February 17th, 2018

2nd of Adar 5778


The Construction of The Tabernacle: A Moral Lesson

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

"And you shall make a menorah of pure gold" (Shemot 25:31)

In this parashah, Hashem instructs Moshe Rabbeinu about the Menorah, how to fashion it and its parts. We find that the Torah describes extensively the way the Menorah was made, emphasizing every detail of its appearance, its cups, knobs, and flowers.

We need to clarify why the Torah describes in such detail the way the Menorah was fashioned, when it was clear that Moshe could not possibly do it. Even though Hashem showed Moshe the form of the Menorah in an image of fire, in the end, Moshe Rabbeinu took a talent of gold and threw it into the fire and through an extraordinary miracle, the Menorah was fashioned. Chazal elucidate (Tanchuma Shemini 8) about what is stated in the Torah, "Shall the Menorah be made" – "by itself," because Moshe Rabbeinu found difficulty with it. Hashem told him to cast the talent of gold into the fire and it will be made by itself. Therefore, the Torah does not state "ta'aseh – do it," but "tay'aseh – shall be made." This is why it is difficult to understand why Hashem described extensively how to fashion the Menorah when He knew that in the end it will be accomplished miraculously by throwing the talent of gold into the fire. 

The Torah is teaching us a lesson through the Menorah. Although Moshe Rabbeinu found the fashioning of the Menorah difficult and knew that he could not do it, nevertheless the Torah describes every facet in detail, and Moshe Rabbeinu expounded upon it and examined every possible way to proceed with its formation, and he did not exempt himself by not being able to do it. Likewise, we must be aware that anyone studying Torah, who cannot understand it fully, should not give up and slacken his involvement, but should try again and again until it becomes clear to him. This is just what happened to Moshe Rabbeinu. Even though he knew that he could not fully understand it, he nevertheless wrote and studied the subject at length.

On the contrary, a person who toils in Torah over one subject, the Torah requests of Hashem to reveal to him the secrets of the Torah regarding another subject (Sanhedrin 99b, and Rashi there). Thus, laboring in Torah with all one's might is the way to acquire Torah. Even though a person does not understand the depth of the matter, in any case the actual involvement is a great mitzvah, as it is stated in the Torah (Vayikra 26:3) "If you follow My statutes," and Rashi explains there: “If you follow My statutes”? It means that you must toil in the study of Torah [for the word for “follow” here, תֵּלֵכוּ, literally means “walk,” which is a strenuous activity]. It seems that this is the main point; that one can acquire Torah through hard labor. It is also said about the Torah that it is the life force to those who engage in it.

There is another issue regarding the establishment of the Mishkan concerning the skins of the animal called "Tachash." Chazal say (Shabbat 28b) that this animal was created for the occasion of constructing the Mishkan and then it was hidden. This implies that its entire creation was just for a need of the times. It is incredible why Hashem had to create a special animal for the construction of the Mishkan and afterwards hide it. It seems that Hashem could have created it to exist always, and then it would have been ready to be used for the purpose of the Mishkan when it was needed. And if Hashem's intention was that it should be extremely rare and should be unique in the sense that it is not found anywhere else only at the construction of the Mishkan, Hashem could have hidden it meanwhile in a distant forest, and have it revealed only during the building of the Mishkan.

We can conclude that Hashem wants to teach us that just as for the Mishkan, when there was a specific need for the skins of the Tachash, but it didn't exist in the world, Hashem created a special creation to fill this need, so too regarding a person who is like a miniature Mishkan, since his brain is parallel to the Ark, and his eyes to the Menorah, and his mouth to the Table, etc.; he has to develop and create within himself renewed spirit and rise to great heights in the service of Hashem. Even if his strength wanes, he should not give up but muster his last energy, as it is stated (Mishlei 2:4-5), "If you seek it like silver, and hunt for it like treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord, and you will find the knowledge of G-d." This signifies that if a person wants to understand until what extent he has to toil in order to acquire fear of Heaven and understanding of the Torah, and what abilities he possesses, he should try to imagine what efforts he would invest in order to search for money and riches.

Walking in Their Ways

The Power of Personal-interest

During one of my speeches, a man in my line of vision constantly chuckled to himself, acting as though he were repudiating my words and insinuating that I offered nothing new to my audience.

In my heart, I agreed with the man. My words were divrei Torah, told already to Moshe at Sinai, and "there is nothing new under the sun" (Kohelet 1:9). But it bothered me that a fellow Jew should make a mockery of divrei Torah.

After the speech, I called this man aside. “Do you know that most of what I said I heard originally from your esteemed Rabbi, when I once visited his yeshiva?” I asked. The man seemed to become transformed before my eyes. “Really?” he asked, excitedly. “It was an amazing speech!” He turned on his way, singing the praises of my speech to anyone who would listen.

