March 4th, 2017

6th of Adar 5777


Building the Mishkan in Unity

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

“They shall make a Sanctuary for Me, so that I may dwell among them” (Shemot 25:8)

Hashem asked Am Yisrael to build a Mishkan, so that He might rest His Shechinah upon them. Why does the Torah state, “So that I may dwell among them,” instead of, “So that I may dwell inside of it,” in the singular version? Chazal teach us that Hashem desired to dwell not only inside the Mishkan, but inside each and every Jew, who is considered a miniature Mishkan.

However, there is a precondition for the Presence of Hashem resting upon us. It depends on the unity of Am Yisrael. As long as we are united, feeling mutually responsible for each other, Hashem can rest His Shechinah upon us. But where quarrel and dissention take over, Hashem’s Shechinah can find no rest. Hashem’s Name is peace (Shabbat 10b). The blessings of the Kohanim end with the blessing of peace. Likewise, the Shemoneh Esrei prayer, as well as the blessings of Kriyat Shema, all end with a blessing for peace (see Bamidbar Rabbah 21:1). Peace and contention cannot co-exist.

Hashem gave Bnei Yisrael the Torah only after they were in a state of unity, as the pasuk testifies (Shemot 19:2), “And Israel encamped there, opposite the mountain.” The commentaries explain that the word “encamped” is written in the singular form to indicate “as one man with one heart” (see Yalkut Shimoni, Shemot 275). Hakadosh Baruch Hu saw fit to give His children the Torah when He saw their unity. Most of the mitzvot deal with man’s relationship with his fellow man. Therefore, in order for the Torah to remain with them, Bnei Yisrael first had to prove that peace and tranquility reigned among them.

“United we stand; divided we fall.” One single stick can be broken easily, but a bundle of sticks is much harder to break. When Bnei Yisrael are apart, each involved in himself, it is easy to break their spirit. On the other hand, when they are a band of twelve Shevatim, united in peace and brotherly love, their very unity fortifies them and prevents any damage to them (see Yalkut Shimoni, Amos 549).

Chazal (Osei Pelei 62) relate that Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi met Eliyahu Hanavi. Rabbi Yehoshua asked permission to accompany him, in order to observe his actions and learn from them. At first, Eliyahu declined, but after Rabbi Yehoshua promised not to ask any questions, he acquiesced. They walked together, until they reached a certain city. The townspeople did not greet them graciously. Upon leaving, Eliyahu blessed them, saying they should all be noted leaders. Rabbi Yehoshua was perplexed by this, not understanding why he had blessed them so generously, after the unfriendly welcome they had given. But he kept his thoughts to himself, for he had vowed not to ask any questions.

They went on to another town, where they were accepted with open arms. Eliyahu Hanavi blessed them that only one should become a leader. Upon hearing this, Rabbi Yehoshua could not restrain himself any longer, and asked why he gave a seemingly smaller blessing to those who had treated him better.

Eliyahu answered the following: “You should know that the blessing I conferred upon the first city is not a blessing at all. When all of the people are leaders, each feels he is in control, and only his opinion counts. This leads to all types of disputes, and they cannot live in peace. Conversely, the second town merited a true blessing. When there is only one leader, who is unanimously accepted, unity is the order of the day. Everyone fulfills the orders of the one in charge, and peace and harmony reign.” The incident with the moon and the sun proves the point that two kings cannot wear the same crown. The moon complained that they were both equal in stature. Hashem recognized the truth in its words and reduced its size. In order to compensate the moon, however, He granted it the army of stars (Chulin 60b).

Guard Your Tongue

Combating the Yetzer Hara

If a person is among people who begin to speak gossip, and he realizes that rebuking them will not stop them, then if possible, he should go away, or place his fingers in his ears, and thereby he will be performing a big mitzvah.

If he cannot ignore them, and placing his fingers in his ears is also hard because they will mock him, he should strengthen himself at this time of danger and fight the battle in honor of Hashem against his Yetzer Hara, in order that he should not transgress a Torah Prohibition of listening and accepting gossip.

