Shabat Zachor

February 20th, 2021

8th of Adar 5781


The Need to Construct a Mishkan

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

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

It is interesting to contemplate why Hashem asked us to build a House for Him in the form of a Mishkan, for even if we were to gather together all the Upper and Lower Worlds, they could not contain the greatness of Hashem and the Awesomeness of His Glory, as Moshe indeed wondered. If so, what was the point of building a house for Hashem's presence if it cannot contain it?

The answer could be that Hashem does not challenge man with a test that he is not capable of overcoming. It is a lucid principle that a person never has to cope with a challenge that is beyond his ability to withstand and clearly, the greater the person, the greater is his ability to prevail over challenges. During their stay in the Wilderness, Am Yisrael merited living a miraculous existence. Their clothes and shoes did not wear out, they achieved the level of angels who had no physical needs, and Hashem spoke with them face to face. This is why they were called the Dor De'ah, The Enlightened Generation. This being the case, the very elevated level of Am Yisrael should have given them the strength to surmount the test of constructing a Golden Calf, despite seeing that Moshe Rabbeinu had delayed in descending the mountain. This test was not too great for their level, on the contrary, being the Dor De'ah they should have triumphed but in the end, their inclination overcame them and they stumbled with the Golden Calf.

We are told (Shemot 14:31) "They had faith in Hashem and in Moshe, His servant". Bnei Yisrael's faith in Hashem was powered through their belief in Moshe Rabbeinu their leader. He was the one who brought them to faith in Hashem. Since they did not have sufficient merit of their own because they had not yet accepted the Torah, all that Bnei Yisrael merited during their stay in the Wilderness was in the merit of Moshe Rabbeinu and this brought them to faith in Hashem. He personified the Divine Presence and from him, they drew upon the strength to serve Hashem.

When Moshe ascended to Heaven, Bnei Yisrael felt a great lack since they accomplished all their Avodat Hashem through him. So Moshe Rabbeinu, who realized the extent to which Bnei Yisrael were attached to him and considered him their spiritual role model, told them before he ascended the mountain that they should approach Ahron and Chur from whom they will be able to obtain strength for their service of Hashem. But Bnei Yisrael, due to their complete dependence on Moshe, felt that they were floundering in his absence and when he delayed in descending they lost all hope and built the Golden Calf.

The important principle that we can derive from this is that man, by his very essence, requires a connection with a certain spiritual figure. When Bnei Yisrael were in Egypt they became attached to the personage of Pharaoh and considered him a god since the Nile rose up towards him (Rashi, Bereishit 47:10). When Bnei Yisrael saw that Pharaoh was lowering himself to Moshe, they exchanged their reliance on Pharaoh for complete dependence on Moshe. And when Moshe delayed in descending the mountain, Am Yisrael were afraid that their leader and savior had died so they searched for a new intermediary figure through whom they could connect to Hashem and serve Him, for without this they felt lost. However, by making the Golden Calf they returned to the Egyptian abomination, for the Egyptians worshiped flock and cattle.

Hashem recognized this weakness in His people and wanted to detach them completely from this custom. Thus Hashem prevented Moshe from descending on time because He considered Bnei Yisrael, on their level, as capable of transcending the challenge and able to abstain from building the Golden Calf. This would enable them to conclude that one must serve Hashem directly without any intermediary. However, since Bnei Yisrael did not overcome this challenge, Hashem told Moshe, "Go, descend, for your people has become corrupt" (Shemot 32:7). Since they consider you as the leader and spiritual guide through whom they can connect to Hashem, they fell to the low level of building a Golden Calf, similar to the abomination of Egypt.

Hashem's desire to detach them from this custom stemmed from the reality that man is given an allotted time span in This World, after which he passes away. And Moshe Rabbeinu too, despite being a spiritual giant, will eventually go in the way of every human being. So if Bnei Yisrael do not accustom themselves to serve Hashem directly without any intermediary, when Moshe dies they will suddenly find themselves lost and baffled by the absence of a spiritual figure to lead and guide them in their service of Hashem.

