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Forethoughts And AfterThoughts Archives
- Shemos

Yisro (Exodus 18-20)

Four great people in the Torah have a letter added to their names. They are Yehoshua (Yud), Avraham (Heh), Yisro (Vav), and Sarah (Heh). In Hebrew these letters spell the name of G-d.

Yisro, the first convert to Judaism that was mentioned by name, rose to be a member of league that consists of the greatest of our nation.

What is the significance of the Vav and how is it reflected Yisro's life story.

A Vav is used in grammar as a connector. It is Hebrew's 'And.' Also, Vav is Hebrew for a hook. Finally, Vav is also used to flip over a verb tense from past to future and visa versa.

We know that Yisro was one of the greatest seekers of G-d. At great expense and personal sacrifice, Yisro tried every religion until he finally found meaningful truth in Judaism.

Perhaps we can now relate the Vav with Yisro. He finally discovered that human life and destiny can fit together within the context of Judaism. He sought and finally made the connection.

In contrast, the nation of Amalek chose not to make a connection between the events surrounding the Exodus, G-d's active management of the world, and G-d's selection of the Jewish people. To them, history was a set of random events. G-d was not a part of their world.

The attack and defeat of Amalek immediately precedes the Parsha of Yisro.


18:1 And Yisro, Minister of Midian, heard what G-D did for Moshe (Moses) and for Israel His nation that He took Israel out from Egypt.

Rashi provides the following commentary for 'And Yisro heard:' What news did he hear that he came? He heard about the splitting of the sea and the war of Amalek.

Rashi provides the following commentary for the words, 'all that He did': for them with bringing down manna, and (providing) the well of water, and Amalek.

Why is Amalek mentioned twice in Rashi's commentary in the same verse?

The following came to mind.

There are two major themes for G-D's relationship to Mankind in traditional Jewish literature, that of Him being a Creator and that of Him being a Manager.

Perhaps the two groups of miracles in Rashi were meant to represent these two themes.

The splitting of the sea was a suspension of the rules of nature, an act that could only be authorized and invoked by the Creator of nature.

The manna and water well provided nourishment and sustenance. Each one of us knows G-D as a manager by His seeing that we have our daily needs.

Amalek is mentioned in both themes. Perhaps this to indicate the range of Amalek's alienation towards G-D. That is Amalek refused to acknowledge G-D as the Creator and Manager


18:1 And Yisro, the Chief of Midyan, father-in-law of Moshe (Moses), listened (to) all that G-d did for Moshe and Yisroel (Israel) His nation, that G-d took Yisroel out of Egypt.

18:5 And Yisro, the father-in-law of Moshe, (together with Moshe's) children and wife, came into the desert to Moshe

Rashi provided the following comment for "And Yisro .. listened": What news made him come (into the desert and convert to Judaism? The splitting of the sea and the War of Amalek (moved him to do this.)

Last week's parsha begins with the splitting of the sea and it ends with the War of Amalek. If Yisro heard about these two events, then he had to hear about that which transpired between them.

Rashi says this explicitly in his commentary on "All that G-d did (for Moshe and Yisroel His nation)." Rashi says that this refers to the manna, the traveling wellspring, and Amalek.

We note that the manna and the traveling wellspring were not included in the first Rashi, which discusses the factors involved with Yisro's decision to come out into the desert and adopt Judaism. What is Rashi trying to tell us by not including them?

The following came to mind.

Once Yisro recognized existence of G-d and the truth of Judaism, his understanding and belief in G-d made him certain that G-d would provide for the needs of His people, such as their food and water. He would have come into the desert and joined them, even if he had not heard about the manna and water.

There are times when we are presented with an obligation to make a long-term commitment to fulfill commandment of G-d and we do not clearly see how we will have the resources to complete them. Prime examples are the commandments to get married and to have children. As long as we are responsible people and conditions are normal, we should leave at least some of the long-term planning to G-d.


The second Rashi lists three things for that "G-d did (for Moshe and Yisroel His nation)." Again, they are the manna, the traveling wellspring, and Amalek. We know from the first Rashi that Yisro heard about the spitting of the sea. Why does the second Rashi include Amalek but exclude the splitting of the sea?

Furthermore, The manna and the wellspring were resources but the victory over Amalek was an event, which is somewhat different. What is Rashi trying to tell us by grouping them together?

The following came to mind.

Like them or not, we need can view Amalek as a resource. As long as we have free-will to do good or bad, Amalek serves the purpose of keeping us in check, much like a gun in the holster of a policeman. We prefer that the policeman will never have to remove his gun from its holster to maintain law and order. We hope that its visibility will suffice. In the same manner we hope that our behavior will cause Amalek to be contained.


18:2 And Yisro, father-in-law of Moshe (Moses) took Tzipora, Moshe's wife, (and reunited her with Moshe) after he sent her away.

Rashi provides the following information about the separation.

(While Moshe was) In Midian, G-d told him to return to Egypt. Moshe took her [Tzipora] and his two sons with him. Aharon (Aaron left Egypt and) traveled towards him. They met by the Mountain of G-d [Sinai]. (Aharon) inquired, "Who are the people (who are with you)?" (Moshe) replied, "She is my wife, who I married in Midian, and these are my sons." (Aharon then) asked, "Where are you bringing them?" (Moshe) said, "To Egypt." (Aharon then) said, "We are concerned about (the people) who are already there and you come to add more (people)?" (Moshe then) said (to Tzipora), "Go (back) to your father's home." (So) she went.

If it was not a good idea to bring Tzipora to Egypt, why did Moshe have her go on with the journey in the first place? Did Moshe simply make a mistake? Furthermore, why did our tradition preserve the details of this conversation between Moshe and Aharon? What is it trying to tell us?

The following came to mind.

Moshe was selected to be the leader because of the great concern that he had for the needs of each and every person under his charge. Our tradition provides the following story about the way G-d tested Moshe prior to his selection.

Moshe was tending to Yisro's flock and one of sheep bolted away. Moshe ran to catch it and the sheep gave him quite a chase. He finally caught up with it by a river. Moshe realized that the animal ran away because it was thirsty. He saw that the sheep was tired from the chase and he felt sorry for it, despite the trouble that it had just caused him. So, he picked up the sheep and carried it back on his shoulders. G-d said, "Since Moshe showed such care for the sheep of Yisro, he will make a good shepherd for my sheep, the Jewish people."

Because of his great concern for the needs and feelings of others, perhaps Moshe was torn between the needs of his family and those of his mission. Moshe initially saw good reason in his returning to Egypt without his family. Despite this assessment, perhaps it did not provide him with a sufficient basis to even suggest that his family be without a husband and a father.

Aharon perceived the difficulty. Perhaps the tradition is a record of how Aharon brought Moshe and Tzipora to realize and accept that it was best to let Moshe continue on alone.

Aharon became known as a great peace maker. When he passed away some forty years later, the Torah records, "And the entire congregation saw that Aharon passed away. And the entire House of Israel cried over Aharon's (death) for thirty days." (Numbers 20:29)

Rashi provides the following commentary:

"The entire congregation.." (Both) men and women. This is because Aharon pursued peace and he made harmony between those who quarreled and between husband and wife.

In preserving a family, it is sometimes best to bring the couple together and it is sometimes best for them to separate.


18:5 And Yisro (Jethro), father-in-law of Moshe (Moses) came (together) with his [Moshe's] sons and wife to Moshe, to the wilderness where he was there camped, (by) the Mountain of G-d.

18:6 And he said to Moshe, "I, your father-in-law Yisro came to you, and your wife with her two sons (are also here)."

18:7 And Moshe came out to meet his father-in-law. And he bowed and he kissed him. And each inquired about the welfare of the other. And they entered the tent.

Rashi on 18:6 comments that Yisro sent this message to Moshe through a messenger.

If so, Yisro could have just said the following, "Please tell Moshe that his father-in-law is here, together with his wife and children." Why did Yisro add that he came to Moshe? Also, why did he say, "I your father-in-law Yisro came?"

Rashi provides comment on the meaning behind Yisro's words.

Yisro was telling Moshe: "If you don't come out for my sake, then come out for the sake of your wife. And if you won't come out for your wife then come out for the sake of her two children."

Perhaps Rashi is answering one of our questions. Yisro wanted Moshe to come out and meet him. Therefore, Yisro said that he came to Moshe. It was now up to Moshe to come out to Yisro and make the meeting happen.

If this is true, then why was it important to Yisro for Moshe to come out and meet him? Also, why did he say, "I your father-in-law Yisro came?"

Finally, why does it say in 18:7 that Yisro came out to meet his father-in-law? Why doesn't it just say that Moshe went out to meet him?

The following came to mind.

Yisro came to reunite the family. Our tradition also teaches that he also came to convert to Judaism.

Perhaps Yisro meant to give Moshe four reasons to come out. One was because he was a convert, represented by "I, Yisro." Other reasons were for family relations, that of a father-in-law, a husband, and a father.

As a perspective convert, perhaps Yisro wanted to know whether this alone warranted that Moshe should extend himself and come out to greet him.

18:7 says that Moshe did come out. The Oral Torah teaches that he did not come out by himself.

Rashi provides the following insight:

Yisro was given a great honor. When Moshe went out he was accompanied by Aharon (Aaron), Nadav, and Avihu. Who would not go out together with these great people?

There were probably thousands of great people who went out together with Moshe to meet Yisro.

18:7 also says that Moshe came out to meet his father-in-law. Perhaps the Torah is telling us that Yisro's first reason, that of his being a convert, would have not warranted the distinction of being greeted by Moshe and his entourage.

Traditionally, Judaism does not seek out converts, nor does it encourage anyone to convert.

Since the time of Moshe, conversion to Judaism meant that the candidate needs to make a major and irreversible life commitment. Wisdom and experience dictates that it is best for the person to make this decision on his/her own, without any social pressure or encouragement.

Therefore, prior to the conversion, it would therefore not have helped Yisro to receive any distinction or encouragement prior to his conversion for his coming to convert.

Perhaps this is why 18:7 says that Moshe came out to meet his father-in-law, focusing the great honor on the family relation, not on Yisro's coming to convert.


18:11 I now know that Hashem is greater than all the gods for they [the Egyptians] were sentenced with the very thing that they sought to condemn the Jewish people with.

Just as the Egyptians threw Jewish children into the sea they were now hurled into the sea themselves, measure for measure.

The control that G-D demonstrated through the precision in the Egyptian's punishment moved Yisro to reject polytheism, as this would not have been possible in the slugfest environment of competing gods.

In this instance, 'measure for measure' was applied to a Divine punishment and it worked against the Egyptians.

The Mesilas Yesharim notes that 'measure for measure' can also work in a person's favor, for G-D is fully consistent.

For example, if one is wronged by another but responds with kindness and compassion then this will be recognized in the Heavenly court and its system of justice will meet out to him a corresponding degree of kindness and compassion when he is judged.


18:12 And Yisro, father-in-law of Moshe (Moses) offered an Olah and sacrifices before G-D. And Aharon (Aaron) and all of the elders of Israel came to eat bread together with the father-in-law of Moshe before G-D.

The Talmud is puzzled by the way the Torah describes Yisro's meal. Why does the Torah say that he ate before G-D when all he did was dine together with Moshe and the elders?

The Talmud derives from here that anyone who has pleasure from a meal at which a Torah scholar is included in the gathering it is as if he derives pleasure from the radiance of the Divine presence (Berachos 64a).

I understand this to reflect the notion that more of an appearance of Divine Providence is allocated by Heaven to meet the needs of a Torah scholar.


19:6 And you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall say to the Children of Israel.

Rashi provides the following commentary on the second half of this verse: "These are the words you shall say …" - Nothing less and nothing more.

What is Rashi trying to tell us? The Shiras Dovid commentary provides the following thoughts.

We know that Moshe (Moses) had a speech impediment. The Ran (Drush 5) says that this enhanced his role to help us accept G-D's Torah. The Jewish people accepted the Torah purely on the basis of its compelling truth, not from being swayed by a gifted orator.

Similarly, says the Shiras Dovid, G-D's words were carefully measured to minimize persuasion so that the Jewish people would have a balanced choice. Any words that Moshe would have added could have upset the balance.


19:8 And all of the nation answered together and said, "We will do all that G-D says." And Moshe (Moses) brought the words of the nation (back) to G-D.

Rashi notes that Moshe did not have to tell G-D how the people responded because G-D is all-knowing.

However, Moshe did this anyway because it is expected of a messenger to bring back a response to the sender. This is 'Derech Eretz', the way earthly beings do things.

As this event occurred prior to our receiving the Torah, it brings to mind a teaching that we should view proper behavior as having a higher precedence than studying Torah.

As great as Torah study is, a student must insure that it will be enhanced by his behaving in a proper manner.


19:9 And G-D said to Moshe (Moses), "Behold I am coming to you in the thickness of a cloud so that the people will hear when I speak to you and also (so that) they will believe in you forever." And Moshe related the words of the people to G-D.

19:10 And G-D said to Moshe, "Go to the people and sanctify them to day and tomorrow, and they shall wash their clothing."

19:11 "And they shall be prepared for the third say, for G-D will descend on Mount Sinai on the third day before the eyes of the people."

19:12 "And you shall make boundaries with the people around (the mountain) saying, 'Take care for yourselves not to ascend the mountain or to touch its edges…'"

In his commentary on the Talmud (Shabbos 87a) Rashi says that the dialogue of verse 19:10 occurred on the day after the dialogue of verse 9.

Now, 19:9 states that "And Moshe related the words of the people to G-D." Which words were these?

Rashi on the Talmud says that they were the people's acceptance of G-D's commandment to make boundaries around the mountain, which is recorded in verse 19:12, three verses later.

So the words of verse 19:12 were written out of chronological order, another example of the principle that the words of the Torah are not bound by chronology (Rashi 19:10).

Why were they written out of order? What message is the Torah trying to tell us?

The following came to mind.

It is G-D's will to dwell in our midst but our behavior does not always reflect our readiness to meet the protocols (read adequate conformance to Torah expectations) with that go together with this privilege.

Thus, the imposed separation was mandated by necessity, not out of G-D's desire to remain apart from the people.

Perhaps this is reflected by pushing off the recording of these guidelines to another day.


19:9 And G-D said to Moshe (Moses), "Behold I come to you in the thickness of a cloud so that the nation will hear (me) when I speak to you and also (so that) they will believe in you forever." And Moshe told G-D the words (of response) of the nation.

The belief of the Jewish people in Moshe is referenced several times in these sections of the Torah.

The first reference is recorded when G-D first introduced the mission to Moshe.

4:1 And Moshe answered (G-D) and said, "Behold they will not believe in me and they will not listen to my voice for they will say, 'G-D did not appear to you.'"

4:5 So that they will believe that Hashem the G-D of their ancestors, the G-D of Avraham, the G-D of Yitzchak, and the G-D of Yaakov (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) appeared to you.

4:8 And if they will not believe you and they will not listen to the message of the first sign then they will listen to the message of the last sign.

At this point in the narrative, the quality of belief in Moshe does not seem to be clear and absolute.

4:31 And the people believed. And they heard that Hashem remembered the Children of Yisroel (Israel) and that He saw their affliction. And they knelt and bowed.

Our second reference is recorded by the splitting of the sea.

14:31 And Yisroel saw the great hand that G-D did against Egypt. And the people feared G-D. And the people believed in Moshe His servant.

The quality of belief seems to be quite focused and intense. Yet we find that the people did not completely follow Moshe's guidance. Moshe tells them to refrain from collecting the manna on the seventh day but people go out to collect anyway.

16:28 And G-D said to Moshe, "Until when will (all of) you refuse to guard My commandments and Torah?"

The third reference is in our Torah reading, cited above.

What is the significance of the three references? If the Jewish people believed in Moshe when they first met, as recorded in chapter four, then what is the significance of repeating it in chapter fourteen? And what is the significance of our reference, in chapter nineteen?

The following came to mind.

It is rare person that receives a communication from G-D.

It is easy to see that that there have been many theological con-men throughout history who have succeeded in infecting masses of people with false and frequently corruptive beliefs. To see this, one only needs to open an almanac and read about the myriad of mutually exclusive religions that exist today. Because of this mutual exclusivity, the listing tells the sad fact that the majority of contemporary religions are based on falsehoods. They serve a number of theological industries that provide a small number of people with money and power, self-serving perpetuators of falsehoods, people who do some good but are in positions to exploit and corrupt. They use native talents to prey on people who want to hear what they say, people who want to hear that there is meaning in life, there is an afterlife, people who are in need of counseling and consoling, people who want a major life-event such as a marriage to be associated with sanctity.

According to our tradition, this is not a relatively new phenomenon. The Rambam (Avodah Zara 1:1-2) says that the root of this problem began in the third generation of Mankind as we know it, some five-thousand years ago.

"After some time passed, false prophets arose and claimed that G-D commanded them to worship some star or all of the stars and to make offerings …. And then other falsifiers arose and claimed that the star or the galaxy or an angel appeared to them … And this became widespread throughout the land … And as time passed, G-D, honored and awesome, became forgotten from the consciousness of all that stand erect and they did not recognize Him. And it became that the common-folk, the women, and children only knew about images of wood and stone and the great halls of stone that they were trained in from their youth to prostrate, serve, and swear in its name. And the wise among them, such as the priests imagined that there was no G-D, but just the stars and galaxies… But only few individuals, like Chanoch, Meshuselach, Noach, Shem, and Ever knew about or recognized the Rock of the Worlds. World history evolved in this manner until the pillar of the world was born, Avraham our ancestor."

Given the sad background, it makes no sense for G-D to expect anyone to listen to anyone who shows up at the door and claims that G-D spoke to him.

Because of this, I have come to partition the space of all religions into two. A religion can be based either on persuasion or it can be based on encounter.

Persuasion-based religions are founded on one or more people who make theological claims or who take theological positions and then persuade other people to adopt the theology. Some use tricks or black-magic to get their adherents, Others use threats or sheer force. Descendants of those who were persuaded continue the religion as an ancestral heritage. However, the tradition can not effectively lend the religion any more credibility than that which it had when their ancestors were persuaded by the falsifiers.

An encounter-based religion is based on one or more genuine encounters that a person has with G-D Himself. Such a person knows from experience, not through persuasion. The descendants preserve the truth of the reality that their ancestors experienced.

And so it is no wonder that Moshe our Teacher questioned G-D about the reception that the Jewish people will give him when he would introduce himself to them. This is why the quality of our initial belief in Moshe was not stated in clear and absolute terms. Our tradition and life experience itself have taught us to be highly skeptical of theological claimants.

Had he come by himself and did a few miracles then he would have probably been discarded, as we are taught that falsifiers can and have done many tricks to ensnare followers. However, Moshe came with his brother Aharon (Aaron), a person who was well recognized within the Jewish people of that time as a person of great integrity. And, Aharon only became involved with Moshe after G-D Himself communicated with him directly and told him that Moshe is legitimate.

With the proper introduction now behind, Moshe was able to request of the Jewish people that they cooperate with their redemption.

Initially, the narrative does not present any behavioral requirements from the Jewish people. It is only after nine dramatic plagues, events that were correctly predicted by Moshe and even somewhat controlled by him, that the Jewish people were asked to do something. They were asked to take some risk and get themselves a lamb for the Passover sacrifice, despite the fact that the Egyptians worshiped that animal. They were asked to circumcise, an ancestral requirement that had fallen into neglect. Finally, they were asked to borrow things from their neighbors.

In short, they were asked to do things, some of which they were supposed to have been doing in the first place. Up to now, they were not asked to accept on themselves any new teachings or lifestyles. However, they knew that this would soon change.

And so, when Moshe told them to enter the sea they all followed him. And, when they witnessed their dramatic rescue at the sea they were ready to do anything that Moshe would tell them to do, like traveling north or south, or stopping for a rest. To me, this is the meaning of the second reference of our belief in Moshe. However, we don't see that at that time we all were ready to accept upon ourselves any of his teachings. So, Moshe asks us to stop collecting the manna on the Shabbos (Sabbath) but there are some people that simply don't listen to him.

It will take another level of experience for us to accept Moshe as the transmitter of G-D's will, that the Torah of Moshe is truly from G-D in its entirety.

So this is reason for the third reference, that by Mount Sinai. It is here that G-D reveals Himself in some manner to everyone. Everybody has a personal encounter with G-D and they hear G-D tell Moshe to charge the Jewish people with His commandments.

The encounter of the Jewish people with G-D served to authenticate Moshe. This level and extent of authentication of a messenger of G-D is unparalleled in any heritage. This provides meaning to the third and final reference our belief in Moshe.

With this authentication, the teachings of Moshe can expect us to listen to other people who present themselves as prophets, provided that they behave within the guidelines of the Torah, per Deuteronomy 13 and 18. Without the citation of legitimacy in Deuteronomy 18, we would not be expected to listen to any claimant of prophecy unless G-D would provide that person with at least the same level of authentication that He provided Moshe. (I recall this teaching from the Rambam).

Deuteronomy 13 clearly charges us to discard and even condemn any person who seeks to have us adopt another religion, even if the person evokes the greatest of miracles. It even implies that such people will have powers to evoke supernatural events.

This also reminds us of the importance to maintain trace ability with the teachings of Moshe. It is for this reason that we view our Torah scholars in part as consultants, not inventors or innovators. They constantly insure that all of their rulings are consistent with that which Moshe said or that which Moshe would have said, based on what they know he did say. They take great care to document how their rulings trace back to earlier rulings, to the Talmud, to the scriptures. This is why scholarship is so important, for fabricators need only to be well positioned for their rulings to be published and regarded.

I believe that many people have had difficulty in relating to Judaism because they have grown accustomed to religion that is based on human invention.

The truth and basis of authentic Judaism is so strong and powerful that it can be initially challenging to accept. However, once recognized and accepted, it provides the security and strength that we need to cope and survive in a world of falsehood and uncertainty.

It is only with being secure on a past and a future that a person can feel secure and find peace in the present.


19:10 And G-D said to Moshe, "Go to the people and sanctify them to day and tomorrow. And they shall clean their clothing."

19:11 "And they shall be ready for the third day. For on the third day G-D shall descend upon Mount Sinai before the eyes of the people."

19:14 And Moshe descended from the mountain to the people. And he sanctified the people and they washed their clothing.

19:15 And he said to the people, "Prepare yourselves for three days. Do not come near a woman."

G-D scheduled the Revelation on Mount Sinai for the third day. Moshe told the people that they should prepare themselves for three days. This means that their encounter with G-D will occur on the fourth day, not the third.

The Talmud (Yevamos 62a) teaches that Moshe gave the people an extra day for preparation. It also says that Moshe did not consult with G-D about the schedule change.

The great Revelation did indeed occur on Moshe's day and Moshe was never faulted for making the change on his own.

The Talmud also teaches that Moshe did two other things on his own without asking G-D beforehand.

The people were permitted to return to family life after the Revelation. However, Moshe remained apart from his wife from then on. He did this because of his unique role as the interface between G-D and the Jewish people.

Also, Moshe did not consult with G-D when he broke the tablets because of the golden calf.

He was never faulted for making these decisions on his own, either.

Given his special accessibility to G-D, why didn't Moshe take the opportunity to ask for G-D's permission, much less His advice?

The following came to mind.

Had Moshe asked G-D for an extra day for the people to prepare then a critic could have taken this the wrong way for it sounds like Moshe didn't believe that the Jewish people would have applied themselves enough to meet G-D's schedule for this very important encounter.

Moshe's separation from his wife was correct but he didn't want it to have a formal confirmation from G-D so as to discourage others from imitating this behavior. Family life and having children is one of our highest priorities. Moshe was unique among humanity and was the sole exception from the Revelation and onward.

Moshe did not ask G-D if he should break the tables because he felt that G-D didn't want to say "Yes." G-D still loved the Jewish people despite their great failing over the golden calf.


19:17 And Moshe brought the people out of the camp towards G-D and they stood at the underside of the mountain.

The Talmud (Shabbos 88a) derives from this verse that G-D raised the mountain over the Jewish people and told them that if they accept upon themselves the Torah then it will be good for them and if they do not then they will be buried on the spot by the mountain.

The Daas Zekanim commentary notes that the same Talmudic source records that the Jewish people willingly accepted upon themselves the Torah. This is reflected from verse 24:7 where the Jewish people proclaimed, "We will do and we will (afterwards come to) understand (the reason)."

Why was there a need to force the Jewish people to accept the Torah?

The Daas Zekanim responds that we have two Torahs, the Written Torah and the Oral Torah. The Jewish people willingly accepted upon themselves the Written Torah but needed to be prodded into accepting upon themselves the Oral Torah.

The Talmud (Shabbos 88a) says that the Jewish people had a defense for not observing the Torah because they were forced into taking it. It concludes that the Jewish people later accepted the Oral Torah, after the Purim salvation, some one-thousand years later.

By applying the above commentary we must say that there was something about the Purim salvation that moved the Jewish people to willingly accept the Oral Torah.

The following came to mind.

The Purim story followed the destruction of the First Temple.

Perhaps the Jewish people were initially unwilling to obligate themselves to the Oral Torah because they were not confident that the means of transmitting it from generation to generation would not survive the perils of Jewish history. Unlike the Written Torah which requires just the authentication of a document, the Oral Torah is based on a chain of trustworthy human beings, spanning and overlapping the generations.

Indeed, the survival of the Oral Torah appears to be impossible without G-D's management and subtle intervention.

The Purim story demonstrated to the Jewish people that G-D backs His Torah, together with the people who accepted the Torah, despite their momentary failings. The Jewish people revived and strengthened their commitment as soon as this became clear to them.


This portion records the Divine revelation at Mount Sinai when the Torah was given to the Jewish people. It contains the Ten Commandments.

I was once asked whether the main difference between Judaism and Christianity revolved around the identity of the Messiah.

I replied no.

Both religions assign great significance to the Torah scroll, a record of word of G-D that Moshe (Moses) wrote.

A difference of far greater significance is that the Jewish people have maintained for the past thirty-three centuries a vast oral tradition, an Oral Torah that was given together with the Written Torah. This Oral Torah provides an authoritative explanation of the Written Torah. It provides guidelines on how the Written Torah is to be read and interpreted.

It is quite obvious to anyone who has looked at the text in a Torah scroll that without the Oral Torah, the Written Torah is unreadable.

The text consists of just consonantal letter figures, no vowels. It has no punctuation, no sentence breaks. Left to a person's judgement and preference, the Written Torah provides no intrinsic moral guidance. It can easily be misused to provide a basis for evil conduct.

For example, we translate the sixth commandment to read, "Thou shall not kill."

The transliterated Hebrew letters in the Torah scroll for this commandment are: L- TRTsCh. (The dash represents the silent letter aleph.)

According to our traditional Oral law, these letters are to be read: "Lo Teertsach" which one can translate: "Thou shall not kill." However, it is entirely possible to read these words: "Lo Teeratsach," which means "You shall not get yourself killed." According to this ridiculous reading, a murderer can kill as long as he/she is careful.

Let us consider an even more absurd reading with the following story.

During a sweltering summer day, several young men took a swim in a pool before which the following sign was posted: 'No Swimming Allowed.' A policeman passed by and noticed the intrusion. He roared at them, "Hey! Can't you read this sign?" They yelled back, "We sure do. It says, 'No. Swimming Allowed!"

And so, without the Oral Torah which provides punctuation for the Torah, there is nothing to stop a person from making the following interpretive reading of the sixth commandment: "Lo. Teertsach!" which means "No. Kill!"

The Oral Torah provides extensive guidelines for reading, understanding, and interpreting the Written Torah. Without the Oral Torah and without faithfully adopting it, the Written Torah can be used as a foundation for any religion, for any lifestyle, for any code of behavior or misbehavior. Without the Oral Torah, the Written Torah loses its meaning, it has no meaning.

- Inspired by a talk given by Rabbi Mordechai Becher.


20:2 I am Hashem your G-D who took you out from Egypt from the house of bondage.

20:3 You shall not have for yourselves any other gods before Me.

The Jewish people heard all Ten Commandments directly from G-D.

However, many early commentaries say that they were only able decode the sound for the first two commandments. They needed Moshe (Moses) to tell them what the other eight were.

The Talmud (Kedushin 31a) cites a teaching of Ulah who references the following verse from Tehilim (Psalms): When all of the kings of the earth heard the words of Your mouth they will praise you, Oh G-D (138:4).

Ulah says that the kings critiqued G-D when they heard the first two commandments. They remarked that G-D was merely seeking glory. However, they became impressed and realized the greatness of the first commandments when they heard G-D say the fifth commandment, "Honor your father and mother so that your days will be lengthened on the land that Hashem your G-D is giving you."

Now, we know that the purpose of the revelation at Mount Sinai was for the Jewish people to receive the Torah. It is therefore very puzzling, writes Rabbi Hoberman of blessed memory that the Jewish people were only able to hear and understand directly from G-D the first two commandments while the rest of the world heard and understood what G-D was saying through at least the fifth.

In fact, it appears from early teachings, continues Rabbi Hoberman, that the rest of the world heard and understood all ten!

Why didn't we understand all ten directly from G-D?

Another thing that puzzled me was that the Talmud in Kedushin appears to contract another Talmudic teaching (Zevachim 116a) that discusses the following verses from Tehilim:

G-D sat (to destroy the world) with a flood and G-D sat as King of the World.

G-D will give strength to His nation; G-D will bless His nation with peace (29: 10-11).

The Talmud writes the following:

The sounds of giving the Torah spread throughout the world. The kings of the entire idol-worshiping world trembled in their palaces and they sang praise. They all gathered around the wicked Bilam and asked whether G-D was preparing bring another destructive flood to the world (G-D sat … with a flood).

Bilam quelled their fears and told them that G-D had long ago made an oath that He will not bring a flood of water to destroy the world (G-D sat as King of the World).

They asked about a flood of fire and Bilam gave them an answer.

Then they asked what all the noise was about.

Bilam responded that G-D was about to give to His children a precious treasure that had been hidden away from before the world was created (G-D will give strength to His nation).

They immediately responded in unison, "G-D will bless His nation with peace."

This seems to paint a different picture of how the revelation appeared to the rest of the world.

From the Talmud in Kedushin, one gets the impression of a bunch of monarchs sitting with composure on their thrones, maybe chomping on a snack and sipping tea or something a bit stronger, and making cracks about what G-D is saying.

However, from Zevachim one gets the impression of a mob of monarchs running in panic to a highly-priced consultant to get a reading on what's going to happen to their world.

So we have two questions. Why didn't the Jewish people understand what G-D was saying from commandment three through ten? And how did everyone else take to what was occurring?

Rabbi Hoberman addresses the first question and this is what came to mind from what he wrote.

By far, the purpose of the revelation was not merely to convey information.

