Vayakhel Pikudei - Parah
March 25th, 2017
27th of Adar 5777
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Gifts For The Tabernacle - A Reparation To The Sin Of The Golden Calf
Rabbi David Hanania Pinto
“Take from yourselves an offering for the L-rd; every generous hearted person shall bring it, [namely] the L-rd's offering” (Shemot 35:5)
This pasuk seems puzzling. Why does it state “Take… an offering” and not “Give… an offering?” After all, Bnei Yisrael was required to contribute an offering for the Mishkan and it would seem appropriate to use the language of giving and not taking.
As we know, the Mishkan was to atone for the sin of the Golden Calf, which was so severe, that until today we suffer from it. It is stated in Gemara (Sanhedrin 102a): “Rabbi Yitzchak said: No retribution whatsoever comes upon the world which does not contain a slight fraction of the first calf [i.e. molten calf in the wilderness].” This is truly astonishing. How is it possible that the lofty Generation of the Wilderness, who witnessed all the miracles in Egypt and by the Sea, fashioned a Golden Calf? After all, they had seen the Shechinah of Hashem in its glory at Har Sinai and heard Hashem declare “I am the L-rd, your G-d,” and suddenly they convert to serve a molten calf, which feeds on grass? We must recall that we are talking about a generation that merited eating the Mannah, which was spiritual food, and every morning they collected the Mannah as it descended straight from the heaven.
Indeed, the Calf provoked the anger of Hashem upon Bnei Yisrael, as Hashem said to Moshe (Shemot 32:8), “They have quickly turned away from the path that I have commanded them.” The wrath of Hashem was aroused to destroy His Nation because of their radical reversal, “They have quickly turned away from the path.” At first, Bnei Yisrael expressed their complete dedication and loyalty to Hashem and declared “We will do and we will hear!” Then suddenly they dropped from their high spiritual level and sinned in a terrible rebellion against Hashem, denying his commandments, until they almost had no recourse other than to be annihilated, G-d forbid.
In order to clarify the issue, let us quote the Gemara (Shabbat 88a): “R. Eleazar said: When the Israelites gave precedence to ‘we will do’ over ‘we will hearken,’ a Heavenly Voice went forth and exclaimed to them, Who revealed to My children this secret, which is employed by the Ministering Angels.” The conduct of “We will do and we will hearken” is characteristic of angels who do not have a Yetzer Hara and therefore they can accept upon themselves to act even before they understand what it’s all about, however throughout a person’s life the Yetzer Hara plagues him, and he cannot submit himself to doing something without first hearing what it entails. If a person would be requested to perform some mitzvah, certainly there would be nothing wrong if he would first ask details about the mitzvah and only afterwards fulfill it, since this is the right order of things; hearing first and then fulfilling the mitzvah.
So when Bnei Yisrael preceded “We will do” to “We will hearken,” they catapulted to an exalted level; a level that was above nature. Then when they sinned with the Golden Calf, they dropped from their exalted state with a rapid swiftness. The fall was so dreadful that it awoke a terrible wrath. If their ascent would have been gradual, step by step, then they would have been better protected. We know that at the Revelation at Har Sinai, Bnei Yisrael reached the highest level, the apex of Creation. They reached the level of Adam before he sinned. Hashem created man this way, as it is stated (Bereishit 1:27) “And G-d created man in His image; in the image of G-d He created him.” Furthermore it is stated (ibid. 2:7), “And He breathed into his nostrils the soul of life.” Chazal explain that Hashem breathed into man a quality of G-dliness, implying that Hashem breathed into man His holy Names, which is G-dliness.
When Bnei Yisrael sinned with the Golden Calf, they lost the gifts of the two crowns on their head, which they had received from the angels, and also they lost the perception of seeing the sounds which they had seen on Har Sinai, as it is stated (Shemot 20:15), “And all the people saw the voices.” Furthermore, the Names of Hashem flew out of them and they were left utterly empty. In order to rectify the Sin, Hashem told them that all raw materials necessary for the formation of the Mishkan and its vessels and Holy Vestments should be brought to Betzalel. It is stated in the Gemara (Berachot 55a), “Bezalel knew how to combine the letters by which the heavens and earth were created.” Betzalel knew how to fashion the Mishkan and the vessels and Vestments using the Names of Hashem. When the Mishkan was erected and Hashem rested His Shechinah within it, Bnei Yisrael were affected by the Mishkan and vessels and the vestments of the Kohen Gadol, and consequently the holy Names that had flown away from them following the sin of the Golden Calf, returned to reside within them.