See how great the power of self-interest is! It can blind a person to the truth. This man’s personal connection to his rabbi blinded him to anyone else’s Torah thoughts. He considered only his rabbi’s words worthy of study. In his mind, whatever anyone else offered was not worthy of acceptance.

One is enjoined to accept words of Torah. As long as they represent sound Torah doctrine, it is irrelevant whether they were presented by one’s rabbi or the rabbi of another circle. Making a distinction between the words of Torah of one Rabbi over another is nothing short of the Yetzer Hara’s ploy to reduce the flow of pure Torah knowledge. Let us still the voice of the Yetzer Hara and listen to words of Torah, whoever speaks them.

Guard Your Tongue

A great pitfall

The prohibition of lashon hara is whether about a man or woman, and there is no difference whether it is spoken about his wife or someone else. Many people, unfortunately, transgress this, since it seems permissible to them to relate derogatory information about their wife and their in-laws in front of their brothers and other family members, for no beneficial purpose.

The Haftarah

The haftarah of the week: "And the Lord gave Solomon wisdom" (Melachim I 5-6)

The connection to the parashah: The haftarah tells about the building of the first Beit Hamikdash, which was built by Shlomo Hamelech. This is similar to the parashah which describes the building of the Mishkan by Moshe Rabbeinu, a"h.

Words of our Sages

Operating on the sister of the Chafetz Chaim

"And you shall place into the ark the testimony, which I will give you" (Shemot 25:16)

"The testimony" – [i.e.] the Torah, which serves as testimony between Me and you [Israel] that I commanded to [to fulfill] the commandments written in it. (Rashi)

Why was the sefer Torah placed in an ark? The ark was locked up all the time and no one could read from it. So why was it there? This was what the gaon Rabbi Zalman Sorotzkin, zt"l, asked during his eulogy for the gaon Rabbi Yitzchak Zev of Brisk, zt"l.

In truth, Rabbi Sorotzkin explains, had it not been for this sefer Torah, there may have been someone who would have come up and write a sefer Torah as he wished and change things as he pleased, and after some time, the original Torah would be forgotton.

As long as the people knew that there is a perfect sefer Torah lying in the ark, they would be scared to change a thing, because they knew that if the original sefer Torah was ever opened, they would be caught with fraud.

The gaon Rabbi Zalman continued:

We had such a sefer Torah in the previous generation; the author of the "Chafetz Chaim," zt"l, at the time when in 1913 a meeting of Rabbis convened in Petersburg to discuss the decision of the Russian government to institute secular studies and non-Jewish literature in yeshivot. The Chafetz Chaim heard rumors that there were several Rabbis among those participating in the meeting who were inclined to submit to the demand of the Russian government. Therefore, the Chafetz Chaim did not spare any effort, and set out to Petersburg. He entered the assembly hall, even though he was not invited, since he had never accepted an official position as Rabbi. 

When the Chafetz Chaim arrived, Rabbi Meir Simchah Hacohen was surprised and asked him what made him come, even though he was not invited.

The Chafetz Chaim answered articulately: My sister is undergoing surgery today in Petersburg, and that is why I came here.

When people began to ask him which illness she was stricken with, who was the surgeon, and what her condition was, he answered with the pasuk (Mishlei 7:4): Say to wisdom, "You are my sister," – I heard that you want to operate on my sister and distort her by instituting secular studies and non-Jewish literature in the sanctified yeshivot. Should I not travel to Petersburg to inquire after my sister's condition and consult with doctors about her welfare and find out what he plans to do to her?...

Thus, the Chafetz Chaim succeeded in persuading everyone present to oppose the decision of the Russian authorities to introduce secular studies in the sanctified yeshivot…


Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

The ark is symbolic of the Torah

"They shall make an ark of acacia wood, two and a half cubits its length, a cubit and a half its width, and a cubit and a half its height" (Shemot 25:10)

There is a difference of opinion among Chazal about the size of the ark. The various commentators offer different opinions, and although we find that the Torah mentions the size of the ark, it is not clear what the exact dimensions of the ark were.

I would like to suggest that the ark is symbolic of the Torah, and just as the holy Torah has no limit or specific size, so too the ark does not have precise measurements, as Shlomo had assumed that it could be calculated according to the dimensions stated in the Torah. The Torah was placed in the ark, and it is not included in the measurement, to signify that the holy Torah has no limit or measure. 

In should instill in his heart to be aware that it is never possible to achieve complete mastery of the Torah, and therefore it is necessary to study and toil in it day and night. The Torah is not included in the measurements, and therefore it was given during forty days and forty nights, because the Torah has the power to transform man into a new creation. Just as it is impossible to estimate the lifespan of a person, how long he will live and when he will die, likewise it is impossible to estimate the size of the ark and its sanctity, because the sefer Torah was placed within it, and also the luchot and the broken luchot, which were written by Hashem.

