Weekly Reading Insights

VaYakhel 5763


Overview of the Weekly Reading: VaYakhel
To be read on 27 Adar Alef 5763 (March 1)

Torah: Ex. 35:1-38:20; Maftir: Ex. 30:11-16;
Haftorah: Kings II 11:17-20; 12:1-17 (Shekalim)

Stats: Vayakhel 10th Reading out of 11 in Exodus and 22nd overall, contains 0 positive mitzvot and 1 prohibitive mitzvot. It is written on 211 lines in a parchment Torah scroll, 22nd out of 54 in overall length.

Vayakhel (Exodus 35:1-38:20): First is the command to keep Shabbat. Next is described the materials donated to constructing the Tabernacle. The chief architects, Betzalel and Oholiav, oversaw the contributions and the work. The verses go on to describe the building of the tapestries, coverings, beams, ark, table, menorah, incense altar, sacrificial altar, washstand, and outer enclosure of the Tabernacle.


"Earring, nose ring, finger ring and bracelet" (35:22)

These items which were donated for the Sanctuary to teach us an important lesson in raising our children: Ear ring--We must listen carefully to the Torah's dictates on child rearing, and must always listen to what our children say, to make sure that the education they receive is a good one; Nose ring--We must "smell out" our children's companions, to make sure that they are positive and not negative influences on their behavior; Finger ring-We must point, so to speak, with our finger, the right path to follow, and explain the dangers of straying from that path; Arm bracelet--We must use our arms, that is, all of our strengths and resources, to ensure that every Jewish child receives a strong Jewish education.

(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)



Selected with permission and adapted from the three-volume English edition of Shney Luchot HaBrit -- the Sh'lah, as translated, condensed, and annotated by Eliyahu Munk.
Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz (1565-1630), known as the 'Sh'lah' - an acronym of the title, was born in Prague. A scholar of outstanding reputation, he served as chief Rabbi of Cracow, and more famously, of Frankfort (1610-1620). After his first wife passed away, he remarried and moved to Israel in 1621, where he became the first Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Jerusalem. He later moved to Tiberias, where he is buried, near the tomb of the Rambam.

Let us return to the concept of the basic equality of the concepts of Mishkan-Tabernacle and Shabbat. It is logical that all the forbidden work activities on the Sabbath are derived from activities performed in constructing the Tabernacle. This is also why in order to be culpable for transgressing these prohibitions they must have been performed intentionally. The Torah states that the construction of the Tabernacle involved thoughtful planning (Ex. 35:32). This means that everything that was made for use in the Tabernacle was designated to perform its function already when it was merely being processed, long before it became an integral part of the Tabernacle. The various artisans involved had to be familiar with the true significance of the parts they were fashioning, possibly even their mystical aspects.

[The author proceeds to point out the significance in the wording of the opening Mishna of the tractate Shabbat, which describes different elements of the act of transferring property from one domain to another, as applicable to the comparison between work performed on the Sabbath and work performed for the construction of the Tabernacle.] The work is described as "two categories which are really four, internally, and two categories which are really four, externally." The expression "outside," is a reference to the negative prohibitions whose purpose is to keep the klipot-negative, Satan-inspired, influences outside. The expression panim-inner- refers to the positive commandments and their function to bring additional sanctity into our personality. This is also the reason the sages refer to the two different "headlines" of the Sabbath, i.e. zachor v'shamor-remember and observe-as having been said "in one word." They view the observance of the negative commandments of the Sabbath legislation, as no more than the other side of the coin called Sabbath, the first side symbolizing the positive commandment "remember the Sabbath day to sanctify it." [Compare Exodus 20,8 and Deuteronomy 5,12 respectively.]

Matters concerning the performance of positive commandments are two-fold, i.e. they involve body and soul respectively. Both body and soul consist of hidden as well as revealed aspects. Thus we see that there are a total of four categories. The revealed aspect of the soul is the Torah. Our sages phrased this by stating "The only reason the Sabbath days were created is to enable Torah study to be pursued on those days." The Zohar elaborates that upon its return to the Celestial Regions after the Sabbath, the neshama yeteirah is asked what new Torah insights it had gained during its stay on earth on the Sabbath. By coming up with such new insights the soul is considered as having created new heavens. This is why the Midrash we quoted earlier compared Isaiah 40,22 to the construction of the tent-cloths for the Tabernacle in Exodus 26,1. The message in both statements is that man is able to perform creative acts.