Words of Our Sages
The Heart Takes Over
“Every man whose heart uplifted him came, and everyone whose spirit inspired him to generosity” (Shemot 35:21)
Rabbeinu, the holy Ohr Hachaim writes: Know that there are two types of sponsors; one contributes wholeheartedly to the best of his ability and according to his means, and about him it is stated: “his spirit inspired him to generosity.”
The second type is a sponsor who contributes beyond his means from the goodness of his heart, and this type is referred to in the words, “whose heart uplifted him.” This implies that his heart inspires him to generosity beyond his normal generous state… The pasuk first mentions the loftier of the two and states, “Every man whose heart uplifted him.” The word “man” signifies prominence, and regarding the second type it only states, “everyone whose spirit inspired him to generosity,” omitting the word “man” since he is not as lofty as the first type.
The Rabbi of Ponevezh, the gaon Rabbi Yosef Shlomo Kahaneman, zt”l, related:
At the time when I lived in my home town of Ponovezh, I once heard knocking on my door late at night. A delegation of the most important people of the city came to me.
They were very anxious, since suddenly they were informed that a certain prominent merchant got into a serious financial crisis and was about to go bankrupt. It was imperative to help him.
I asked: How can I help him? And they answered me, “If we could quickly obtain a loan of twenty thousand pounds, perhaps we could salvage the situation”…
I immediately called the manager of the Jewish bank in our city and asked him to come to me regarding an urgent matter that could not be delayed. When he arrived, I explained to him the whole affair.
The man said, “There is no problem on my part tomorrow morning to arrange such a loan with fairly favorable terms, to be returned over about three and a half years with installments of five hundred pounds a month. But we need a suitable guarantor. If you succeed in getting the wealthy Mr. Marianpolsky from Kovno to sign as guarantor on the loan, then we can close the deal.
Right away, in his prescence I called Mr. Marianpolsky - whom I knew well - and I got him to agree to guarantee the loan. Thanks to this, the merchant was saved from bankruptcy…
Five months later, suddenly the bank manager came to my house looking uncomfortable. What happened? The merchant had not paid the installments and had not responded to the bank’s reminders… Therefore, they sent a message to the guarantor, Mr. Marianpolsky to pay the delinquent installments instead of the merchant… but he was swift in his response and he paid the entire loan of twenty thousand pounds! Why did he do that?!
To solve the mystery, I called Mr. Marianpolsky. The man told me simply: “Rabbi, I clearly understood that he would never pay the installments. Why wait and pay slowly every month when I have the means to repay the entire loan at once!”
The haftarah of the week: “So says the Lord God: In the first month” (Yechezkiel 45:18)
The connection to the parashah: In the haftarah we read about the korbanot that the Nasi brings on Rosh Chodesh Nissan, and also about the subject of the Festival of Pesach. Likewise the maftir of Shabbat Hachodesh deals with subject of Rosh Chodesh Nissan and the Festival of Pesach, which is impending.
Guard Your Tongue
It is a mitzvah to judge him favorably
Just as it is prohibited to believe derogatory reports about friends, likewise, even if one knows that the report he was told was true, but it could be understood in two ways, and the narrator did not judge favorably, and consequently disparaged the subject, it is a mitzvah for the listener to judge the subject favorably.
One who transgresses this and does not judge favorably and he sides with the gossiper, not only does he transgress the mitzvah “you shall judge your fellow with righteousness,” but he is also considered as one who accepts lashon hara, since by not judging favorably, the victim is disgraced.
Walking in Their Ways
Respect for the Law
A lawyer told me that he was in the middle of a hearing when his cell phone rang. Out of habit, he took the call. Immediately, the judge declared that he would have to pay a fine of five thousand shekel, since answering a phone call in a court of law is considered contempt of court.
When I heard about this incident, I was terribly disturbed. Every day, we meet three times in Hashem’s House of Prayer, a miniature Sanctuary. More often than I care to remember, I notice fellow Jews who have the audacity to speak with others or involve themselves with their cell phones. They are causing tremendous insult to Hashem and to His Sanctuary.
If, in a court of secular law, the cost for contempt of court is so steep, who knows how expensive it will be for one who made a mockery of a Beit Haknesset?!
It is our moral obligation to respect a Beit Haknesset at least as much as we respect a court of law. Mundane matters should never be discussed there, and cell phones and other forms of communication must be turned off. As we stand in prayer, we must feel a sense of respect toward the King of kings, Hakadosh Baruch Hu.
Rabbi David Hanania Pinto
“The entire community went out from before Moses” (Shemot 35:20)
It seems as if the choice of words “went out” is inaccurate, since Moshe gathered all the people in an open area, and if so, after finishing speaking to them, how can they “go out”? After all, they were just gathered in one place and thus it seems inaccurate to say that they “went out.”