Rather, it served to lay the foundation for how the Torah was to be transmitted throughout the next thirty-three plus centuries of sometimes perilous Jewish history.

It would have to be done in a way that eliminates the risk of distortion.

So we heard G-D speaking with our own ears and we understood what He said.

This authenticated the session.

And during this same session we subsequently heard G-D say things to Moshe and Moshe told us what this meant.

This authenticated Moshe as G-D's messenger to teach us His Torah.

From then on, nobody can come to us with magic tricks, miracles, or smooth talking to convince us of the truth of his/her words if they contradict the teachings of Moshe.

To even begin to compete, a faker would have to arrange a spectacle of greater proportion, intensity, quality, and depth than what occurred at Sinai, together with major events leading up to it and connected to teachings that we already have.

Here's a partial shopping list:

Have all of us Jews exiled together for two-hundred-ten years into the greatest empire in the world and have them enslave us. Let them try to kill all of our male children, too.

Get yourself a brother that everyone loves, a father that everyone respects, and a mother that worked to spare all male children from death. Get yourself shoved into a basket and thrown into a mighty river. Then arrange a rescue by Pharaoh's daughter.

Afterwards, have the same Pharaoh that tried to kill all male children raise you in his house. (If you are a girl, then just swap female for male).

Once you grow up, beat up the empire in a way nobody ever did. Do it ten or more times. Use blood, frogs, etc., things like that. Whatever you do, do it real big. Do something that nobody can copy.

Link it all to a promise that our ancestors told us and don't get killed by that Pharaoh while you are ruining him, his country, and economy.

Then, while he is reeling from the funeral preparations for his dead firstborn, get the beast to throw us all out of his land.

And three days later, get the guy to change his mind and wonder why he let us go. Have him chase after us, together with all of his soldiers who also lost loved ones.

Then split the sea and get the monsters to follow us into it. Then, as we are exiting and all of the soldiers are in, return the sea to a liquid state and drown them all, save for Pharaoh.

Then feed us for forty-nine days in the desert. Give us something we never ate before. Make it rain down from the sky. It has to come every morning, except Saturday and give us double on Friday. Everyone has to wind up with the same amount, no matter how much was collected. Give us water, too. Make it come out of a rock that rolls with us as we travel

And make it comfortable for us in the desert. Shield us from above with a cloud so we don't get sunburn from the sun. Give us light every night with a cloud of fire, and make sure nobody gets hurt. Make us walk on level ground. Kill all the snakes and scorpions nearby. Give us air-conditioning too.

Then arrange for a huge spectacle around some mountain. Use real lightening, thunder, thick darkness, and other serious effects.

Make the spectacle too much for our nervous system and have us all drop dead from it. Then then bring us back to life. Make that happen at least two times.

And then arrange for G-D A-lmighty to speak to us in your presence. Have us hear Him tell you things and explain them to us.

And make sure you do this all in front of at least six-hundred-thousand adult males, together with their wives and children.

Bottom line is that anybody who asks us to do something that contradicts what Moshe said is definitely a liar without first performing on at least that level.

And Moshe's Torah has provisions for recognizing if a later prophet is telling the truth and what to do to that person if he/she tries to seduce us into falsehood. See Deuteronomy 18.

As you can see from all of the above, the revelation at Mount Sinai was designed so that those responsible for preserving the Torah for the next three-thousand-three-hundred plus years would hear and understand some of the commandments directly from G-D and would understand the rest through his true prophet, Moshe.

So now we can understand why it's OK for spectators to hear and understand all ten from G-D Himself. Maybe the extra energy will do them some good. And who says they would want to believe Moshe in the first place. And this brings us to the second part of the puzzle, the apparent contradiction between the two Talmudic teachings.

The following thoughts came to mind.

Study the words of the Ten Commandments and you will see that the first five are a bit different from the last five.

Of the many differences, the first five have several references that they are for the Jewish people. Also, the sentences are of average length.

To an outside listener who hears them cold, it's not so obvious who the audience is for the last five. And they are so abrupt.

The English for the sixth commandment is "Thou shalt not kill."

The Hebrew is only two words, "LO TIRTZAH!"

So picture some king having his party interrupted by commandment number one. He and all his buddies fall to the floor in terror.

Well, G-D did not take them out of Egypt. Clearly, the thunderous and frightening sounds are not directed at him or his buddies. So they get up from the floor, have a chuckle, make a joke, and continue the party.

Then commandment number two comes crashing down. Picture them saying, "Let G-D keep His commandments rolling. He's talking to Jews, not us." And commandment number five reinforces this very well because it talks about the land that G-D is giving the Jewish people.

But I could really see the color in their faces changing as they hear the rest of the commandments. Look at number seven: LO TINAFF!

Is G-D still talking only to the Jews?

No wonder they all ran to Bilam.

It must have really relieved them to hear that G-D was giving the Torah to the Jews. To this they responded, "G-D will bless His nation with peace."

Torah is for Jews, not us.


20:2 I am Hashem your G-D who took you out from the house of bondage.

This is the first sentence of the Ten Commandments and we understand it to be a commandment to believe in G-D.

Many raise the question that belief in G-D is an inherent pre-requisite for recognizing and accepting His commandments.

That is, one cannot have a commandment unless there is a commander. If He does not exist then how can we have a commandment from Him? And if we recognize and accept His commandments then we can only do so if we believe that He exists. How can there be a commandment to believe in Him?

My understanding is as follows.

G-D designed and manages human beings in a manner that it is reasonable for Him to expect the average human being to believe in G-D. We don't need a commandment for us to believe that He exists. Ask any atheist in a fox hole.

Rather the commandment is about managing and protecting our natural belief from bias and interference, maintaining intellectual honesty in this respect.

It is also about using what we learn from study and from life experience to make G-D's existence more of a reality as we make decisions in life.

This is one three fundamental commandments: To believe in G-D, to respect / fear Him, and to love G-D.

They work together to bring a person into reality and truth, from illusions of supremacy and being the center of all existence, from anxiety to peace, from absolute insignificance to becoming a part of the only significance that is real.

Upon a second reading, this commandment, given over thirty-three centuries ago, is indeed new to mankind.

In focusing on G-D's role in the Exodus, it tells us that G-D did not just create the world but that He also manages it. And He does not manage just nature but the affairs and decisions of all mankind.


20:7 Do not swear (with) the Name of Hashem your G-D in vain ("LaShav") for G-D will not absolve one who swears (with) His name falsely ("LaShav" as translated by the Targum Unkelus."

It is a very serious infraction to use G-D's name to authenticate a false statement, and especially in court.

The Medrash Yalkut Shimoni teaches that the world shook when this commandment was proclaimed on Mount Sinai.

I heard from a senior judge of a Jewish court that we no longer have litigants use G-D's name to authenticate their position. The last time a formal oath was required was early in the twentieth century. The litigants and all of the judges of that court died within the year.

The Talmud (Gitin 35a) records a misfortune that happened as a result of a mistake.

It was a famine year and someone gave a woman a coin to hold for safe keeping. She hid it in the container where she kept her baking flour. Sometime later she forgot it was there and used the flour for baking. The coin wound up in a bread roll, which she gave to someone who was poor and hungry.

The owner asked for his coin, she could not find it, and he took her to court to recover his loss. She swore by the life of one of her children that it was lost and she derived no benefit from it.

One of her children died shortly afterwards.

The sages proclaimed, "If this can happen with someone who thought they were making a truthful statement, how much more so can this happen to someone who knows that he is making a false statement."

The Talmud wonders why she was punished, as she swore to authenticate what appears to be a true statement. She really didn't have any benefit from the coin. The Talmud answers that she benefited from the space that the coin took up, as she had that much flour left over for the bread that she kept for herself.

The Tosfos commentary still wonders why she was punished, as we have other Talmudic teachings that absolve a person who makes an honest mistake with a vow. Tosfos answers that she should have known that the coin could bring her to a situation where she would have to make an oath to relieve a claim against her. Therefore, reasons Tosfos, she should have been more careful with the coin and this was why the misfortune occurred.

The Nesivas Shalom commentary in the Torah reading of Mishpatim sheds additional light upon the significance of making an oath in court with G-D's name.

The Ramban commentary in Deuteronomy 19:19 implies that the judges of a Torah court on earth are directly connected to and a part of the Heavenly system of justice, which leaves no room for leniency.

The Ramban says that if judges carry out a death penalty on what later turned out to have no grounds, the sentence was decreed in Heaven and the judges are not punished.

"G-D would not allow righteous judges who officiate before him to spill innocent blood. The judgment was G-D's and they judged in His midst," writes the Ramban. We therefore assume that the one who was put to death was condemned by Heaven for some other misdeed or reason. "This is a greatness of the judges of Israel. They are able to decide with confidence that G-D agrees with their outcome and He is with them in their judgment.


20:8 Remember the day of Shabbos (Sabbath) to sanctify it.

The Friday evening Kiddush (sanctification) prayer states that Shabbos is a vehicle for commemorating both the creation of the world and the exodus from Egypt.

We can apply this to mean that Shabbos reminds us of two roles that G-D assumes: that of a Creator and that of a Manager.

It was in the latter role that G-D controlled nature and human affairs to produce the Exodus. And G-D continues to act in that role throughout history to ensure that Mankind achieves the goals that He initially set out.

I see a way to somewhat unify these roles by entertaining the notion that the creation process included what scientists today call a 'Big Bang.'

Both the world as we know it and human history reflect design and order. The latter becomes increasingly obvious as we trace Jewish history, their existence and achievements despite all odds.

Both creation and history emerge out of chaos, each in their own way. And it is through chaos that G-D's great Hand is hidden so that His existence is not obvious to Mankind, providing us all with the ability to choose between truth and falsehood so that we can earn the greatness that He planned for us all.

Continual recognition and observance of Shabbos brings us to internalize and actualize these truths, bringing with it an increasing awareness of G-D's existence and our relationship with Him.

Our literature refers to Shabbos as a reflection of the World-to-Come, for it is a connection to G-D in miniature.

Shabbos gives us strength to cope with whatever life throws at us, meaning, confidence, and peace of mind.


While every part of the Torah is instructional, portions of the Torah are also narrative and others are solely instructional. Towards the end of this Parsha we will begin an instructional section and the narrative flow of events will not pick up for most of the next several Parshas.

Between the section following the Ten Commandments and next week's Parsha there are four verses which don't seem to relate to the Ten Commandments or to the theme of next week's Parsha.

20:20 Make not any gods of silver and make no gods of gold for yourselves.

20:22 And if you make altar of stone for me, don't make it out of hewn stones, for you would have waved your sword over it and would have profaned it.

20:23 And ascend not with steps upon my altar so that you may not uncover your nakedness upon it. (This is the last verse of the Parsha).

Do you see how these verses relate to the receiving of the Torah? Can you relate them to the Torah in its entirety?

Out of the 613 mitzvos (Torah commandments) there are three which are so central to Judaism that one is obliged to maintain them at all costs, even with one's life if necessary. They are Idolatry, Adultery, and Murder.

All three mitzvos are either directly or indirectly referenced in these verses. Perhaps they are mentioned here to provide an overview of the essentials of Judaism, just like the Ten Commandments.


20:15 And all of the nation saw the sounds and fire-throws and the sound of the shofar and the mountain smoking. And the nation saw and shifted (themselves away) and they stood from afar.

The revelation of Sinai was an awesome spectacle and the following verses in Deuteronomy charge us to always remember it: "You should only watch for yourselves and take special care for your souls lest you forget the things that your eyes saw, and lest you remove from your hearts all the days of your life. And you shall make them known to your children and grandchildren. The day that you stood before Hashem your G-D in Chorev …" (4:9-10)

This was a unique event in the history of Mankind whereby G-D revealed His presence in a very dramatic manner so that people could not say that He did not exist or that He never specified a code of behavior for us.

At the time, the entire world was deeply moved by this event and the following is recorded in the Oral Torah in the name of Rabbi Elazar from Modaai (Zevachim 116a).

When the Torah was given to the Jewish people, the sound was carried from one end of the world to the other. It made the kings of the idolaters shudder and they sang praise to G-D.

They all gathered around Bilam the magician and wanted to know the meaning of what was transpiring. Their discussion was later reflected in the following verses in Psalms 29:

10: G-D sat for the Great Flood and (then) G-D sat as king of the world.

11: G-D will give power to His nation. G-D will bless His nation with peace.

The discussion is explained as follows:

The kings asked Bilam whether G-D was bringing another flood to the world as He had done in the past (G-D sat for the Great Flood). Bilam responded that G-D had sworn that He will never again bring a flood to the world (G-D sat as king of the world). Rashi provides the following commentary: "He already swore that He will forever be a King over His creations and (so) He will not destroy them."

They responded that while G-D did swear that He will not bring mass destruction through water, He can still bring destruction through fire, as is stated in the scriptures, "Behold G-D judges with fire (Yashia /Isiah 66).

Bilam answered that He already swore that He will not destroy all flesh.

They then inquired as to the meaning of the great noises that they heard. Bilam responded that G-D had a precious treasure that He kept with Himself for 976 generations prior to the creation of this world and He is now seeking to give it to His children. (G-D will give power to His nation).

They all immediately responded and said, "G-D will bless His nation with peace."

How do we understand this dialogue?

Also, how does G-D's oath that He will always remain a King protect the world from mass destruction? Was He not a king prior to the great flood? If yes then the flood demonstrated that it would not affect His judgments. If not, then what was G-D's relationship with the world prior to the flood?

The following came to mind.

G-D created the world. We are also taught that the world has not intrinsic existence, that its existence is continually dependent on G-D's will. We are also taught that G-D is aware of all events, significant and trivial alike, and that He is actively managing the world in its finest detail and at all times.

As such, G-D's relationship to the world extends far beyond that of the dominion of a king.

The scriptures reveal several levels of relationships that G-D has taken on with the world. One is that of a master. Next is that of a king and finally that of a father.

Each level provides successively more protection for Mankind. It was Mankind that was granted these successions as they progressed towards the goal that G-D set for us.

Initially, G-D had only committed Himself to be an owner, a master. A master will care for his property as long as it meets his expectations. Should it become a liability, since the master has no relationship with the property, he is free to discard it.

This is perhaps how we can understand the Great Flood.

Noach (Noah) and his children were spiritually accomplished and displayed sensitivity to G-D. Thereupon, G-D escalated his relationship with Mankind and took upon Himself a commitment to act with us as a King. In committing to this role, G-D thereby insured for Mankind that He will never destroy the world, for a king does not destroy his nation.

However, a king has rules and individual subjects are liable for punishment and even death if they disobey them. This is perhaps the meaning of the query that while G-D will not destroy the world with water, He can destroy by fire, through judgment.

Thereupon, Bilam revealed a higher level of commitment that G-D was taking on, that of a Father to His children.

In this role, it is possible for a subject to achieve the King's favor and good will by praising the King's child in His presence. Perhaps this is why they responded with a blessing for the Jewish people, "G-D will bless nation with peace."


20:22 And when you make Me a (sacrificial) altar of stones you shall not build it with hewn stones because you have (thereby) raised your (iron) sword over it and desecrated it.

The altar becomes unfit for use if it comes into contact with iron. For this reason, the Mishna says that they used cloths and brushes with wooden handles to clean the altar. The Mishna explains that the altar was created to lengthen a person’s days and iron was created to shorten a person’s days. It is therefore not fitting to raise that which shortens days over that which lengthens them. (Midos 3:4).

Unlike the stones for the altar, the stones of the temple building itself were hewn from the ground with iron tools and brought to the construction site. Iron could not come into contact with them once they arrived there.

The stones for both the altar and the temple building had to be smooth, having no nicks that could be felt by running a fingernail over them.

The sacrificial altar was used to strengthen our connection with G-D, source of all life, and to restore connections that broke because of our behavior.

It brings to mind a focus on life, and a life that has a focus attaining completion and perfection.


Mishpatim (Exodus 21-24)

Rabbi Bick of blessed memory poses the following questions:

What is the Torah trying to tell us by saying that we should to put these laws “before them?”

Also, Rashi writes here that this verse teaches us to set up the Supreme Court adjacent to the temple altar. What is the Torah trying to tell us with this guideline?

In response, he notes that we have these two categories of Torah commandments: Those with a focus on the relationship between man and G-D and those that are for man and his fellow.

In fact, the first five of the Ten Commandments are for the man-to-G-D relationship. They were inscribed on their own tablet. The commandments on the second tablet and are for man-to-man.

The civil laws in this Torah reading represent the commandments between man to man. Those that pertain to the temple are man to G-D.

The guideline to place the Supreme Court adjacent to the temple altar teaches us that both categories of commandments have equal significance.

While both have equal significance, we note that civil behavior and law is a foundation for all Torah observance. This is reflected by the teaching that “Civil behavior precedes Torah.”

Perhaps this is what Rashi is trying to tell us by his reading of this verse. The civil laws that represent the commandments between man and his fellow should be put before them, the commandments between man-and-G-D, represented by the temple laws that follow in next week’s Torah reading.


21:1 And these are the (civil) laws that you shall put before them.

The Sefurno observes that this Torah reading follows the tenth commandment which forbids us from coveting that which belongs to another person. This section focuses on civil law to clarify ownership so that we will know what belongs to us and what belongs to our fellow man.

It is noteworthy that laws of ownership are viewed to serve the needs of "Thou shall not covet" and not the reverse.

Within a context that glorifies accumulating materiel possessions, there is no explanation for not having what another person has, other than maintaining civility so that we may hold onto that which we have. A discouragement to covet would serve to protect the ability to own, to have. It would reinforce selfishness.

Rather, we are taught that ownership is gift from G-D, Who manages the resources of this world to ensure that each of us has what we need. Coveting has no relevance within this context, as there is good reason for not having what another person has.

Thus, the prohibition from coveting flows from our relationship with G-D and it is followed with civil laws to enable us to maintain this relationship.


Rashi provides the following commentary:

'That you shall place before them': (What is the meaning of placing the laws before them? By saying this) G-D told Moshe (Moses): Do not plan to do the following: I will teach them the chapter and verse two or three times until they are fluent and I won't exert myself to make them understand the reasons and their explanations. Therefore it states, '… that you shall place before them,' like a table that is set and ready for having a meal.

Surely, had Moshe's objective been for us to merely memorize these laws then it would not have been out of his convenience. Rather, Moshe must have seen an advantage to providing us with a 'cook-book' of laws. What would have been an advantage?

Furthermore, the above charges Moshe to teach the reason behind the laws. However, the following teaching seems to instruct otherwise:

Rav Yitzchok says: Why weren't reasons for (the commandments of) the Torah disclosed? This is because the reasons for two verses were disclosed and (this caused) the greatest person in the world to stumble. (The Torah) states (that a king) "shall not have many horses so that he not bring the people back to Egypt (where they are raised)." (Also, the king) "shall not have many wives for them to turn his heart away" (from G-D's service). (Deuteronomy 17:16-17) Shlomo (King Solomon) said (to himself,) "I will have more but I will not bring (the people back to Egypt). I will have more (wives) but my heart will not be turned away." (Sanhedrin 21b).

So, what would be an advantage for not disclosing the reasons for the commandments? And indeed, the Torah seems to discourage it.

The following came to mind.

Scholars frequently describe the Torah's commandments in terms of whether their primary focus is on a person's relationship with G-D or whether the primary focus is on man and his relationship with his fellow.

Perhaps Rav Yitzchok's teaching that discourages disclosure is for commandments that focus on man and his relationship with G-D while Moshe was charged to teach the reasoning behind those commandments that pertain to man and the relationship with his fellow.

We can not expect to properly apply reasoning to a commandment that pertains to our relationship and G-D because we can not expect to adequately understand one of the Parties involved, G-D. Providing even partial rationale can lead to distortion, as we see by King Shlomo.

Alas, even today there is a well-organized group that generates rationales which provide their followers with waivers for most of the Torah's ritualistic commandments, cheating them out of holistic benefits and protection that come from full Torah observance, undermining the relationship that they could have developed with their Father in Heaven, sending them further down the path of assimilation and loss to the destiny of the Jewish people.

However, we are well able to apply reasoning against a commandment whose primary focus is on the relationship with our fellow man. But this too is not without risk, for how should we respond when some aspect of a human-related commandment does not easily lend itself to reason?

For example, the Torah forbids the murder of a person. But what is a person? Is a fetus a person? Is an invalid on life-support with no apparent chance of recovery also a person? What about the elderly who suffer from dementia? Indeed, the last century suffered from a wicked person who promoted the idea that Jews were not people.

The issue at hand is whether we yield human reason to the Torah or do we yield Torah to human reason?

Therefore to Moshe, the risk of involving human reason with the man-to-man commandments may have not appeared sufficient to overweigh the benefits. Perhaps in order to remove any possibility of distortion, he may have opted to teach us the Torah in a different manner, concealing the rationales of all of the commandments and their details.

Moshe definitely exerted himself to teach us Torah. However, his concern for this risk would have caused Moshe to focus his energies in other ways.

The first verse of our Torah reading introduces several chapters that pertain to laws between man and his fellow. Perhaps this is why G-D charges Moshe at this time to make sure he teaches us both content and rationale, 'like a table that is set and ready for having a meal.'


21:2 When you acquire a Jewish servant he shall work six years. And on the seventh he shall go free without (your demanding) compensation (from him).

Rashi tells us that this person was sold into bondage by the court in order to repay a theft that he committed.

Rather then view this forced impression into slavery as a punishment, I believe that we can view it as being rehabilitative.

The Rambam records the following laws in Kinyon-Avadim 1:9.

"The master of a Jewish slave or maid is required to provide them accommodations that are equivalent to his own regard to food, drink, clothing, and housing, as mandated by the verse (Deuteronomy 15:16), 'for it is good for him with you.'"

"So therefore, you should not eat bread from finely sifted flour while he eats bread from coarsely sifted flour. You should not drink aged wine while he drinks newly brewed wine. You should not sleep on a feather bed while he sleeps on a straw bed. You should not live in the city while he lives out on the farm, or the reverse. This is reflected in a verse in Leviticus 25:41, 'And he shall go out from among you.'"

"From these laws our sages make the observation that whoever acquires a Jewish slave is in effect acquiring for himself a master."

In his former life as a thief, the slave was driven by a passion to have more. He did not check and counteract this passion by his natural desire to be a decent person.

Providing him with accommodations that equal that of his master, the slave now has everything a decent person would have, except for the loss of freedom.

By filling his desire to have, albeit in an unfortunate manner, the slave has opportunity to focus on appreciating the value in living like a decent person.


21:15 And one who strikes his father and [or] his mother shall be put to death.

21:17 And one who curses his father and [or] his mother shall be put to death.

The Oral Torah differentiates in the punishment of one who hits a parent and one who curses a parent. The method of death for one who curses a parent is 'skila', more severe than 'chenek' which is the punishment that one who strikes a parent receives.

Why is this so?

I am sure that there are many reasons. The following thoughts came to mind.

A person is more prone to lash out verbally than physically. The Torah therefore counterbalances this by giving verbal abuse a more severe penalty.

In many cases, damage from physical abuse is superficial but that verbal abuse penetrates deep within the person. Frequently, verbal abuse takes a longer time to heal.

Damage from verbal abuse is noticeable and this facilitates remorse. Verbal abuse shows no scar.

The Talmud (Kidushin 30b) says the following: "It states (in the Torah) 'And one who curses his father and [or] his mother shall be put to death.' And it states (in the Torah) 'If any man curses his G-D then he shall bear his sin.' The Torah equates blessing [cursing] a father or mother with blessing [cursing] G-D. However, when it comes to striking [G-D] this is surely impossible (and we can not equate striking a parent with striking G-D." So, since blessing [cursing] a parent can be related to blessing [cursing] G-D, perhaps this is why it carries a more severe penalty.

Finally, I pose this riddle to you.

We know that a person can not be executed for hitting or for blessing a parent unless he/she is forewarned by two witnesses before the act that this is a capital crime and the person accepts the consequence of this act immediately prior to doing it.

We can see how a person can be caught in the middle of the act of striking a parent so that two witnesses can give a warning. But how do witnesses catch a person in the middle of cursing a parent? Do they respond to this person's threat to curse? Is the threat sufficient to base a valid warning on? We have a rule that a person is not believed in court to impugn himself.

Consider this solution: The witnesses hear the person curse a parent. They tell the person that this is a capital crime. The person then says that he/she doesn't care and curses again.

If this is the only solution then we may have another answer to our question, for the only way a person can be punished for cursing is by repeating the crime.

Yes, Judaism has capital crimes and I know that this is not a popular consequence.

You see, there are two types of death penalties.

One type is that of a deterrent. Most civilized nations have death penalties to deter the population from committing crimes that cause or that can bring to mass destruction. Frankly, those nations who don't have any capital crimes are risking the welfare of their citizens to social experimentation.

The other type is that of a corrective nature. It is only within Judaism that its capital crimes can have meaning, for we believe in G-D and in an afterlife. It is only G-D who knows that the criminal is in dire need for this type of correction so that he/she can have peace for the rest of eternity.


21:18 And should men fight and one hit his fellow with a stone or a fist. And he does not die (but) falls into bed.

21:19 If (the victim of an assault recovers,) gets up, and walks outside with his staff by himself then the assailant shall be cleared. Only he [the assailant] must compensate for his loss of work and shall (pay so that) heal shall he be healed.

Rabbi Yishmael uses verse 21:19 as the basis in Jewish Law for permitting a doctor to practice medicine and heal people. (Bava Kama 85a).

And this verse is indeed necessary, For we are taught everything that happens to a person is either by Divine decree or is a result of personal negligence. So I would think that a doctor may not use medicine to heal someone who is a victim of illness because this appears to interfere with G-D's decree. Therefore, the Torah needs to explicitly permit doctors to heal people.

The Chofetz Chaim notes that the case the Torah uses to teach this principle is one of a victim of human aggression, not of natural illness. We therefore see that one can not harm another person unless G-D permits this to occur, assumingly because the victim is not deserving of Divine protection. (Rabbi Yisochor Frand from Shemen Hatov)

So the next time someone accidently steps on your foot don't jump to blame him. Rather, you may want to ask yourself if there is anything you did to deserve the stomp.

We can apply this to good things, too. So the next time someone smiles at you when you need a boost, don't be satisfied with just thanking him alone for the sunshine. Don't forget to thank G-D for sending him to make your day, too.


21:19 If (the victim of an assault recovers,) gets up, and walks outside with his staff by himself then the assailant shall be cleared. Only he [the assailant] must compensate for his loss of work and shall (pay so that) heal shall he be healed.

The Talmud derives from this verse that the Torah allows a physician to heal sick people (Bava Kama 85a).

Rashi explains that without this verse I would have thought since a person's welfare is decreed by Heaven, a physician would be forbidden to practice medicine because it could interfere with Divine judgment.

Tosfos clarifies that we know this from the duplicative expression, "heal shall he be healed." Otherwise, one could have thought the permission is only for when the injury was inflicted by another person, not for people who become ill.

This begs explanation, for everything comes by Divine decree, unless there is negligence. If we need a verse in the Torah to permit a doctor to heal a sick person, does this mean that we need verses to tell us that professionals can rescue people from other types of distress, such as from fire or natural disaster?

The Shiras David answers that distress from sickness is unique.

We have a tradition that there was no such thing as a person dying from illness until the time of Yaakov (Jacob). Until his time, everyone died suddenly. Yaakov beseeched Divine mercy to make it possible for people to get sick beforehand so that they would know that their end was near, enabling them to get their affairs in order and repent.

Without this verse, one would have thought that it is forbidden to interfere with a process that was modified to benefit humanity.


22:30 And you shall be to Me men of holiness and (therefore) you shall not eat meat of the field that was torn (off by a predatory animal). You shall (instead) cast it to a dog.

The Nesivas Shalom commentary focuses on the words in the beginning of this verse. What is the message in the words, “to Me”? Why didn’t the Torah simply write, “And you shall be men of holiness …”

He provides the following lesson.

We first need to understand the term, ‘holiness.’

While everyone is expected to stay away from this type of forbidden meat, not everyone will approach this commandment the same way.

The Torah defines certain marriages as being incestual, such as the marriage of a son with his mother. Our sages of blessed memory added to this list, including marriages that the Torah permits. The Mishnah calls the added marriages ‘prohibitions of holiness.’ Rava explains that the concept of holiness includes distancing oneself from things that are otherwise permitted (Talmud Yevamos 20a).

As one begins his journey towards greatness he starts off with a dominant focus on his “self,“ his needs and wants. Therefore, when he sees a delicious meal containing forbidden meat he is expected to say ‘no’ and will refrain because he fears the eternal consequences of transgressing the Torah’s law.

This approach is fine and expected, even though there is a taint of self-interest in this approach, that it won’t be good for “Me.”

Many live most of their life that way and will receive eternal reward for their good choices and serving G-D, even though it is based on the fear of consequences.

Here, this verse opens up a window for something even greater and this is the message in the words "to Me," to G-D.

Our teachers encourage us to always look for improvement, to always strive to raise the bar for ourselves.

What I’m about to describe is not easy to achieve. In fact, says the Nesivas Shalom, without G-D’s help one can’t get there. However, if one sincerely tries then G-D will intervene and make it happen.

A higher level is to include a focus on what G-D wants, to serve Him out of love. It’s a shift from being focused exclusively on ‘Me’ to blending it with a significant percentage of ‘He,’ G-D. This is part growing a deeply meaningful connection with G-D, ‘attached’ to Him.

Clearly, this is not for the beginner. Anyone who tries to jump out of his skin and land in one leap onto this plateau will probably fail and may never recover from the fall.

Based on the teachings of his mentors, the Nesivas Shalom says that a way to grow into this level is by sometimes questioning whether what he is about to do would be pleasing to G-D.

Note the subtle difference. Instead of questioning whether what I’m about to do would make G-D "upset,” one begins to consider whether what they are about to do would be pleasing to G-D.

Here is an example. Say we have a delicious meal that was prepared from an establishment that has questionable kosher certification.

We’re expected to say ‘no’ to that meal. While many will say no because they don’t want to eat ‘traif,’ some will say no because they don’t feel that G-D would want them to eat it.

Here’s another example. We just finished a meal and everyone is stuffed. Wouldn’t you know but the host brings out a huge and delicious looking cake, 100% kosher with the best certification you can find.

Unless you have health issues, you won’t find any verse that openly forbids you from taking a nice serving. And you will certainly find some room in your belly to fit it in.

The person who is on the growth path may stop before taking a serving. He or she may ask him/herself this question: Would it give G-D pleasure if I stuffed this in? And some may indeed say no, even though it’s perfectly kosher. And he wouldn’t eat it.

And yes, we do have a portion in the Torah that discusses the nazir, a person who takes a vow to refrain from wine for thirty or more days. And this person does bring a sin offering because he added to the prohibitions of the Torah.

