welfare of the Israelites in the camps and military
hospitals attached to the Department of the Potomac." R' Fischel
left for Washington with the twofold mission of ministering to
the Jews in the Army of the Potomac and lobbying for a change in
the law. R' Fischel rented a room in Washington and, he wrote to
a friend, ate his meals at one of Washington's kosher
restaurants. He met with President Lincoln and prominent members
of Congress, and, in late 1862, the law was amended to permit
Jews to serve as chaplains.
R' Fischel was active in attempting to found a Jewish hospital
in Washington, but he found the community to be apathetic. He
observed with bitterness that American Jews were more willing to
contribute to Moroccan Jewry than to their own compatriots.
Disheartened, R' Fischel returned to New York, where in 1863 he
was the keynote speaker at the dedication of an orphanage for the
children of Jewish Civil War dead. In 1864, he returned to
Europe, where he died in 1894. (Torah Lives pp. 256-268)
Copyright © 2002 by Shlomo Katz
and Project Genesis, Inc.
The editors hope these brief 'snippets' will engender further study
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