I would like to suggest an explanation that could be understood through a parable:
A person who visits a tzaddik to receive his advice or blessing, upon entering the sanctified quarters of the tzaddik, certainly his worries and misery are readily evident on his countenance. But, after hearing words of condolence, encouragement and blessings from the tzaddik, his relief is written all over his face, and of course, he feels revived and comforted. Thus, it is clear that he entered the quarters of the tzaddik with one sensation, but departed with a different sensation altogether.
And so it was with Bnei Yisrael. After the sin of the Golden Calf, they waited with anticipation for Moshe to descend so they would know what Hashem’s response was. Thus, they were worried and concerned until Moshe’s return. When Moshe descended, the day after Yom Kippur, which at the time came out on Tuesday, and he gathered all the people on Wednesday and told them that Hashem commanded them to build the Mishkan and bring gold and silver to atone for the sin of the Golden Calf, since this was the way to atone for the terrible sin, it greatly encouraged Bnei Yisrael. They could finally achieve atonement for their sin, and Hashem was willing to rest His Shechinah amongst them. Then they were inspired to bring their donations every morning, i.e. Thursday and Friday, and on Shabbat they were commanded not to bring anything because the building of the Mishkan does not override the observance of Shabbat. This is why the words “went out from before Moshe” are used, since then they parted from him with an entirely different sensation than what they felt prior to their gathering. They “went out” of their previous state of mind and entered a new one.
We can learn a lesson from this. When a person prays with concentration or studies the holy Torah, it is not possible, following his prayer or study that he should remain in the same frame of mind that he was in prior to his prayers and studies. On the contrary, he must reflect greater joy, since “The orders of the Lord are upright, causing the heart to rejoice” (Tehillim 19:9)
The Mashgiach of the Yeshiva Kamenitz, the gaon and tzaddik Rabbi Moshe Aharon Stern, zt”l, once delivered a lecture on the subject of answering “Amen” with proper concentration, and he said the following:
It is customary oversees that one who is invited to a wedding has to confirm his attendance, and he is sent a ticket to allow him entry. Once, said Rabbi Moshe Aharon, I forgot to confirm my attendance, but I figured that certainly I would be able to enter without the ticket. However, it was not so. When I arrived at the hall, the guard would not let me in without a ticket. I explained to him that I was a close friend of the person making the wedding and I wanted to enter just for a few minutes to give him my blessings, but it did not help me, and I returned home.
This is the analogy:
A man who comes after one hundred and twenty years to the Heavenly Court and is sentenced to Gehinom, suffers severely there in its 1``seven departments, and then after twelve months he leaves Gehinom and heads joyfully to his place in Gan Eden. At the entrance to Gan Eden stands an angel and asks him for his ticket. The man is surprised; here, too, a ticket is required? Where is the place and the palace I built for myself through my mitzvoth? The angel explains that his place is reserved for him inside, but there is no entry without a ticket.
What is the ticket necessary to enter? It is stated in the pasuk “Pitchu she’arim veyavo goy tzaddik shomer emunim – Open the gates, so that a righteous nation, awaiting the realization [of God's promise], may enter.” Do not read the word as “emunim,” but as “Amenim.” Whoever answers “Amen” with proper concentration, the gates of Gan Eden are opened for him, and without it the gates are locked, and there is no entry…
In the Zohar (Vayelech 285b) it is stated that when Yisrael answer “Amen” with concentration in this world, the channels of blessings are opened Above, and much bounty is released upon all the worlds, and all the Heavenly Hosts rejoice.
What is the reward for Yisrael who caused this? In this world: When there is suffering among the Jews, and they pray before Hashem, the Voice announces throughout all the worlds “Pitchu she’arim – Open the gates” – just as Yisrael opened the gates of blessing, so too, now the gates will open and their prayers will be received, saving them from their troubles.
And in the World to Come: One who is meticulous in answering “Amen” in this world, meaning that he would wait until the one reciting a blessing finished his blessing in order that he could answer “Amen, then when his soul rises Above to the World to Come, it is announced: “Pitchu she’arim – open the gates” before him, just as he would open the gates each day by being meticulous in answering “Amen.”
We will add the words of the Holy Shelah (Masechet Tamid 80): This is what is explained in the holy books of the Mekubalim, who draw from the wells of the living water of the Zohar, about the secret of the word “Amen” and its letters, and they wrote that both Spheres, Above and below, are dependent upon the word “Amen” and it is the source and foundation of all the worlds.
Whoever concentrates properly on each and every blessing emanating from the mouth of the one blessing, and he answers “Amen” with proper concentration according to halachah, he brings immense Kedushah Above, and an abundance of good for all the worlds, because he opens the source from Above, the source of living water, as if he would be opening the springs in order to water all that requires irrigation. The Voice comes down from Above and announces that all the bounty and joy was caused by such and such, who is a servant of the Holy King.