And yes, our teachings say that one who says ‘no’ to a pleasurable thing will have to give an accounting in Heaven because of the restraint.

But our person who is growing and sees the scrumptious portions of this cake being passed around may just be able to think up a reason on the spot to ‘rationalize’ and defend the decision to say no.

Therefore, says the Nesivas Shalom, the Torah writes You shall be "to Me” men of holiness, not "You shall be men of holiness.”

We are thereby encouraged to make and achieve the goal of increasing our connection with G-D, over our native and dominate connection to our "selves."

And guess what, folks. G-D designed life so that we will eventually and hopefully disconnect from the many chains from physicality that keep us distracted from spiritual significance and accomplishments.

By the time many of us hit the sixties, the seventies, the eighties, and on, the doctors will have a laundry list of things we can’t eat or do. Add that to the list of body parts that can and sometimes wear out.

The significance of physical pleasures is going to wane away anyway. Don’t wait for the doctor. Let’s take the first baby step and start growing out of out 'Me' shell right now.


22:24 If you lend money within My nation, to the poor that is with you, do not be to him like a creditor, do not assess him with interest (i.e. do not lend him money with interest).

Rashi provides the following commentary for 'For the poor that is with you:' Look at yourself as if you were a poor person.

The Torah insists that loans be made with interest, that they be issued as acts of kindness and charity and not as a means for people to increase their personal wealth.

If taken without further explanation, Rashi's commentary could cause a person think twice before lending without interest for should he truly view himself as a poor person then he would be desperate to increase his own wealth money and would therefore not be able to entertain his parting with assets with no benefit in return.

The Jewish code of law also appears to be fiscally counter-intuitive. Here is what the Chochmos Adam (144:2) says about the commandment to give charity:

"Every person is required to give charity according to his ability. Even a person who himself is sustained through charity is required to do so, such as a person who has a small amount of money but who does not invest it (to increase wealth), who is therefore permitted to take charity (because of the smallness of his assets), since he does not have enough to support himself through profits, he must give charity from the money that the community gives him."

Why should a person who takes charity be required to give charity since it only increases the community's burden.

Obviously, the Torah's business model for a person does not fit into that of Wall Street. (It is actually more correct to say the reverse.)

If a lack of money is the direct and complete cause of financial limitation then our puzzle would make sense. However, we view ourselves as residents within a world that is actively managed by an All-Knowing Being, who measures and allocates everything to everybody according to His will.

Within this realm, it is merits that can get a person out of poverty, not money. Money only happens, and it only does so after G-D decrees that it should.

Since giving charity is a merit then giving charity is a very good way for a poor person to get out of his predicament. This is how our Codes of Law can direct us to give a poor person enough money for him to sustain himself and to give charity for by doing the latter, we provide him with hope to get financially better, thereby providing the community with a means to reduce their burdens.

Since giving charity is a merit, then we can better understand why Rashi advises the rich person to view himself as a poor person, for he will feel and appreciate the merit of his charity. He will also come to view his charitable act as a way to actually increase his financial empire, for it is our relationship with G-D that determines wealth, not the shrewdness and inside-tips of investment counselors.


22:26 For it is his only (piece of) clothing; it is his garment for (covering) his skin. With what will he sleep with? And it will be, if he cries out to me that I will listen, for I am granting.

This verse follows the commandment for a money lender to let his borrower use the collateral when he needs it. Therefore, if an impoverished person puts up his only shirt to guarantee a loan then the lender must let him wear it during the daytime. Also, if an impoverished person puts up his only pillow and blanket then the borrower must let him use it during the night.

This verse appears to be a plea for the borrower to have mercy on the lender. As it is our duty and privilege to fulfill G-D's charge, it is unusual for the Torah to attach this to a commandment.

Also, how does one understand the question, "With what will he sleep with?" It sounds like heaven is worried that the poor person will not have what he needs to sleep with. With His infinite resources, G-D can surely provide this person with another blanket

Finally, the verse concludes that G-D will listen to the cry of the impoverished borrower and it states that G-D is the provider of grants. It sounds like G-D being a granter is a reason for His listening. If the Torah needs to give a reason for G-D's listening then it would be more appropriate to write mention G-D's attribute of mercy. Perhaps the Torah should have written, "I will listen because I am merciful."

The following came to mind.

Perhaps we should not view this as the Torah begging the lender to help his poor brother. Rather, to help the lender release some of his leverage and assume some additional risk, the Torah is providing him with some insightful advice.

We all know that as the Creator of the world and the Manager of Mankind's affairs, G-D assumes full responsibility for providing our needs. Therefore, when collateral is needed for a person’s basic needs, if a borrower cries out to G-D because he needs its use, since G-D has a commitment to meet our needs then He will feel compelled to provide the poor lender with another shirt or blanket. Should He do this, the lender would loose his all of his leverage and repayment could be delayed.

Lending back the pillow will keep the borrower from crying out to G-D, thus preserving the lender’s leverage.

And so, the Torah is not expressing any worry that Heaven would have. Rather, it's citing a situation that mandates G-D's intervention, “With what will he sleep with?” G-D would therefore intervene, as He is committed to supply us with all of our needs. This is why the reference in this verse to G-D’s granting is more appropriate than to say that He is merciful.


22:30 And you shall be Men of Holiness. And you shall not eat meat (from an animal that was) torn (by a wild beast) in the field. To the dog you should throw it. [This type of meat is called 'treif']

Why does the Torah say that we should throw the meat to a dog?.

Rashi provides the following insight from the Mechilta:

This is to teach that G-d does not curb the reward of any creature. It is written (Exodus 11), "And the dog (during the Exodus) will not whet its tongue at the Jewish people." Says G-d: "Give the dog (its) reward."

The Daas Zekainim commentary assumes that the verse is speaking about a dog that failed to protect the flock from wolves.

The Torah is telling us to not begrudge the dog but rather, show gratitude for all the times that the dog did try to protect the flock.


22:30 And you shall be Men of Holiness. And you shall not eat meat (from an animal that was) torn (by a wild beast) in the field. To the dog you should throw it. [This type of meat is called 'treif']

This one source of requirements for Kosher meat.

Meat from a mortally injured or sick animal is forbidden. Slaughtered animals must be thoroughly examined prior to their meat being certified Kosher.

Some meat will be discarded as a result of this requirement. This adds slightly to the cost of Kosher meat. G-d established this requirement and we have trust that He will provide us with sufficient resources to keep it.

The Targum Yonosan Ben Uziel records the following translation for "And you shall be Men of Holiness"

And you shall be Men of Holiness who eat their everyday food in a state of ritual purity.

The Torah requires that we eat sacrificial food in a state of ritual purity. During and around the period of the First and Second Temples we were able to achieve and maintain a state of ritual purity. According to the Targum, the Torah is charging us to eat all of our meals in a state of purity, when possible.

Why does the Torah bring this up in a section that discusses treif? What is the Torah trying to tell us?

I have another question.

Why is the Torah telling us to throw non-Kosher meat to the dog? What difference does it make in how we dispose of treif meat?

Rashi provides the following insight from the Mechilta

This is to teach that G-d does not curb the reward of any creature. It is written (Exodus 11), "And the dog (during the Exodus) will not whet its tongue at the Jewish people." Says G-d: "Give the dog (its) reward."

From a superficial reading, it seems that the Torah is making us, in the twentieth century, an agent to reward the dog that was forced to go against its nature during the Exodus.

The Exodus occurred over three-thousand-three-hundred years ago. The dogs who deserve reward are gone a long time ago. How can we reward them? What is the Mechilta trying to tell us?

Here is the full text of the Mechilta. It is actually quite difficult to read and understand.

"To the dog." (Translate this as) "like the dog". You can say "like the dog," or, perhaps it really means "to the dog," as it appears, (and this would teach us that we may derive benefit from treif meat?) (However,) we (can already) derive this from a verse in Deuteronomy where it says (in Chapter. 13), "Do not eat meat that was not ritually slaughtered sell it to the gentile." [This type of meat is called 'nevaila'] If one may derive benefit from nevaila, that ritually defiles a person who carries it, how much more so can one derive benefit from treif, that does not defile a person who carries it? What is the Torah teaching us by saying, "to the dog?" This teaches that G-d does not curb the reward of any creature. It says, "And the dog will not whet its tongue." Says G-d, "Give it [the dog] its reward." Now, if this is how G-d treats a beast, how much more will G-d treat a person in such a manner, that He will not curb his reward? (We see this directly from the book of Yirmiyahu - Jeremiah 17:10,) "I am G-d who looks into the heart, who tests .. to give a person (reward) according to his ways, like the fruit of his work." And it further says (in Jeremiah 17:12,) "The Throne of Glory, Exalted from the Beginning, (opposite) our Temple."

How do we read and understand this Mechilta?

The following came to mind.

Jeremiah 17 focuses on the need to have trust in G-d. Without this trust, a person may come to make ethical compromises in order to obtain his needs. Instead, the prophet urges us to trust that G-d will provide for our needs. It is inappropriate for one to cut ethical corners to obtain them.

We originally read 22:30 as: "You shall not eat treif meat. To the dog you should throw it."

Apparently, the Mechilta is suggesting the following reading: "You should not eat treif meat like the dog (does. Rather,) throw it (out).

It appears that the Torah is not telling us to throw treif meat to the dog. Rather, the Torah is telling us that dogs eat treif meat. Why do they eat treif meat? The Mechilta provides us with the historical background. The Mechilta does provide us with a moral lesson from this and we learn the extent to which G-d rewards his creatures. However, perhaps the Mechilta is telling us much more.

You know, a man is a dog's best friend. I wonder if this relationship began some six-thousand years ago, as part of the design of Creation. Instead, perhaps some of this relationship is much younger.

The words of 22:30 do say, "To the dog you should throw it." Perhaps this not a directive to us in the 20th century. Instead, perhaps it is G-d's directive to nature.

Some three-thousand-three-hundred years ago, G-d rewarded the canine species with a new source of food.

The Mechilta provides us with the tradition that Moses taught regarding the way this verse is to be read and applied for Mankind. "You should not eat treif meat like the dog does." This reminds us that G-d provided for the needs of the dog some thirty-three centuries ago as a reward for its ordeal.

Perhaps the Torah, according to the Mechilta, is providing a source of strength and encouragement for us to keep Kosher.

The added expense of Kosher food should not discourage us in any way. G-d provides for the needs of those who obey His word.

Perhaps we can now understand how eating everyday food with ritual purity fits in.

It is a challenge to maintain a diet in a state of ritual purity. Like treif, this requirement will also cause some food to be discarded. Our food bills will be higher. Perhaps the Torah is telling us here not to be concerned over the added expense. G-d will provide.

With this in mind, I suggest that you go back and try to read the Mechilta.


23:20 Behold I am sending before you an angel to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared.

While this sounds like good news, Rashi here writes otherwise.

The Jewish people will soon fail by the Golden Calf. In reaction the Torah later states:

33:2 “And I will send an angel before you and I will drive away the …”

33:3 “…. For I will not go up in your midst as you are a stubborn nation, lest I destroy you on the way.”

Rashi here says that the reference in our verse to the angel is an allusion to their failure and the resulting decree of replacing G-D’s open presence with that of a messenger.

In the end the Jewish repented. Moshe pleaded to G-D that He rescind the decree and G-D accepted his prayer.

The verses surrounding our verse foretell a future of success and good news for the Jewish people. Why were hints to their downfall and punishment written here, among them.

The following came to mind.

One of the patterns in the Torah that the scholars note is that G-D always precedes misfortunes with potential solutions, cures before illnesses.

The fact that spiritual weakness was written among verses that portray G-D’s loving-kindness with the Jewish people suggests that our flaws have no effect upon our relationship with G-D.

Our close relationship with G-D is the greatest cure of all.


23:20 Behold I am sending before you an angel to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared.

While this sounds like good news, Rashi here writes otherwise.

The Jewish people will soon fail by the Golden Calf. In reaction the Torah later states:

33:2 “And I will send an angel before you and I will drive away the …”

33:3 “…. For I will not go up in your midst as you are a stubborn nation, lest I destroy you on the way.”

Rashi here says that the reference in our verse to the angel is an allusion to their failure and the resulting decree of replacing G-D’s open presence with that of a messenger.

In the end the Jewish repented. Moshe pleaded to G-D that He rescind the decree and G-D accepted his prayer.

The verses surrounding our verse foretell a future of success and good news for the Jewish people. Why were hints to their downfall and punishment written here, among them.

The following came to mind.

One of the patterns in the Torah that the scholars note is that G-D always precedes misfortunes with potential solutions, cures before illnesses.

The fact that spiritual weakness was written among verses that portray G-D’s loving-kindness with the Jewish people suggests that our flaws have no effect upon our relationship with G-D.

Our close relationship with G-D is the greatest cure of all.


23:26 "There will not be stillborn or infertility in your land, I will fill the number of your days."

What does problems with childbirth have to do with filling the number of a person's days? What does it mean to fill the number of a person's days?

The following Talmudic teaching came to mind: "Four types of people are considered as though they are dead: An impoverished person, a metzora (who is banished from society), a blind person, and one who has no children."

Our Matriarch Rochel was childless for many years. From the depths of her suffering she bemoaned to Yaakov: "Give me children, for if not then I am dead." (Genesis 30:1).

A human being is designed for family life and the average person achieves fulfillment from having children.


23:20 Behold I (G-d) send My angel before you to protect you on the way and to bring you to the place that I prepared (for you to live).

23:21 Take heed of it and listen to its voice; Do not rebel against it. For it will not pardon your sins, as My name is within it.

23:22 Rather, you shall fully listen to its voice. And you shall do all that I say. And I will be a foe to your enemy and I will torment those who afflict you.

23:23 For My angel will go before you and it will bring you to (the land of) the Emorite, the Chitite, the Prizite, the Canaanite, the Chivite, the Yevusite, and I will destroy them.

23:24 Bow not to their gods, and to not serve them, and do not copy their ways.(of behavior). Rather, tear them down fully and completely destroy their pillars of worship.

23:25 And you shall serve Hashem your G-d and he will bless your bread and water. And I will remove disease from your midst.

These six verses are contained within a single section of the Torah. The flow of topics does not appear to be consistent.. It begins with the mission of G-d's angel and instructions for how we should relate to it. It then digresses to idolatry and it ends with G-d as our source of blessing for food and health. How do we understand this?

Why did G-d use this angel? G-d is certainly capable of protecting and guiding the Jewish people without needing an angel's assistance.

The following came to mind.

The ancients were aware that G-d invested the heavenly forces with great powers. The Rambam (Maimonides) says the following in his introduction to the Laws of Idolatry (freely translated):

In the days of Enosh (Adam's grandson), Mankind made a great blunder. They acknowledged that G-d created the stars and celestial beings and that they guide the affairs of this world. He placed them on high and bestowed great honor upon them. Since these beings serve G-d, it is proper for Mankind to praise them and to give them honor. Doing so will fulfill G-d's will, as a king desires to honor those who stand before him. It is fitting to exalt and honor that which He exalted and honored. This is a form of honoring the king.

Once this defective course of thought took hold, they built shrines for the stars, they made sacrifices to them, they made praises to them, and they prostrated themselves towards them, all in the name of doing G-d's will.

This is the doctrine of the idolaters who know its true history. They will not say that there is no god other than a particular star. The error was in their imagining that their religious behavior was G-d's will.

As time progressed, false prophets arose and misguided the people. They taught that a certain figure or image would bring good or evil and that it is proper to worship it by doing certain things. False people arose and claimed that an angel or star spoke to them and gave guidance regarding its worship.

Throughout the world, people worshipped figures in different ways, sacrificing and prostrating to them.

As time further progressed, almost everyone forgot about G-d. The populace knew only about the images of wood and stone and the shrines, about which they were indoctrinated from their youth to prostrate, to worship, and to swear by them. Their scholars, such as their priests, came to think that there was no divinity other than the stars and celestial beings for which the images were made.

Other than a few people such as Chanoch, Mesushelach, Noach, Shem, and Ever, no one recognized or knew about the Rock of the Worlds [G-d].

The world continued on this course until Avraham (Abraham), the pillar of the world.

Given this background, we can see a central theme behind all of our verses.

Angels have great power. We must listen to their instructions without assigning them with divinity.

Let's use a PA system as an analogy. Its true source of speech is not the microphone or the speaker, but the person who is speaking. The angels are like the speakers.

Despite the great services that these celestial beings provide, we must always keep in mind that G-d is the true source of all events, down to our food and good health. We pray to Him alone.


24:1 And He (G-D) said to Moshe, "Ascend towards G-D, you, Aharon, Nadav, Avihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel. And you shall bow down from afar."

24:2 "And Moshe alone shall come near towards G-D and they shall not come near. And the people shall not ascend with him."

Rashi in Exodus 5:1 says that the elders were not permitted to accompany Moshe on Mount Sinai because they failed to accompany him into Pharaoh's court when he first asked the monarch to release the Jewish people. They slipped away one by one before Moshe reached Pharaoh because they were terrified of the tyrant.

We note that Aharon was also not permitted to accompany Moshe on Mount Sinai even though he did go all the way to Pharaoh with him.

This brings to mind another teaching from Deuteronomy 20:8. The Torah charges the leaders to send home those soldiers who planted new vineyards, who were newly married, who recently built new homes, and who lack confidence to go into battle. All are sent home as one group so as not to single out and shame those who were afraid of war.

Similarly, perhaps Aharon was held back together with the elders so as not to make them feel ashamed.

As Heaven does not short-change anybody, we must therefore say that sheltering another person from shame is greater than having an encounter with G-D on the level that Moshe had.

Moshe tells them the following when it is time for them to separate from him: 24:14 And to the elders he said, "Go back for us here until we return to you. Behold Aharon and Chur are with you. Whoever has words (and needs counsel or judgment) can come near to them."

It appears that Moshe is telling them to return because the people and their leadership need their support. Perhaps this is also out of respect for their feelings.

It is also interesting to note Moshe's humility in saying, "until we return" and not "until I return," thereby acknowledging his aid Yehoshua.


24:7 And he took the book of the Covenant and he read so that the people can hear. And they said, "We will do and we will (then) hear [understand] everything that G-D said."

The Nesivas Shalom commentary in an earlier Torah reading (Va'era verse 7:5, page 61) writes the following as the core reason for the Exodus.

The desired outcome in the Exodus was to bring about the final correction to the creation. The plan was to bring the Jewish people to Mount Sinai and to give them the Torah. These events would bring the world to completion. This final correction would have actually occurred then, had the Jewish people not sinned with the golden calf.

This remarkable statement is puzzling in light of the following Talmudic teaching, found in Avoda Zara 4b-5a.

Rabbi Yehoshua son of Levi said, "The Jewish people made the golden calf to give penitents the encouragement and hope they need so that that they can succeed in repenting."

The Talmud adds: This is consistent with what Rabbi Yochanan said in the name of Rabbi Shimon son of Yochai. The Jewish people were not suited to perform that deed with the golden calf. So how could they have done it? This was made to happen so that we will be able to tell a community that sins to take as an example what happened to the Jewish people after they sinned. They were also a community and they succeeded in repenting.

In his commentary on this teaching, Rashi seems to be saying that it was decreed by Heaven that the Jewish people sin with the golden calf.

Besides itself being a puzzling teaching, it appears to be counter-proof to what the Nesivas Shalom wrote.

If G-D's purpose in the Exodus was to bring the world to completion, then why would G-D decree that the Jewish sin with the golden calf, as that affair caused this opportunity to be lost?

The following came to mind.

It is an unfortunate historical fact that stress and temptations of the Egyptian exile took a heavy toll on the Jewish people, to the point that we were on the verge of losing our mission and destiny.

You may recall this quotation from the Medrash:

When he came and told the Jewish people that they will be redeemed in this month they responded, "Moshe our teacher, how can this be? Egypt is littered with artifacts from our idol worship!" He responded back, "G-D wants to redeem you and is not looking at your idol worship Medrash Shir HaShirim (2:8b).

Elsewhere we are taught that had the Jewish people stayed in Egypt any longer, they would have reached the point of no return, because of their downward path. We therefore left after 210 years, not the 400 that was initially planned.

So in effect, the Exodus as it occurred was a bail-out.

But it was also a compromise. Had we been able to continue life in Egypt without risk for the remaining 180 years, that would have been our final experience with exile. The ensuing events after that exodus would have indeed brought the world to its final completion, known as the Messianic Era.

Scheduling this major event in the history of civilization at that time was not without cost. It would have occurred without our fully earning it.

We are taught elsewhere that the core purpose of our living on this Earth is to give us the opportunity to earn our eternal reward. Receiving the greatness that will occur in the afterlife without fully earning it has a taint of what is called "Nehama De'Kisufa,' bread of shame.

In effect, G-D was accepting a downgrade in the quality of our afterlife because of the level we were at, not on the level we once could have attained.

The Sinai experience was seven weeks afterwards, and a lot of things could have and did indeed occur.

We achieved a unique level of unity, standing at the foot of the mountain as one being, with one heart (Rashi 19:2).

We became very connected to G-D and entrusted Him to the degree that we declared, "We will do and we will (then) hear [understand] everything that G-D said."

These and other successes demonstrated that we had grown in quality and were no longer the same people who needed a bail-out. At that moment, Heaven saw that with the Torah as our light we did have the capability to stick out a searing exile for another 180 years and bring the world to completion, on our own merit.

We became able to afford Plan A and not have to settle for Plan B.

But Egypt was gone as far as we were concerned. There would be no turning back.

The replacement for the 180 years of excruciating exile in Egypt became what we now call Jewish History. The golden calf simply set us on this new track. Its true cause was our backsliding. Whatever additional suffering we endured became a correction for misdeeds in Egypt.

This answers the question we had on the Nesivas Shalom. He was talking about Plan B, which indeed existed but only for a short while.

This also explains to me why Aharon, a key figure in setting up the golden calf, was not disqualified from being our greatest High Priest.

May we soon see the light at the end of the thirty-three century-long tunnel that we have been painfully travelling in.


24:7 And he took the book of the Covenant and he read so that the people can hear. And they said, "We will do and we will (then) hear [understand] everything that G-D said."

Their response was highly praised because it implied a commitment to keep the Torah's commandments without fully understanding their rationale or benefit.

The Medrash Yalkut Reuveini says that the response gladdened G-D. He responded with a blessing for the peace of the Jewish people.

The Chamudei Tzvi commentary explains why a blessing for peace was most appropriate.

The Talmud states: The Scriptures write as follows about a person who lends money to an impoverished person: "Then you will cry out and G-D will answer (you). You will implore and G-D will say, "I am here!'" (Yevamos 62-63).

The Marsha provides this commentary.

To understand what the Marsha says, here are the verses from the prophet Yeshiah (Josiah) that surround the quote.

58:6 Is this not a fast that I will choose? To undo the fetters of wickedness, to untie the bands of perverseness, to let out free the oppressed, and to eliminate all perverseness

58:7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and to bring the poor who moan into your home? Cloth those you see who lack clothing and do not hide from your (needy) relatives.

58:8 Then your light will burst forth like the dawn and your healing will rapidly sprout forth. And your righteousness will go before you and the glory of G-D will gather you in.

58:9 Then you will cry out and G-D will answer (you). You will implore and G-D will say, "I am here! If you would (only) remove perverseness from your midst, pointing with the finger and speaking wickedness

Both the Talmud and these verses appear to be praising someone who helps poor people. While indeed it does, a closer look reveals that the Talmud is setting the bar a bit higher than one may realize.

Verse seven speaks about helping the poor and verses eight and nine talk about reward for doing this. But look at how the Talmud presents the reward. It SKIPS over verse eight and only quotes verse nine. Why?

The reason, says the Marsha, is that while it is very praiseworthy to help someone who is in dire need, it is even better to see to it that he doesn't come onto needing help in the first place. That is, while it is very good to share bread with those who are hungry, it is even better to care for them so that they don't go into hunger and poverty in the first place.

The reward for sharing bread with the hungry is that G-D will answer us when we are in trouble and cry out to Him.

This implies that if we see to it that they don't have to come onto needing hand-outs in the first place, then measure for measure, G-D will take such good care of us that we won't get into trouble and have to cry out for G-D's rescue, either.

This, says the Marsha, is what the Talmud is trying to tell us by connecting verse seven with nine.

(By the way, this is a great example of how one is supposed to read Talmud!)

The Chamudei Tzvi uses this Marsha to explain the connection between our saying "We will do and we will hear" with receiving a blessing of peace from G-D in response.

If our actions precede hearing, G-D will do the same and we won't lack anything, ushering in a life of peace and tranquility. Mishpatim (Exodus 21-24)


24:7 And he took the book of the Covenant and he read so that the people can hear. And they said, "We will do and we will (then) hear [understand] everything that G-D said."

Their response was highly praised because it implied a commitment to keep the Torah's commandments without fully understanding their rationale or benefit.

The Medrash Yalkut Reuveini says that the response gladdened G-D. He responded with a blessing for the peace of the Jewish people.

The Chamudei Tzvi commentary explains why a blessing for peace was most appropriate.

The Talmud states: The Scriptures write as follows about a person who lends money to an impoverished person: "Then you will cry out and G-D will answer (you). You will implore and G-D will say, "I am here!'" (Yevamos 62-63).

The Marsha provides this commentary.

To understand what the Marsha says, here are the verses from the prophet Yeshiah (Josiah) that surround the quote.

58:6 Is this not a fast that I will choose? To undo the fetters of wickedness, to untie the bands of perverseness, to let out free the oppressed, and to eliminate all perverseness

58:7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and to bring the poor who moan into your home? Cloth those you see who lack clothing and do not hide from your (needy) relatives.

58:8 Then your light will burst forth like the dawn and your healing will rapidly sprout forth. And your righteousness will go before you and the glory of G-D will gather you in.

58:9 Then you will cry out and G-D will answer (you). You will implore and G-D will say, "I am here! If you would (only) remove perverseness from your midst, pointing with the finger and speaking wickedness

Both the Talmud and these verses appear to be praising someone who helps poor people. While indeed it does, a closer look reveals that the Talmud is setting the bar a bit higher than one may realize.

Verse seven speaks about helping the poor and verses eight and nine talk about reward for doing this. But look at how the Talmud presents the reward. It SKIPS over verse eight and only quotes verse nine. Why?

The reason, says the Marsha, is that while it is very praiseworthy to help someone who is in dire need, it is even better to see to it that he doesn't come onto needing help in the first place. That is, while it is very good to share bread with those who are hungry, it is even better to care for them so that they don't go into hunger and poverty in the first place.

The reward for sharing bread with the hungry is that G-D will answer us when we are in trouble and cry out to Him.

This implies that if we see to it that they don't have to come onto needing hand-outs in the first place, then measure for measure, G-D will take such good care of us that we won't get into trouble and have to cry out for G-D's rescue, either.

This, says the Marsha, is what the Talmud is trying to tell us by connecting verse seven with nine.

(By the way, this is a great example of how one is supposed to read Talmud!)

The Chamudei Tzvi uses this Marsha to explain the connection between our saying "We will do and we will hear" with receiving a blessing of peace from G-D in response.

If our actions precede hearing, G-D will do the same and we won't lack anything, ushering in a life of peace and tranquility.


24:13 And Moshe and his attendant Yehoshua (Joshua) arose. And Moshe ascended towards the Mountain of G-D.

Rashi writes that Yehoshua accompanied his teacher Moshe for as far as he was permitted to go and he stayed there until Moshe descended, some forty days later.

Rashi in 32:1 says that Moshe told the people that he will return in forty days.

If so, why did Yehoshua stay there the whole time? Once Moshe took leave, why didn't Yehoshua go back home and return forty days later to accompany him back?

It came to mind is that Yehoshua was giving honor to the Torah during each moment he stayed by the foot of the mountain to wait for Moshe.

Had he returned, he may very well have accomplished more Torah study for himself during those forty days. But he didn't return because giving honor to the Torah is much greater, especially when the honor is directed towards Torah scholars.


The account of G-d giving the Torah to the Jewish people is split into two parts.

This momentous event begins in the last week's reading.

There is a prelude in Exodus 19 when the people make a commitment to keep the Torah. They make preparations for receiving the Torah. In Exodus 20, G-d so to speak comes down and every person hears G-d speak to them and to Moshe (Moses). G-d tells them the Ten Commandments during a most vivid and dramatic encounter. The Torah afterwards records some guidelines for worship and for building an altar to G-d.

Our weekly portion begins with Exodus 21. Most of the content through Exodus 23 deals with matters of civil law (Mishpatim).

Exodus 24 appears to return to the account of G-d giving the Torah. The people make a commitment, there are some preparations, the elite, leaders of the Jewish people, ascend the mountain for a divine experience. Then Moshe ascends the mountain to receive the tablets.

Why is the giving of the Torah split into two parts? What is the Torah trying to tell us?

The following came to mind.

Let us first clarify the division before suggesting an approach to understanding its message.

Perhaps one can view the content of Exodus 21 through 23 as another prelude to the account of G-d giving the Torah in the succeeding chapter, Exodus 24.

This is suggested in 24:3 where it is written, "And Moshe came and told the people all of the words of G-d and all of the laws (Mishpatim). And the people answered with one voice and they said, 'We will do all of the words that G-d said.'".

The Mispatim in 24:3 appears to refer to the civil laws that are previously enumerated, in Exodus 21-23. If true, then these chapters are indeed a prelude to the giving of the Torah.

If so, perhaps Exodus 21-24 reflects the content and structure of Exodus 19-20. Both have preludes, commitments, and encounters with G-d.

This pattern is further reinforced by the content in the next two portions, Exodus 25 through 30. Like the verses that follow the first encounter, they deal with the construction of the sanctuary and matters of worship.

We thus have two complete and consecutive structures. The first goes from Exodus 19 to 20. The second goes from Exodus 21 to 30.

The first encounter that was recorded appears to be more dramatic than the second. Also, the encounter focuses on the common people. The second encounter was with the elite. Also, the prelude and the epilogue of the second structure are far more extensive than that of the first.

Perhaps the following analysis can suggest a message.

Let us consider an analysis on the theme of elevation and descent.

Here are references for the first structure.

19:3 And Moshe went up…
19:14 And Moshe went down ...
19:20 And G-d came down…
19:21 And G-d said to Moshe, "Go down ...'
19:23 And Moshe said to G-d, 'The people can not go up..'
19:24 And G-d said to Moshe, Go down. And you shall ascend, you and Aharon (Aaron) with you. And the priests and the people should not break through to ascend…'
19:25 And Moshe went down…
20:23 Do not ascend My altar with steps ..

Here are references for the second structure.

