Posts in Category: Shmos

B’shalach

The Shabbat of Parshas B’shalach is also known as Shabbat Shirah. Rav Pincus notes that “shirah” – a time of song – is not reserved for that once instance in history, when we arrived on safe shores, on the other side of the Yam Suf. The concept of shirah – singing out in praise, appreciation, love, adoration of the Borei Olam – should ideally be a dominant part of every day of our lives. Dovid HaMelech spent entire nights writing song and praise, composing Tehillim, etc. Singing praise of Hashem is a “chovas kol ha’yetzurim lifanecha,” as we say every Shabbat in the teffila of Nishmas kol chai. There is a chova – an obligation of every human being – to sing shirah to Hashem for all the wonderful gifts He bestows upon us every day.

Gemara Psachim 118a says:
קשין מזונותיו של אדם כקריעת ים סוף, דכתיב (תהילים קלו:כה) נותן לחם לכל בשר וסמיך ליה לגוזר ים סוף לגזרים

How do we understand that providing food for one’s self (and family) is as difficult as Krias Yam Suf?

It’s a real avodah and takes real effort to acknowledge Hashem, and not take for granted the simplest sustenance, possessions and abilities we have been given. But, says Rav Pincus, when we come home at night and open our refrigerators to find food, that itself is like Krias Yam Suf, and is worthy of pausing to “say shira”. No doubt, that being makir tov to Hashem constantly throughout the day is a tremendously lofty endeavor, but it an important ideal to strive for, even if one can only achieve a fraction of the total goal. Saying shirah is something that we have to train ourselves to do on a more regular basis.

One final thought: Rav Pincus quotes Rebbe Yeshoshua ben Levi, who says (Sanhedrin 91a): “Kol ha’omer shirah ba’olam ha’zeh, zocheh v’omrah l’olam haba”
This gemara was a particularly difficult idea for me to reconcile, in thinking about the yahrtzeit this Shabbat. One cannot understand why a person like Daniella, who spent so much of olam ha’zeh singing shira, was taken to olam haba now, so swiftly, so young. But I saw another idea in Rav Pincus that brought some comfort that I would like to share…

Shir HaShirim 2:14, says:
יוֹנָתִי בְּחַגְוֵי הַסֶּלַע בְּסֵתֶר הַמַּדְרֵגָה הַרְאִינִי אֶת מַרְאַיִךְ הַשְׁמִיעִנִי אֶת קוֹלֵךְ
My dove, in the clefts of the rock, in the covert of the cliff, let me see your countenance, let me hear your voice.

Rashi comments on this passuk that the dove Shlomo HaMelech is referring to is a mashal for Bnei Yisrael in Parshas B’shalach.
Bnei Yisrael fleeing Paraoh is akin to a dove hiding in the clefts of a rocky cliff. The dove has gone there to hide from the predatory hawk but inside the rocky refuge is a snake. So too Bnei Yisrael were caught between the Yam Suf in front of them (snake), and the entire Egyptian army bearing down on them from behind (hawk). With nowhere to turn, Hashem says to us – ‘show me your face; show me to whom do you turn when you are in distress?’
הַשְׁמִיעִנִי אֶת קוֹלֵךְ — Let me hear your voice; Rashi explains this to mean – to whom do you call out in a time of tzara?

Very often, during times of tzara there is no answer or explanation. While asking for an answer may be fruitless, it also doesn’t mean we stay silent, wallowing in sadness. It is my belief that the mitzvos, and shalosh seudot and torah learning, and increased sensitivity to others, etc. that took place in the wake of Daniella’s passing is our  קוֹלֵךְ — our “calling out”. There is no answer to be had for why tragedy occurs; the best we can do is ensure an increase of G-dliness in the world through the actions by those still in olam ha’zeh and able to perform mitzvos. Hashem asks the dove in it’s time of sorrow – ‘to whom do you call out’ – and we have responded: ‘To You, Hashem.’

In the first dvar torah after Daniella’s passing, for Parshas Yisro, I quoted from Tehillim 92:13-14:
צַדִּיק כַּתָּמָר יִפְרָח כְּאֶרֶז בַּלְּבָנוֹן יִשְׂגֶּה
שְׁתוּלִים בְּבֵית ה’ בְּחַצְרוֹת אֱ-לֹהֵינוּ יַפְרִיחוּ

tzaddik grows like a cedar tree; beyond any normal bounds. Why? The message of Dovid HaMelech’s beautiful poetry is that a tzaddik ultimately grows in a world without boundaries; he or she grows in Hashem’s garden. It flourishes in Hashem’s palace. Tzaddikim are hopefully given many years in this world to influence others and allow others to learn from them, but the main flourishing of a tzaddik occurs beyond this world.