Hashem asked Bnei Yisrael to build Him a Mishkan, a dwelling place for the Divine Presence so that this will serve as the place from which they will draw the strength and power for their service of Hashem. Hashem stressed, "They shall make a Sanctuary for Me so that I may dwell among them". It does not say 'among it' but 'among them', to teach us that each person must make himself into a Mishkan, a dwelling place for Hashem's Presence. For the Mishkan too was destined to be destroyed and similarly, the two Batei Mikdash that were later built. If a person does not prepare himself to be a receptive vessel for the Divine Presence, he will in the future once again find himself confused and deliberating. In this connection we are told, "In a place where there are no leaders, strive to be a leader" (Avot 2:5). The first Mishkan served as an example for man that he must prepare his own personal resting place for the Shechina.

Today when we do not have a Beit Mikdash through which we can draw upon physical and spiritual strength, we are accustomed to praying by the gravesites of the tzadikim. It is the merit of the tzadik that helps us receive the blessing, he is not, G-d forbid, the one who brings the blessing. Rather, through his merits, he acts as Hashem's messenger.

Walking in Their Ways

Healing and Salvation

I was once invited to a large event in Eretz Yisrael on behalf of a tzedakah cause. When I arrived at the venue, I noticed numerous prominent Rabbanim who could each deliver rousing speeches of inspiration and chizuk to the assembled. Sensing that my presence was superfluous, I turned to leave, planning to attend another function where other people were waiting to hear me speak. Just as I was about to leave, a wheelchair-bound woman approached me and asked if she could have just a few moments of my time to tell me her story. I agreed.

The woman related that before she had become an invalid, she used to deliver shiurim of chizuk for Jewish women on the topics of Yirat Shamayim and Mussar, thereby drawing their hearts closer to our Father in Heaven. But now that she was physically limited, she could not continue this practice. This pained her very much.

She added that she had ten children at home, bli ayin hara, and her handicap hindered her in raising them. She also felt deeply disappointed that she could not lecture to the women anymore. For this reason, she asked that I bless her in my fathers’ merits that she should have a complete recovery.

Just then, I heard an announcement that the organization was still short of approximately twenty thousand dollars which they needed desperately. I made a silent vow that if this woman would recover, I would raise this sum on my own.

After some time, with great Heavenly kindness, the woman was once again able to walk on her own. I turned to the issue at hand – how would I collect the money that I had promised? Since Hashem saw how distressed I was and how important it was to me to follow through with my commitment to raise these funds, He sent His salvation in a most astounding way.

A wealthy individual contributed Sifrei Torah to a Beit Knesset in Yerushalayim and invited me to the Hachnasat Sefer Torah. Of course, I participated in the joyous event and the philanthropist was so overcome with gratitude that he handed me a closed envelope and stated that it contained money for tzedakah purposes. It felt like a check was inside. I asked him, “Is it true that this check is written for the sum of twenty thousand dollars?”

The man was stupefied at my declaration. “How does the Rav know that?”

But I just smiled to myself and passed on the envelope to its appropriate destination, just as I had promised. I clearly felt how Hashem had answered my prayer by honoring my pledge. 

Guard Your Tongue

Explain and Appease

One who causes damage to his friend is obligated to appease him and ask for his forgiveness, even if the friend is unaware of this damage.

For example, if a certain employee was unaware that he was being considered as a potential candidate for advancement and a different worker transgresses the prohibition of lashon hara by bringing something to the boss's attention which causes him to withhold the promotion, he must approach his co-worker, explain what happened and ask his forgiveness.

But, Rabbi Yisrael Salanter is of the opinion that if telling the employee will cause him distress, it is preferable to leave out this step among the other stages of repentance.

The Haftarah

The Haftarah of the week: "Shmuel said" (Shmuel I, 15)

The connection to the Parsha: Since this week is Parshat Zachor, we read the Haftarah which talks about annihilating Amalek for going to war against Yisrael at the time of Shaul HaMelech.

Ashkenazim read from "So said Hashem" (ibid 15:2)

Words of the Sages

Why Did the Admor Straighten Out the Banknotes?

The Rebbi of Kretshnif shlita related that every time after his father, the holy Rabbi David Moshe of Kretshnif zt"l, would finish receiving people in his home, he would take the 'pidyon' money that was given to him by his Chasidim and those who came to ask for blessings, take out the crumpled notes and straighten them with his hands with great attention.