24:1 And He told Moshe, "Ascend towards G-d. You, Aharon, Nadav, Avihu and seventy of the elders..
24:2 .. and the people shall not ascend with him.
24:5 .. and they brought up Olah (ascension) sacrifices…24:9 And Moshe, Aharon, Nadav, Avihu and seventy of the elders of Israel ascended.
24:12 And G-d said to Moshe, "Ascend towards Me to the mountain…
24:13 And Moshe and Yehoshua his attendant got up. And Moshe ascended towards the Mountain of G-d.
24:15 And Moshe ascended the mountain.
24:18 And Moshe went into the cloud and he ascended the mountain…
22 And I (G-d) shall meet you there and I shall speak to you from above the covering (of the Ark)…
25:37 … and bring up its lights…
27:20 … to bring up the continual light.
29:18 … it is an ascension offering …
29:42 This is a continual ascension offering …
30:8 And when Aharon brings up the lights …
30:9 Bring not up upon it a strange incense, nor an ascension offering …

It appears that the dominant theme of the first structure is one of going down or not going up, while the dominant theme of the second is that of going up.

Ascension is written for Moshe, the people, the elite, and for matters of worship. Going down or not going up is written for G-d, for Moshe, and common people, and matters of worship.

Let us focus on the common people and the elite.

Not going up is always written for the common people. Ascension is always written for the elite.

Now, the priests were precluded from ascending. According to the Oral Torah, the priests were the first born and were elite by birth, but not by virtue of their own accomplishments. It is therefore more fitting to classify the priests with the common people, not with the elite who went up with Moshe.

It came to mind to apply this analysis in the following manner.

The goal of each person is to establish, maintain, and continually strengthen their connection with G-d. We do this through the study and observance of the Torah.

There are two approaches to make this connection. One is by figuratively bringing the Torah down to relate to the person and the other is by the person raising him/herself upwards to relate to the Torah.

For instance, one could spend extensive resources to create and market some extremely appealing audio-visual material for the sake of Torah education. With this tool, a skilled and properly directed educator can inspire his/her students and change them for the better.

The tool by itself serves to the bring the Torah down to the level of the student. The teacher strives to bring the student up towards the Torah. Both are vitally needed.

By itself, the tool provides a quick and dramatic effect, similar to the encounter in the first structure. However, without the human touch, without guidance and direction, while the student may be temporarily inspired, he/she remains on the same level, unchanged. This is reflected by the references to the common people not going up.

Real growth needs guidance, preparation, and hard work. This is reflected by the extensive prelude and epilogue of the second structure. Real growth is reflected by the references to the ascensions of the elite.

A person needs both approaches, with proper balance.

One can use this lesson to analyze spiritual leadership.

A true Torah leader must be able to make the Torah relate to the people, wherever possible. However, if the leader does not get the people to exert themselves and grow upwards in commitment then he/she may very well be promoting and perpetuating a self-serving distortion.


Terumah (Exodus 25-27)

25:2 Speak to the Children of Israel and they shall take for me a donation. Take a donation from every man whose heart moves him (to donate).

The Yalkut Shimoni associates this verse with that which is written in the Book of Yeshiah / Josiah

40:1 Your G-D shall say, “Consoled, be consoled My nation”

40:2 Speak to the heart of Yerusholayim (Jerusalem) and proclaim to her that her period (of exile) has been completed, that her iniquity has been forgiven; for she received from the Hand of G-D double (punishment) for all her sins.

The Yalkut Shimoni associates the words in our verse “Speak to the (Children of Israel)” with the words in Yeshiah, “Speak to the (heart of Yerusholayim).

What is the message that the Yalkut Shimoni is trying to bring out?

The Rinas Yitzchak commentary suggests the following.

The Radak commentary writes that the verses in Yeshiah speak about the Messianic period.

We understand that the referenced double consolation in verse one corresponds to the double punishment in verse two.

It appears from other commentary that the punishment was portrayed as being double because not only did Yerusholayim and the Jewish people lose the glory that they once had but they also endured destruction.

Therefore, just as the double punishment references two types of losses, so does the double consolation. Not only will that which was lost be restored but their greatness will surpass that which once was.

We see a similar fate with Iyov (Job). He lost everything and was later restored to double of what he once had.

Now, we say in our daily prayers, “Oh G-D, You loved us greatly; You bestowed upon us great and extreme compassion…”

The Gaon of Vilna provides the following explanation for this prayer:

The connection between the G-D and the Jewish people was very strong after we received the Torah. We then had a downfall by the Sin of the Golden Calf and the tablets were destroyed. We afterwards repented and not only did we receive a replacement set of tablets but we were privileged to build a sanctuary.

Perhaps the Yalkut Shimoni is using the framework of the Vilna Gaon in connecting our building the sanctuary with the double consolation of the Messianic Era

Just as long ago, the restored state of the Jewish people became more than it was beforehand, the same will occur with Yerusholayim and the Jewish people in the Messianic Era.


25:2 Speak to the Children of Israel and they shall take for me a donation. Take a donation from every man whose heart moves him (to donate).

Rashi provides the following commentary: "And they shall take for me a donation:" For my sake (literally, in my name.)

The Chamudei Tzvi commentary notes that the requirement to donate without ulterior motives applies exclusively to funds for building the Sanctuary.

This appears to be in contrast to the Talmud praising those who give to the needy even when they do so for personal motives. As an example, "One who says that this coin should be for charity so that my son will live is a righteous person (Pesachim 8a).

Why are donations for building the Sanctuary different?

This is how I understand the Chamudei Tzvi's answer.

Helping someone in need always provides a spiritual benefit for the donor, regardless of the intentions. If nothing else, it helps the donor move more out of the self-centered shell that we all start out with.

Life itself appears to be designed to move us out gradually of this shell. Our first discovery of another human being is typically the one who feeds us. Then comes immediate family, then friends, then a spouse, then children, and so on.

But donating to build the Sanctuary is entirely different. It's not about giving charity for G-D or about giving Him a place that He can call His own. G-D doesn't need our support.

Rather, our donations are about building an institution that will help unite the Jewish people.

The Torah describes the Jewish people as G-D's children. Just like harmony among siblings gives satisfaction to a parent, the stronger our union, the more intense is our bond with G-D.

Therefore, giving with a focus on the source of our union is favored over giving for personal reasons, which reflect diversity.

This is why there is such an emphasis on giving with a pure heart.


25:2 Speak to the Children of Israel and they shall take for me a donation. Take a donation from every man whose heart moves him (to donate).

Rashi provides the following commentary for this verse: "And they shall take for me a donation:" For my sake (literally, in my name.)

The verse speaks first about those who are collecting the donations and then about the donors themselves.

The Torah then proceeds to list the items that a person can donate. Afterwards the Torah writes the following:

25: 8 "And they shall make for Me a sanctuary and I will dwell in their midst.".

Rashi provides the following commentary for this verse: "And they shall make for Me a sanctuary:" They shall make a place of holiness for my sake (literally, in my name).

The repetition of the need to link the above actions with an intent to act for G-D's sake brought the following thoughts to mind.

Verse two speaks about the intentions of the donors and the donations. Verse eight speaks about the intentions of the artisans. These three groups provide the human resources that are necessary to build a place of holiness that G-D Himself sanctions.

The construction of the sanctuary was a privilege. It was an opportunity for us to express our relationship with G-D with a memorial that is eternal. It was an opportunity to demonstrate the nobility of the Jewish people, of Mankind.

The nobility that human beings can inject into such an undertaking is proportionate to the degree of selflessness that the participants feel.

The donors were charged to donate with only their heart, with no interest in receiving recognition for their donation. Given that nobility is paramount, the dangers of a donor's self-interest are obvious and therefore easy to manage.

Collecting donations and the actual construction have subtle but real opportunities for self interest. These jobs are therefore more difficult, hence the special emphasis for them.

It is so easy for a fund collector to take pride in amassing a huge fortune for a good cause. Without care, control and credit taking for the powerful fund raising machinery of an organization can cause hurt feelings and even abuse.

Without care, an artisan's product can cause him to swell with pride.

G-D is not homeless. Neither does He need our money or our skill to make a sanctuary for Him. With the knowledge that the sanctuary is for G-D, the collectors and the artisans will hopefully apply their feelings to their talents and products in an appropriate manner.


25:2 Speak to the Children of Israel and they shall take for me a donation. Take a donation from every man whose heart moves him (to donate).

The directions for constructing the sanctuary are inserted within the narrative of the Jewish people's fate. They follow the giving of the Torah. The story does not continue until later.

What is the Torah trying to tell us by doing this?

Perhaps the following Medrash provides an answer. It links the significance of the sanctuary with that of the Torah.

"And you shall take for me a Teruma (gift/donation)."

This is referenced by the following verse, "For I gave you a good acquisition. Do not forsake my Torah. (Proverbs 3)."

Do not forsake the acquisition that I gave you.

When people acquire something, it may have gold but not silver, silver but not gold. But the acquisition that I gave you has silver, as it states (in Psalms 12), "The words of G-D are Tahor (spiritually pure), refined silver." It (also) contains gold as it states (in Psalms 19), "(The Torah is) endeared more than gold and as fine gold."

A person can acquire fields but not vineyards, vineyards but not fields. However, this acquisition has both fields and vineyards, as it states (in Songs of Songs 4), " .. an orchard of pomegranates.

A person can acquire something and other people will not know (the significance of) what he has acquired. However, (the significance of the purchase) becomes known from the sales agent's fee. This is so with the Torah, for people can not be aware of its significance except from the reward of Moshe (Moses) as it says, "And Moshe did not know that the skin of his face radiated from speaking His (G-D) to him.

There is an acquisition that the seller is sold together with the object.

Says G-D to the Jewish people, 'I sold you my Torah.' In some way it's as though I was sold together with it as it says, "And they shall take [also acquire] for me a Terumah."

This is similar to a king that had an only daughter. Another king came and married her. He [the husband] requested to return to his land and take his (new) wife (to their new home). He [the father] said, "My daughter is an only child. I can't separate from her. I can't tell you not to take her (away) because she is your wife. So do me this favor, that wherever you go, provide an apartment for me so that I may live near you, for I can't leave my daughter."

G-D is saying the same thing to the Jewish people. "I gave you my Torah. I can't separate from it. I can't tell you not to take it. So wherever you go, make a home for me so that I can live inside it," as it says, "And make me a sanctuary."

If being associated with the Torah makes a building G-Dly, then how much more so can a person become G-Dly by exerting him/herself to study and internalize the teaching of the Torah.


25:2 Speak to the Children of Israel and they shall take for me a donation. Take a donation from every man whose heart moves him (to donate).

The Sefurno provides the following commentary.

Tell the Jewish people that I want to have people collecting donations for me. This is what Moshe (Moses) did when he descended the mountain when it states, "And the Jewish people approached him afterwards and he commanded them all that G-D spoke with him on Mount Sinai (34:32)." After this it states, "And Moshe said to all the congregation of the Children of Israel ..", who are the Sanhedrin (supreme justices) 'Take from amongst you a donation..'" (35:4-5). In the latter statements, Moshe charged the leaders to make the collection. However, the Jewish people did not wait for the Sanhedrin made a formal collection campaign. Rather, they immediately left Moshe's presence and returned with more than enough supplies. Therefore, nothing was left for the leaders to collect, except for the olive oil and the stones (for the High Priest's breastplate.)

There seems to be an emphasis on making a formal collection campaign and that it should be performed by the leaders of the Jewish people. Why? Surely G-D had foreknowledge to know how the Jewish people would react and that a national campaign was not necessary.

And, if G-D so decreed that there should be a campaign, then why didn't the Jewish people wait for it to begin?

Finally, we know that a formal collection was made for the olive oil and breastplate stones and these were supplied by the leaders themselves. It is understandable that supplying the precious stones could have been beyond the means of the Jewish people and only those that were blessed with extreme wealth had the ability to supply them. Perhaps only the leadership was blessed with the required degree of wealth and this is why they supplied them. But what about the olive oil? In Chapter 36, the Torah recounts the huge sums of gold and silver that the Jewish people donated on their own volition. If they were able to provide huge amounts of gold, silver, copper, and colored wool then why didn't they also donate a few barrels of olive oil.

The following came to mind.

In numerous places, the Torah charges us to not only obey the commandments but to also listen to them.

If we view G-D's commandments as a necessary tax that we must pay then we have missing this boat. Rather, we need actualize on our precious relationship with G-D.

For example, when a self-centered servant (or employee) gets a task, he/she will do just enough to get by, to not get into trouble for inactivity. This person will come up with any and every excuse to justify the sufficiency of his/her reaction to the task.

However, when a child who has a close relationship with a parent receives a tasking, this relationship will move him/her to inquire on the parent's intent and insure that it is fulfilled. Unlike the servant who merely focuses on doing some work top get rid of a job requirement, the child will focus on providing results that will satisfy the intent and will of their parent.

And so, to provide for all the construction needs of the Sanctuary, all the Jewish people needed to hear was that supplies were needed. But, G-D was not interested in merely having a Sanctuary. Rather, He wanted to develop and enhance His relationship with the Jewish People and this was one many ways to accomplish this.

The Jewish people heard that only voluntary donations were acceptable. Perhaps this revealed to them G-D's will to enhance His relationship with them, as involuntary taxations would not achieve this result.

They read into the additional twist of having a formal collection that G-D wanted the leadership to have a role. They understood that their donations would form a bond between each and every donor and G-D. They now also heard that G-D wanted the bond to be channeled through their elders, for if everyone goes off on their own to form a personal relationship with G-D without direction and leadership then the resulting relationships would be fragmentary and disjoint. Besides caring for each and relating with every individual, G-D also cares and relates to the people as a whole. It is this requirement to involve leadership with the formation of the individual's relationship with G-D that perhaps appeared to be expressed through the requirement to involve the leadership with the collection.

We note that the degree of leadership's involvement with the collection was not specified.

Now, in the typical campaign, experience dictates that the degree of a fund-raiser's involvement is proportionate to perceived resistance of potential donors.

Obviously, this was not a typical campaign. Perhaps the elders and the Jewish people were sensitive to restricting the campaign to the absolute minimum, so as not to provide an appearance of the Jewish people resisting to supply the needs of the Sanctuary. And so, everybody was quite happy to fulfill the requirement of there being a collection with the olive oil and the breastplate stones. And everybody was quite happy to relegate the collection to the community of the elders themselves, for they are also a part of the community and it in important for us to realize this.

It was quite appropriate for the elders to supply the olive oil for it provided light and it is the elders who G-D gave the ability to enlighten the eyes of the Jewish people in regards to our goals and how we are going to achieve them.

It was also quite appropriate for the heads of each tribe to have the honor of donating the breastplate stones, each one donating the stone for the tribe that he led.

Thus, the collection was made in a manner that provided the greatest honor to all involved and it reflected the eagerness of the Jewish people to satisfy G-D's will and intent.


25:2 Speak to the Children of Israel and they shall take for me a donation. Take a donation from every man whose heart moves him (to donate).

Our teachers note that the first part of this verse talks about a person giving a contribution and the second part deals with taking contributions from donors. The words seem to be telling us that while anyone can make a pledge, only those contributions that come from people who contribute freely and out of inspiration are most worthy to become part of the sanctuary of G-d.

Bezalel was responsible for the construction of the sanctuary. We are taught that G-d gave him the ability to detect the degree of inspiration each person had when he/she donated material for the construction. He used this to match the donation with the purpose it was used for. For example, holy vessels such as the ark and its covering were made from gold that was donated with the best of intentions and free-will.

Our teachers also note that while the first part of the verse talks about giving a donation, the Torah writes it as though the person is taking something. This is because one who gives towards a good cause is also a recipient, for he/she becomes a better person as a result of the act of giving.

It came to mind that while the Torah appears to be restricting those who take the donations, there is no restriction for the givers. The Torah wants each and every person to give as much and as best as they can, even if they can not provide a donation of high quality.

The Torah does not want people to become discouraged if he/she does not succeed to have the donation become a part of the holy vessels. Even if a person can not measure success by accomplishment, a person can measure success by the degree he/she expended towards it.


25:8 And they shall make for me a sanctuary and I will dwell in their midst.

25:9 Just like all that I show you, the structure of the tabernacle and the structure of all of its vessels, and they shall make it like that.

Rabbi Bick (Chaye Moshe), of blessed memory, notes that verse eight speaks about making a sanctuary, which is a permanent building, while verse nine speaks about making a tabernacle, which is portable.

He begins his explanation by recalling the song that the Jewish people made by the parting of the sea. They said, "This is my G-D and I will beautify Him" (Exodus 15:2). The Targum reads this to mean that "I will build a sanctuary." They later sing, "The sanctuary of G-D that Your hands established" (Exodus 15:15).

The first verse says that they will build the sanctuary but the second verse appears to be saying that G-D will build it and not us, which is a contradiction.

He answers that the Jewish people understood that they could build the physical structure. However, they could not see how a human being could cause it to be filled with G-D's presence. The most that a person can do is to build something to contain D-D's presence.

Our verses provide G-D's response to their hesitation.

The tabernacle alludes to the container and the sanctuary alludes to filling it.

By saying that the Jewish people will make both the tabernacle and the sanctuary, the Torah is telling us that G-D empowered humanity with the ability to bring His sanctify into the physical world.

Furthermore, we see that G-D is crediting the holiness of the Temple itself to those who build just the physical structure, not to Himself who actually fills it with His sanctity.

By doing all we can, both physically and with purity of motives, G-D promises that He will do what only He can do, which is to fill it with His Divine presence.

Rashi takes this a step further. Not only can human beings collectively bring G-D's sanctity into a great national structure but a human being can also bring sanctity into himself.

Rashi comments on " … And I will dwell in their midst:" Inside each and every one of them.


25:13 And you shall make poles of Shitim wood and you shall cover them with gold.

25:14 And you shall bring the poles into the rings (that are) on the sides of the ark to carry the ark with them.

25:16 The poles of the ark shall be in the rings. They shall not be removed from them.

The Talmud (Yoma 72a) teaches that the ends of the poles were thick to make it hard to remove them, once they made it through the rings.

Rashi reads verse 16 as follows: They shall not be removed from them forever.

This is difficult to understand, because if they made it through the rings then with enough force they should be able to be pulled out.

Rashi's words brought the following to mind.

The poles supported the ark when it was carried.

In our literature the ark represents the Torah and its poles represent those who support Torah, monetarily or otherwise.

Some people attach to Torah by studying it and others by supporting those who study Torah.

Neither always comes easy. Greatness is commensurate with difficulty.

Once a person truly connects to the greatness of the Torah, disconnect is unthinkable.

It transforms a person and it endures forever, both in this world and in the next.


25:16 And you shall put into the ark the testimony that I will give you.

What testimony is placed into the ark? Rashi explains that this is the Torah, which is "a testimony between Me (G-D) and you (the Jewish people) that I commanded you the commandments that are written in it."

How does the Torah testify that its author is G-D?

The following comes to mind, which is covered in Aish.com's wonderful Discovery seminars.

Of the Torah's 613 commandments, many are intuitively doable, such as the prohibition against murder or keeping the Shabbos. However, there are some that have an appearance of being impracticable and two come to mind. One is the commandment to abstain from agriculture every seven years and the other is the commandment for every male to appear in the Temple during the three pilgrimage festivals.

During the sabbatical year, we may not work the land in order to cause things to grow. Also, every property owner must relinquish his rights to keep the public out of his field, thus allowing anybody to take anything that grows by itself.

The Torah tells us not to view this commandment as a formula for economic disaster because G-D Himself guarantees that there will always be enough to eat from that which is harvested during the preceding year.

Had the Torah been authored by a human being, there would be no way to expect any nation that has intelligent and analytical citizens to keep such a commandment. Thus, the Torah gives testimony to its author.

The pilgrimage commandment is another example.

During much of the Biblical and Temple periods we were surrounded by nations that were either potentially or actively hostile. Frequently, there were pockets of alien residents within the land itself.

Every able-bodied man took his family to the Temple three times a year, leaving home and property unguarded.

The Torah tells us that G-D Himself guarantees that no-one will covet the land during these regularly-scheduled absences.

Again, had the Torah been authored by a human being, there would be no way to expect us to keep this commandment. Here again, the Torah gives testimony to its author.


25:16 And you [Moshe] shall put into the Ark the Testimony [the tablets of the Ten Commandments] that I [G-d] will give you.

25:21 And you [Moshe] shall put the covering on the Ark from above. And you shall put into the Ark the Testimony that I will give you.

25:22 And I (G-D) will make my meetings with you (Moshe / Moses) there (before the ark). And I will tell you from above the (ark) cover, from (the place that is) between the two Cherub (figures) that are on top of the Ark of the Testimony, whatever I command you that pertains to the Children of Yisroel.

Rashi questions the redundancy in 25:16 and 25:21. Both verses say, 'And you shall put into the Ark the Testimony that I will give you.' He provides the following answer:

One can say that it comes to teach that the tablets must be placed in the Ark before the covering is placed on it, while the Ark is by itself (without the covering.) We find that this occurred when Moshe erected the Sanctuary. Exodus 40:20 'And he took and he placed the Testimony in the Ark .. and he put the covering on the Ark from above.'

The Ark was a five-sided box that was open on top. Once the covering was placed on top, there was no way to put anything inside it without lifting or removing the cover. The Torah provides special instruction of not putting the covering on the Ark unless the tablets are inside. Wouldn't Moshe have done this anyway? What can we learn from this? What is the Torah trying to tell us?

The following came to mind.

Perhaps Moshe would have seen an advantage to place the covering onto the Ark prior to installing the tablets in honor of the tablets themselves, presenting them before a fully assembled Ark in all of its glory instead of just an open box.

Perhaps the Torah is suggesting that this type of honor would have been inappropriate for the tablets, for the source of the Ark's glory was the tablets themselves, not its external appearance.

The directive to keep the Ark unadorned until the tablets were inserted signified the rejection of significance for external appearance. Within the realm of absolute truth there was no advantage to the Ark being decorated with its ornate covering since it was empty of its precious contents.

This lesson is reflected elsewhere. Rebbie Meir said, "Look not at the flask. Rather, give attention to its contents." (Avos 4:27)


25:16 And you [Moshe] shall put into the Ark the Testimony [the tablets of the Ten Commandments] that I [G-d] will give you.

25:21 And you [Moshe] shall put the covering on the Ark from above. And you shall put into the Ark the Testimony that I will give you.

25:22 And I (G-D) will make my meetings with you (Moshe / Moses) there (before the ark). And I will tell you from above the (ark) cover, from (the place that is) between the two Cherub (figures) that are on top of the Ark of the Testimony, whatever I command you that pertains to the Children of Yisroel.

One can say that it comes to teach that the tablets must be placed in the Ark before the covering is placed on it, while the Ark is by itself (without the covering.) We find that this occurred when Moshe erected the Sanctuary. Exodus 40:20 'And he took and he placed the Testimony in the Ark .. and he put the covering on the Ark from above.'

The Ark was a five-sided box that was open on top. Once the covering was placed on top, there was no way to put anything inside it without lifting or removing the cover. The Torah provides special instruction of not putting the covering on the Ark unless the tablets are inside. What can we learn from this? What is the Torah trying to tell us?

Also, why are the tablets called the Testimony? To what are they testifying?

The following came to mind.

Moshe heard the word of G-d as it emanated from an area just above the Ark's covering, from between the two Cheruvim.

The tablets presented several open miracles.

Their letters were carved through the stone, from one side to the other. That is, one could look at any letter and see through the stone to the other side. Naturally, the letters on one of the sides should have appeared backwards. Yet, no matter which side one was facing, the letters were not backwards.

Also, the Hebrew alphabet has two letters that are similar to the letter o. On the tablet, the middle parts of these letters hovered in suspension.

In and of themselves, these tablets testified that they came from G-d and that G-d's existence is true.

In requiring the tablets to be in the Ark prior to the installation of the covering, perhaps the Torah is reminding us of the truth of G-d's transmissions to Moshe. That is, just as the tablets bear testimony that they came from G-d, they also bear testimony that the Torah of Moshe came from G-d.

Furthermore, the tablets contained G-d's written word and the transmissions to Moshe were verbal. Today we have two Torahs from Moshe, written and oral. Both came from G-d and both are true.


This Parsha contains instructions for the holy utensils and the structure of the Tabernacle.

The first utensil mentioned is the Ark Of The Covenant. Every utensil is subsequently mentioned in this Parsha except for the Altar Of Incense.

The following Parsha, Tezaveh, discusses the holy garments and the Ceremony Of Dedication. The Altar Of Incense isn't discussed until the very end of Tezaveh. Why isn't the Altar Of Incense discussed in Teruma, together with the other utensils?

The following thought came to mind.

The service of Yom Kippur focuses exclusively around these two utensils. (Lev. Chapter 16)

In a figurative way then, a reference to this most special day completely surrounds and thereby dominates the portion of the Torah which deals with the construction and dedication of this most special sanctuary.

Yom Kippur is a person's closest encounter with G-d. It is a day when a person can re-focus his/her life around the will of G-d, as expressed by the Torah.

The Jewish people, both on as individuals and on a collective level as a Nation of G-d, must manage the balance between self-esteem and devotion to G-d, between having a self and having the sense of being selfless.

Being charged to build and maintain a sanctuary of G-d is a source of prestige and self-distinction. It is now balance with this reference to Yom Kippur.


25:16 And you shall place the Testimony that I will give you into the ark.

25:17 And you shall a Kapores (covering for the ark) of pure gold …

The root letters of the word, "Kapores" are the same as the word Kappara which means cleansing or atonement, as in Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

It came to mind that the Kapores is an external covering for that which is a most holy and precious possession.

So too can we view the body as a layer that acts as an external covering for the soul, which also holy and precious.

It is my understanding that atonement is founded on the principal that sin is a defect and a failure in a person's external layers but that the essence of a person remains pure and wants only to be good.

With this we can perhaps understand the connection between the Kapores, or ark covering, and Kappara.


25:21 And you shall put the ark covering on the ark from above. And you shall put the testimony [tablets] that I will give you into the ark.

The Jewish people received two sets of tablets.

Moshe (Moses) broke the first set because of the golden calf. The second set was given to the Jewish people after they atoned for this sin, on what we now celebrate as Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

The Talmud (Brachos 8b) teaches that both sets were stored in the Holy Ark, the broken set together with the unbroken set.

We use this as a basis for the law that a Torah scholar who lost his knowledge due to age or illness is entitled to the same level of respect as a Torah scholar who is fully functional.

It is recorded (Derech Sicha p. 315) in the name of the Meiri commentary that we are required to treat the ailing Torah scholar as if he never lost his learning.

The Talmud (Sanhedrin 99b) records in the name of Rava that it is apostasy to complain that Torah scholars provide no tangible benefit to society. We see from the above that the Torah assigns great value to anybody who acquired Torah scholarship, even if he no longer has it through no fault of his own.


25:21 And you shall put the ark covering on the ark from above. And you shall put the testimony [tablets] that I will give you into the ark.

From the way it is presented it appears that the tablets are to be inserted after the ark is covered up, which is impossible unless the cover is lifted up afterwards. Why shouldn't the tablets placed into the ark before it is sealed with the cover?

26:33 And you shall put the curtain under the clasps. And you shall bring inside there the ark of the testimony. And the curtain shall separate for you between the holy and the holy of holies.

From the way it is presented it appears that the ark is to be installed after the curtain is hung. This would require the curtain to be pulled back when the ark is brought into the holy of holies. Why shouldn't the curtain be hung after the ark is installed to avoid peeling back the curtain?

While the above verses describe what Moshe is supposed to do, the verses of chapter 40 describe what Moshe actually did.

40:20 And he [Moshe / Moses] took and placed the testimony into the ark. And he put the poles on the ark and he put the covering on top of the ark.

40:21 And he brought the ark to the sanctuary. And he put (up) the separating curtain. And he put it by the ark of the testimony just as G-D commanded Moshe.

The sequence of assembling the sanctuary was in accordance with what we proposed, not according to the way the verses of chapters 25 and 26 suggested. How do we understand the discrepancy between these verses?

The following came to mind.

It affords more honor to the tablets to be presented and installed in an ark that is completely assembled and sealed. It also affords more honor to the ark to be presented and installed inside a sanctuary that has all of its curtains in place.

Obviously, it is impossible to install the tablets in a sealed ark without first opening it. Also, it is impossible to install the ark inside a sanctuary with all of its curtains in place without first displacing them.

No matter how much we try, it is impossible for us to give G-D an honor that is befitting Him because we are finite and He is infinite. Yet, the Torah teaches that G-D extents His pleasure and happiness in the honor that we demonstrate on our level.

Within the sanctuary, the tablets and the ark that contains them represent the greatest visible cue of our connection with G-D. It is perhaps for this reason that the Torah suggests two ways to install the tablets and ark, one that is humanly impossible and another that is both humanly possible and practical.


25:22 And I (G-D) will make my meetings with you (Moshe / Moses) there (before the ark). And I will tell you from above the (ark) cover, from (the place that is) between the two Cherub (figures) that are on top of the Ark of the Testimony, whatever I command you that pertains to the Children of Yisroel.

The ark contained the tablets that G-D gave Moshe. The Ten Commandment were inscribed on them. The ark had a cover with two Cherub statues affixed to its top. The communication from G-D to Moshe that pertained to the Jewish people emanated from a place that was between the Cherub statutes. The statues faced each other and that spot was above the ark itself.

The Nesivas Shalom questions the significance of that particular place. One would expect that the word of G-d would emanate from a spot that has the greatest intensity of holiness. As the ark contained the holy tablets, its interior should have the greatest intensity.

My understanding of his answer is as follows.

A communication needs a source, a destination, and a connector. Although very necessary, the significance of the connector is secondary to the source and destination.

The two Cherub figures represented G-D and the Jewish people, the source and destination. The Torah connects the Jewish people with G-D. The tablets inside the ark represent the connector.

The lesson we can take from where the Divine voice emanated is that G-D and the Jewish people being connected has the greatest significance. This is why it came from above, at the level of the Cherubs, and not from below, from inside the ark where the tablets were.


25:22 And I (G-D) will make my meetings with you (Moshe / Moses) there (before the ark). And I will tell you from above the (ark) cover, from (the place that is) between the two Cherub (figures) that are on top of the Ark of the Testimony, whatever I command you that pertains to the Children of Yisroel.

Elsewhere (Leviticus 1:1) it says the following: "And G-d spoke to him (Moshe) from the Tent of the Meeting, saying."

(Now, the sanctuary building consisted of two chambers. The inner chamber contained the Ark and the outer chamber housed the Menorah, Table, and Golden Altar. The chambers were separated by a curtain.

The verse in Leviticus which says that G-d spoke 'from the Tent of the Meeting' appears to be referring to the part of) the sanctuary that is beyond the curtain.

So, we now have a contradiction between two verses. (Exodus seems to be saying that the Voice emanated from above the Ark, from the inner chamber, and Leviticus seems to be saying that the Voice emanated from somewhere in the outer chamber.)

