A Place for Holiness
R’ Meir Simcha Hakohen z”l (1843-1926; rabbi of Dvinsk, Latvia; author of
Ohr Sameach) notes that the prohibition against working on Shabbat is
mentioned several times in the Torah. In some verses (for example Shmot
20:9), the Torah uses the active voice, “Six days you shall work.” In other
verses (for example, Shmot 31:15: “For six days, work may be done,” and
Shmot 35:2: “On six days, work may be done”), the Torah uses the passive
He answers: Where the Torah uses the passive voice, the Torah also refers to
the holiness of Shabbat. For example (31:14-15), “You shall observe the
Sabbath, for it is holy to you. . . For six days, work may be done.”
Similarly (35:2), “On six days, work may be done, but the seventh day shall
be holy for you.” In contrast, the verses that use the active voice do not
refer to the holiness of Shabbat.
What does this teach? R’ Meir Simcha explains: Our Sages teach, “When you
do the Will of Hashem, your work will be done by others. When you do not do
the Will of Hashem, you will have to do your own work.” If we infuse the
Shabbat with holiness, that holiness will rub-off on us, helping us do the
Will of Hashem all week long. Then our work will be done passively, i.e.,
by others. However, when our Shabbat is not infused with holiness, then we
will have to do our own work actively. (Meshech Chochmah)
“Speak to Bnei Yisrael and they shall take for Me a donation, from every
man whose heart motivates him you shall take My portion.” (25:2)
R’ Elazar Lew (1758-1837; rabbi of several towns in Poland) writes: Many
commentaries have asked why the verse says “they shall take for Me a
donation” rather than “they shall give for Me a donation.” Moreover, he
asks: Why does the first part of the verse say “they shall take,” while the
second part says, “you shall take”?
He explains: The famous answer to the first question is that giving charity
really is taking, because G-d repays generously those who give charity.
Therefore, if you give Hashem a donation, you also are taking from Him a
However, this is true only if one gives magnanimously, but not if one gives
begrudgingly. And, since Hashem does not want there to be a desecration of
His Name if someone gives and is not compensated, He commanded in the second
half of the verse, “[Only] from every man whose heart motivates him you
shall take My portion.” (Sama D’chayei: Drush 11)
“They shall make a Sanctuary for Me -- so that I may dwell among
R’ Yisrael Meir Hakohen z”l (the Chafetz Chaim; died 1933) quotes a midrash:
When Hashem showed the prophet Yechezkel the structure of the future Bet
Hamikdash and commanded him to describe it to Bnei Yisrael, the prophet
replied, “Master of the Universe! As of now, we are in exile in the lands
of our enemies. Yet, You are telling me to inform Bnei Yisrael about the
structure of the Temple and to write it before them so that they may guard
it and its laws! What are they able to do [with this information]? Let
them be until they leave the exile, and then I will tell them.”
The midrash continues: Hashem replied, “Just because they are in exile, My
Temple should be nullified? Their study of its laws are as great as
building it! Go tell them that they should study the laws of building the
Temple, and, in that merit, I will view it as if they built it.” (Torah Or
“Like everything that I show you, the form of the Mishkan / Tabernacle
and the form of all its vessels; and so shall you do.” (25:9)
Rashi comments: “And so shall you do”–for future generations.
R’ Eliezer Zusia Portugal z”l (1898-1982; the Skulener Rebbe) asks: How can
building a Temple be a mitzvah for future generations when, at least
according to some opinions, the Third Temple will descend from Heaven as a
building of fire?
He answers: The Temple that will descend is being constructed all the time
from our mitzvot. Every good deed adds a course of “bricks” to that Temple.
This verse is commanding us to do those good deeds. (Noam Eliezer)
“You shall place in (literally: ‘give to’) the aron / ark the
Testimonial-tablets that I shall give you.” (25:16)
R’ Moshe Alshich z”l (Turkey and Israel; 1508-1593; known as the Alshich
Hakadosh) asks: Why did the Torah use a word that literally means, “You
shall give to the aron”? He explains:
The aron was made of wood plated with gold. As pretty as it was, it was
hardly a fitting receptacle for the holy and priceless Torah! Therefore
Hashem said to Moshe, “Give the Torah to the aron as a gift. Likewise, I
will give the Torah to man as a gift, although he is not worthy of it.”