"I asked my esteemed father zt"l why he straightens the notes, surely the value of the notes remains the same whether they are straight or creased?!"

The Admor answered in a beautiful manner: "The money I receive for 'pidyon' I distribute to charity, to those people who come to me and pour out their distress about their difficult financial situation. I straighten out the notes so that together with the money that they need so desperately, I leave them with a good feeling, for providing this good feeling is just as important as giving the money…"

This story, points out HaRav Eliezer Yudowsky shlita, demonstrates a very important message: The mitzvah of charity is not restricted to money, food or drink. There are many ways to fulfil this precious mitzvah and even when one fulfils it with money, one must know how to do it so that the mitzvah should be carried out in perfection.

In Sha'ar Nedivut of the sefer 'Orchot Tzadikim', it is written that there are three concepts in charity:

Some give charity with their money, some with their bodily selves, and others with their wisdom.

In fact, every person must seize each of these three aspects and be the one who is always willing to help his friend and every Jew no matter what, and also share his wisdom with others to the best of his ability. Just one example out of many could be to lend one's sefarim to others. There is a well-known ruling from HaGaon Rabbi Moshe Feinstein zt"l that every Jew has an obligation to separate ma'aser (a tithe) from his time too and not just from his money, to help others advance in their Torah study and fear of G-d.

One who is charitable with his money is not exempt from being charitable with his self, even while giving his money to tzedakah. This is the meaning of the Chazal, "One who whitens his teeth to his friend (i.e. smiles at him) is greater than one who gives him milk to drink". There are numerous other sayings that Chazal have expressed on this matter, which stress the need to give charity with a pleasant countenance so as to leave the receiver with a pleasant feeling.

From the Treasury

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

Man Must Renew his Strength in His Service of Hashem

"Tachash skins, acacia wood" (Shemot 25:5)

Chazal say (Shabbat 28b) that the tachash was a beautiful, multi-colored animal that was created for the purpose of building the Mishkan and then disappeared and is no longer found. So the entire reason for its creation was only for a specific time. The question is, why did Hashem create a special creature at the time of the building the Mishkan and then conceal it? Seemingly He could have made it a permanent creation so that it would be ready for its use in the Mishkan. And if the goal was that it should be a rare, unique creature that would be sighted only at the time of building the Mishkan, Hashem could have hidden it away in the distant forests and revealed it only when it was needed for the Mishkan. What lies behind this special act of creation specifically for the sake of the Mishkan?

It seems that one can derive the following lesson from the creation of the tachash. Hashem wished to teach us that just as the Mishkan required a specific item, the skin of the tachash which was unavailable in the world, and therefore Hashem fashioned a special creation, so too man who is comparable to the Mishkan, (his mind is compared to the Aron HaBrit, his eyes to the Menorah, his mouth to the Shulchan etc.), must create and form within himself renewed strength to elevate himself in his service of Hashem. Even if his strength is waning, he should not give up but should toil with his last remaining strength, as it says in Mishlei (2:4-5), "If you seek it as [if it were] silver, if you search for it as [if it were] hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of Hashem, and discover the knowledge of G-d". This implies that if a person wants to understand the extent to which he must toil to acquire Yirat Shamayim and understanding of the Torah and what strengths he possesses for this, he should try to create a visual picture of the strength he would invest to search for silver and hidden treasures.

Let us picture an extremely tired man who is long bereft of strength and since he is overcome with tiredness he leaves everything and lays his head down to rest somewhat. It is quite clear to all that if this person would suddenly receive a phone call announcing that he had won the lottery, he would immediately jump up like a lion, forget his tiredness and run to claim his prize because he is afraid of missing the chance. How sad it is that there are people who run after money and work the entire day but when the time comes for them to immerse themselves in Torah study, suddenly their tiredness overwhelms them and they cannot keep their eyes open to learn.