A third verse (Numbers 7:89) provides clarification between them (the contradictory verses.)

And when Moshe came to the Tent of Meeting to speak to Him, and he heard the Voice speaking to him from above the ark covering that is over the testimony, from between the two Cheruvim, and He spoke to him.

(This is what happened.) Moshe entered the sanctuary. As soon as he came inside the doorway, a Voice descended from Heaven (which was directed to the area) between the two Cheruvim. It went out from there and it was heard by Moshe inside the Tent of Meeting.

At first glance, this Rashi is difficult to read and understand.

Rashi appears to be saying that G-d spoke when Moshe was inside the Tent, after he 'entered the sanctuary.'

Leviticus says that G-d spoke to Moshe from the area that was inside the Tent but outside the curtain. Now, was Moshe standing in this area or not? If he was, why do the words in Leviticus say that G-d spoke to Moshe 'from the Tent?' We would expect Leviticus to say that G-d spoke to Moshe 'inside the Tent.' If you say that Moshe was not standing inside this area, then how do we understand Rashi?

Once we understand Rashi, we would like to know a message that the Torah is trying to tell us by providing this detail.

The following came to mind. It splits a hair, literally.

There is a small distance between the spot over the Ark and the outer doorway, where Moshe entered.

We may assume that once the Voice emanated from G-d that it became a sound, which may be subject to at least some of the rules of nature. Sound travels at a certain speed.

I understand Rashi as follows.

Moshe walked to the doorway, through the doorway, and was inside the Tent. There is some imaginary line that Moshe crossed. On one side of the line he was considered outside the Tent and on the other side of the line he was considered inside the Tent. This line could have been by the outer edge of the doorway, in the middle of the doorway, or by inner the edge. For this discussion, we do not need to determine where it actually was. Furthermore, this line may have had no thickness. We can assume that Moshe didn't stop and he crossed the line in an instant.

The moment Moshe reached the line he was still outside the Tent. It was at this moment that the Voice of G-d was generated from Heaven, emanated from above the Ark, and began traveling at the speed of sound towards Moshe. This is what Exodus is telling us. G-d spoke from above the covering. Leviticus says that G-d spoke to Moshe from the Tent, not in the Tent, because Moshe was not yet inside. The sound reached Moshe the instant he crossed the line. Rashi's last words are that it was heard by Moshe inside the Tent of Meeting.

Now that we hopefully understand the verses and this Rashi, we would like to derive a lesson from this. What is the Torah trying to say by providing us with this level of detail?

The following came to mind.

Look at how many words it took me to describe the exact way G-d spoke to Moshe. The Torah tells us this in a very concise manner, by using the narratives of three verses and merely changing a few letters. We see how careful the Torah is to provide us with a true picture of how G-d spoke to Moshe. This reflects on the truth of the words themselves, that which G-d actually said to Moshe. The words are indeed Great Truths.

Another thought came to mind.

For some reason, it was not appropriate for Moshe to hear the Voice of G-d until he was inside the Tent. We see that G-d spoke to Moshe in a way that he was able to hear His Voice at the first possible instant. Perhaps we can take this to reflect the extent of G-d's eagerness to speak to Moshe and to transmit His Torah to Mankind. Hopefully, the eagerness of this Great Speaker will inspire us listen better to His Great Words.


25:31 And you make the menorah of pure gold. The menorah shall be made by hammering; Its base, its shaft, its cups, its knobs, and its blossoms shall be (fashioned) from it.

We have two Torahs. One was meant to be written and the other was meant to be orally transmitted.

Commentaries teach that both the Holy Ark and the menorah represent these Torahs.

The Holy Ark represents the Written Torah and a copy of the Torah of Moshe (Moses) was placed inside it.

The menorah represents the Oral Torah.

The Written Torah is finite. The Oral Torah explains the Written Torah and is infinite.

Unlike the Holy Ark, the Torah provides no measurements for the menorah. Also, the menorah has no staves for carrying it.

This is fitting for the menorah, for there is no measure for that which is infinite and neither can it be grasped by finite beings.


26:30 And you shall set up the Tabernacle according to its judgment, that which you were shown by the Mountain (of Sinai).

Rabbi Akiva Eiger of blessed memory cites the following teaching from the Jerusalem Talmud (Hurious).

There were two families who had the daily privilege to have an audience with the Nasi (leader) of the Jewish people and wish him well. One family had greater stature in the community and protocol dictated that they always entered first.

It happened that someone from the family of lesser stature married into the royal family. The second family proposed to the Nasi that the new family connection would make it appropriate for them to greet him first.

The Nasi cited the above verse in response to their suggestion.

The Torah gives guidelines for setting up the Tabernacle. Why does the Torah call them a judgment?

Now, our Torah reading teaches that there walls of the Tabernacle consisted of forty-eight panels that were assembled together. When the Tabernacle was first set up, some panels enclosed the inner sanctum or Holy of Holies, some panels were closer, and some were further away.

Those involved with the assembly were told to mark each panel to ensure that it would always be placed in the same location whenever the Tabernacle would be re-assembled afterwards.

One could say that this was done for practical reasons, such as to capture the successful alignment and facilitate future assemblies.

But there is a lesson for life here and this is what the Torah is trying to tell us by calling this a judgment.

The panels are made from wood and can have no ill feelings or jealously towards their fellow panel. Yet, we ensure that panels are not shifted towards more privileged locations or further away, for shifting a panel upwards would require shifting another panel downwards.

As if the panels did have feelings, the Torah therefore imposes this rule, calling it a judgment, to teach us that we should do the same with people in similar contexts.

It is better to keep the status quo than to exchange or shift privileges, for doing so may cause hard feelings that can be expressed at a much later time and disrupt harmony.

So the order of reception continued as it had been, despite the new family relationship.


Tetzaveh (Exodus 27-30)

27:20 And you shall command the Children of Israel and they shall take to you pure oil (that was made from olives that were specially) crushed for lighting.

Olive oil was used for lighting the Menorah. It was also an ingredient in some sacrifices.

The Torah requires pure and specially crushed for lighting the Menorah but not for sacrifices. The oil in the Menorah was used for light. The oil in the sacrifices was for consumption What message can we take from this?

Also, G-D is speaking to Moshe (Moses) and appears to be saying that they bring the oil to him. They eventually brought everything to Moshe (39:33-41). Why is the oil singled out? Or, perhaps the Torah is trying to tell us something by associating Moshe with the oil of the Menorah. If so, then what message can we take from this.

Rav Moshe Bick, of blessed memory, provides the following insight.

There are many factors that influence a person's views and outlook.

The teachings of the Torah provide a unique perspective. The Torah is G-D's teaching. It is perfect above transformation.

In contrast, public viewpoints are as fallible as their authors. They are subject to evolution, refinement, politics, and bias.

Moshe's natural parents were very righteous and devout. Moshe was afforded the opportunity to connect with their home but for only a short time. From a very early age he was taken to Pharaoh's home and raised there, a place that was subject to influences and life-styles that were not consistent with life as a Torah-true Jew. The environment reflected Pharaoh's will, not G-D's.

Despite the disadvantage, Moshe maintained the viewpoint of his natural parents, not those prevalent in Pharaoh's court.

As thinking and responsible people, one of our many challenges is to select and use the Torah as our reference point and guiding light, not the street.

The Torah trying to tell us to use the light and viewpoint of the Torah to guide our lives and what we choose to do.

Moshe is singled out because he succeeded in doing this, despite the negative influences that surrounded him.


27:20 And you shall command the Children of Israel and they shall take to you pure oil (that was made from olives that were specially) crushed for lighting.

Much of what I am writing was either said or inspired by Rabbi Shalom Shvadron of blessed memory, as recorded in the book Lev Shalom.

Proverbs 6:23 states, "For (the fulfillment of a) commandment is a lamp and Torah is light; And the way of life is (through) clarification by coaching (or being corrected).

Rabbi Shvadron notes that while our verse cites first the light and then the lamp, the verse in Proverbs cites them in the reverse order.

He also notes that our verse associates the concept of being finely crushed with light, which we know from Proverbs to be Torah and its study.

He says that straining or extending oneself to study Torah is represented by the light that comes forth by a crushing process and that when it does finally emerge, a person comes to appreciate the meaning and context behind the commandments, causing their proper fulfillment to become relatively easy for the person.

We can say the reverse from the ordering in Proverbs. That is, it is initially difficult for a person to fulfill the commandments without initially having a deep understanding of them through Torah study.

However, if a person persists then he eventually receives enlightenment from the Torah and performance becomes easier.

While a person can achieve greatness, the Vilna Gaon on Proverbs notes that one needs "coaching (or being corrected)" in order to maintain this greatness, which means being open to accepting insight from others and which I apply to mean having humility.

I believe that we can apply this to our verse in Exodus, that the scholar must also have this trait in order to maintain his status.

We see from both verses that greatness comes only through exertion, which reflects the age-old adage, "No pain - no gain."

This brings to mind a story I recently heard about a young man who was born into a religious home but who began to drift away from the observance that to date came easy to him because of his background and life experiences.

Heaven brought him to assume a position as a Kosher standards supervisor in the kitchen of a food establishment.

He once caught them cooking food on Shabbos, which among other things made the food prohibited. They offered him a huge sum of money to squash his findings. He resisted despite the temptation and from that day on he returned to full observance.


27:20 And you shall command the Children of Israel and they shall take to you pure oil (that was made from olives that were specially) crushed for lighting.

27:3 Aharon (Aaron) and his sons shall arrange them (to burn) before G-D from evening to morning in the Meeting Tent, outside the curtain that is by the Testimony. This shall be from the Children of Israel an everlasting regulation for all of their generations.

Leviticus 24:3 provides a verse that is similar to Exodus 27:3

24:3 Aharon shall arrange them continually (to burn) before G-D from evening to morning from outside the curtain of Testimony, in the Meeting Tent. This shall be an everlasting regulation for all of your generations.

Rashi in Leviticus explains that the Testimony refers to the Ark that was in the inner chamber, the Holy of Holies. The curtain separated the area that contained the Ark from the area that contained the menorah (lamp), table, and golden altar.

What does the verse of Leviticus 24:3 provide us with that is not already in Exodus 27:3?

Rashi in Leviticus provides an alternate reading for the Testimony. He references the Talmud (Shabbos 22b) which teaches that the western-most lamp testified to "all who came into the world" that the Divine Presence rests with the Jewish people. This was evidenced by miracle, as this lamp burned for twenty-four hours, outlasting all the other lamps. According to this reading, it was the menorah that provided the testimony, not the Ark.

Why doesn't the Talmud associate this miracle with our verse of Exodus 27:3?

Finally, according to the first reading of Rashi in Leviticus, what was the testimony that the Ark provided?

The following came to mind.

The Talmud (Yoma 21a) teaches that the Ark occupied no physical space, for it was two and a half cubits wide and each of its sides was a distance of ten cubits away from the walls of the twenty-cubit wide room where it was located.

I would suggest that the miracle of the Ark was also a worthy testament that the Divine Presence rests with the Jewish people.

In explaining the miracle of the western-most lamp, Rashi in Shabbos 22b teaches that this didn't always occur, as it was dependent on the degree of worthiness that the Jewish people displayed.

We also note that the miracle of the lamp occurred in relatively public place while the miracle of the Ark occurred in a very secluded area.

Finally, we note that the verse in Leviticus mentions the word "outside" before the words, "Meeting Tent," while the verse in Exodus has the reverse.

Perhaps this suggests that while both miracles provided testimony that the Divine Presence rests with the Jewish people, it was proper to display the miracle that was more public only when the Jewish people publicly displayed through their behavior that they were worthy of having the Divine Presence rest within their midst.

Thus, Leviticus 24:3 speaks of a nation about which it was obvious to "all who came into the world" that they were worthy of the Divine Presence. This is perhaps why the verse gives precedence to the word, "outside."

Our verse in Exodus focuses on the internal qualities of the Jewish people, which are not always obvious to the observer. It therefore references a miracle that was performed in a secluded place.

This latter miracle was continuous, indicating that these internal qualities are intrinsic to the Jewish people. They are continual and eternal, an ancestral heritage. In the merit of these qualities themselves and the potential for greatness that they provide, we are worthy to have the Divine Presence rest within us.


27:20 And you shall command the Children of Israel and they shall take to you pure oil (that was made from olives that were specially) crushed for lighting.

27:21 Aharon (Aaron) and his sons shall arrange it from evening to morning in the Meeting Tent from outside the partition that is by the Testimony before G-D. This is an everlasting statute from the Children of Israel for all their generations.

We find the following verse in an earlier Torah reading.

And it was on the morrow that Moshe (Moses) sat to judge the people. And the people stood by Moshe from the morning until the evening (Exodus 18:13).

Rabbi Gedaliah Schor of blessed memory notes the similarity and difference between the way the Torah recorded the work hours for Moshe and Aharon. Moshe judged the people from morning to evening and Aharon's service was from evening to morning.

I derived the following insight from his commentary.

Morning is light and represents insight and harmony. Evening is darkness and represents confusion and discord.

Moshe's decisions were inspired by Heaven. They enlightened those who were in conflict. His starting point was light and he brought it into the darkness of conflict to make peace between people.

Aharon worked through conflict until the parties resolved their differences. His starting point was darkness and worked until everyone saw light and made peace.

Sometimes, the best way to resolve a conflict between two parties is by resolving it and sometimes the best way is by eliminating the difference between the parties.


28:2 And you shall make garments of holiness for Aharon (Aaron) your brother, for honor and for glory.

The Talmud (Arachin 16a) says that the clothing of the high priest provides atonement.

Rav Anani son of Sason said, "Why is the section that pertains to priestly clothing written in the Torah adjacent to the section that pertains to sacrifices? This is to teach that the clothing atones just like the sacrifices."

The teaching provides the following mapping of atonements to types of clothing: The robe atones for murder. The pants atone for incest. The hat atones for haughtiness. The belt atones for impure thoughts. The breastplate atones for injustice. The apron atones for idolatry. The shirt atones for slander. The head-plate atones for brazenness.

It is puzzling that the priestly garments are for honor and glory but yet they are associated with the worst of behaviors in mankind.

Also, the very first garment that is specified in this section is the apron, which atones for idolatry.

Given that a portion of the Jewish people had just fallen victim to this infraction, and that it was a source of great embarrassment, why does the Torah begin this section of garments 'for honor and glory' with the apron?

The following came to mind.

There are two aspects to infraction. One relates to the person who committed the infraction and the other relates to the one who was affected by the infraction, which may be another person, a victim.

We first discuss the person who committed the misdeed.

There are several motivations for requesting atonement. One is that a person does not want to experience suffering as a punishment for his sin. Albeit self-centered, this is not a bad reason, for it reflects the person's conviction that there are consequences for infractions and that there is a system of justice with a Judge who is all-knowing.

A much higher reason for seeking atonement is that the person realizes the greatness that G-D bestowed on humanity and that his/her infraction is not befitting. The focus of this type of atonement is the restoration of a person's honor and a greater awareness of the source of this honor, which is G-D.

In G-D's desire to provide us with multiple means for atonements and the priestly garments being one of them, perhaps the Torah wants us to associate this higher level of atonement with the priestly garments and this is why it describes their purpose as being for honor and glory.

We next discuss the victim.

A segment of the Jewish people committed idolatry. Who was the victim? It was the group who misbehaved. G-D was surely not a victim. His feelings were not hurt by this or any infraction.

Whenever a person's behavior does not match the expectations of the Torah, who is hurt? Surely the person suffers the loss and not G-D for He is above and beyond any of His creations. G-D does not depend on our behavior for His existence, for His happiness.

Therefore, perhaps the Torah begins the priestly garments with an article that is associated with idolatry to remind us that we are the exclusive beneficiaries of His atonement.


28:4 And these are the garments that they shall make (for the High Priest): A breast plate, and an apron, and a shirt, and a checkered robe, a turban, and a belt. And they shall make clothes of holiness for Aharon (Aaron) and his sons to make him be a Priest to Me.

The High Priest wore two garments besides the six that are listed here. He wore a golden band on his forehead and he wore shorts that extended from his waist to his knees.

The Baal Haturim commentary says the following about this omission:

The (Torah) does not mention the shorts because they were not for "Honor and Glory" (28:2). And (the Torah) does not mention the band because it did not fit in the category of a "garment."

This omission brought the following thought to mind, which partially complements the Baal Haturim's commentary.

Of all the garments that the High Priest wore, the shorts were the lowliest. And of all required garments, the band which crowned the High Priest's forehead was the loftiest, for G-D's name was engraved on it.

We believe that every part of a person's body has nobility. There are many reasons for this belief. One is that every part of the body provides the person with the ability to fulfill one or more of G-D's commandments. Thus, the shorts, which provided privacy, are not intrinsically associated with anything that is shameful or evil.

Perhaps because the Torah did not want to give the impression to the contrary, it omitted the golden band, the loftiest of garments, together with the shorts, the lowliest.


28:2 And you (Moshe) shall make clothes of holiness for Aharon (Aaron) your brother for honor and for glory.

28:3 And you shall speak to all who are wise in heart, those who I have filled with wisdom, and they shall make the clothing of Aharon, to sanctify him to make him serve before Me.

28:4 And these are the clothes that they shall make and they shall make clothes of holiness for Aharon your brother and for his sons to make him serve before Me.

What is the meaning of the term, 'clothes of holiness?'

Rashi in 28:4 provides the following explanation:

(They must be made) from that which was consecrated as a Temple donation from the public in My name.

That is, the Torah requires that the public bear the cost of the priestly garments. Aharon may not provide his own eight-piece 'uniform.'

What lesson can we derive from this requirement?

The term 'clothes of holiness' is found in verse two and in verse four. Rashi defines it in verse four. Why didn't he define it where it is first introduced, in verse two?

The following came to mind.

Aharon's clothing was for honor and glory. What need did this fulfill? Whose need did this fulfill? Does G-d need our honor and glory? Not at all. Rather, it serves our own needs.

It is incumbent on us to give honor and glory to G-d. Aharon's beautiful clothing was a source of inspiration to help us give this honor and glory.

Were we solely driven by our intellect, we would not need this manner of inspiration. The bare truth of G-d's greatness would suffice. However, by G-d's design, humans are moved by pomp and impressive packaging. Through the Torah, G-d talks to humans and He deals with humans.

There is a fascinating tradition regarding the seven days prior to Aharon's installation, during the period that the Sanctuary was consecrated. Moshe took the role of the Kohen - priest. Moshe wore a simple linen robe, one with no seams.

Imagine the sight of Aharon next to Moshe. Aharon wore clothing with interwoven gold threads. A gold front piece hung on his forehead, suspended by threads of royal blue. He wore a breast plate that was adorned with twelve precious jewels. In stark contrast, Moshe clothing resembled a white sack with a hole cut out for the neck and arm pieces sewn on the side.

Perhaps the roles of packaging and content are reflected by the different clothing that Moshe and Aharon wore during the days of consecration.

Moshe initially refused his commission because he had a speech impediment. I understand this to be motivated by Moshe's desire for the word of G-d to be presented/packaged in the best possible way, thereby increasing the listener's honor to G-d.

G-d responded that He would speak to Moshe and Aharon would be Moshe's spokesperson to the people. Moshe provided the content, truth in its unadorned form and Aharon provided the packaging. The word of G-d and its truth stands on its own accord. Packaging is necessary for only the recipients.

Our tradition provides the background behind Moshe's speech impediment. As a toddler, Moshe once reached for Pharaoh's crown. Pharaoh took this as an omen that Moshe would someday lead the Jewish people away from him. He subjected Moshe to an intelligence test. They placed jewel and glowing coals before Moshe. An angel made Moshe reach for the coals and he put them in his mouth. Pharaoh let him live. According to my understanding, Pharaoh could not see how a person could become a leader with damaged speech facilities. This is because the source of Pharaoh's power was packaging and delivery, not truth.

As Aharon's clothing filled the need of the people, it is appropriate that they be the ones to pay for them.

In a generic sense, we frequently find truth costing far less than its packaging. The added cost serves to keep the packaging to a minimum.

We note that verse two associates Moshe with the clothes of holiness and verse four associates the people with them. Perhaps by not providing his commentary on verse two, Rashi is hinting at the difference between the roles of Moshe and Aharon, that of content and packaging.


28:12 And you shall set the two stones on the shoulder pieces of the (High Priest's ornamental) apron, stones of memory for the Children of Israel. And Aharon (Aaron) shall bear their names before G-d on his two shoulder pieces for a memory.

Rashi provides the following commentary.

For a memory: So that G-d will see the names of the (Twelve) Tribes written before Him and He will remember their righteousness.

G-d does not forget anything. Why should the names on the stones make any difference to Him?

The twelve children of Yisroel (Israel - Jacob) were truly great people and their righteousness is a great source of merit for their descendants, as Rashi says. Now, their immediate ancestors were Avraham, Yitzchok, and Yaakov (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) and these three individuals were the founding Forefathers of the Jewish people. We know that their merits are even greater than those of the Twelve Tribes. If the stones are to reflect merit upon the Jewish people, why aren't the names of the forefathers on the stones, instead?

Also, why does the Torah repeat the theme of memory? What is the Torah trying to tell us?

Rashi associates the merit of the Twelve Tribes with the second phrase, "shoulder pieces for a memory." He does not do this by the first phrase, "stones of memory for the Children of Israel." Why? What is Rashi trying to tell us?

The following came to mind.

There are only three Forefathers. Beginning with the twelve children of Israel and on, we are all their children.

The greatest descendants of the forefathers were the Twelve Tribes. We can and must use them as role models and strive to become great children of the Forefathers, like they were.

Perhaps the Children of Israel in the first phrase is referring to us, not the Twelve Tribes. That is, the stones of memory are for us who are children, of our forefathers.

The Torah hopes that the stones will remind us of the greatest generation of the Children of Israel so that we become inspired by their noble lives. In doing so, we will hopefully associate ourselves with their way of life. If we do so, this would provide G-d with a justification to associate us with the merits and the memory of the Twelve Tribes.

In summary, they serve as stones of memory to provide the later Children of Israel us with inspiration and a focus. If this moves us to change then we will deserve to be linked with the first Children of Israel, "the names of the (Twelve) Tribes written before Him, and He will remember their righteousness" for us.


28:15 And you shall make a breastplate for judgement. (It shall be) the work of an artisan, you shall make it just like the apron (was made). You shall make it from gold, blue, purple, and red wool, and with spun linen.

Rashi explains the Torah's association between the breastplate and judgement and writes that the breastplate atones for misjudgment. This reflect the Talmud (Zevachim 88b) which states that the clothing of the High Priest provides atonement. The Talmud associates each garment with a class of misdeeds for which it provides an atonement.

Elsewhere, the Torah specifies sacrifices that provide atonement. We also know that Yom Kippur provides atonement. We also know that repentance provides atonement.

Why are certain misdeeds singled out for atonement through the High Priest's clothing, even though atonement can be achieved through these other methods?

While the other methods of atonement require introspection and exertion, the atonement from High Priest's clothing comes naturally by simply wearing clothing, with no effort or recognition the part of the transgressor. This is unusual. At least in the other methods, there is some hope that the transgressor will better his ways and it therefore follows that Heaven should repair the damage that he did. How does one understand the atonement that comes from the High Priest's clothing

The following came to mind.

While the Torah clearly defines what constitutes a misdeed, and while every misdeed must be repaired, the degree to which a transgressor is held responsible can vary.

The variability can come from such things as a person's natural inborn temperament, his education, upbringing, friends, unusual events, and stage of development.

Perhaps, the degree of effort that is required for the atonement of a specific misdeed is related to the degree that Heaven expects him to keep it, based on the opportunities the person had to keep it.

For example, consider a boy who just became thirteen and is now responsible for keeping all of the commandments. Up to now, he has been struggling with controlling his temper and he has a violent eruption. Given his natural temperament, there was almost no contest. Hopefully he will become the master of his temper, as he develops and matures.

Perhaps, for such a person and situation, G-D in His infinite mercy provides alternate avenues for atonement, such as the High Priest's clothing.

We also find another fascinating venue for atonement in the Talmud (Arachin 16b) where it defines the degree that a natural occurrence can be considered a Heavenly affliction. The Talmud states an affliction can as minor as a person sticking his hand in his pocket to take out a coin of one denomination and he pulls out something else.

In any event, it is noteworthy that every misdeed requires atonement, even one for which the person has limited responsibility.


28:35 And it [the cloak] shall be on Aharon [Aaron]. And its jingle shall be heard when he comes in and goes out of the holy (place that is) before G-D so that he does not incur (a) death (penalty because of missing clothing).

28:43 And they [all of the priestly garments] shall be on Aharon and his sons when they come into Meeting Tent or when they come near to the altar to serve in holiness. And they shall not bear iniquity and incur death. This is an everlasting decree for him and his descendents after him.

29:9 And you shall gird them with a belt, Aharon and his sons, and you shall fashion turbans for them. And it shall be an everlasting decree as their priesthood. And you shall inaugurate Aharon and his sons.

The first two verses tell us that it is a capital offense for a priest to serve in the temple if he is missing any of the required clothing.

Now, the Talmud (Sanhedrin 83b) derives this from the third verse. With regard to temple service, verse 29:9 implies that the status of priesthood is not in force if the descendent of Aharon is missing any of the required garments. Should he serve without his priesthood in force, then it would be viewed as the service as a non-priest, which is itself a capital offense.

Verse 28:43 appears to be duplicative. However, the Rinas Yitzchok derives the significance of this verse from several commentaries.

Both verses talk about Aharon and his male descendents. What about a female descendent?

Clearly, only males were commanded to wear the priestly garments.

One could say that since females were not commanded, if a woman descendent of Aharon serves in the temple without the priestly clothing then this is not viewed as a service without the required clothing because she was never required to wear them.

The resolution is that verse 28:43 is viewed to be teaching two things.

First, that wearing priestly garments only achieves its significance when they are on Aharon and his sons, not his daughters. ("And they shall be on Aharon and his sons …") That is, with regard to temple service, while a woman who wears some of the priestly garments is not viewed as missing any of them, this is also viewed as her not wearing any of them.

Secondly, that in order for temple services to be valid they require priestly garments. ("… to serve in holiness …") Should a woman descendent of Aharon serve, the service would be invalid even if she wears priestly garments because the attire lacks the required significance.

While the Rinas Yitzchak discusses the significance of 28:43 and 29:9, he does not provide any discussion about verse 28:35.

The Talmud (Zevachim 88b) teaches that the priestly garments provide atonement. The cloak has bells that make sounds and we are taught that it atones for the sin of slander and slanted speech.

A connection came to mind between slander and the severity of temple service with missing garments. Slander causes the victim to lose regard and significance in the eyes of those who hear it, in effect causing him/her to become 'missing' in the community.

As noble as each of the priestly garments are, no garment can compensate for the lack of another. The same is true about the loss of a single person's significance.


28:41 And you shall dress Aharon your brother and his sons with them [i.e. the clothing that had been described up until now]. And you shall anoint them, install them, sanctify them, and then shall be in service to me.

28:42 And make linen pants for them to cover the flesh of their nakedness. They shall be from the hips to the knees.

Verse 28:41 appears to make a closure with the seven garments that had been specified up to that verse. Verse 28:42 appears to add the linen pants and suggests that they are in another category.

We can say that are indeed in another category, as the other garments were externally visible and bestowed the "honor and splendor" of verse 28:2 which states, "And you shall make sacred garments for Aharon (Aaron) and his sons for honor and for splendor."

We thus see two functions for clothing. One is to bestow honor and splendor and the other is to simply cover the private areas of the human body. Other functions that are not here mentioned are for protection and for hygiene.

The use of clothing for privacy was first mentioned in Genesis when Adam and Chava (Eve) took on physicality by eating from the forbidden fruit. They felt the need to cover themselves so as not to gravitate towards their newly acquired sensuality.

Standards for modesty in dress as practiced in Jewish Law and Custom are not recognized by many in the fashion industry. It appears at times that sensuality is included among the design goals.

It is ironic that some of the population views sensuality as something that adds distinction to a human being and others view it as something that detracts from it.

The Oral Torah teaches that the service of a priest who is not in full dress is invalid. As one of the required garments is a full-length robe, the pants do not seem to serve any need for covering the body.

Then again, we have the following verse in an earlier Torah reading:

20:23 Do not use a stair to ascend My altar so that you will not uncover your nakedness on it.

The Torah specifies that a ramp be built for the altar because a stairway requires the priest to widen his steps, which can possibly uncover flesh that can be visible only from below and by looking upwards. This is the meaning of not uncovering one's nakedness on G-D's altar.

Thus, the requirement for the priest to wear pants to cover his body suggests the sanctity of the very earth that he walks on so that his private parts not become visible from below.


29:39 You shall make the one sheep for (the daily) morning (offering) and make the second sheep in the afternoon.

29:30 And (offer with it) a tenth (of a measure) of fine flour mixed with a quarter of a hin of fine oil. And (also offer) a libation of a quarter hin of wine for one sheep.

29:31 And make the second sheep in the afternoon (together) with a similar flour offering and libation that was done for the morning …

The Chamudei Tzvi commentary cites the following lesson, which originated from the Rebbe of Belz.

Youth is symbolized by morning. Afternoon symbolizes old age.

We all have shortcomings. Understandably, it is best to repent while we are young, while we are in the morning phase of life.

Verse 31 says that the adjunct offerings of the afternoon are just like those of the morning.

We can read this to mean that if one didn't take advantage of the opportunity to repent when he was young then he should not give up upon reaching old age. He should still repent, even then.

G-D does not think or behave like we do. He does not bear grudges and has infinite understanding. It is never too late.

The Chamudei Tzvi commentary takes this a bit further.

We are taught that the morning offering was slaughtered by the north-western corner of the altar and the afternoon offering was slaughtered by the north-eastern corner.

Thus, the morning offering has a westward aspect, where sunset occurs. And the afternoon offering has an eastward aspect, where sunrise occurs.

During our youth there are times that we can benefit by having sobering thoughts of our advanced years.

And during our old age there are times that we can benefit by having thoughts of hope and confidence, which came easily during youth.


30:1 And you shall make an alter for burning incense, made out of Shitim wood.

The previous Torah reading was Terumah. It describes the sanctuary and its many vessels. The Nesivas Shalom commentary asks why the incense altar was not listed there, together with the other vessels.

It is also puzzling why there were two altars.

Also, we note that the sacrificial altar was in the courtyard, outside of the Meeting Tent. However, the incense altar was inside the tent, together with the menorah and table. Why were they placed in two different environments?

My understanding of his discussion is as follows.

The spiritual development of a person who believes in the Torah begins with a focus upon achieving compliance of the Torah's guidelines.