(adapted from Torat Moshe - the 16th commentary of Rabbi Moshe Alshech of Zefat on the Torah, as translated and condensed in the English version of Eliyahu Munk)

An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

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(W:22-63 VaYakhel)

The Shlah wrote that sleeping on Shabbat is pleasure but only in correct measure, because Shabbat is really for learning Torah! The Midrash says that the Torah stood before G-d and complained, "Master of the universe, when the Jewish people will enter the Land, one will run to his orchard, and someone else to his field, and what will be with me?" Answered the Almighty, "I have a match that I will pair up with you, and Shabbat is her name. On the day the Jewish people refrain from their work they can be involved with you."
The Shlah continues, "Vayakhel Moshe..." - "And Moshe gathered together the Jewish people". Midrash Tanchuma notes that from the beginning of the Torah until the end, no chapter begins with gathering the people except this one. Why?

While still on Mount Sinai, G-d said to Moses, "Go down and gather large groups together for the sake of Shabbat." This is so that all future generations will learn that they should gather together in the synagogues and study halls on Shabbat and study Torah in groups. In addition to this,
G-d said to the Jews, "If you will gather together every Shabbat and read from the Torah and the Prophets, I ascribe merit to you as though you made Me king in My world". This is as the prophet Isaiah says, "You are my witness, and I am your G-d" (Ex. 43:12); this is as if to say that by reading from the Torah, we are testifying that G-d is master of the world. In fact, each person is obligated to learn new Torah teachings every Shabbat; each Saturday night when the extra Shabbat soul we are granted returns to its heavenly source, G-d asks, "What new Torah idea did you learn this Shabbat?"

Based on the word vayakhel, meaning "to gather" in Hebrew, the Lubavitcher Rebbe emphasized the effort required of us to reveal every creation's true essence and purpose. Through this we will "gather" all of reality to be united in serving the Creator. To successfully reveal the unity of Creation, we must begin with unifying the Jewish people. We must gather together, express our love for one another, and refrain from being critical of each other. We thereby reveal that we are essentially one, parts of One Divine Essence. Then we will succeed in uniting the world. Not only that, but truly bringing ourselves to this state is the preparation for the final gathering, the gathering of all of the exiles together which will happen when Mashiach comes, may it happen immediately.

This week we also read the additional section of Shekalim. Shekalim focuses on the donations to buy Tabernacle offerings. It is written in Psalms, "...gives tzedaka (charity) at all times" (Ps. 106:3). The Talmud says that this refers to people who constantly support their small children (Ketubot 50a). This support is considered tzedaka because these children do not produce any livelihood. Rebbe Yechiel Michel of Zlotchov says that "gives tzedaka at all times" refers to a person who distributes tzedaka regardless of their livelihood, may it be abundant or meager. This person will merit to easily support their own family (young children), in the merit of not forgetting others.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe draws several lessons from parashat Shekalim: 1) One should increase their giving of tzedaka. 2) There are many levels of tzedaka - those who give one-tenth, those who give one-fifth, and those who give even more to assist their own spiritual growth; each person should choose a level. 3) One should begin, even on Shabbat, by distributing food and drink (giving out money on Shabbat is forbidden). 4) The manner of giving should reflect the idea of "coming close". What does this mean? A half-shekel was given to help buy offerings for the Tabernacle; the word for "offering" in Hebrew, korban, comes from the root word "kiruv", meaning "coming close". In our days, without offerings, coming close to G-d is through our Jewish actions. When a person gives tzedaka, it should be with his or her entire self. One must not mechanically hand over money, but rather one should do so pleasantly and think and speak about it too. Through this we will hasten the final redemption, when G-d will perform His "tzedaka" by gathering all the Jews together.

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul Leiter

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