The Haftarah

The haftarah of the week: “And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding” (Melachim I, 5-6)

The connection to the parashah: The haftarah discusses the building of the first Beit Hamikdash, which was built by Shlomo Hamelech. This is similar to the parashah in which Bnei Yisrael is commanded about the construction of the Mishkan by Moshe Rabbeinu, a”h.

Walking in Their Ways

No Cap on Mitzvah Observance

One Shabbat, my dear disciple, R’ Michael Ben-Shushan was walking with his young son from the yeshiva building to his house, when a strong gust of wind blew his kippah off his head. He instinctively covered his head with his hands and began pursuing his kippah. Finally, the kippah came to rest under a parked car. R’ Michael bent down and tried mightily to extract it from under the car. His Shabbat suit became filthy in the process, but how could he continue walking without a kippah?

R’ Michael demonstrated to his son that one does not forego his kippah; a Jew does not walk without a head-covering. A kippah indicates yirat Shamayim, as the Gemara teaches (Shabbat 156b), “Cover your head in order to obtain fear of Heaven.”

When R’ Michael bent down to retrieve his kippah from under the car, he was surprised to find another kippah resting there. It was a blue one, with the emblem of our institutions on it. Had his kippah miraculously changed into this one? R’ Michael bent down once again to see if his kippah was in another spot under the car. He found it stuck under a wheel. He managed to extricate it and found his name on the inside. He placed the kippah upon his head and continued homeward. The entire time, he and his son discussed the wonder which had occurred before their eyes.

When he related this incident to me, I said, “The first kippah which you found belonged to someone else. His kippah, too, was blown off by the wind. The difference between the two of you is that he surrendered his, while you did not. The other man probably continued on his way bareheaded.

“When Hashem noted your mesirut nefesh not to go bareheaded, you discovered the second kippah, as a sign of sorts that your deeds are admired in Heaven.” I continued, “Were you happy to find the kippah with our emblem?”

He replied, “Since I became a ba’al teshuvah, I never felt such joy as I did then.”

“If so,” I concluded, “since you did the mitzvah with such self-sacrifice, you merited the gift of being joyful on Shabbat, which reinforces your service of Hashem. This is in line with our Sages’ statement (Avot 4:2), ‘The reward of a mitzvah is a mitzvah.’”

One who has spiritual yearnings for mitzvot is granted the opportunity to do more mitzvot, bringing the joy of keeping a mitzvah to a greater level.

Words of Our Sages

How is One’s Money Used

"Speak to the children of Israel, and have them take for Me an offering” (Shemot 25:2)

Why does the Torah use the term “take,” saying that Bnei Yisrael should take an offering, and not use the word “give,” to express their contribution in giving a donation toward the construction of the Mishkan?

Rabbi Yosef Soloveitchik, zt”l, explains this in his sefer “Beit Halevi,” saying that really whatever a person ultimately possesses of all his assets is the portion that he allocates to tzedaka. A person may acquire great wealth, but it is not considered his possession, only a deposit in his possession, and only whatever he gives to tzedaka becomes his true possession, as Chazal relate (Bava Basra 11a) regarding the King Munbaz.

Thus, since giving is actually taking for himself, the word “take” is suitable.

In this way we can also explain the pasuk written about Avraham Avinu. When he welcomed his guests, he told them (Bereishit 18:5), “And I will take a morsel of bread, and sustain your hearts.” It seems like it would have been more accurate to say “I will give a morsel of bread.” However, Avraham Avinu knew that everything he gives to his guests actually brings merit to him, as the Beit Halevi explains regarding the pasuk “take for Me an offering.”

The Admor of Bluzhuv, zt”l, told Rabbi Shlomo Lorincz:

When I arrived to America, I was a penniless refugee. The day following my arrival, the Admor of Ozerov, Rabbi Moshe Yechiel Epstein, zt”l, contacted me and invited me to live in his house, saying: I did not merit the challenge of enduring the seven levels of Gehinom of the Holocaust like you. Therefore, I am leaving my house and am giving you my “Shtibel” (synagogue), as well as my Chassidim (followers), until you get rehabilitated and manage independently.

