Thursday, February 24, 2011

Dvar Torah for Parshas Vayakhel

      This week’s parshah of Vayakhel and next week’s of Pekudei deal with the planning and construction of the Mishkan which was discussed earlier in the Parshiyos of Terumah and Tetzaveh. In fact, these two parshiyos are almost exact copies of Terumah and Tetzaveh in some places. There are however a few extra concepts which are discussed. We will deal with one found at the very beginning of this week’s parshah.
      The parshah starts off with Moshe gathering together Bnei Yisrael in order to give over everything Hashem had told him about the Mishkan’s construction. Before he begins however, he repeats the mitzvah of Shabbos, and only after that does he begin to talk about the Mishkan. Rashi discusses what the pasuk is trying to teach us. He says, “הקדים להם אזהרת שבת לצווי מלאכת המשכן לומר שאינה דוחה את השבת” “He first told them the prohibition of working on Shabbos before the commandment of constructing the Mishkan to say that the construction of the Mishkan does not override Shabbos” (35:2). In the people’s excitement of building the Mishkan, they might have come to disregard Shabbos since building the Mishkan was a direct commandment from Hashem, for Hashem. Something which is being built for Hashem you might assume would be beyond the Torah which Hashem himself wrote. Moshe made sure this wouldn’t happen by reiterating the commandment of Shabbos before the mitzvah of the Mishkan.
      The Gur Aryeh asks how you could even make this mistake in the first place! When it comes to pushing off one mitzvah to preform another, we have a rule that any mitzvah which has both a positive and negative commandment attached to it cannot be pushed off by a mitzvah made up of only a positive commandment. In our case, Shabbos with its positive commandment of resting on the seventh day and its negative commandment of not working will not be pushed off by the positive commandment to build the Mishkan! The Mizrachi explains that we bring the Korban Pesach and the Korban Tomid on Shabbos even though we desecrate Shabbos several times in order to bring them. The reason we can do this is because they are brought for the sake of heaven. The Gur Aryeh says not to bring this as a proof because the reason those Korbanos are able to be brought on Shabbos is because they have a set time to be brought (as well as being for the sake of heaven). Something which is for the sake of heaven and can only be brought at a certain time must be brought on Shabbos. (This is why we fast on Yom Kippur even if it falls out on Shabbos when we are not allowed to fast.) However, the building of the Mishkan did not have a set date they had to finish by, therefore not fulfilling the condition to be able to push off Shabbos!
      The Gur Aryeh answers his question by explaining what the purpose of Shabbos is. On Shabbos, we put aside all physical needs and focus purely on the spiritual. Any work which is done on Shabbos should be done purely for spiritual reasons. Therefore, when it comes to building the Mishkan, there is a strong reason to assume that it would be allowed since there could be nothing more spiritual than that! The construction of a building which would house Hashem’s presence in this world and would give Bnei Yisrael the opportunity to bring korbanos would definitely qualify as purely spiritual work! Therefore, the pasuk comes along to tell me that not only is man’s physical work prohibited on Shabbos, but even Hashem’s physical work is not allowed.
How much does this show us about Shabbos that even the holiest work possible is prohibited. Moshe is saying that any physical labor automatically has some piece of gashmius attached to it, even though the Mishkan was built for spirituality and nothing else, when you preform physical labor it becomes a gashmius activity no matter what the purpose. And no amount of gashmius is allowed on Shabbos no matter what the reason for it. We must use this to realize what Shabbos is supposed to be like and hopefully have a more rewarding and fulfilling Shabbos because of it.
Shabbat Shalom!


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Dvar Torah for Parshas Ki Sisa