This is challenging because we have personality traits and passions that sometimes run contrary to compliant behavior. With G-D's help, the fear of consequences and our desire for eternal reward helps us counter non-compliant inclinations.

Compliance is praiseworthy, even when it's driven by self-interest.

However, there comes a time for many of us, and especially as we age, when are able to move to higher levels.

I've personally come to identify three aspects of our human essence. I call them Me, We, and He.

As our bodies emerge into this world we are into our Me 100%.

We soon discover others, starting with those who feed us, and we begin to recognize and incorporate the We. We learn to favor We over Me when we see that it's a better deal for the Me. But many develop further and can sometimes trade a Me for a We, outright.

The He part is our awareness of G-D and it enters our consciousness last. It typically begins from rote and indoctrination. But this does connect with something very deep inside us and its significance grows as we do.

After some maturity and life experience, many come to be able to trade off both a Me and a We for a He.

In its pure state, without the Me and We that we became familiar with, this third awareness is where we were before we opened our eyes and where we'll be when we finally close them.

Getting back to the Nesivas Shalom, he writes elsewhere that a state of enlightenment and redemption is synonymous with an awareness that He is with us, that He cares about us, and the events of our lives are indeed the very best for us despite the stress and even pain. Darkness and exile are synonymous with a lack of this awareness.

It follows that the more we are aware that G-D loves us, the more we are capable of loving G-D. This brings us to behavior that is compliant out of love of G-D, not out of self-interest, out of Me.

Elsewhere, the Nesivas Shalom talks about walking the extra mile. He talks about those who willingly give up some optional pleasure to try and get some sanctity into their lives. He says we won't get there on our own. Rather, it's sanctity gift from G-D, once we try.

It's perfectly understandable for those who are totally into compliance out of self-interest to not relate to giving any pleasure away, especially when the return is not obvious or immediate.

They have while to go before getting into serving G-D out of love. They must never give up or get impatient and try to skip steps.

And so, if you look around there appears to be no shortage of adults who appear to be very much into just their Me. And there appears to be no shortage of adults who appear to be very much into just Me and We.

I have no data to know whether all of us get really into the He eventually in our lifetimes, even if it takes a respirator to make it happen. Maybe we all get there, some more than others. Maybe it takes a few lifetimes. Who knows?

It's certainly interesting that the outer altar was used for all types of corrective sin offerings. Not so with the golden altar of incense.

Also note that a good scent can correct a bad odor. Something whose essence is corrupted needs more correction.

In closing, it's clear to me that some people are more into their He than others are. They and their traffic are relatively rare. And it's clear to me that the traffic into the Meeting Tent was also rare. That's where the golden altar of incense was.


30:1 And you shall make an alter for burning incense, made out of Shitim wood.

30:2 And you shall cover it with pure gold …

30:9 Do not offer upon it any strange (unauthorized) incense, nor an olah offering or meal offering. And pour no libation upon it.

30:10 And Aharon (Aaron) shall make an atonement on its corners once a year. He shall make an atonement with the blood of the (Yom) Kippur sin offering for your generations. It is holy of holies to G-d.

There were two altars in the sanctuary. The altar in the above verses was situated inside the Tent of Meeting, together with the golden menorah and table. The other altar was located in the courtyard and was used for every common sacrifice and for most of the special sacrifices. It was specified in last week's Torah reading.

The golden menorah and the table were in last week's reading, together with almost every holy vessel. This week's reading begins with the specification of the priestly garments. It afterwards discusses the sanctuary's dedication ceremony and then concludes with the golden altar.

Why wasn't the golden altar specified in last week's Torah reading together with the other vessels? Why is it separated?

The following came to mind.

Offerings of the outer altar were much more associated with physicality than those of the inner altar. Every day, the outer altar accepted offerings of meat, blood, fats, meal, and wine. The inner altar accepted blood only on rare occasion. Relative to the outer altar, it was pristine and elevated.

Mainstream Judaism focuses on elevating mankind from within and through his physicality. It rejects the notion that a person can only become elevated when he/she is detached from physicality.

Perhaps the Torah is reminding us of this important lesson by isolating the inner altar from the rest of the holy vessels.


30:9 You may not offer upon it strange [unauthorized] incense, nor an olah or meal offering. And you shall not make a libation upon it.

The altar that was inside the sanctuary building was used mostly for fragrant incense. The altar outside in the courtyard consumed sacrifices and libations.

While both altars could only be used for their intended purposes, Rabbi Sternbuch notes that the Torah openly writes a prohibition for only the internal altar.

Fragrance is more of a spiritual experience than physical consumption.

He poses that the atonement ceremonies of the external altar mainly focus on correcting physical defects and the internal altar focuses on spiritual and intellectual imperfections.

Rationalization, bias, and stubbornness make it more difficult for a person to detect intellectual flaws as they are hidden within the person. In contrast, it is relatively easier to detect physical misconduct and the flaws are therefore easier to fix.

Rabbi Sternbuch suggests that the Torah writes this prohibition for the internal altar to remind us of this challenge


30:10 And Aharon (Aaron) shall make atonement on its [the inner altar's] corners once a year. Throughout your generations, once a year he shall make atonement on it from the blood of the sin offering of (Yom) Kippur. It is most holy to G-D.

The Sanctuary is partitioned into several zones of holiness. The courtyard that contains the sacrificial altar and the washing station has the lowest degree of holiness. The area inside the Tent of Meeting up to the inner curtain has a higher degree. It contains the inner altar, the menorah, and the bread table. The holy of holies is beyond the curtain. It contains the Ark of the Covenant.

Most offerings that atone for sin and weakness are processed exclusively in the courtyard. It is rare for an atonement sacrifice to be brought to the inner area, inside the Tent of Meeting.

This brought the following to mind.

The days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are called the Ten Days Of Return. It is a period of spiritual repair and restoration.

Confession is an integral part of the atonement process and we recite a formula of confession on each day except for Rosh Hashana.

Why?

It was explained to me that this is because on Rosh Hashana our prayers focus on G-D being the King and that we are subservient to Him.

Would we fully internalize and remain steadfast in this relationship we have with G-D throughout daily living then we would not come to sin, we would not succumb to temptation.

On the first day of return to G-d, on Rosh Hashana, we focus on and strengthen our awareness of this great relationship, thereby addressing sin and weakness at its root.

Since the focus of this introductory day is on G-d's supremacy, it is not appropriate to delve into the detail of our misbehavior, for this is inconsistent with what we are saying. Instead, for that day we seek rise above the ability to do sin. We relegate the detailed confession to the other Days of Return, which we must do in order to obtain a full atonement, which we receive on Yom Kippur with G-D's help.

The inner zones of the Temple area reflect successively higher and deeper types of relationships that G-D has with the Jewish people and with all of mankind. Perhaps it is because of this that most sacrifices of atonement are relegated to the external area.


Last week's Parsha contains instructions for the holy utensils and the structure of the Tabernacle. This Parsha first discusses the holy garments and then it goes into the Ceremony Of Dedication, with an emphasis on sanctifying Aharon and his sons.

We thus have a portion of the Torah which primarily has the following pattern: Building, garments, and then people.

In the portion of Leviticus which deals with the phenomenon of tzoraas (chapters 13-14) we find this pattern in reverse. The laws of tzoraas begin with the affliction occurring to people, then to garments, and then to buildings.

The following came to mind:

The Tabernacle restores to the world and to Mankind both harmony and peace.

A person who is afflicted with tzoraas is being singled out and warned by Heaven for his/her destructive social behavior and attitudes.

It is taught that the Tabernacle is a reflection of the entire creation. Mankind was created last, on the sixth day. It is fitting for one who lives in accordance with the purpose of creation to arrive last and not first, just like the honored guest who arrives only after everything has been prepared for him. (Talmud Sanhedrin 38a)

The seeds of social destruction are sewn when people think exclusively of themselves first, represented by those who are afflicted by tzoraas.


Ki Sisa (Exodus 30-34)

30:12 When you take count of the Children of Israel to their numbers then each man shall give for G-d (a sum of money as an) atonement for himself when you count them. And there shall not be a plague when you count them.

Some expressions of self and individuality bring one closer to the greatness that G-D intended. Other expressions can interfere.

Within the context of Torah-based life our behavior must reflect a balance between self-identity and harmony with others.

As participation in the census was an act of self and individuality, perhaps the atonement served to help maintain this balance.


30:12 When you take count of the Children of Israel to their numbers then each man shall give for G-d (a sum of money as an) atonement for himself when you count them. And there shall not be a plague when you count them.

The previous five chapters dealt with the sanctuary. The previous section discussed the inner altar. The next section deals with the sanctuary's washing station.

The verses that provide instruction for taking a census seem to be out of place.

The following came to mind.

The Jewish people are integral to the concept of a Sanctuary to G-d.

G-d has no need of His own for a sanctuary. The sanctuary serves our needs, not G-d's. It provides us with a way to achieve atonement and to deepen our awareness of G-d.

Without the Jewish people, a Sanctuary of G-d has no meaning. Thus, instructions on how to count them is therefore very much in place. The multitude which the census portrays only adds to the meaning of the sanctuary.

The preceding section about the inner altar ends as follows:

30:10 And Aharon (Aaron) shall atone on its corners once each year. Using the blood of Yom Kippur's sin offering, once each year he shall make an atonement on it throughout your generations. It is most sanctified to G-d.

This theme of atonement extends into this section. The half-shekel that each person gives for the census is called a 'fund of atonement (30:16).

The word Hebrew for atonement is 'kiper.' Rashi elsewhere translates this to mean a cleansing. This theme therefore extends into the next section which deals with the washing station.

As an atonement is a form of cleansing, we see that sin is a form of soiling. Atonement restores a person to his/her former self.

Judaism gives no basis for the concept of 'original sin.'


30:16 And you shall take the money of atonement from the Children of Israel and you shall designate it for the work of the Tent of Meeting. And it shall be a remembrance before G-D to atone for your lives.

Construction expenditures are categorized into labor and material. From the wording of this verse it appears that the money of atonement was to be used for labor. However, Rashi cites a teaching to the contrary. The silver half-shekel coins were melted down and used to make the foundation sockets that held up the wall panels of the sanctuary.

What is the Torah trying to tell us by using a phrase that suggests an expenditure for labor when in reality the expenditure was for material?

Also, why does the Torah associate this with being a 'remembrance?'

The following came to mind.

We are familiar with life as a material, temporal, and superficial existence.

We routinely associate a magnificent building with those who control it at the moment, or with the ideals that they promote. A small plaque may link the edifice to a person who expended a fortune to fund the construction. Typically, those who donated countless hours of their time and labor are either nameless or are quickly forgotten.

(In another context, this can happen to the best of parents.)

In this world, it can appear to some that material accomplishments is what matters, not labor and effort.

However, in the higher worlds that we will encounter after our material lives in this world, we will see how every act that we did in our former (current) lives, together with the effort that we expended, became eternalized in some manner to our great benefit.

And so, perhaps it was also for this reason that the Torah associated an expenditure for labor with an expenditure for material.

Moreover, this was a very special expenditure. Normally, funds earmarked for material are used for purchase and are remembered with a plaque. However here, the coins were melted down and became the material itself, providing the greatest link between the donor, the building, and eternal remembrance.


30:18 And you shall make a laver of copper with its base of copper for washing. And you shall place it between the Meeting Tent and the alter. And you shall put water there.

Rashi in 38:8 provides a fascinating background for this unique vessel.

38:8 And he made the laver of copper and its base of copper with the mirrors of women who came to pray by the opening of the Meeting Tent (translation according to the Targum).

Rashi (paraphrased): The daughters of Israel donated the mirrors that they used when they put on cosmetics. They withheld nothing when it came to donating for the Sanctuary. Moshe's (Moses') initial reaction was to reject these donations because of the type of energy that they generate. G-D interceded and commanded him to accept the donations, saying that they were more precious to Him than anything else because the women used these mirrors to increase the population of the Jewish people in Egypt. You see, the sought to Egyptians break their family life by forcing the husbands to work to exhaustion. When the women realized the plot, they counteracted by bringing care packages (food and drink) to their husbands who were in the field and who didn't have the strength to return home at night. After a private refreshment break in the evening, they took out their mirrors and looked at themselves. They then showed their husbands what they looked like. Thereupon, they declared that in their judgment, they were more beautiful than their husbands. As what typically occurs in such domestic disputes, the wife always wins. This type of lobbying generated large families within the Jewish people. Pharaoh's plot was foiled by the heroism of the Jewish women. Now, water from the laver was later used to test a wife who is suspected of being unfaithful. Passing the test restores harmony and peace within the home. It is therefore quite fitting that the laver which was associated with the greatness of the Jewish women in Egypt should serve a key role in restoring broken Jewish homes.

It is somewhat puzzling that women are more associated with being responsible for peace in the home than men. This really brings up a sore point, for opinions are sharply diverse when people ponder over who is typically responsible for family friction.

The Sefurno provides the following insight for this laver.

This vessel was not written adjacent to the previous sections that described the vessels of the Sanctuary. Those vessels were used to directly associate G-D's presence with the Sanctuary. However, the laver was used to prepare the priests for their service, which required them to wash beforehand.

The following association between Rashi and the Sefurno came to mind.

Up through the progressive era that we live in, women served a supportive role in both the family and in society. They did not typically coexist in the workforce together with men. Like it or not, this mode got us through over fifty-seven hundred years of history.

We can most easily see an association between women and a supportive role the Sefurno's commentary.

In contexts where women coexist in the workforce together with men, it is their responsibility to manage their attractive resources to protect the relation that they have with their husbands and to minimize the stress that they can cause to other men. Perhaps we can see this reflected in the aspects that Rashi emphasizes.


30:34 And G-D said to Moshe (Moses), "Take for yourself spices: nataf and shecheles and chelbana, spices and pure levona. They shall be of equal weight."

The Oral Torah provides the full list of eleven ingredients that made up the fragrant incense that was burned in the Temple, twice every day and three times on Yom Kippur.

The chelbana is an interesting ingredient because it has a foul odor. Why is it included among the fragrant spices?

Rashi provides the following insight: The scripture lists chelbana among the spices of the incense to teach us that we should not treat lightly the notion of including the sinners of the Jewish people when we congregate to pray and fast (to beseech Divine mercy) so that they will be counted with us.

Understandably, leadership must think twice before including those sinners that could be disruptive to the prayer or that could exert a negative influence on any of the congregants. I would expect such people to be excluded.

We must be talking about prayer gathering for a communal crisis such as a drought and sinners who are also in trouble who sincerely want G-D to deliver salvation, and who want to attend.

It is interesting that the Temple's altar for offering incense is mentioned at the end of last week's Torah reading. It is interesting that it is not listed among the other holy vessels. The rest of the vessels were delineated in the reading that was prior to last week.

It is interesting that the first topic of discussion in this week's Torah reading is about counting the Jewish people. The second verse states that the census must be done in a way that does not bring a plague upon the Jewish people. The Torah instructs each person to give an "atonement for his life," a half-shekel. We count the coins, not the people.

It is interesting that counting individual Jews can bring a plague.

It is interesting to note that when a plague did fall upon the Jewish people, Moshe instructed Aharon (Aaron) to use incense to stop the plague, which it did. (See Numbers 17:9-1).

It is interesting that eleven ingredients comprise the incense.

The Passover Hagaddah assigns significance to every number from one through thirteen. The number eleven corresponds to the eleven stars in Yosef's (Joseph's) dream. The stars stood for his other brothers.

A minion quorum is ten Jewish males of Bar-Mitzvah age and higher. Eleven is a minion plus one.

Also, the layout of the Temple had a number of measurements of eleven. The Mishnah describes the following zones: The courtyard of the Israelites was eleven cubits deep, from east to west. The next zone westward was the courtyard of the Kohahim (priests). It was eleven cubits. The next zone was that of the altar and was thirty-two cubits. (It is interesting that the Hebrew word for heart is Lev, which has a numerical equivalent of thirty-two.) The next zone was between the altar and the Temple building itself. That measured twenty-two cubits, twice eleven. Moving westward, the building was one-hundred cubits long. Finally, the area behind the building was eleven cubits deep. (Midos 5:1).

The Oral Torah has many fascinating things to say about the incense. Once a Kohen wins the privilege to offer the incense, he is no longer eligible to win the privilege again. This is because offering the incense brings great wealth to that Kohen and those in charge wanted to give the opportunity to others who never had it.

Finally, it's interesting that the Torah emphasizes the need for the incense to have ingredients that have equal weights.

The following came to mind.

The following pattern appears to emerge: The chelbana is not 'like' the other spices. The humbled sinners, now in the same dire straits as the non-sinners and who need the same Divine mercy are not 'like' the rest of the congregants. Unrefined human nature being what it is, this could cause a decision maker to set them apart and not admit them to the service. The incense altar is set apart from where other holy vessels are described in the Torah. A plague may occur by viewing the Jewish people as a set of distinct individuals, not as an inseparable union under one G-D. A plague brings many to mourn over the loss of precious individuals.

The way I see it, the message is that personal preferences should not be a factor in how we treat our fellow Jewish brothers and sisters.

We live in a Realm where everyone has a mission and is needed, all according the desire and plan of G-D. And not everyone may have been born with or exposed to the same spiritual resources. The lives of some may have been designed to achieve a relatively large amount of spiritual progress and others may be here to achieve much less. This results in a nation consisting of individuals with a potentially wide range of levels, some more broken that others.

The more we forget about the One who owns and manages the world around us, the more we tend to give significance to ourselves, our self-interests and preferences.

And we don't really need to use sinners as an example. It's just more comfortable to use them as an example.

But there are other differences that have the potential to irritate, especially when comfort, affluence, or success causes us to temporarily forget about humility.

A 'SEFARDIC' Jew is a bit different than an 'ASKHENIZIC' Jew. An 'ISRAELI' Jew is a bit different than an 'AMERICAN' Jew. A 'CHASSIC' Jew is a bit different than a 'GERMAN' or 'LITHUANIAN' Jew. A convert is a bit different than a native Jew.

And there are different branches within the Chassidic movement itself. There are B's, S's, and other letters of the alphabet. And then we have the L's, which very few non-L's seem to understand. It appears that many view them as being a bit too pushy - and a bit too successful.

But if we all subscribe to scholarly mentors and leaders who sincerely want their following to practice that which Moshe taught us some thirty-three centuries ago, how much do you think these difference really matter to the One who made the differences happen in the first place?

Maybe it's time to always view our fellow as having 'equal weight' to our own.

More than working on ourselves to accept unity, we need to work on making it happen, even when it provides absolutely no personal benefit. Maybe that's a message that we can take from the eleventh ingredient, the one that was added after they had a minion from the other spices.

Yosef was one of twelve children. But he saw only eleven brothers and that's because he wasn't looking at his self.

A rich person is surrounded with many valuables. The more one sees and appreciates the value of others, the more he realizes the great wealth that surrounds him. Those who offered the incense were awarded by Heaven with wealth. It's sometimes hard for us to listen to the Torah's messages and to get them straight. G-D finds many ways to talk to us.

The focus of the Temple is the union of the Jewish people and G-D. That's not going to happen if we are not united among ourselves. The measurements of the Temple themselves are permeated with unity and harmony.

We need to view the relatively trivial differences among us that we cope with as being part of a great and colorful masterpiece that we will appreciate, some day in the future.


30:34 And G-D said to Moshe (Moses), "Take for yourself spices: nataf and shecheles and chelbana, spices and pure levona. They shall be of equal weight."

30:35 And you shall make it into incense, the product of an incense-maker, thoroughly mixed, pure, and holy.

The sanctuary and some of its services are described in the following order:

  1. A list of items that were needed (Chapter 25)
  2. The ark, table, and the menorah, vessels of the Meeting Tent (Chapter 25)
  3. The curtains, clasps, and cover of the tent (Chapter 26)
  4. The boards of the tent, together with its staves and rings (Chapter 26)
  5. The curtains and pillars of the tent (Chapter 26)
  6. The outer altar (Chapter 27)
  7. The curtains and pillars of the court-yard (Chapter 27)
  8. Olive oil for the menorah (Chapter 27)
  9. The priestly vestments (Chapter 28)
  10. The inauguration ceremony for the sanctuary and the priests (Chapter 29)
  11. The inner altar, a vessel of the Meeting Tent (Chapter 30)
  12. The census process, requiring a half-shekel from each person which was used for the foundation sockets of the sanctuary (Chapter 30)
  13. The laver and its base (Chapter 30)
  14. The oil of inauguration (Chapter 30)
  15. The incense, which was burned upon the inner altar (Chapter 30)

The inner altar was used primarily for incense and is the last vessel to be listed. It is also separated from the other vessels and components of the sanctuary. The incense itself is the last item to be listed.

This appears to be a pattern. Perhaps the Torah is trying to tell us something. The following came to mind.

The Talmud (Zevachim 88b) notes that the laws of sacrifices are written adjacent to a reference of the priestly garments. This tells us that just like sacrifices provide atonement, so do the garments.

It associates the high priest’s eight garments with certain sins.

The robe atones for murder.

The vest (the m’eil) atones for Lashon Horah, which means slanted and negatively biased speech. The me’il had ringing bells at its hem. Let something that makes sounds come and atone for sounds.

The Talmud then notes some contradictions.

We know that the Torah prescribes the death penalty for murder. And the Torah prescribes a ceremony with a calf to atone for murder when we do not know the identify of the murderer (Deuteronomy 21). What do we need the robe to atone for?

Also, we have a teaching that incense atones for Lashon Horah. Let a service that is done in a private area come and atone for something that is done in privacy. What do we need the vest to atone for?

The Talmud responds that the robe atones for an act of murder that goes unpunished due to legal technicalities. The vest atones for Lashon Horah that is done in public and incense atones for Lashon Horah that is done in private.

The only sins for which the Torah prescribes double coverage for atonement are murder and Lashon Horah. This suggests that both have equal severity in the eyes of the Torah.

A skeptic could say that this appears extreme, for murder is an act of physical violence while Lashon Horah is mere speech.

But life experience teaches otherwise and that Lashon Horah can do much more harm.

An act of murder typically kills one person. Slanted speech typically hurts many people.

Lashon Horah can destroy self-esteem, reputations, relationships, marriages, and livelihoods.

It is likely that more lives were lost or shortened from Lashon Horah than to murder.

Murder victims suffer for moments. The victims of Lashon Horah can suffer for a lifetime. While murder causes death to the living, Lashon Horah causes living deaths.

How did misleaders get mobs riled up against entire Jewish communities?

What tool is used today by biased government advisors and journalists?

We are taught that people who speak Lashon Horah are afflicted by Tzoraas (Leviticus 13).

Those who are afflicted must live apart from society. “He (the speaker of Lashon Horah) separated people from one another, from husband and wife. He must therefore live apart from everyone else.” (Rashi Leviticus 13:46)

Perhaps the Torah is reinforcing this notion by separating the incense and its altar from the other components of the sanctuary.

The Talmud teaches that the measure which Heaven uses for bestowing goodness is much greater than the measure used for punishment (Sanhedrin 100b).

If the above reflects how the Torah views evil speech, then we can only speculate upon the enormity of the reward for someone who speaks good about others (or about the Torah) or for one who gives words of encouragement.


30:34 And G-D said to Moshe (Moses), "Take to yourself spices: nataf, and shecheles and chelbana, spices, and pure levona, they shall be of equal weight.

These verses specify the recipe for the ketores, the incense that was offered twice daily in the Temple.

The ketores is the very last Temple component to be specified. It is removed and remote from the other components, such as the Menorah oil that was specified in the previous Torah reading.

What is the Torah trying to tell us by doing this?

The following came to mind.

In being remote from the other components, this component is the most adjacent to the account of the Jewish people's downfall with the golden calf.

The Oral Torah provides the following analysis of the downfall:

Says Ulah, "Shameful is the bride that commits adultery under her wedding canopy." Rav Mari son of Shmuel's daugher says, "What is the (corresponding) verse (in the Bible that relates to this:) 'My fragrance gave away its scent as the King was in the midst of his party.'(Song of Songs 1:12) " Rava says, "We are still endeared to Him, for it says, ' (My fragrance) gave away (its scent)' and not that it became foul."(Gitten 36b)

The Song of Songs is a parable about a couple that is in love. Our tradition says that this reflects and is a teaching about the relationship that G-D has with the Jewish people.

Apparently, the fragrance relates to a means of attraction between G-D and the Jewish people.

We know that the existence of a Temple is only possible during periods when the Jewish people behave in a manner that reflects their special relationship with G-D.

Perhaps the service of the Temple's fragrant incense has meaning in the attraction between G-D and the Jewish people. If true then this would explain why this section is both the most .remote section from the Temple components and the closest component to the story of the golden calf.

In G-D's writing the ketores near this tragic story, perhaps it reflects the teaching of Rava, that 'We art still endeared to Him.' In spite of it all, G-D continues to charge the Jewish people with the privilege of the ketores. He desires their intimacy.


31:13 And you shall speak to the children of Israel saying, "You shall only guard my Shabbos (Sabbaths). For it is a sign between Me and between you for (all) your generations to know that I am Hashem who makes you holy.

31:14 And you shall guard the Shabbos for it is holy to you. One who profanes it will die. Regarding everyone who does work during it that soul will be cut off from its people.

31:15 Work shall be done for six days and on the seventh day it shall be a Shabbos, holy to G-D. Whoever does work on the day of Shabbos will die.

31:16 And the Jewish people shall guard the Shabbos to make the Shabbos for your generations,(it is) an everlasting covenant.

31:17 It is a sign between me and between the Children of Israel, an everlasting sign. For G-D made the heaven and the earth during six days and on the seventh day He ceased and rested.

Verse 13 says that the Shabbos is a sign for generations, which is a finite interval of time. Verse 17 says that it is an everlasting sign, which is an infinite interval of time. How do we understand this difference? What is the Torah trying to tell us?

The Rashi commentary of verse 13 explains why the Torah discusses Shabbos by the section of the Temple construction. Rashi says that this is to teach that the Shabbos observance supercedes the construction of the Sanctuary. That is, the Sanctuary may not be built during Shabbos.

This is somewhat curious because the Temple service itself does supercede Shabbos. So while we must offer the communal sacrifices every day, including Shabbos, we may not construct the Temple during Shabbos. How do we understand this?

The following came to mind

Rashi provides the following commentary for verse 13:

"For it is a sign between you and Me:" It is a great sign that I chose you by my bestowing on you My day of rest for (your) rest, "... to know:" For the nations (of the world to know) through it "that I am G-D who sanctified you.."

Shabbos can and does have more than one theme.

Like Shabbos, the Temple served as a monument that G-D chose the Jewish people. Like the aspect of Shabbos being a sign for the generations, the Temple served as a temporary monument, for it was eventually destroyed.

So since both Shabbos and the Sanctuary have a finite aspect it is not clear which of the two should supercede the other.

However, Shabbos is also an "everlasting sign." This refers to Shabbos being a representation of the next world, which is eternal. Since Shabbos is associated with both the temporal and the eternal, it follows that it should supercede the construction of the Sanctuary, which is only a temporal demonstration.

By keeping Shabbos, we connect ourselves with our ultimate destiny, thereby transcending every temporal setback, even the destruction of the Temple.


24:18 And Moshe (Moses) entered the cloud and he ascended towards the mountain. And Moshe was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights.

31:18 And when He (G-D) completed speaking to him on Mount Sinai, He gave two tablets of testimony to Moshe. [They were] tablets of stone, written upon with the 'finger' of G-D.

There are over six chapters between these two verses. They deal mostly with instructions for constructing the tabernacle.

The next three chapters describe the sin of the golden calf, the repentance of the Jewish people, and their restoration.

The six chapters that follow, which also conclude the Book of Exodus, deal mostly with the construction of the tabernacle.

Looking purely at the flow of events, it seems more understandable for verse 31:18 to follow immediately after verse 24:18 and to combine together the twelve chapters that deal with the tabernacle and write them afterwards.

Instead, the Torah seems to inject its recording of the golden calf in the middle of its discussions on the tabernacle.

It's somewhat as if the story of the golden calf is absorbed within the discussion of the tabernacle.

This brought to mind the notion that the tabernacle, temple, repentance, and prayer all function to repair and restore our relationships with G-D.

Just as the story of one of our greatest downfalls is absorbed within the detail of our holy tabernacle, so are we re-absorbed and our relationship with G-D is restored when we repent.


31:18 And when He (G-D) completed speaking to him on Mount Sinai, He gave two tablets of testimony to Moshe. [They were] tablets of stone, written upon with the 'finger' of G-D.

The Rashi commentary notes that this occurred before Moshe was commanded to construct a tabernacle (Exodus 25-30) but it was written afterwards (Exodus 31). This is an example of the rule that the Torah isn't bound to write events in the sequence of when they occurred.

A commentary asks why Rashi applies this rule here because it is possible that both were written in sequence, as Moshe would have received instruction on the tabernacle prior to his descent from Mount Sinai and this would be what the verses prior to Exodus 31 are recording.

I didn't understand the question on Rashi because if the Torah wanted to tell us what Moshe was commanded then it would have written all of the 613 commandments that he received during his forty- day ascent. Therefore, perhaps Rashi felt that it was better to view this as an example of the Torah not being bound to time-sequence.

Still, what message can we derive from the verses being written out of order?

Rabbi Reuven Brody suggested that it reflects the notion that G-D creates the cure before He inflicts the illness, as in a sense the tabernacle is the response, or cure for the sin of the golden calf.

Another idea which came to mind is that since the Jewish people repented for this infraction it was written as an afterthought, reflecting G-D's downgrading of its significance.


31:18 And when He (G-D) completed speaking to him on Mount Sinai, He gave two tablets of testimony to Moshe. [They were] tablets of stone, written upon with the 'finger' of G-D.

It is well known that scholars of many peoples throughout the ages have had a great interest in the words of the Torah.

It is interesting to note that the system of chapter and verse numbering by which the Torah is catalogued is not of Jewish origin.

For the past thirty-three centuries, the layout of the Jewish people's Torah scroll consisted of columns of text with frequent minor breaks in the text to designate sections and four major breaks that delineate the Five Books of Moshe (Moses). The sections are not numbered. The text consists exclusively of consonants. There are no vowels or punctuation marks in the written text but our oral tradition delineates them all.

One must assume that this was the layout of the scroll that the Bible scholars had to work with when they devised a system to break the text into numbered chapters.

Their chapter typically consists of one or more sections. Most of the time, a chapter begins at a section break.

There is a strange and curious exception in this week's Torah reading.

Chapter 31 spans a bit more than two sections. The first section introduces the people who were assigned the privilege of overseeing the sanctuary's construction. The second section discusses Shabbos (Sabbath) observance.

In chapter 32, Moshe smashes the tablets because of the Golden Calf.