When the Admor of Ozorev ascended to Eretz Yisrael, he brought with him a sizable amount of money to buy himself a spacious apartment, as is appropriate for an Admor. However, when he heard there was an orphan (she was a relative of his) who was about to get married and needed the money, he gave her the money that was meant for his apartment, and instead he rented an apartment as “d’mei mafte’ach.”


Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

Our Homes Resemble the Mishkan

At the chazan’s repetition of the Musaf prayer on Shabbat, we recite, “The angels on High, with Your nation below, will bestow upon You, Hashem, Elokeinu, a crown of glory. Together, they will deliver kedushah before You three times.”

This implies that on Shabbat, the angels crown Hashem.

Why specifically then? It is because of the element of peace, depicted by the phrase “Shabbat shalom” which reigns on this day. Harmony and unity derive from the rest and tranquility of Shabbat. On this day, people are distant from discord. When the angels perceive this unity on Shabbat, they crown Hashem as a symbol of honor for His children’s unity.

Torah has the potential to bring peace and berachah upon Am Yisrael. This is indicated in the following pasuk, “Hashem will give might to His nation, Hashem will bless His nation with peace” (Tehillim 29:11). Torah is called “might” (Vayikra Rabbah 31:5). Bnei Yisrael are worthy of the blessing of peace because of their Torah study.

The connection between Torah and peace is very clear. The mitzvoth train a person not to think of himself alone, but to consider all those around him. By immersing oneself in Torah, exerting himself to fulfill its mitzvot, he merits improving his negative traits and replacing them with positive ones. Gradually, his personality is purified through the middah of unity.

Nowadays, when we have no Beit Hamikdash or Mishkan, the Jewish home is considered a miniature Mikdash. In order to merit Hashem’s Shechinah resting among us, we must make sure to foster love and peace in the home. When Hashem observes a couple loving and respecting one another, He hurries to rest His Shechinah among them. This increases the level of unity and peace.

Chazak U’Baruch

The Officer’s Kick

Rabbeinu, the Chafetz Chaim, zt”l, relates:

There is a story about a villager who had to embark on an urgent trip to the big city. His wife wisely advised him to travel by train in order to arrive quickly to his destination. The villager rose early and set out towards the platform with great excitement. After all, it was the first time he would be travelling by train. Was there anyone more fortunate than he?! With a pounding heart, the villager approached the cashier, but in his excitement, he did not comprehend what the cashier was asking him about which class he chose to travel. Consequently, the cashier handed him an expensive ticket, entitling him to travel first-class.

Happily, the villager got on the train and looked for a vacant seat. In the end, he found a place available in the third-class and sat down. While studying his fellow passengers sitting near him, he discovered that the ticket held by his neighbor was different than his. His neighbor, who noticed his confusion, and was also an inexperienced traveler, advised him that it would be a good idea for him to hide before the conductor comes around to check tickets, because otherwise, he will throw him off the train.

The villager panicked and quickly crouched down and hid himself under the seats, hoping not to be found by the conductor. Crouching huddled up, he heard a thump; the conductor had stumbled over the villager’s legs and fallen, bruising himself. His anger flared; he furiously dragged the villager out, demanding, “Where is your ticket?!”

The villager frantically searched the pockets of his shabby coat and removed his crumpled ticket. The conductor looked at the ticket with disbelief and bellowed mockingly: You fool! You are holding a ticket that allows you to sit in the first class. The most luxurious place is available for you, yet not only do you sit in the third-class, but you are huddled under the seat, getting trampled by people passing by!

This is analogous to our matter. We possess tickets for first-class; they are tickets of “Amen with all one’s might,” whereby the gates of Gan Eden are opened obtaining access to all the gates of abundance and siyata d’Shemaya for spiritual success. We must be very careful and not act like the fool who loses out, and does not appreciate the value of the extraordinary merit of answering “Amen with all one’s might.”      

