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
FROM THE CHASSIDIC REBBES
"Earring, nose ring, finger ring and bracelet"
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.
FROM THE MASTERS OF KABBALA
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
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.
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
(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)
essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent
(for a free weekly email subscription, click
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
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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