How low can you sink when you have reached the highest level man has ever known, that is the question from this week’s parshah. Only forty days after hearing and accepting the Aseres Hadibros at Har Sinai, the Bnei Yisrael built an idol in the form of a calf and called it their new god, even though one of the very mitzvos they had heard at the mountain was to not serve any other god other than Hashem. What caused them to fall this far and who was responsible for it are questions that all the Meforshim discuss. The bottom line is, this sin, known as the עגל הזהב the Golden Calf, almost led to the destruction of the entire Jewish Nation. Only through much teshuvah and intervention on Moshe’s part did Hashem lift that decree. May that chapter of Jewish History be kept closed.
At the end of this week’s parshah, after Moshe davens on behalf of Bnei Yisrael and receives a new set of Luchos (tablets- Moshe broke the first set when he came down from Har Sinai and saw the Jews celebrating the עגל), Hashem reiterates the prohibition of serving idols, known in Hebrew as אֱלֹהֵי מַסֵּכָה (literally, “molten gods”). He then proceeds to give Moshe what looks like the most random list of mitzvos you could think of. For the next nine pesukim he tells Moshe the mitzvos of Pesach, bringing a first-born cow or sheep as a sacrifice, redeeming a first-born donkey and bringing the replacement as a sacrifice, Shabbos (with Shmittah included), Shavuos, Succos, the obligation to visit the Beis Hamikdash three times a year, the prohibition of chametz on Pesach, the bringing of the Bichurim (first fruits) on Shavous, and cooking milk with meat. It is easy to think of a reason why Pesach, Shavuos and Succos would be together, but why here? And what about the rest of the mitzvos listed, what connection do they have to each other?
The Seforno explains that אֱלֹהֵי מַסֵּכָה are used by people who want to live in the moment. He doesn’t explain the idea further, but I think the explanation is like this; a person builds an Avodah Zarah (idol) in order to connect to the power of a celestial being (i.e. sun, moon, stars)   which he believes will help him. However, he can only connect to that being while it is in “power”. For example, a person would only be able to channel the power of the stars at night. What the Seforno means by “living in the moment” is that a person who serves idols uses the power of something in order to get help now from something that can only help him now, as opposed to Hashem who is always around and ready to help us at any second of the day. The Seforno explains that these mitzvos are examples of how we have our own power to “live in the moment”. All these mitzvos have a specific time of year in which they are applicable and through them, every time throughout the entire year has its own time when Hashem set up a mitzvah to help you.
Pesach falls at the beginning of the Jewish year at the beginning of the spring season and is a blessing for the entire season. It is also when we are judged on how much grain we will have over the year. That time of year is also the time when the animals give birth, therefore, the mitzvah of bringing and redeeming the first-born animals is written here.
The Seforno explains that the mitzvos are listed in order of how they were given to Bnei Yisrael, therefore, Shabbos, which was given right after they left Mitzrayim, is listed next. Shabbos is a blessing for every day of the week, for if you keep Shabbos, your business during the six days of the week will be blessed. Also included in the pasuk here by Shabbos is the mitzvah of Shmittah for which the same principle applies, if you keep Shmittah, the other six years of farming will be blessed.
The next time of year is the harvest time which comes out at the same time as Shavuos. The grain sits in the fields till the time of gathering which is Succos time. These two mitzvos are listed back-to-back as they are the next two in the year timeline (and they were given together).
The mitzvah of visiting the Beis Hamikdash three times a year serves as an introduction for the last three. Each of the last three mitzvos are specific to one of the Chagim (Holidays [when you visit the Beis Hamikdash]). The first two are obvious; not eating chametz on Pesach and bringing the first fruits on Shavuos are mentioned in other places in the Torah. But what is the connection between the prohibition of milk and meat and Succos? The issur (prohibition) of eating milk and meat together is written as “לֹא תְבַשֵּׁל גְּדִי בַּחֲלֵב אִמּוֹ” “Do not cook a goat in its mother’s milk”. Succos is the time of goats (because the tithe of animals is done right before Succos and you end up bringing the tithe to the Beis Hamikdash to give to the Kohanim on Succos), therefore, the Torah lists this issur specifically by Succos in order to make sure you are extra careful about this aveirah.
After this explanation from the Seforno, the answer to our question is clear. After Bnei Yisrael decided to serve Avodah Zarah, Hashem shows them how it is such a futile activity. The only “advantage” of it is to gain something at this moment. Hashem gives us a list of mitzvos right then to show how the Torah has the same features and better since the God that we are davening to isn’t constricted to the moment. In fact, he has no moment! Why would you even bother to try idol worshipping after that!
Let us all take these words to heart and realize for ourselves the power of the mitzvos that we were given. Even if we aren’t serving Avodah Zarah per se, there are still other things we can work on to appreciate what the mitzvos really mean and not just view them as laws which we have to keep. They are in fact shining beacons placed by Hashem along our path in life to guide us and to give us the greatest experience possible.      
Shabbat Shalom!


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Dvar Torah for Parshas Tetzaveh

Parshas Tetzaveh continues with Hashem’s commanding of Moshe on the construction of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and its utensils. This week’s parshah deals specifically with the Kohanim’s clothing and duties. These were the final details Moshe had to learn before the actual construction of the Mishkan could begin.
There is however, one object mentioned in this week’s parshah which seems to be written out of order. The last ten pesukim of the parshah deal with the building of the מזבח הזהב, the Golden Mizbe’ach (Alter), which was placed in the Kodesh and was used for the Ketores, the twice daily incense offering brought in the Mishkan and later the Beis Hamikdash. The question is why is the Mizbe’ach mentioned over here? Shouldn’t it be discussed in Parshas Terumah along with the other utensils which are placed inside the Kodesh, i.e. the Menorah, the Aron and the Shulchan?
The Ohr HaChaim answers simply that only the utensils which were also used in the Beis Hamikdash were mentioned together in Parshas Terumah. However, the Golden Mizbe’ach from the Mishkan was replaced in the Beis Hamikdash by one of solid gold as opposed to the original which was gold- covered wood.  
The Ramban and the Seforno say a similar idea which the Seforno takes even further. The point of the other utensils (and the entire Mishkan building for that matter) was to allow the Shechinah to rest in the Mishkan amongst the people. This was not the purpose of the מזבח הזהב. The laws and responsibilities of the Kohanim along with their korbanos, which are discussed in this week’s parshah, are to show how the Shechinah was resting in the Mishkan. This also was not the purpose of the מזבח הזהב. Rather, the purpose of the מזבח הזהב was once Hashem’s Shechinah was resting in the Mishkan, the Kohanim lit the Ketores once in the morning and once at night in order to give kavod to Hashem so that the korbanos should be accepted eagerly. This is why the Mizbe’ach is written at the end, because it was the last step between the Mishkan being just a beautiful building and a connection between us and Hashem. It was the final necessity for Hashem to be able to bring his presence into this world. Because of that, it is listed separate from everything else.
May we all see the day when we bring the Ketores and with that have our korbanos and tefillos answered by Hashem.
Shabbat Shalom!

and remember AIMeM!!!!!

Friday, February 4, 2011

No Dvar Torah This Week

Sorry but due to scheduling conflicts, I did not have time to write a dvar torah this week. If anyone is interested,  I was planning on writing over the Mizrachi on Rashi perek 25 pasuk 31 on the making of the Menorah. Check it out!
Shabbat Shalom!