Food For Thought
The Swift get Rewarded
Once, the tzaddik Rabbi Tzadka Chutzin of Baghdad, zt”l, stayed overnight in Tel Aviv. He asked his host if there was a Beit Haknesset in the area where he could join the Shacharit Services at sunrise.
The host told him: “Nearby there is no such minyan, but only further away, approximately an hour’s walk or more”…
Rabbi Tzadka Chutzin said: “That’s alright. I will rise early, preceding the crack of dawn, and walk there.”
That is what he did. Before the crack of dawn he got up and began his trek to the Shacharit Services far away. Suddenly, after taking a few steps from the house, he saw before him the Beit Haknesset HaGra situated on Hayarkon Street. He entered and asked: “What time do the Shacharit Services begin?” They replied: “At sunrise!”
Then Rabbi Tzadka was filled with joy and said:
“See how cunning the Yetzer Hara is! In order to cause me to be sluggish, my host forgot that right near his home there are Services at sunrise. Since I overcame my lethargy, the Yetzer Hara vanished. I just took a few steps, and already the Beit Haknesset appeared before me!”
Men of Faith
A Revelation of Eliyahu Hanavi
Rabbi Chaim Hagadol would spend his nights engaged in the study of Torah. His extraordinary diligence in learning aroused the admiration of the people. His family members knew not to bother him, since he was dedicated to learning.
One night, his daughter Mazal, a”h, entered his study, in order to get something. Surprisingly, she saw that there was another person in the room, whose identity was not familiar to her.
When Rabbi Chaim noticed his daughter’s presence, he leaped from his seat and exclaimed, “My daughter, why did you enter my study without receiving permission? The figure that you saw was Eliyahu Hanavi of blessed memory. You beheld his countenance while not being worthy of such a privilege. Consequently, a harsh decree has been issued upon you; the eyes that beheld him will turn blind, or alternatively, you may depart from the world, chas v’shalom…”
His daughter turned speechless from fright. She could not utter a single word in her defense or beg her righteous father to pray on her behalf.
Rabbi Chaim pitied his daughter and prayed to Hashem, begging His mercy that she should not go blind before she got married. Then, Rabbi Chaim told his daughter that he had prayed for her. Mazal was a very righteous girl and accepted the decree upon her with equanimity.
Many years passed, and one day Rabbi Aharon Mellul, the grandson of the holy tzaddik, Rabbi Khalifa Malka, visited the city of Mogador. Every time he would come to Mogador, he would stay as a guest in the house of Rabbi Chaim Pinto.
When Rabbi Aharon Mellul met the Rav’s daughter, Mazal, was struck by her modesty, righteousness, and honesty. Consequently, he approached Rabbi Chaim and informed him that he wished to marry his daughter, who was of holy lineage.
Rabbi Chaim flatly refused his request.
The more Rabbi Aharon begged the Rav for permission to marry his daughter, the more firmly Rabbi Chaim stood his ground, refusing to fulfill his request. The Rav did not reveal to him the real reason for this.
Rabbi Aharon returned home dejected. He began to worry that perhaps Rabbi Chaim had perceived some fault in him and therefore had rejected him as a son-in-law.
Thus, the tzaddik Rabbi Khalifa Malka appeared to Rabbi Chaim at night in a dream and told him, “Rabbi Chaim! I sent you my grandson in high spirits, and you sent him away dejected and depressed…”
Rabbi Chaim responded, “Your honor surely knows that it was decreed upon my daughter Mazal to become blind in both of her eyes after her marriage, because she beheld Eliyahu Hanavi of blessed memory. That is why I refused to allow her to marry your grandson Aharon.”
“Rabbi Chaim! Do not worry at all. My grandson will accept the decree from Heaven, come what may.”
Early that morning, Rabbi Chaim quickly sent a letter to Rabbi Aharon Mellul, asking him to return to Mogador. When he arrived, Rabbi Chaim revealed to him what had happened to his daughter and of the bitter fate that awaited her after she would marry. “This is why,” explained Rabbi Chaim, “I refused to allow you to marry her.”
Rabbi Aharon was not deterred. “Even so, I am willing to marry your daughter. Such a privilege does not present itself every day,” he said.
Not long after, Rabbi Aharon’s wish was fulfilled, and he stood under the chuppah and married Rabbi Chaim’s daughter, according to Jewish law.
Ultimately, the terrible decree was annulled. The merits of their holy ancestors stood in their stead. Mazal continued seeing normally. They both lived long lives and enjoyed generations of righteous descendants.
They passed away within a week of each other, at a ripe old age and they were buried next to each other in the old cemetery of Mogador (Shevach Chaim).