Verse 18 of chapter 31 has nothing to do with the sanctuary's construction or with the Shabbos. Instead, it introduces the story of the Golden Calf, the theme of chapter 32. Also, there is an open break in the text between verse 17 and verse 18. Verse 18 actually belongs to the first section of chapter 32.

Therefore, for both thematic and layout considerations, verse 31:18 should have been the beginning of chapter 32.

We have no record of what compelled the non-Jewish Bible scholars to do this. Let us try to assume the role of a Biblical archeologist and take a guess. The following came to mind.

We have no tape recording to know every word of the forty-day study session that Moshe heard on Mount Sinai. However, we do have a record of the final parting words.

32:7 And G-d told Moshe, "Go, descend. For your nation, that which you brought up from Egypt, became corrupted."

32:8 "They quickly turned away from the way that I commanded them. They made for themselves a molten calf. And they prostrated themselves before it and they sacrificed to it, and they said, 'These are your gods, Israel, which brought you up from Egypt.'"

33:9 "And G-d said to Moshe, "I saw this nation and behold it is a stiff-necked people."

33:10 "And now, leave Me alone and My anger will kindle in them and destroy them. And I will make you into a great nation."

Our puzzling verse (33:18) tells us what G-d actually did after saying these harsh words to Moshe.

31:18 And when He (G-d) completed speaking to Moshe on Mount Sinai, He gave him two tablets of testimony, tablets of stone written with the 'finger' of G-d.

It is a stunning fact of history that G-d gave Moshe the tablets for the Jewish people in spite of His knowledge of their sin. G-d did not reject them. He did not give up on them. The Jewish people believe that He never did, that He never will.

Perhaps the Bible scholars were unable to assimilate this idea and they therefore sought to dissociate this verse with the text that followed.


32:7 And G-D told Moshe (Moses), "Go, descend. For your nation, that which you brought up from Egypt, became corrupted."

32:8 "They quickly turned away from the way that I commanded them. They made for themselves a molten calf. And they prostrated themselves before it and they sacrificed to it, and they said, 'These are your gods, Israel, which brought you up from Egypt.'"

32:15 And he turned away. (And He turned away?). And Moshe descended from the mountain with the two Tablets of the Testimony in his hands …

32:19 And it was, as he came near the encampment and he saw the calf and dances, Moshe became furious and he threw the tablets from his hands. And he broke them by the foot of the mountain.

Why didn't Moshe become angry and break the tablets when G-D told him about the golden calf?

The Nesivas Shalom commentary says the following.

There is hope for someone who misbehaves as long as he feels remorseful and guilty. He may refuse to address these feelings right away and he may try to suppress them. But there is hope as long as they keep coming back. They indicate that our life-line to G-D is still there, the spark of a great reality that is within us.

While it was a very bad decision for us to make that golden calf, Moshe hoped that we would shake ourselves out of it and repent.

However, when Moshe saw the Jewish people dancing around the thing, he realized that we had become disconnected from the greatness that we achieved. That made him feel compelled to take the drastic measure of breaking the tablets.


32:9 And G-D said to Moshe (Moses), I saw this nation and behold it is a stiff-necked people.

32:10 And now, leave Me (alone) and My anger will burn towards them and I will consume them. And I will make you a great nation.

Rashi provides the following commentary for the words, "leave Me" in 32:10.

We have yet to hear that Moshe prayed for them (so why is it that) G-D says, "leave Me (alone)?" Rather, G-D gave him an opportunity and informed him that the matter is up to him (Moshe). (That is,) if he will pray for them then G-D will not consume them.

Why didn't Moshe pray for them?

Perhaps because the infraction of the Jewish was so extreme that he didn't see any chance of either his prayers succeeding. Nor did Moshe see how the Jewish people could ever survive Jewish history from such a rocky start.

Apparently, G-D is informing Moshe that this was a mistake.

If anything, this was a preparation for our journey through Jewish history, for if we could survive this blunder then we would be able to survive anything, together with G-D's help and Moshe's prayers.


32:26 And Moshe stood at the gate of the camp and called out, "Let all of those who are for G-D come here to me!" And all of the sons of Levi gathered to him.

All of the Levites resisted worshiping the golden calf.

Rabbi Shalom Schwadron, of blessed memory, remarked that prior to Moshe's return, they were probably subjected to intense ridicule and criticism.

Their ancestor Levi was faulted by his father Yaakov for not taking his counsel when he and his brother stood out and decimated the city of Shechem, where his sister had been violated.

Later, the descendents of Levi refused to join Pharaoh's work force together with their brethren. Again, they refused to follow counsel of the majority, as the rest of Jewish people went to work for Pharaoh. The tribe did avoid being tricked into slavery but they also lost the opportunity to be supported by Pharaoh's wages. Pharaoh afforded them no other opportunities for a livelihood and they instantly became charity cases for the rest of Jewish people who had to share their measly wages with them.

And now, the great leader Aharon had just declared that there will be a holiday for G-D together with golden calf that some had squeezed him for. Again, Levi stood out and refused to participate in the festive honor that was due to this wonderful hunk of metal. How dare they disregard this great sage and leader!

But the tribe of Levi resisted criticism and not one member served the golden calf. They did not view Aharon's position as being direction towards idol worship. Rather, they viewed it as a tactic to buy time until Moshe would return and take control of the rabble-rousers who managed to create a panic. The rabble-rousers were so bent on idol worship that they killed Aharon's nephew Chur when he tried to stop them.

Levi was later chosen for service in the temple as a reward.

And they correctly followed the counsel of their own leadership and refused to participate in Pharaoh's work scam, as unpopular as it may have been viewed at the time.

We can perhaps view their stand on the golden calf and on joining the enslavement as being corrective of their ancestor's lack of taking counsel with their father, Yaakov.


33:16 And how then will it be known that I (Moshe / Moses) have found favor in Your eyes, I and your people? Is it not by Your (G-D) going with us and (by) our being distinct, I and your people, from all of the people on the face of the earth?

The commentaries explain that Moshe was requesting that G-D guide history so that mankind's growing awareness of His existence and management become evident from what occurs to the Jewish people.

The request was not self-serving, given mankind's failing to overcome theological falsifiers and their fabrications.

It is told that a monarch once asked a scholar for evidence of G-D's existence. The response was, "The Jews."

Moshe's request that he be unique was also for mankind's benefit, for this protects us all from falsifiers usurping Moshe's teachings.

The Torah will later say:

"And the man Moshe was very humble, (more than) all men that are on the face of the earth" (Numbers 12:3).

Humility is not to be confused with inferiority. The one who is truly humble is able manage his humility and can overcome it when the need arises.


32:32 And now, if you will forgive their sin (then fine). And if not then erase me from the book that you wrote.

32:33 And G-D said to Moshe (Moses), "I will erase from My book whomever sinned against Me."

32:34 "And now, go and guide the people to (the place) that I spoke to you (about). Behold My angel will go before you. And on the day that I will remember (sin) I will remember their sin against them,"

32:35 And G-D struck the people who made the calf that Aharon (Aaron) fashioned.

We know that the people repented for the sin of the golden calf. Yet we see from 32:35 that some people were still punished. Why

Furthermore, from Rashi's commentary of 32:34 it seems that we were not forgiven at all. He writes, "I (G-D) will exact (payment) from this sin together with the other sins (that they will do). Therefore, there will be no punishment that befalls the Jewish people that does not also include some punishment for the sin of the Golden Calf.

Yet, Moshe in 34:9 prayed for our forgiveness and it seems that his prayers were successful because we received a replacement set of tablets on the tenth day of Tishrei, which became established as our Day of Atonement.

Perhaps the following that I was taught can be used to explain the apparent contradictions.

Suppose one asks his child to go to the grocery store and purchase a bottle of milk. Despite the parent's urging the child to be careful, the bottle breaks due to the child's carelessness. While the parent can forgive the child for disregarding his wishes, the damage remains and the bottle lies broken.

An obvious consequence of sin is that it demonstrates a lack of regard for G-D's will. We are also taught that sin creates a spiritual defect that causes grave consequences which are not immediately obvious in this life.

Therefore, restoration from sin requires at least two corrections. One is forgiveness from G-D for appearing to demonstrate a lack of regard for His word. The second is repair of the spiritual defect.

As a parent yearns to have a positive relationship with his child, it is relatively easy for the child to obtain forgiveness for an oversight in the parent's honor. Perhaps we can say the same for obtaining forgiveness from G-D for the appearance of disregarding His will. However, the degree of difficulty to obtain repair from spiritual defect varies with the nature of the defect itself. This explains why some sins require capital punishment and others require measures that are not as sever.

This would then explain why those who actually made the Golden calf needed to be executed while those who were only implicated remained alive. It also explain how we were both fully forgiven by G-D and we also needed an extended purge throughout our history due to the damaged that this sin inflicted.


This Parsha presents the Thirteen Divine Attributes (behaviors) by which a person can begin relate to G-d and His management of Mankind (34:6-7).

Just like a person can learn from what the Torah says, one can also learn from what the Torah does not say.

Responsibility is a very important attribute but it is not among those listed. Why is it not listed?

It came to mind that each of the Attributes, while supported by G-d's infinite capabilities, all have limits. In this way we, as finite creations, can relate to them. Also, G-d's management, as we can relate to it, is the result of the interplay between these Attributes.

For example, Kindness (the third Attribute) has limits. Therefore, wicked people do not experience the next world in the same way that pious people do.

If the above is true, then we can perhaps say that Responsibility does not belong among these Attributes. G-d sets no limits to the extent and degree for which he takes responsibility for all that is and all that happens in this world.


34:9 And he (Moshe / Moses) said (to G-d), "Oh G-d, if I have found favor in Your eyes, may G-d please 'walk' within our midst, for they (the Jewish people) are a stiff-necked nation ..

Moshe is begging G-d to forgive the Jewish people and he is seeking a great privilege for them. Why does he mention what seems to be a flaw of the Jewish people, that they are a stiff-necked nation.

The following came to mind.

I have been taught that character traits are neither good nor are they bad. It's what we do with them that counts.

That is, any trait can be used to do good and it can be misused to do evil. In fact, the classic term for character traits is 'Midos,' which is Hebrew for measures. Each person has the responsibility to measure and balance the traits that G-d gave him/her.

In this light, being stiff-necked is not a flaw in and of itself. In fact, being stiff-necked is an asset when used to maintain true ideals and convictions.

Moshe is thus telling G-d that the Jewish people are gifted with a special inner strength to maintain the Jewish faith to the degree that G-d can 'walk' within their midst.


VaYakhel (Exodus 35-38)

35:1 And Moshe (Moses) gathered all the congregation of the Children of Israel and he said to them, "These are the matters that G-d commanded to do them."

35:2 "Work shall be done for six days and on the seventh day it shall be for you a holy Shabbos (Sabbath) of Shabbos to G-d. Whoever does work during it shall be put to death."

35:4 And Moshe said to the entire congregation of the children of Yisroel saying, "This is the matter that G-D commanded, saying."

35:5 "Take from that is with you a donation for (building the tabernacle of) G-D …"

The Beer Yosef commentary explains why both Shabbos observance and building the tabernacle are prefaced by saying that G-D commanded them.

Shabbos observance testifies that G-D created the world (Exodus 20:11).

The vast complexity, interrelationships, wisdom, harmony, and beauty of the world we live in should compel anyone that is intellectually honest to conclude that there is a design behind the world. And that if there is a design then there must be a Designer.

G-D does not need us to testify on His behalf.

Shabbos observance also testifies that G-D took the Jewish people out of Egypt (Deuteronomy 5:15).

We are an identifiable and defined people that shouldn't be here.

The fact that we do exist after thirty-three centuries of impossible and grueling history should compel anyone that is intellectually honest to conclude that there is a G-D that actively manages and controls the affairs of mankind.

So again, G-D does not need us to testify on His behalf.

And our testimony should be of no use to other people, either. For if they cannot accept what appears to be compelling then there is little reason to think that they would accept the testimony of a people who were not around when the world was created and who did not live during the Exodus.

This is why our Shabbos observance is prefaced by saying that G-D commanded it. Our testimony has significance only because G-D commanded us to do so.

Regarding the tabernacle, its place is on the earth and the place of the earth is in the universe as we know it.

We are taught that G-D is infinite and He created the notion of a finite place and that place contains the universe. Our teachings say that G-D is the place of the universe.

It is therefore difficult to accept the notion of there being tabernacle for G-D, for the tabernacle is a finite place for an infinite G-D that contains all of the finite places that contain it.

Moshe himself was puzzled when G-D commanded him to build the tabernacle.

G-D basically told him not to worry about it.

This is the reason for the explicit commandment to build the tabernacle.


35:1 And Moshe (Moses) gathered all the congregation of the Children of Israel and he said to them, "These are the matters that G-d commanded to do them."

35:2 "Work shall be done for six days and on the seventh day it shall be for you a holy Shabbos (Sabbath) of Shabbos to G-d. Whoever does work during it shall be put to death."

35:3 "Do not light fire on the Shabbos wherever you live."

Several commentaries note that the first verse says that what follows will be a commandment to do something. However, the Torah speaks only about Shabbos, which is mostly defined by what we can't do.

The following came to mind.

Rav Bick, of blessed memory, reminds us that Shabbos is associated with three great events: Creation, the receiving of the Torah, and the world to come.

Taking any one of these three to heart can transform a person's life, providing it with a context and meaning that enables one to survive throughout the ups and downs of life and even of death, itself.

Creation: The world has a Something other then myself as its owner. This Something is G-D. The world had a beginning and will have an end. G-D existed before and will exist afterwards. And I will be there with Him. I do not have to let anything in this world get me down.

Torah: Shabbos is provided to us through the Torah. The Torah is an expression of G-D's will. Just like the Torah is always relevant, so is His will, because He is always observing and managing how we live and whatever happens. His will is supreme. Whatever happens to me is not the product of accident or the domination of another person's strength/intelligence over my own. G-D makes everything happen for the best of each person. I do not have to let anything in this world get me down.

The next world: We're not here forever. Rather, we're here to prepare for a great forever. Nothing in this world is permanent, even death. I do not have to let anything in this world get me down.

We need one day each week to pull ourselves out of a world that can distract us from connecting to these great sources of strength. That day is Shabbos.

The work-week loses significance without Shabbos.

Shabbos to the new-comer is a set of "Don't Do's." But it becomes the enabler of succeeding in whatever we do throughout the entire week, measured not by income levels or piles of by what we own, but by what really counts.

"These are the matters that G-d commanded to do them." By not doing things on Shabbos we are able to do things throughout the week.


35:1 And Moshe (Moses) gathered all the congregation of the Children of Israel and he said to them, "These are the matters that G-d commanded to do them."

35:2 "Work shall be done for six days and on the seventh day it shall be for you a holy Shabbos (Sabbath) of Shabbos to G-d. Whoever does work during it shall be put to death."

According to our tradition, these are the very first commandments that Moshe (Moses) gave over to the Jewish people when he came down from Mount Sinai the final time, bringing the second tablets.

They seem to introduce the next set of commandments, which relate to building the sanctuary.

They reflect passivity, 'work shall be done,' and not doing work on Shabbos.

Donating to and building the sanctuary are positive actions. If these commandments are meant to introduce the building of the sanctuary, how do they fit in?

The following came to mind.

Shabbos observance demonstrates our faith that G-D created the world. We demonstrate our faith by inactivity because G-D's acts of creation are beyond a finite person's ability to properly demonstrate.

This brings to mind another teaching. We can only truly understand and praise G-D's uniqueness by what He is NOT. That is, G-D is unlike and beyond every finite virtue and capability that we can comprehend and experience. For example, while G-D demonstrates mercy, His mercy is more vast than the mercy of the most merciful person who ever lived. His mercy is beyond that which a person can comprehend and experience. It is unique.

We must say this because a person can only deal with that which finite. As G-D is infinite and beyond man's comprehension, a person can't truly praise G-D in terms of what G-D is because we can't understand what G-D is.

Perhaps we can now understand why Moshe prefaces the instructions for building the sanctuary with the laws of Shabbos.

Moshe himself was puzzled with the charge to build the sanctuary.

He couldn't relate G-D's being infinite and everywhere with our building a finite sanctuary for Him, a structure in a specific location on this planet which has an appearance of being G-D's house, a finite structure that man builds to reflect G-D's infinite Glory. Our Medrash teaches that G-D addressed this by telling Moshe: 'You do what you can do and build the sanctuary. I'll do what I can do, (so to speak appearing to) contain Myself above the Ark of the Covenant.'

Shabbos is thus a fitting introduction to taking action and building the 'House of G-D' for Shabbos is a demonstration that man can not truly reflect that which G-D truly is. Just like we do our best to address G-D's role as the Creator by keeping Shabbos, so is G-D saying that He accepts and legitimizes whatever tasks asks us to do to build a finite sanctuary for Him.


35:1 And Moshe (Moses) gathered all the congregation of the Children of Israel and he said to them, "These are the matters that G-d commanded to do them."

The Ramban's commentary says the following:

Both men and women were included (when Moshe gathered) "the congregation of the Children of Israel." This is because they were all donors in the building of the tabernacle.

Subsequent to his breaking the tablets, Moshe charged Aharon (Aaron), the elders, and all of the men with that which G-D told him on Mount Sinai. He then covered his face with a mask and gathered both the men and the women.

This probably occurred (on the day) that he descended the mountain.

He told them about the tabernacle that was commanded prior to his breaking the tablets.

G-D reconciled with the Jewish people, giving then the second set of tablets and establishing a covenant that He will go in their midst. This indicated that the G-D's relationship and love (of the Jewish people) were restored (to that which was prior to the sin). The Divine Presence would therefore rest within the Jewish people as was initially intended, per verse 25:8. "And they shall make for Me a tabernacle and I will dwell within their midst."

Therefore, Moshe commanded them (now with) that which he was previously commanded.

It is noteworthy that Moshe first adorned himself with a mask when he addressed both men and women.

This brings to mind the Jewish ethic of tznius, modesty, whereby a person seeks to conceal that which makes him/her stand out. Perhaps he took the opportunity model this ethic within a mixed crowd, where it is more expected for women to conceal that which makes them attractive to men.


35:1 And Moshe (Moses) gathered all the congregation of the Children of Israel and he said to them, "These are the matters that G-d commanded to do them."

35:2 "Work shall be done for six days and on the seventh day it shall be for you a holy Shabbos (Sabbath) of Shabbos to G-d. Whoever does work during it shall be put to death."

35:3 "Burn no fire in all of your dwellings on the day of Shabbos."

The opening verse appears to introduce a commandment that one must do.

Verse 35:2 says that 'work shall be done' but does not specify what is to be done. It refers to work in a passive manner and is therefore difficult to view this as the objective commandment of verse 35:1.

Verse 35:2 says that the seventh day shall be holy. It does not delineate what we are supposed to do to make it holy, other than assigning its abuse as a capital crime. It is therefore difficult to find the objective commandment of 35:1 in this verse.

Verse 35:3, the final verse in this section, tells us not to do something. The commandment of 35:1 is for us to do something.

What then is the objective commandment of 35:1?

Also, 35:1 says, "These are the matters that G-d commanded to do them." What is the meaning of the last word in this sentence?

The following came to mind.

The Oral Torah teaches us the following (Sanhedrin 99b):

(The great sage) Resh Lakesh said, "The scripture views someone who teaches Torah to the son of his fellow as if he made him. (We see this from the verse) that says, 'And the souls that he (Avrohom - Abraham) made in Charan.'"

Rabbi Eliezer said, "It's as if he made them for words of Torah. (We see this from the verse) that says, 'And you shall guard the words of this covenant and do them.'"

(The great sage) Rava said, "It's as if he made himself. (We see this from the verse) '..and do them.' Read not the words 'do them' [Va-asisem osum]. Rather, read them 'make yourselves' [Va-asisem atem]."

Rava's derives an important lesson by transforming the Hebrew word 'Osum' into the Hebrew word, 'Atem.'

I wonder if we can do the same for verse 35:1. If so, it would read "These are the matters that G-d commanded for you to make yourselves."

Perhaps there is no objective commandment for verse 35:1. Rather, G-d is telling us how we can make ourselves, that we must make ourselves.

It is an unfortunate mark of the times that a number people do not appreciate the value of observing Shabbos. It is so easy for a person to count each day as a salary multiplier and therefore view Shabbos as an obstacle to additional income or opportunity.

However, those who do observe the Shabbos can readily testify that Shabbos observance is not merely an additional dimension to life. It puts life in an entirely different perspective. Observing Shabbos as directed by the Torah gives quality to life and it becomes a key source of life. Relative to the person who works the twenty-four by seven cycle, the person who refrains from doing creative work one day each week feels that the work week does not reduce them into becoming a machine. Rather, one day a week the person affirms that he/she is truly a living person, a being of potential greatness.

G-d is our creator, the source of all life and greatness, and He is insistent that we become great according to that which He designed us for.


35:5 Take from yourselves a donation for G-D. Whoever's heart moves them (to do so) will bring the donation for G-D. (Bring the) gold, silver, and copper (that are needed for building material).

The Sefurno commentary provides the following reading for this verse.

Take from yourselves a donation for G-D. Whoever's heart moves them (to do so) will bring it together with the (half-shekel) donation for G-D (that they must bring.) (Bring the) gold, silver, and copper (that are needed for building material).

According to this reading, what was the benefit of requiring that the donors bring their building material together with the mandatory half-shekel?

The following came to mind.

Everyone got on line to give the half-shekel but it was possible that not everyone brought building material because the latter was completely voluntary.

This requirement caused those who brought no building or those whose donation was meager to see how much other people were donating so that they would be moved to give a proper donation.

It was not that G-D was looking for ways to wring more building material out of the population. Heaven forbid. Rather, G-D knew that the window of opportunity to give personal donations would rapidly close and many people who were not ready to donate at that time would later feel left out and ashamed, especially once they saw the building in its full glory. He therefore gave them a way to be inspired by others to give a voluntary donation that matched their true ability and their inner desire to give.


35:10 And all those among you who are wise shall come and make all that G-D commanded:

35:11 The sanctuary, its tent and its covering, its clasps, and its beams, its bars, its pillars, and its foundation sockets.

Rashi provides the following commentary for 35:11: "The sanctuary:" These are the inner layer of curtains, those that were seen from the inside are called the sanctuary."

The portable sanctuary of Moshe's (Moses') time had a framework of beams that stood upright on their ends. The ends were inserted into foundation sockets. The beams were covered with gold and the sockets were made from silver. The beams were held together by bars and rings. Pillars from which curtains were hung were added to the structure. The entire structure was covered by three layers of curtains. The inner-most layer consisted of a woven blend of several materials. This layer formed a roof for the structure and it also covered the beams from the outside. This roof was visible from the inside. It is this layer of curtains that Rashi refers to as the sanctuary. There was a second layer of curtains and they were made of goat's hair. This layer is referred to as the tent of the sanctuary because it covered the first layer of curtains which is identified as being the sanctuary. There was a third layer that was made from animal skin. This is referred to as the covering.

Rashi's source for naming the inner-most layer as the sanctuary may very well be Exodus 26:1 where these curtains are explicitly referenced to as the sanctuary.

What was the significance of this layer of curtains that the sanctuary was named for them?

Rashi on the Talmud (Menachos 99a) writes of a very unusual way that the sanctuary was assembled.

One would expect that the assembly began with making an outline in the sand for the foundation. The foundation sockets would be aligned by the outline and positioned accordingly. The beams would afterwards be inserted into the sockets and then strengthened by the support bars and rings. The pillars would follow to complete the structure. Once the walls were solidly upright, the inner layer of curtains should be spread over the beams and pillars, followed by the second layer, and then followed by the third.

But the sanctuary was not assembled in this manner.

Instead, the inner layer of curtains were spread over the area where the sanctuary was going to be set up. They were held up while the sockets, beams, and pillars were placed under them.

This is reflected by a verse in the next Torah reading:

40:18 And Moshe set up the sanctuary (- the inner layer of curtains). And he placed its sockets and he put its beams and he placed its bars and he set up its pillars.

What message can we derive from the unusual manner in which the sanctuary was assembled? Why didn't they begin the assembly from the foundation upwards?

The following came to mind.

The entire structure of G-D's sanctuary was aligned by the curtains, something that was from above, not by marks on the sand from below.

Perhaps this represents the charge we are given to align our lives by factors which come from above, not by earthly factors. And we must not stand apart from these lofty factors Rather, we must make them a part of our inner being. So important are these lessons that the entire sanctuary is named after a single layer of curtains that hung from above and was visible to only those who stood from within.

In effect we did indeed begin the construction from the foundation, that from above, and from there we proceeded downwards.


35:10 And all those among you who are wise shall come and make all that G-D commanded:

35:11 The sanctuary, its tent and its covering, its clasps, and its beams, its bars, its pillars, and its foundation sockets.

Rashi provides the following commentary for 35:11: "The sanctuary:" These are the inner layer of curtains, those that were seen from the inside are called the sanctuary."

We had previously cited a Rashi on the Talmud (Menachos 99a) that writes of a very unusual way that the sanctuary was assembled.

The inner layer of curtains was spread over the area where the sanctuary was going to be set up. They were held up while the sockets, beams, and pillars were placed under them.

Our literature compares the succa hut that we live in during the holiday of Succos with the sanctuary.

Like the sanctuary, it has walls and a roof-like covering. However, unlike the sanctuary, the walls must be erected prior to the covering in order for the succa to be valid.

This brought the following to mind.

For the purpose of this discussion, one can call the sanctuary a dwelling place of G-D. The succa is mainly a dwelling place for man.

It appears that with respect to our relationship with G-D, reflected by the sanctuary, our ability to have a consciousness of having an existence and our own identity is through a separation that G-D willed. While we do not operate in this truest sense of reality, we have no independent existence, for all of reality is so to speak within G-D. Perhaps we can view this separation is being reflected by the inner layer of curtains, that which was visible from within the sanctuary.

While the sanctuary's walls were necessary, they were completely subordinate to the covering from above. Again in the truest sense of reality but not in our operative reality, there are no walls between us and G-D. In our non-operative reality we have no independent existence for G-D is alone.

However, the succa is our living place. Besides having a consciousness of existence, man has individuality, as there are many different people.

While G-D is and is One, men are different, they grow and they become. Man begins as an individual and grows towards managing his identity and individuality with respect to G-D's will. Perhaps we can associate this with the need for a succa to first have walls, representing individuality, to be followed by the covering from above.


35:21 And every man whose heart uplifted him came, and those whose spirit moved them brought a donation to G-d for the work of the Tent of Meeting, and for all of its work, and for the holy garments.

In his commentary, the Ramban explains that this verse refers to two groups of people. The people who actually did the work are described as people whose heart uplifted them. The donors are those whose spirit moved them to bring a donation.

The order in which they are listed in the verse made me think that the Torah assigned more distinction to the people who accepted the responsibility to do the work than to those who made donations.

Major contributors do certainly belong on the dais in an organization's annual dinner. This verse suggests that we recognize the staff and volunteers at least as much.

Donors give up their money. They may walk away after the dinner.

The dedicated worker gives to the organization his/her time and even their career. The cause is a part of their life.

The teaching and administrative staff sits on the dais at the annual dinner of my children's school, the Lakewood Cheder School.


35:26 And the women whose heart moved them with wisdom spun (goat hair together) with the goat.

The above reflects Rashi’s reading, that the women were divinely inspired and were able to spin the thread right off the backs of the goats.

One usually shears the goat before spinning its hair into thread. Why did the women make the threads in this most unusual manner?

Rabbi Yonasan Eibeschutz provides the following explanation.

A live animal is not susceptible to contracting a state of ritual impurity. The thread that the women spun was not susceptible either, as it was still attached to the goat. This technique enabled everybody to participate in some way with the construction of the sanctuary, regardless of their personal state of ritual purity. It also avoided people being singled out because of their temporary disqualification.


36:7 And all of the work (that the people did to make the items that they donated) was sufficient for all of the (items that were needed for the) work to make it [i.e. the Tabernacle). And there was more than enough.

When assessing the amount that was brought to build the Tabernacle there can only be one of three possibilities. Either there was not enough, there was enough, or there was more than enough.

This verse says that there was both enough and there was more than enough.

The Ohr Hachayim commentary says the following on this apparent contradiction.

The eager and generous Jewish people made and brought more than that was needed to build the Tabernacle.

But to ensure that each donor would feel that his/her contribution was vital and made a difference, G-D made a miracle and it always appeared as if there was not enough.

And when it appeared to those in charge that they did had enough, they announced that the people should stop brining donations. And only then did they see that they had more than enough.


36:8 And all craftsman with wisdom of heart made the sanctuary of ten curtains (made of) spun linen, blue wool, purple wool, red wool, with woven cheruvim emblems did they make them.

36:13 And he made fifty golden clasps. And he connected one curtain to the other with the clasps. And the sanctuary was one.

From the wording of these verse and others, we note that this set of curtains was called the sanctuary. That is, they were not curtains for the sanctuary. Rather they were the sanctuary. What was so unique about these curtains?

The instructions called for ten curtains to be made. They were divided into two sets of five curtains each. The curtains of each set were sewn together and then the two sets were connected with golden clasps. Why did they have to be sewn together? Why weren't we instructed to make two large curtains in the first place?

In general, this chapter describes what was constructed and chapter 40 describes the assembly. Why does verse 13 provide detail for the assembly? Why is this not written later in chapter 40?

Perhaps verse 13 provides a hint to the answer when it states that "the sanctuary was one."

The major purpose of the sanctuary was the connection of G-D and mankind, with each person and his/her fellow. Perhaps this is why there is a special requirement to connect the curtains. Perhaps this is why the sanctuary is named by the curtains. Perhaps this is why detail on the assembly is provided here to establish this focus early on, during the construction.


36:13 And he made fifty golden hooks (for the two sets curtains that formed the sanctuary). And he connected the (two sets of) curtains one with another with the hooks. And the (curtains that formed the) sanctuary became one (unit).

36:18 And he made fifty copper hooks to connect (the two sets of curtains that formed) the tent (that covered the sanctuary’s set of curtains) so that it should be one (large tent).

Both verses speak about two sets of hooks that each connected two large sets of curtains. One set was made of gold and the other was copper. Besides this obvious difference, we note variations in the words.

The first verse says that he made the hooks. Then it tells us that he used them to connect the curtains. And by doing so, the curtains that formed the sanctuary became one unit.

The second verse says that he made them in order to connect the curtains so that they should form one large tent.

The Meshech Chochma provides the following commentary.

Our ancestors dwelt in tents and we can assume that the hooks they used to make their tents were made out of copper, not gold.

Since nobody had golden tent hooks, the sanctuary’s hooks were custom made, with the intent that they would be used for the sanctuary.

