There is an obscure Midrash which states that when Hashem instructed Bnei
Yisroel to assemble the materials for the building of the "Mishkan" -
"Tabernacle", they responded "Shema Yisroel Hashem Elokeinu Hashem echod" -
"Hear O Israel, Hashem is our G-d, Hashem is One".1 What message
are Bnei Yisroel attempting to convey through this response?
Our daily prayers contains a section known as Tachanun. In the concluding
portion of the Tachanun we recite the following two stanzas: "O Guardian of
Israel, protect the remnants of Israel, let not Israel be destroyed - those
who proclaim 'Shema Yisroel'. O Guardian of the unique nation, protect the
remnants of the unique people. Let not the unique nation be destroyed -
those who proclaim 'Hashem Elokeinu Hashem echod'". We beseech Hashem to
save us in the merit of our saying "Shema Yiroel" and "Hashem Elokeinu
Hashem echod". Why are these two proclamations listed separately and
considered separate merits?
The Talmud states that Yaakov Avinu wished to reveal to his sons the time of
the ultimate redemption but the Divine Presence departed from him. He feared
that perhaps one of his sons was unworthy. However, his sons reassured him
that they all were righteous by proclaiming "Shema Yisroel" - "Listen our
father Israel, Hashem Elokeinu Hashem echod".2 If they were
standing in front of him why did they need to say "Listen our father
Israel"? Why do we initiate our affirmation of the unity of Hashem with
Our obligation to observe the precepts stems from a dual sense of
responsibility; most obvious is the responsibility we have to our Creator.
However, there is an additional responsibility, the responsibility to upkeep
the traditions and heritage of our forefathers. An essential element of
honoring our parents, who give us existence, is honoring the values and
traditions which they have received as a legacy from their parents.
Consequently, nonobservance of our heritage is an affront not only to our
Creator, but to our parents and their ancestors as well.
By addressing their father 'Hear O Israel" the brothers were proclaiming to
him their commitment to adhere to the traditions and values with which he
had inculcated them. They then added "We are also obligated to keep our
heritage because Hashem our G-d requires us to do so." It is this very
proclamation which we recite twice daily, stating that our commitment to
serve our Creator is twofold: our responsibility to upkeep the values of our
Patriarch Israel and our responsibility to Hashem.
When Hashem instructed Bnei Yisroel to begin donating materials for the
creation of a Mishkan, their response to Him was that they were committed to
establishing a House for the Divine Presence because He had commanded that
this be done. However they emphasized that they had already accepted this
responsibility from their father Israel who ingrained in them the importance
of having such an abode, as the Midrash states that Yaakov foresaw with
prophetic vision that his children would be required to build a Mishkan.
Therefore he commanded them to bring to Mitzrayim all the components
necessary for the building of the Mishkan so that the materials would be
available when leaving Mitsrayim two hundred ten years later.
1.Nachal Kadmon, Divrei Yoel
2.Pesachim 56b, see Rashi, who states that Yisroel refers to Yaakov Avinu
Out of Service
"oil for illumination, spices for the anointing oil and the aromatic
This week's parsha introduces the contributions that were made for the
construction of the "Mishkan" "Tabernacle", its vessels and the Priestly
garments. Parshas Terumah elaborates upon the construction of the Mishkan
and its vessels, whereas Parshas Tetzaveh deals primarily with the
description of the Priestly garments. A few of the recorded contributions
appear out of place. The verse records that Bnei Yisroel donated oil for the
Menorah and spices for the incense offering, items which are elements of the
service performed in the Mishkan. Why then, questions the Chizkuni, are
these contributions recorded together with the construction of the vessels
and the Mishkan?1
The Torah relates the dimensions of the Table which was located near the
northern wall of the Mishkan's outer chamber. This description concludes
with the requirement that the show-bread continuously be upon the Table.
The Rambam authored a work which records all of the six hundred thirteen
precepts. The commentaries on the Rambam pay careful attention to the order
by which he records these precepts, for each one is meticulously assigned
its designated place. A perplexing fact is that the Rambam begins recording
the Temple service in precept number forty, although he previously records
the lighting of the candles (#25), the placing of the show-bread (#27), and
the burning of the incense (#28), all of which are generally considered part
of the Temple service.4 Why does he record them after the precept
of building the Temple (#20), but prior to the precept which begins
detailing the Temple service?
In Parshas Beha'aloscha the Torah records Aharon's obligation to light the
Menorah. Additionally, the Torah records the construction of the Menorah.5
Why does the Torah juxtapose the construction to the lighting? Addressing
the reason why the Torah records the oil for the Menorah as part of the
materials used in the construction of the Mishkan, the Chizkuni suggests
that although the oil is used in the Menorah service it has an additional
function, to illuminate the palace of the King.6 The oil is
therefore not only an element of the service, but a function of the building
as well, and as such, is recorded with the building's construction. However,
the Chizkuni's answer does not sufficiently address the difficulty from
Parshas Beha'aloscha, for according to him the lighting is a function of the
construction of the building, not the Menorah.
The Chizkuni adds that the incense is also a function of the building for it
is appropriate that the palace of the King should be well
aromatized.7This explanation is supported by a comment made by
the Rambam in the Moreh Nevuchim where he states that the purpose for the
incense offering brought upon the Golden Altar is to aromatize the building
and the Priestly garments.8 The commentaries on the Rambam
struggle to find a source for his comments. The Chizkuni's explanation sheds
light as to where the Rambam derives the notion that the purpose of the
incense is to aromatize the building. The source for the second part of the
Rambam's statement that the incense is used to aromatize the Priestly
garments stems from the fact that the Torah records the specifications of
the Golden Altar in Parshas Tetzaveh, while all the other vessels are
recorded in Parshas Teruma. Why does the Torah record the dimensions of the
Altar used for the incense in the parsha which describes all of the Priestly
garments? The Rambam concludes that the incense must be servicing the
The reason for the Torah recording the placing of the show-bread together
with the construction of the Table is that the bread laying upon the Table
is part of the Table's configuration. It is therefore an imperative that the
Table never be without bread for this would be a lack in the very structure
of the Table. It is possible that for the same reason the Torah requires
that there always be oil within the lamps of the Menorah. Aside from the
explanation of the Chizkuni that the light is a function of the building,
the oil inside the lamps is part of their structure and is therefore
recorded together with the Menorah's construction. What emerges is that the
incense, show-bread and the oil for the Menorah all have functions separate
from the actual service they perform. Therefore the Rambam records them
prior to the precept which details the Temple service.
2 The entire service involving the show-bread is depicted in Parshas Emor.
3 Why is it necessary to detail the placement of the bread upon the Table in
the parsha which records only the construction of the vessels?