This requires much work on one's middot, to create renewed strength for the sake of studying Torah which is more precious than gold and pearls. Since Hashem wanted to teach man that he must create new strengths when it comes to Torah study, even in a situation when it seems like a truly new creation of something from nothing, He therefore, did not create the tachash during the Six Days of Creation but singled out its creation for the time of the building of the Mishkan. Man, who is like a miniature Mishkan, should know that he must cleave to Hashem's ways and renew his strength when it comes to studying the Torah and fulfilling its mitzvot.

Pearls of the Parsha

A Donation for the Sake of Heaven

"Let them take for Me a portion" (Shemot 25:2)

Rashi explains, "For me": For My sake (My name)". Several Torah commentaries explain Rashi's intention at length; we will offer the fitting interpretation from the sefer 'Bikurei Reuven' who explains the Rashi in the name of HaGaon HaTzadik Rabbi Yosef Adas zt"l.

The Gemara (Berachot 63a) on the verse "A man's holies shall be his, and what a man gives to the Kohen shall be his", expounds that this means that if a person tries to save money and desists from giving the Kohanim their rightful gifts according to the law, in the end, he will require the services of the Kohen when his wife is unfaithful.

This matter is hinted at in Rashi's words, "Let them take for Me – for My sake". The Holy Torah guides each Jewish person to offer his donations as per the ruling and not be stingy. Why? "For My sake", so that G-d forbid one should not have to erase "My Name" that is written on the parchment and erased in the bitter waters that the Sotah must drink, for this will be the end of one who holds back the rightful gifts of the Kohanim.

The True Purpose of Wealth

"This is the portion that you shall take from them: gold, silver and copper" (Shemot 25:3)

The wealth that Hashem bestows on His creations, Rabbeinu Bachaye points out in his sefer 'Kad v'Kemach', was only created for the sake of using it to perform mitzvot.

The source for this lies in the words of the Midrash: "Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish said, the world was not fitting to use gold. So why was it created? For the Mishkan and the Beit HaMikdash, as it says (Bereishit 2:12), "The gold of that land is good", as it says (Devarim 3:25), "this good mountain and the Lebanon", which refers to the Beit Mikdash.

To Sing, Praise, and Bless His Great Name

"You shall cover it (the Ark) with pure gold" (Shemot 25:11)

As an allusion, the Siftei Kohen writes that the word 'זהב', gold, stands for 'זמרה, הלל, ברוך', song, praise and blessing. This hints to the fact that man should say words of Torah during the meal at his table, and also offer songs and praises at his table, and should recite the appropriate blessing on each food that Hashem created.

The Children are our Guarantors

"You shall make a Cover of pure gold" (Shemot 25:17)

Rabbi Avraham Saba zt"l, in his sefer 'Tzror HaMor', offers a reason for the name 'כפרת', Cover:

"Because the Cover serves as an atonement for all their offspring (as the word 'Kaporet', Cover, can also be translated as atonement). The Gemarah brings the verse, 'Through kindness and truth iniquity will be forgiven' and it also says, 'that the sin of the house of Eli would never be atoned for by sacrifice or meal-offering'. Chazal expound on this: 'By sacrifice or meal-offering' it will not be atoned, but it will receive atonement by the words of Torah that are greater than all the offerings… (Rosh Hashanah 18a).

As we know, the Torah was created for the sake of engaging in it constantly and no person can do this besides young children who have the strength. They were the ones who became the guarantors for their fathers at the Receiving of the Torah. When we do not engage in Torah, Hashem demands payment from the guarantors, as it says, 'and as you have forgotten the Torah of your G-d, I, too, will forget your children'. Therefore, it says, 'Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings You have established strength'. They are the ones who annul harsh decrees, as it says, 'to silence foe and avenger'.

It has been said that 'ולשון רכה תשבר גרם', 'and a soft tongue breaks strong anger' stands for 'תינוקות של בית רבן גזירות רעות מבטלות', 'young children annul harsh decrees'.

This is why the verse about making the Cover (i.e. the atonement) is followed by 'You shall make two Cherubim of gold', which alludes to the infants and young children who engage in Torah, according to the Targum who translates 'ילד', child, as 'רביא', (which has the same root letters as כרובים, Cherubim), corresponding to the idea that they are the ones who protect Am Yisrael."