Indeed, notes R’ Alshich, the Gemara (Shabbat 89a) applies to Moshe
Rabbeinu’s sojourn on Har Sinai the verse (Tehilim 68:19), “You ascended on
high . . . you took gifts.” (Torat Moshe)
“You shall make a Menorah of pure gold . . .” (25:31)
Rashi z”l writes: The menorah will be made on its own, for Moshe Rabbeinu
had difficulty with it. Hashem said to him, “Throw the block of gold into
the fire and it will be made on its own.”
R’ Yerucham Levovitz z”l (mashgiach ruchani of the Radin and Mir yeshivot;
died 1936) asks: What was so difficult about making the menorah? He explains:
Clearly, the act of making the menorah would not have been difficult for
Moshe Rabbeinu. However, everything has its essence--the soul of the
matter, so-to-speak. Moshe Rabbeinu had difficulty with that, i.e., with
understanding the essence of the menorah, which prevented him from making
the physical menorah. (Da’at Torah)
The following is an excerpt from the introduction of R’ Avraham Danzig
z”l (1748-1820) to his halachic work Chochmat Adam. R’ Danzig also wrote
the popular halachic work Chayei Adam.
Now, I know that people will whisper about me and will say, “Is Shaul also
among the prophets? [See Shmuel I 10:11-12.] Surely we know that this man
[R’ Danzig] was a merchant in the markets of Frankfurt and Leipzig for more
than 15 years; if so, when was his Torah study accomplished? The Torah
testifies (Devarim 30:13), ‘It is not across the sea,’ i.e., that Torah is
not found among [traveling] peddlers and merchants.” Know, my brother, that
when I traveled long distances, it was not to amass wealth, G-d forbid.
Rather, the Master of all will testify that it was only to support my
family. My business dealings were an inheritance from my holy ancestors, my
grandfather, the great rabbi, famous in his generation, R’ Shmuel, author of
Nechamot Zion . . . I followed in his footsteps; I have been actively
involved in halachic decision-making for more than 20 years now, and nothing
significant has been done in our town without my agreement, though without
my receiving any payment. However, two years ago, my business took a
downturn and I have been forced to enter the rabbinate [as a dayan in Vilna]
and to be paid, as is permitted for an elderly Torah scholar. Blessed is
G-d, Who gave me this soul which has never loved money.
Know, my brother that Torah study is the main activity of the soul . . . If
a Jew abandons the Torah and removes his thoughts from it, it will distance
itself from him, and his soul will lose the ability to be productive in
Torah study. But, if his intention is not to abandon it--rather, for
reasons beyond his control, he is unable to study it and to attach himself
to it--G-d forbid that it should leave him. I can say about myself that,
though I have traveled great distances and was a merchant, my Torah wisdom
has stood by me. This is because, when I travel on the road, I am thinking
about it [the Torah] and when I sit in the store, I am thinking about it.
I even can say about myself that many times, in the middle of a business
transaction, I was thinking about some commentary or a difficult
question--in particular, about the six constant mitzvot which I list in
Chayei Adam, chapter 1 [see below]. I fulfilled through myself
(paraphrasing Mishlei 4:6), “Do not abandon her and she will protect you.”
There are six mitzvot that a Jew is obligated to fulfill at all times.
Every moment that a person thinks about them, he fulfills a positive
commandment. They are:
(1) To believe that there is one G-d that created everything, and that
everything that occurred in the past, that occurs in the present and that
will occur in the future is in accordance with His will, and that He took us
out of Egypt.
(2) To not believe in any false gods--rather, to believe that Hashem rules
over everything. Also, to believe that He is the All-Powerful and that
nothing else has strength to do anything against His will.
(3) To believe that G-d, the Ruler of all, is One, without any partner.
(4) To love G-d, which includes contemplating His commandments and His
handiwork until one comes to feel joy when coming close to Him.
(5) To fear G-d, so that one does not sin, if only out of fear of punishment.
(6) Not to stray after what the “heart” thinks or what the eyes see, but to
think only about truth and the ways of the Torah, which are good. (Chayei
The editors hope these brief 'snippets' will engender further study
and discussion of Torah topics ('lehagdil Torah u'leha'adirah'), and
your letters are appreciated. Web archives at Torah.org start with 5758 (1997) and
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In Other Words
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