I would like to suggest that the reason that older people come to take part in the celebration of a bar mitzvah of a young boy, instead of only young boys his age celebrating with him, is because the Torah has no measurement and is wider than the sea. The celebration of the bar mitzvah of a young boy arouses adults to make a personal accounting; what have we achieved so far since the day we celebrated our bar mitzvah? Did we progress in Torah and fear of Heaven in all those decades since we celebrated our thirteenth birthday, or have we remained in the same place and thus are even on a lower level than the young boy presently celebrating his bar mitzvah? Participating in a bar mitzvah has the potential to awaken us to draw closer to Hashem and his Torah, which raises a person to greater heights.

Chazak U'Baruch

By loving one another we can merit sensing Hashem's love for us in a wondrous way, and there is no greater joy that that. There is no greater happiness for a son than his joy at feeling his father's great love for him. There is no greater gift for a slave than his master's special admiration for him.

Furthermore, the author of "Orchot Tzaddikim" (Sha'ar Ha'ahavah) lists a number of areas in which a person can derive a real benefit, which is immediate and tangible, by loving his fellow, both physical and spiritual benefits.

The first benefit of loving one's fellow, the Orchot Tzaddikim explains, is that it leads to mutual love, and as the wisest of all man states (Mishlei 27:19) that "As in water, face answers to face, so is the heart of a man to a man." If a person would love all his friends, then their hearts would be filled with love for him, which may be of great benefit to him also in this world. When he is in trouble, there will always be someone at his side to help him.

Aside from this, love of others can also bring a lot of spiritual benefit, as he goes on to explain:

He can acquire the spiritual benefit of meriting the World to Come because [by loving others] people will listen to him, and he will be able to reprove them to correct their ways. Also through love he will be at peace with everyone, and in this way he will enjoy serenity and tranquility and be free to study Torah and do good deeds. Also as a result of his love towards people, they will help him and complete his work and protect him, and he will have more time to serve Hashem perfectly. By being loving he will find favor in everyone's eyes and his good deeds will be admired by all, and other people will seek to emulate him.

When Rabbi Yechezkiel of Kusmir parted from his friend Rabbi Simchah Bunim of Peshischa, with whom he enjoyed a particularly close relationship, he escorted his friend a part of the way out of the city. When Rabbi Simchah Bunim wanted to return to the city, Rabbi Yechezkiel insisted on accompanying him back.

On their way, Rabbi Yechezkiel took out a box of tobacco that he carried with him and offered Rabbi Bunim a sniff of tobacco. Rabbi Bunim asked him: "How did you know that I just wanted to smell some tobacco now?"  

Rabbi Yechezkiel replied: "How does the hand know, when it draws the tobacco towards the nose, that the nose wants to smell the tobacco? Because the hand and the nose are part of the same body. So too it is between people. When there is unity and love between them, each one senses his fellow and knows what he needs. After all, all of Am Yisrael are like one body with different organs.

In the comparison that Rabbi Yechezkiel made to the parts of a body, he explained that between close friends there is a rapport, which does not require words or verbal expressions.

Men of Faith

Rabbi Chaim Hakatan was especially famous for his devotion to each member of Klal Yisrael. Once, while walking outside, Rabbi Chaim met Aharon Buganim. The Rav turned to him and declared, “Today I am fasting on your account, since I sense that a fatal decree was issued against you.”

In the afternoon, Aharon Buganim went to the market to trade goods as usual. Suddenly, a large wall came crashing down precisely near the spot where he was standing. Miraculously, he escaped unharmed.

In the merit of the tzaddik, the decree was cancelled. (Shevach Chaim, heard from Mr. Yitzchak Buganim, the son of Rav Aharon Buganim.)

In another instance, one of the members of the Ochana family hid a large sum of money in his car, since it was illegal to possess large sums of money. He stashed the money under a layer of wax to hide it. His non-Jewish neighbors, who envied his business success, reported him to the government officials. Thus, one sunny day, the police stopped him and demanded that he open his car so that they could search it.

Mr. Ochana quickly grabbed the money and began to run. The police were at an advantage, chasing him with top of the line French cars that sped at 110 kilometers an hour, whereas, Mr. Ochana was fleeing on foot, weighed down with gold and silver coins. Nevertheless, he managed to escape and avoid being caught. The police officers were mystified by the fact that they had not succeeded in catching him.

The next day, when the police met him (of course, without the money on him), they asked him, “Tell us, how did you succeed in escaping us? Which Rabbi did you call on to assist you?”

“I prayed in the merit of Rabbi Chaim Pinto to be saved!” he answered simply. When the police heard this, they understood how he had managed to elude them. In the end, they dropped all charges against him.

Food for Thought

When Yosef the Tzaddik met for the first time with his younger brother Binyamin, the Torah states: "And he restrained himself and said, "Serve the food."

In the sefer "Beit Avraham," the Admor of Slonim, zt"l, explains the words in the following way: When a Jew restrains himself from giving in to his passion, Hashem as if says "serve him food," implying, give him everything good, and he should be prosperous and be able to buy food and all his needs.


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