A Novel Look at the Parsha

With the building of the Mishkan, explains HaGaon Rabbi Reuven Elbaz shlita in his sefer 'Mishkani Achareicha', Am Yisrael merited 'taking' Hashem, as if, as an additional gift to the Torah that they already merited receiving. In this context, "Take for Me a portion" is translated as 'Take Me as a portion'.

Chazal teach us that every person who came to the Mishkan or Beit Hamikdash could feel the Divine Presence that rested in it, to the extent that they could draw upon Divine Inspiration just by being in the place. Just as it says about Yonah ben Amitai, "He was of those who would go to Yerushalayim on the festivals and enter the Simchat Beit Hasho'eva and the Divine Spirit rested on him".

Hashem cannot 'separate' from the Torah. He loves it. He delights in it every day. Because of this, He asks Yisrael to 'take Him', so that He can continue dwelling next to the Torah.

This demonstrates how important and precious the Torah is: "It is more precious than pearls, and all your desires cannot compare to it" (Mishlei 3:15).

The Torah's importance creates a double obligation for us: Not only is each person obligated to study Torah himself, to set fixed study times and participate in Torah shiurim, but he must also be concerned about others! Each Jew must go out among the people, "to graze in the gardens and to pick roses", to search for Jewish souls who are loitering in the streets, befriend them and bring them closer to the Holy Torah!

Baruch Hashem, our generation sees the fulfillment of the prophecy of the Navi Amos (8:11), "Behold, days are coming, the word of the Lord Hashem Elokim, when I will send hunger into the land; not a hunger for bread nor a thirst for water, but to hear the words of Hashem". There is a thirst for Judaism in just about every place, a thirst to hear the words of Hashem. Crowds assemble at every event where the goal is to spread the message of the Torah. The Beit HaKnesset is full to capacity, people are prepared to stand in a crowded room just to hear words of inspiration.

Underneath the external mane of hair, behind the tasteless clothing, hides a Jewish soul. A soul that is thirsty to hear, a soul that is screaming with a mighty cry: "Please! Give me food! Give me Torah!"

The media tries to present the opposite picture but one cannot change the facts of reality! The Batei Knesset all over are full of people who wish to return to their Father in Heaven.

On the contrary, "But as much as they would afflict it, so it would increase and so it would spread out". Young irreligious Jews come to join our Yeshiva. They heard the message that the media propagates, they read the newspapers where they were fed with poison against the Torah, against Bnei Torah, against religious coercion and came to check out the matter from close range…

They peeked and became 'victims'. They sampled and savored the taste. "Taste and see that Hashem is good" (Tehillim 34:9).

Here is just one story out of many:

One day, an irreligious twenty-two-year-old fellow came to our Yeshiva and asked if he could join the Yeshiva for a short time.

"Who sent you here?" I asked him.

"A certain newspaper" was his reply.

"Are you writing an article for them?" I asked.

"No! I read an article in the newspaper and wish to hear and experience first-hand what actually happens."

"What did you read there?" I asked with interest.

He began to relate the story that had been published, concerning a young couple who became religious. The husband was the son of one of the well-known shipyard owners in the country. The parents from both sides protested loudly: "They snatched our children from us!" But their children claimed, "No one forced us. We were not put under any pressure". But their words did not stop the parents from declaring, "religious coercion". The husband's parents turned to a famous psychologist for advice on "how to speak to their child's emotions and persuade him not to take such hasty steps"…

The manner in which the psychologist answered the parents, published in the newspaper, was amazing. He told them, "First of all, calm down! 'Common troubles are already half the consolation'. You should know that this 'plague' exists all over the country. I too have a daughter who adopted a religious lifestyle…"

"I came here", finished the young man who today is an outstanding avreich, "to investigate from close up what this 'religious coercion' is all about."

Indeed, this bachur noted that we do not force anything down anyone's throats. Each person chooses to return out of his own free will. They simply sampled the sweet taste of the Torah and willingly chose to attach themselves to this way of life.

Precious jewels are spilling in the streets; valuable treasures are being thrown into the garbage cans! Let us spring into action, gather these diamonds and polish them, and return wayward sons to their Father in Heaven.


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