However, copper tent hooks were common. It was not appropriate to use them for the sanctuary because those who made them did not have the intent that they would ever be used for the sanctuary.

Externally, the sanctuary’s hooks looked exactly like the common tent hook. But when it comes to anything related to worship, and especially the sanctuary, what’s inside also counts, sometimes even more. Especially so when they were used to create a unity, which is a big part of what the sanctuary was all about.


The walls of the Tabernacle were held up by forty-eight massive beams. They were ten cubits long and stood upright on their ends. They formed the two side walls and the back wall, making a structure in the shape of the letter 'C'.

There were two courses of beams on each side and there was one for the back wall. Each course was held together by a pair of rods. The beams were mounted into silver sockets that lined the foundation. They were connected on top by a course of rings.

[Walls of the Sanctuary]

There was a central rod that spanned the three sides. It was solid and was inserted through the thickness of one of the side walls.

The Talmud (Shabbos 98b) says that the central rod stood/existed by miracle. Rashi in his explanation of the Talmud says that it bent around three walls when it was inserted, by miracle. That is, they pushed it through the center of one side wall, it bent and went through the back wall, and then it bent and went through the center of the opposite side wall.

The Talmud says that it existed by miracle and Rashi says that it bent by miracle. Rashi is supposed to be explaining the Talmud. However, it appears that here Rashi is saying something other than the Talmud. How can this be?

While teaching us about the central rod that was in the sanctuary, it came to mind that perhaps the Talmud and Rashi are also using this central rod as a metaphore. Perhaps they are trying to teach us a lesson for living.

Many communities are gifted with one or more people who serve as a central rod in a social sense, in that they hold the community together.

The Talmud and Rashi remind me of the need for us all, and especially these people, to be socially flexible in order to succeed in being caring and effective human beings.

So, the Talmud is telling us that these 'rods' exist. Rashi is thus explaining how they can exist.


Of the major Holy utensils and their components mentioned in this portion of the Torah, I counted three major items which are made from pure metal. They are the Kiyor (washing station), the Kapores (the covering of the Ark), and the Menora.

When thinking about what they have in common, the theme of Jewish continuity came to mind.

The women donated their mirrors for the Kiyor, made of solid copper in those days. Moshe was hesitant to accept them for the Holy Temple because they are typically used merely for charm and vanity. However, G-d told Moshe that the mirrors from these women had great significance and He would very much like them to grace the Holy Temple.

One of the tactics used by the Egyptians to destroy the Jewish people was to impose the enslavement in such a way as to interfere with family life. Harsh demands of work forced the men to sleep in the fields, not in their homes. The Medrash says that the women of that time brought their husbands' meals to private areas in the work field. After feeding and comforting their broken and exhausted husbands, the heroic women took out their mirrors and talked about their beauty. These women knew full well that the children that they will bear may indeed be killed or enslaved by the Egyptians. Yet they refused to give up hope on the continuity of the Jewish people.

The Kiyor thus symbolizes the physical continuity of the Jewish people.

The Kapores covered the Holy Ark and two Cherubim extended from it. The Torah says that it was made to appear as through the voice of G-d emanated from between the Cherubim (Exodus 25:22). The Kapores was thus the Jewish people's most visible link to G-d Himself, the source of all existence and continuity.

We now have both physical continuity and the Source of all continuity. We now need to link the physical continuity with the Source. Our link is with the Torah, symbolized by the light of the Menorah.

These three Holy utensils thus symbolize the continuity of the Jewish people. All three are pure.


Pekudei (Exodus 38-40)

38:21 These are the accountings of the Sanctuary ('mishkan'), the Sanctuary ('mishkan') of the Testimony that was audited by Moshe's (Moses'), authorization. (It was in) the work domain of the Levites who were in the charge of Isamar, son of Aharon (Aaron) the Kohen.

Rashi provides the following commentary:

"The mishkan, the mishkan:" (The word 'mishkan' is written) two times. This is a hint to the (First and Second) Temples that were used as collateral [mashkon] two times [and] destroyed because of the sins of the Jewish people.

"Mikdash" is Hebrew for temple, "mishkan" is Hebrew for sanctuary, and "mashkon" is Hebrew for collateral.

Moshe and the Jewish people built the Sanctuary. It was retired and replaced by the First Temple that King Shlomo (Solomon). That Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians, was later rebuilt by those who returned from the Babylonian exile. The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans.

Other sanctuaries during biblical times were destroyed such as those in Shiloh, Nove, and Giveon.

The destructions of the First and Second temples were perhaps singled out because the Jewish people were unable to rebuild them without permission from the empires that seized control of the region.

This is consistent with notion of collateral, which is held by a creditor until a debt is repaid. Until the repayment, the lender still owns the item but is unable to use it.

Should a creditor be assigned the collateral as payment for the loan then the item would no longer considered collateral and the lender would cease to own it.

Times haven't changed and for over nineteen hundred years we remained unable to rebuild the Temple. And we have no plans to do so, for we are taught that it will be restored only though an Act of G-D.

The fact that the Torah considers the destruction of the Second Temple as a seizure of collateral is a source of consolation and hope, for if it could never and would never be restored then the Torah would not have made this reference.


38:21 These are the accountings of the Sanctuary ('mishkan'), the Sanctuary ('mishkan') of the Testimony that was audited by Moshe's (Moses'), authorization. (It was in) the work domain of the Levites who were in the charge of Isamar, son of Aharon (Aaron) the Kohen.

Rashi provides the following commentary:

"The mishkan, the mishkan:" (The word 'mishkan' is written) two times. This is a hint to the Temples that were used as collateral [mashkon] two times [and] destroyed because of the sins of the Jewish people.

Moshe and the Jewish people built the Sanctuary. It was retired and fully replaced by the Temple that King Shlomo (Solomon). The Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians, was later rebuilt by those who returned from the Babylonian exile. The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans.

"Mikdash" is Hebrew for temple, "mishkan" is Hebrew for sanctuary, and "mashkon" is Hebrew for collateral.

How do we apply the concept of collateral to the destruction of the two temples?

The focus of the text at this point in the Torah reading is on the Sanctuary. Is the Torah connecting Sanctuary and the Temples only because the Hebrew for sanctuary is similar to the Hebrew for collateral or is there a deeper meaning?

And what ever happened to the Sanctuary that Moshe and the Jewish people constructed after it was retired?

The following came to mind.

When collateral is taken for a loan it means that there will be a future payment. If the lender can not pay then payment comes from the collateral.

The Jewish people had shortcomings and the temples were destroyed as a result. Having been destroyed, payment can no longer come from the temples. Their being associated with collateral means that the Jewish people will restore themselves, either through repentance or through being purged by a long and bitter exile.

We are taught that the Sanctuary was buried and hidden away for a time in the future, as it was built by Moshe and deserves to be everlasting.

Similarly, the Jewish people have survived their history and will so continue, according to G-D's plan and promise to their ancestors, under His guidance of history.


38:21 These are the accountings of the Sanctuary ('mishkan'), the Sanctuary ('mishkan') of the Testimony that was audited by Moshe's (Moses'), authorization. (It was in) the work domain of the Levites who were in the charge of Isamar, son of Aharon (Aaron) the Kohen.

The Seforno associates this verse with Numbers 4:32-33 where reference is made to the poles, sockets, stakes, and cords that were placed in the charge of Isamar. It is there that the Torah commands us to make an accounting of names for those relatively minor parts of the Sanctuary. The Seforno understands this to mean that each and every utensil was assigned an individual name because of its distinction. He notes that we should expect that individual names were also assigned to the major utensils of the sanctuary. The Seforno then compares the Sanctuary that Moshe built with King Shlomo's (Solomon's) Temple and says that the distinctions that were given to the Sanctuary's components were not given to the Temple's components. He references the teaching (Yoma 72a) that Moshe's Sanctuary was never destroyed and still lies somewhere in a state of preservation. He concludes that the Sanctuary's distinctions caused it to become eternal and the Temple's lack of these distinctions enabled it to be destroyed.

The Seforno does not explain the connection between the distinctions and the vulnerabilities of these two great buildings. The following came to mind.

The Torah states in several places an expectation that the donations for the Sanctuary must be voluntary. This relates to the person's desire and yearning to connect with the Sanctuary.

The Torah (Divrei Hayomim / Chronicles I, 29:9, 17, 18) writes that the donations for the Temple were given by the people with great joy.

Desire is associated with a relationship whereas joy is associated with achievement. Joy is relatively external with respect to desire.

The construction of the Sanctuary demonstrated that G-D accepted the repentance of the Jewish people. It confirmed our deep relationship with Him. The construction of the Temple demonstrated our great achievements as a nation of G-D.

Our relationship with G-D is eternal and demonstrates His love of our ancestors and our being called His children, both collectively and individually. Perhaps this gives reason to every component being named, for our close relationship with G-D reaches down to each and every Jew. This also explains why the Sanctuary is indestructible, for so is our relationship with G-D. In contrast, the Temple was dependent on the degree of our spiritual success, which is not guaranteed until the End of Days, may they soon arrive.


38:21 These are the accountings of the Sanctuary ('mishkan'), the Sanctuary ('mishkan') of the Testimony that was audited by Moshe's (Moses'), authorization. (It was in) the work domain of the Levites who were in the charge of Isamar, son of Aharon (Aaron) the Kohen.

The Hebrew word for Sanctuary is 'mishkan' and it has the same letters as the word 'mashkon,' which means the collateral for a loan.

The word 'mishkan' is duplicated in this verse and Rashi comments that the Torah does this to make a hint to the destruction of our two Temples that were later taken in collateral because of the sins of the Jewish people.

From Jewish history we know that the First Temple was built four-hundred-eighty years after the Exodus by King Shlomo (Solomon) with the assistance of Tzor, a neighboring kingdom. It was destroyed four-hundred-ten years later by the Babylonians. The Second Temple was built seventy years after this destruction and it was rebuilt with the support of the Persian emperor Cyrus.

Now, the sections in the end of Leviticus and Deuteronomy discuss the dire consequences of departure from Torah standards. The destruction of both Temples are hinted to there. What is the relevance of bringing up these calamities in this section of the Torah?

Furthermore, why is the destruction of the two Temples associated with the Sanctuary that Moshe built? The Sefurno's commentary lists several factors that made Moshe's Sanctuary superior to both Temples. Firstly it housed the Tablets of Testimony. Second, it was in the charge of the righteous Isamar, Aharon's son. Third, it was made only by righteous and Jewish artisans such as Betzalel and his workers. The Sefurno writes that it was therefore fitting that Moshe's sanctuary was never given over into the hands of our enemies.

If the reasons for the destruction of the two Temples were not applicable to the Sanctuary of Moshe then why does the Torah associate these calamities with the Sanctuary?

Also, why is this theme hinted to by means of a duplication?

Finally, collateral is used for a loan. Why is the of the Temple associated with a loan?

The following came to mind.

G-D promised the Jewish people with the privilege of building His Temple and this was fulfilled in Shlomo's time.

The construction of the First Temple was apex in a cyclical path of material and spiritual growth and accomplishment for the Jewish people, beginning with the Exodus and peaking with the glorious period of Shlomo's Temple.

Our history spiraled downwards after Shlomo's death and hit the bottom with the destruction.

As with all privileges there were strings attached to having a building that G-D authorized our saying that He is related to it. To maintain this privilege we expected to maintain our standards behavior. Perhaps this explains the association of the loan.

We failed to match our behavior to expectations and we suffered greatly from the consequences. We lost the Temple. We lost our residence. We lost our government. We were broken and impoverished.

Detractors were (and still are) certain that we were spiritually rejected by the G-D of our ancestors, the One who took us out from Egypt, the One who revealed Himself at Mount Sinai, the One who we betrayed.

And yet, just seventy years later we were given the privilege of building another Temple.

This gives great significance to construction of the Second Temple. This is a duplication of history which is clearly documented in the Bible. It showed the world and ourselves that while we could be punished, we were not rejected. And we await the construction of the Third Temple, may it occur speedily in our days.

We are taught that our successes in our history do not necessarily reflect our achievement. Rather we were given many gifts because of the great achievements of our ancestors, among which is Moshe's construction of the Sanctuary.

Perhaps this is why the Sanctuary was associated with the two Temples. Perhaps the duplication of words in our Torah reading is a hint that we can and will succeed despite our shortcomings.


38:21 These are the accountings of the Sanctuary ('mishkan'), the Sanctuary ('mishkan') of the Testimony that was audited by Moshe's (Moses'), authorization. (It was in) the work domain of the Levites who were in the charge of Isamar, son of Aharon (Aaron) the Kohen.

Rashi provides the commentary that follows.

(1) "These are the accountings:" All of the weights of the donations of the tabernacle were counted in this portion, for silver, gold, and copper. And all of its vessels for all of its service were counted.

(2) "The mishkan, the mishkan:" (The word 'mishkan' is written consecutively) two times. This is a hint to the temple that was taken as collateral [mashkon] twice in destruction because of the sins of Israel.

(3) "The mishkan of testimony:" It is a testimony to Israel that G-d released them from the (sin of the) golden calf, because He rested His presence within them.

In Rashi number one, why was silver mentioned first? In the Torah, gold is usually first, followed by silver and then copper.

According to the second Rashi, why was the destruction of the Temple mentioned here, in the section of accounting? In a section that delineates what we gave, why is the Torah mentioning something that was taken away from us?

The third Rashi appears to contradict the second. Is the Torah focusing on the consequence of our sins or on our being released from the consequence of our sins?

Is the testimony from the tabernacle, from the temple, or from both? The simple translation of mishkan is 'tabernacle' and the Torah records that the Divine presence came into the tabernacle But, the second Rashi relates the mishkan to the destruction of the two temples, when the Divine presence left.

Finally, the Torah requires two witnesses for testimony. If the testimony is from the tabernacle, there was only one. If the testimony is from the two temples, what type of testimony can we derive from their destruction?

The following came to mind.

We are taught in the Oral Torah that every misfortune which befalls the Jewish people brings with it some additional purge for the sin of the golden calf (Rashi Exodus 32:34).

Collateral is taken for a loan. The intent in taking collateral is to give it back when the debt is repaid. If there is no intent of return, then the transaction is not a loan but a sale.

If the destruction of the First Temple was an act of collection, then the restoration of the Second Temple demonstrated a redemption from debt. It follows that if the destruction of the Second Temple was an act of collection, then the restoration of the Third Temple (may it occur speedily in our time), will also demonstrate redemption from debt. We fully believe that this will occur during the Messianic Era.

The Oral Torah teaches that our long and painful history prior to the Messianic Era will bring about a full purge and spiritual restoration. It is our final payment. The Third Temple will never be destroyed.

So, the testimony comes from the restorations, not the destruction. When G-d restores the Third Temple, it will demonstrate that the second destruction was only an act of collateral. The period prior to this restoration is one of an appearance of humiliation.

We are taught that the Messianic Era will usher in a period of great wisdom and insight. Mankind will be given the ability to view and understand all of history as a grand path towards perfection. We will be able to account for every fortune and misfortune and see how they all contributed towards this great goal. It is therefore very fitting to mention the testimony of the restorations, G-d's great gift to the Jewish people and to Mankind, in a place where the Torah makes an accounting of that which the Jewish people donated.

The Hebrew word for silver is kesef. The word is closely related to the Hebrew word, kisuf, which means humiliation. Perhaps Rashi was hinting to our thesis by mentioning silver first.


38:22 And Betzalel son of Uri son of Chur of the Tribe of Yehudah (Judah) did all that Hashem (G-D) commanded Moshe (Moses).

It appears that the Torah is commending Betzalel for doing that which he was expected to do. This begs an explanation.

The Talmud (Brachos 55a) provides the following information.

G-D asked Moshe to tell Betzalel to build the sanctuary, the ark, and the vessels. Moshe reversed the order and told Betzalel to build the ark, the vessels, and the sanctuary.

Betzalel said to Moshe, "It is customary for a person to build a house and then bring furniture into it. However, you appear to be saying that I should make the vessels and then the building. If I make the vessels before I have a building then where will I put them? Could it be that G-D told you to build the sanctuary, the ark and vessels?"

Moshe said yes and Betzalel made the sanctuary first.

We now understand why Betzalel was commended. Indeed, Betzalel did what G-D commanded Moshe, which was slightly different from what Moshe had initially told him to do.

But we now have to understand why Moshe reversed the order.

Furthermore, Betzalel's response to Moshe is based on the premise that the sanctuary would be erected to house the vessels before he made them.

However, we have a tradition that the components of the sanctuary and all of its vessels were completed during what later became the holiday of Chanukah. The sanctuary was not erected at that time. Instead, the sanctuary and its vessels were put into storage until close to Passover, when everything was dedicated.

What difference did the order of construction make?

The Chavatzeles Hasharon commentary provides background that the sanctuary served no less than two purposes.

The main function of the sanctuary was to provide an environment to connect the Jewish people with G-D through worship and sacrifices.

It also served to house the Ark of the Covenant, which had special a distinction. This Ark was a sort of channel through which G-D communicated His Torah to Moshe. This connected the Jewish people to G-D's will, their mission, ancestors, their destiny, and their eternity.

We can understand why Moshe reversed the order and began with the Ark to recognize the privilege of our having the Torah.

Betzalel knew that the main purpose for Jewish people to come together with G-D in His house for worship and sacrifices. Out of great respect for our great teacher he chose to hint about to this theme instead of directly questioning Moshe on why he reversed the order.


38:22 And Betzalel son of Uri son of Chur of the Tribe of Yehudah (Judah) did all that Hashem (G-D) commanded Moshe (Moses).

It appears that the Torah is commending Betzalel for doing that which he was expected to do. This begs an explanation.

The Talmud (Brachos 55a) provides the following information.

G-D asked Moshe to tell Betzalel to build the sanctuary, the ark, and the vessels. Moshe reversed the order and told Betzalel to build the ark, the vessels, and the sanctuary.

Betzalel said to Moshe, "It is customary for a person to build a house and then bring furniture into it. However, you appear to be saying that I should make the vessels and then the building. If I make the vessels before I have a building then where will I put them? Could it be that G-D told you to build the sanctuary, the ark and vessels?"

Moshe said yes and Betzalel made the sanctuary first.

We now understand why Betzalel was commended. Indeed, Betzalel did what G-D commanded Moshe, which was slightly different from what Moshe had initially told him to do.

But we now have to understand why Moshe reversed the order.

Furthermore, Betzalel's response to Moshe is based on the premise that the sanctuary would be erected to house the vessels before he made them.

However, we have a tradition that the components of the sanctuary and all of its vessels were completed during what later became the holiday of Chanukah. The sanctuary was not erected at that time. Instead, the sanctuary and its vessels were put into storage until close to Passover, when everything was dedicated.

What difference did the order of construction make?

The following came to mind.

Everyone viewed the charge to build the sanctuary as a privilege and as a way to both express and demonstrate our unique relationship with G-D. The Jewish people were more than eager to enhance the sanctuary to their utmost ability.

But the sanctuary does not lend itself to any enhancements, for every detail was specified by G-D. As such, it was not possible to add value to what was constructed.

However, it was possible to add value by the way we constructed it.

One acquires furniture only after he has a place to put it because it's both fragile and valuable. You would never put furniture in an empty lot and then build a house around it because it can get ruined.

Betzalel asked the question to express a regard for the value and significance of the vessels.

Perhaps Moshe reversed the order to give Betzalel an opportunity to ask the question. This provided him with merit for expressing this regard and it also gave the Jewish people the merit of carrying it out into action by making the sanctuary first.

Whether the sanctuary would initially house the vessels as they were made was of secondary significance.


39:21 And they attached the breastplate with a blue ('techeles') cord by its rings to the rings of the apron to be (fastened) above the belt ('cheshev') of the apron (so that) the breastplate will not separate from above the apron.

The top part of the apron served as its belt. There were rings on the belt which corresponded to rings on the bottom of the breastplate. Blue cords went through these rings and connected the breastplate to the apron.

The Oral Torah points out that the separation of the breastplate from the apron is one of the six-hundred-thirteen Biblical commandments.

What message can we take from this prohibition? The following came to mind.

The Talmud (Arachin 16a) teaches that the high-priest's clothing provides atonement for the Jewish people. It states that the breastplate atones for misjudgment and the apron atones for idolatry.

It is also noteworthy that the Hebrew word for the apron's belt is 'cheshev,' which has the same letters as the Hebrew word that means thought.

We've previously mentioned that there are two types of faith, those which amassed followers persuasion and those that amassed followers by that which they experienced.

Persuasion-based faiths begin with one or more core founders who use a combination force, social pressure, and direct persuasion to get others to commit to their faith. Their children inherit the decision of their ancestors.

Adherents of an experience-based faith become committed from events that they have personally experienced. Their children inherit both their decision and their history.

The Jewish people have as much of an experience-based faith as you can ever find.

As we are only human, we are subject to being persuaded and seduced so at times we need effort and protection to remain connected to our faith.

We can perhaps see this from the belt, which suggests thought, being fixed to the top of the apron, reminding us that the best defense against theological seduction is common sense. Perhaps this is reinforced by the mandate for the breastplate, which stands for judgment, to be continually attached to the apron, which suggests theology.

We can perhaps see another defense from the techeles cord providing the attachment.

Numbers 15:38 commands us to include cords of techeles with the strings that must be tied to our four-cornered garments. Verse 39 states that the strings serve to remind us of all of G-D's commandments so that we may perform them.

The more one practices the Torah's commandments the less likely one is to undo their life and hopes by being talked into adopting a foreign theology.


39:33 And they brought the sanctuary to Moshe (Moses), the tent and all of its utensils, its clasps, its boards, its cross-bars, and its pillars, and its sockets.

39:36 And the table and all its utensils and the multi-faced bread.

39:43 And Moshe saw all of the work (that had been done) and behold they made it (according to specification). They did just as G-D commanded. And Moshe blessed them.

40:17 And it was on the first month of the second year, on the first day of month (that) the sanctuary was set up.

40:18 And Moshe set up the sanctuary. And he put (on) its sockets and he placed its boards, and he put (up) its cross-bars. And he set up its pillars.

40:19 And he spread the tent over the sanctuary. And he placed the tent covering over the tent from above, just as G-D commanded Moshe.

Moshe was constantly available to give instruction as needed. We can assume that he made frequent visits. Why did they bring the sanctuary to him if he was never far away?

We have a tradition that they completed the construction on the twenty-fifth day of the month of Kislev. Over a thousand years later this day became the first day of Chanukah.

The Torah writes that the sanctuary was set up on the first day of the month of Nisan, over four months after the construction was completed. This is interesting.

We know from Leviticus 8-9 that a seven-day inaugural preceded Nisan and that Moshe set up the sanctuary each day (Rashi Leviticus 9:23). The first of Nisan was the last day that he set up the sanctuary and that it was set up thereafter by the Levites.

It is interesting that they made the multi-faced bread back in Kislev. Did they expect it to last for four months, when it was actually needed?

Verse 40:17 says that the sanctuary was set up. It doesn't say who set it up or how it was set up. Verse 40:18 says that Moshe set up the sanctuary. This is interesting.

Verse 40:19 says that Moshe did "just as G-D commanded Moshe." This is an interesting construct. And this same phrase is repeated six more times in the next thirteen verses. Why?

A thought came to mind, although it doesn't answer all of these questions.

The Talmud states that it was very difficult to make this bread and it required unique skills (Yuma 38a). The bread may have been made for testing.

And perhaps the transportation of the sanctuary and all its components was an exercise, as they need to verify that it was transportable. But if so, why did they make Moshe the end-point of the exercise?

Rashi on 39:33 cites a Medrash Tanchuma. Looking there clarifies many issues.

But first as a background, while building the sanctuary itself was a great privilege, it also signaled forgiveness for our sin of the Golden Calf.

Back then, one of our problems was that we panicked instead of waiting a bit longer for Moshe to return.

The restoration appeared at hand when Moshe arrived a third time, on what later became Yom Kippur.

And with his arrival came the promise that it would become obvious that G-D dwells within the Jewish people, once the sanctuary was constructed and erected.

The Jewish people were thrilled to hear this. They donated everything needed and more within several days. And they proceeded to construct the sanctuary with such zeal that it was done within seventy-five days.

The Jewish people tried to erect the sanctuary on their own. Perhaps some people expected this to bring a tremendous revelation of G-D's presence, which actually did occur much later, on the first of Nisan.

What they didn't know back then was that they would have to wait for several anxious months for the inauguration.

Perhaps this served to atone for the anxiety that drove them to make the Golden Calf.

The Medrash says that a very strange thing happened. No matter how hard they tried, the structure collapsed every time they tried to set it up. It seems that the boards were too heavy to stand on their own, despite the cross-bars and sockets. Betzalel was the grand master of the entire project and he was brought into this problem. He couldn't figure it out, either.

Now, within a nation of six-hundred-thousand males age twenty and up it's quite likely to have at least one person who thinks and speaks in an un-refined manner. Apparently, someone blamed Moshe for the problem, claiming he left out a critical part in his instructions.

To clear the air in a way that would not demean that person or those individuals, they decided to haul the entire enterprise over to Moshe, piece by piece, so that nothing remained at the construction site and so that he can publicly confirm that every part was indeed made, and to specification.

And to bring home that Moshe faithfully conveyed everything to the Jewish people, the Torah states seven times that everything was done "just as G-D commanded Moshe."

So we come to the conclusion that the sanctuary was designed in such a way that the laws of physics would not allow it to stand erect for very long before collapsing, without Divine intervention of course.

Doesn't this sound a bit like human history? Indeed, the Kabbalists write that the sanctuary is in some way a reflection of our world.

But why did it take a Moshe to get involved for the sanctuary to remain safely upright?

The Medrash says that Moshe dearly wanted to have a role in the actual construction. But his role as teacher and mentor did give him the opportunity to be physically involved. G-D saw his distress and reserved for him the "physically impossible" job of erecting the sanctuary.

This is why verse 40:17 says that the sanctuary was set up, for while it looked like Moshe was erecting the sanctuary, it was actually done through Divine intervention.

If so, what does verse 40:18 mean when it states that "Moshe set up the sanctuary?"

The Mizrachi commentary states that Moshe infused within the sanctuary the ability for others to repeat what he did, which was to successfully erect the sanctuary.

And tradition teaches that the sanctuary remains erect to this day, someplace on or inside this earth.


39:33 And they brought the sanctuary to Moshe (Moses), the tent and all of its utensils, its clasps, its boards, its cross-bars, and its pillars, and its sockets.

The Targum Yonasan Ben Uziel provides the following reading for this verse:

And they brought the sanctuary to Moshe where he was in the study hall explaining the temple service to Aharon (Aaron) and his sons. And the sages of the Jewish sages were sitting there. And they showed him the tent and its vessels, its clasps, its boards, its bars, its pillars, and its sockets.

Why does the Targum provide this additional detail?

The following came to mind.

They did not ask Moshe to come and inspect their work. Rather, they brought their work to Moshe, a significant undertaking because of the size and massive weight of the sanctuary components.

Why did they do this?

G-D charged the Jewish people to build the sanctuary. This was partially to atone for their sin with the Golden calf.

Moshe had no share in this sin. Neither did he have a share in this labor. The Medrash Tanchuma teaches that Moshe felt distressed that he was not directly involved.

However, Moshe had a unique greatness in his role as our teacher.

Perhaps the Jewish people took this opportunity to console him by demonstrating their recognition of his great role.

They did so by bringing the sanctuary to him so that he would not have to take any time away from his teaching to walk over to the construction site.


39:33 And they brought the sanctuary to Moshe (Moses), the tent and all of its utensils, its clasps, its boards, its cross-bars, and its pillars, and its sockets.

39:43 And Moshe saw all of the workmanship and behold they made it just as G-D commanded it did they make it. And Moshe blessed them.

From the way it is written it appears that Moshe did not know that they had correctly implemented the sanctuary and all of its parts until they had already completed the entire project. It appears that he did not supervise any part of the construction.

If this is true then Betzalel and his workers were on their own to apply Moshe's teachings, which is very surprising.

What would we have done had Moshe discovered a flaw that would have required significant rework?

But on second thought perhaps it is quite fitting.

The sanctuary was our first communal project and we have ever since been applying Moshe's teachings to every facet of our lives.

It was our launch into being a nation of the Torah.


The Torah identifies Betzalel the son of Chur and Oholeav the son of Achisamach with major roles in the construction of the Holy Temple.

They are introduced several times in the Torah. Both are presented as people who were gifted with great talent. Betzalel had the main role in the construction and Oholeav was his subordinate.

It is not until this section of the Torah that we see that certain types of skills were associated with Oholeav. Specifically, Oholeav is described as an (Exodus 38:23) "artist-engraver, weaver, and embroiderer" (This is not to say that he applied these skills to the construction of the Holy Temple without Betzalel.)

We find these skills associated with the construction of the curtains of Temple building and court yard and also with the clothing of the priests.

In fact, Oholeav's very name suggests cloth, for his name contains the Hebrew word Ohel, or tent.

Concerning Oholeav's role and a message it may contain, the following came to mind.

We are accustomed to hear the slogan, "Clothing makes the Man."

While the Torah attaches significance to clothing, it teaches that we must always be aware of and deal with the essence of a person, beyond the layer of externality.

History has its share of wicked people who were dressed in the finest of clothing. It also has its share of decent and righteous people who had the misfortune of only being able to wear rags or soiled clothing.

History has its share of wicked people who had marvelously decorated homes. It also has its share of decent and righteous people who lived within a bare infrastructure.

Oholeav is the son of Achisamach. Achsamach suggests two Hebrew words, Achi - my brother, and samach - supports. Oholeav's 'brother' in the construction of the Temple was Betzalel, his superior. Curtains and clothing are externalities. They are supported, not supporters. They are subordinate.


40:1 And G-D spoke to Moshe (Moses) saying.

40:2 In the daytime of the first day of the first month you shall erect the sanctuary, the Meeting Tent.

We have a tradition that the construction was finished on the 25th day of Kislev, which later became the first day of Chanukah.

The Jewish people were commanded to wait almost three months before erecting and assembling the sanctuary.

Rabbi Gedalia Schor of blessed memory proposed that the wait was a correction for the sin of the Golden Calf.

In their great zeal to maintain their connection with G-D, the Jewish people did not properly manage the loss that they felt when they thought that Moshe died. They therefore sympathized with those who made the Golden Calf, which was supposed to replace Moshe as a tangible symbol or mechanism of this connection.

After realizing their mistake and repenting, they constructed the sanctuary's components, also with great zeal.

This time they waited, despite their zeal.


Return To Forethoughts And AfterThoughts

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In Loving Memory Of Our Father, Mr. Joseph Black (Yosef Ben Zelig) O"H
In Loving Memory Of Our Mother, Mrs. Norma Black (Nechama Bas Tzvi Hirsh) O"H
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