Food For Thought

It is rare to find rich people who are blessed with everything good and have a good heart and generously distribute money to those who are needy.

With a broken heart, the Chafetz Chaim, would talk about wealthy people who close their fists and do not give charity to their fellow people who is impoverished. He would relate the parable of the Dubna Maggid:

A wagon driver travelled from Vilna to the villages, and on his return he would usually bring merchandise for sale. One winter day, the wagon driver was travelling as usual. The road was covered with snow, but because there was high snow which had frozen over, he did not encounter any extraordinary difficulty.

Upon his return, the snow melted and the road, full of muck and mud, was blocked. Thus, he could not proceed and he was forced to get off the wagon in order to make it easier for the horses.

When he got off the wagon, he noticed the mountain tops – which were covered with high snow. He raised his eyes toward heaven and cried: Master of the Universe, if You have only a limited amount of snow, why did You waste it on the mountain tops where people don’t travel, and not place it on the road, in order that people like me could travel easily?

This is what is stated (Tehillim 73:1), the Chafetz Chaim concluded: “אך טוב לישראל אלקים לברי לבב – Ach tov l’Yisrael Elokim levaray levav” (Truly God is good to Israel, to the pure of heart). The word “Ach” is meant to limit, and we turn and say: Master of the Universe, “Ach tov l’Yisrael – truly G-d is good to Israel.” But if You only grant a limited good to Israel, and You place among them only a few wealthy people, then at least grant the wealth to those who are “levaray levav – pure of heart,” meaning to those who are generous and wish to provide to others.

The catch is that a person is “pure of heart” as long as the money is not in his possession. However, the moment he becomes wealthy, he has trouble sensing the pain of his fellow.   

Men of Faith

Rabbi David Chazan followed the custom of eating fish in honor of Shabbat every Friday night, as is told about the Sages of the gemara, who would exert themselves extensively to prepare a special dish of fish for the holy Shabbat (see Shabbat 119a). Thus, Rabbi David Chazan would always serve fish on the Shabbat evening meal. Since in those days there were no refrigerators, it was necessary to go to the market close to the time the fish would be cooked so that it would stay fresh.

One Friday, as Rabbi David Chazan set out to the market to buy fish for Shabbat, he was informed by every shopkeeper, “Today there are no fish! There was a storm at sea and the fishermen could not spread their nets. All the fishermen returned empty-handed.”

At first, Rabbi David was crestfallen, since he would not be able to fulfill his custom of eating fish on Shabbat. However, he came up with a brilliant plan. He knew that Rabbi Chaim Pinto always had plenty of fish in his house. Thus, immediately following the Evening Prayers on Shabbat night, he turned directly to the house of Rabbi Chaim Pinto, in order to join the tzaddik in his meal.

Rabbi Chaim welcomed his guest warmly. While enjoying an array of fish in honor of Shabbat Kodesh, Rabbi Chaim Hagadol and Rabbi David discussed various topics in Torah, halachah, and aggadah. They continued with their discussion, not noticing the time passing, until it was very late at night.

When Rabbi David turned to go home, he noticed the time and became apprehensive. In those days, traveling alone at night was perilous, since bands of robbers lurked in the streets.

Perceiving Rabbi David’s predicament, Rabbi Chaim immediately summoned a demon. He ordered it to accompany Rabbi David to his house and guard him from any danger.

On the road, they began to converse. It began when the demon stuck out its tongue and a fiery flame shot out from its mouth.

Rabbi David scolded, “I am afraid that you are desecrating the Shabbat.”

The demon shot back, “I’m sorry to inform you, honorable Rabbi, that is not so! The prohibition to desecrate the Shabbat is only incumbent upon people made of flesh and blood, but does not obligate us, since we are made of fire” (Shenot Chaim).

It is well-know that there used to be demons in Morocco, like those that were found in France, and the Ba’alei Tosafot, zy”a, prayed that the demons should be removed from France until today.


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