My hope is that through Daniella’s own abundant zechuyos, and through our קוֹלֵךְ and the proliferation of mitzvos and learning that have been undertaken in her memory, that her neshama continues to grow and be elevated like a soaring tree “b’veis Hashem,” and that in turn, her family and friends feel more of her presence and guidance in this world.

Bo

[based on Rav Shimon Schwab’s sefer, Ma’ayan Beis Ha’Shoeva]

In Shmos 11:8 Moshe tells Paraoh what will happen during the final plague of Makat Bechorot. After Moshe finishes, the Torah tells us that he left Paraoh with great anger:
וְיָרְדוּ כָל-עֲבָדֶיךָ אֵלֶּה אֵלַי וְהִשְׁתַּחֲווּ לִי לֵאמֹר צֵא אַתָּה וְכָל הָעָם אֲשֶׁר בְּרַגְלֶיךָ וְאַחֲרֵי-כֵן אֵצֵא; וַיֵּצֵא מֵעִם פַּרְעֹה בָּחֳרִי אָף

Rashi elucidates that Moshe was angry because of what Paraoh had said in the previous chapter (10:29), when Paraoh told Moshe never to see him again.

Rav Schwab zt”l asks, how it could be that Moshe, the most humble man to ever live would be upset by these words of Paraoh? Furthermore, Moshe agrees that he will never see Paraoh again, and Rashi says in the next passuk (10:30) that Paraoh was correct! So why did Moshe get so angry? What was the purpose – why here, why now?

Rav Schwab explains that Moshe wasn’t getting angry because of something Paraoh did to Moshewhen Rashi says that the anger was because of Paraoh telling Moshe to never see him again, Rashi is saying that those words were an indication of something else (to be explained below)…

Moshe stormed out of Paraoh’s palace angered by one thingParaoh’s utter and public disrespect of Hashem. Unquestionably, Moshe must have been frustrated from the first moment Paraoh refused to acknowledge the overt existence of Hashem. But Moshe had a mission; Moshe had a certain shlichus from Hashem from which he never veered. Specifically, in Va’era6:13, Hashem tells Moshe and Aharon to command Paraoh to let Bnei Yisrael leave Egypt:

וַיְדַבֵּר ה’ אֶל מֹשֶׁה וְאֶל אַהֲרֹן וַיְצַוֵּם אֶל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאֶל פַּרְעֹה מֶלֶךְ מִצְרָיִם לְהוֹצִיא אֶת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם
 
Rashi quoting Medrash Tanchuma, on the words “Paraoh melech Mitzrayim,” says that Moshe and Aharon were instructed to give kavod/respect to Paraoh. Therefore, Moshe was bound by Hashem’s word to keep his anger to himself during his mission of interacting with Paraoh. Until the moment that Moshe knew he would never again see Paraoh’s face, Moshe treated him like a king, despite watching Paraoh disrespect The King of Kings, over and over again. However, once Paraoh told Moshe he would never see him again, and Moshe knew Paraoh was correct, Moshe realized that his shlichus was over. He was no longer required to give Paraoh respect, because he had completed the mission Hashem gave him. At that point, Moshe shows Paraoh how angry he was at the constant chilul Hashem perpetrated by Paraoh. Paraoh’s words were an indication to Moshe that his mission was complete, and now Moshe could display his anger out of kavod to Hashem and for the purposes of protecting Hashem’s great Name.
 
We see that there is a time and a place for different emotions and actions. Hashem needed Moshe and Aharon to give respect to this king for a period of time; they had to give Paraoh a chance to recognize Hashem and they couldn’t let their emotions get the better of them. When the time came, however, to display some zealotry, Moshe showed how infuriated he was to watch Paraoh desecrate Hashem’s Name.
 
Additionally, we see the importance of remaining true to the mission you were appointed to accomplish, and avoiding allowing ego to cloud that mission. Furthermore, I think there is additional proof for Rav Schwab’s idea about the thoroughness of Moshe’s shlichus, found in another Rashi in Va’era (6:27):
הֵם הַמְדַבְּרִים אֶל פַּרְעֹה מֶלֶךְ מִצְרַיִם לְהוֹצִיא אֶת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל מִמִּצְרָיִם הוּא מֹשֶׁה וְאַהֲרֹן
 
On the last part of the passuk, Rashi implicitly wonders why we need to hear again that the passuk is talking about Moshe and Aharon – who else would it be talking about? Rashi explains, that Moshe and Aharon were the same people – complete in their shlichus and in their tzidkus - from beginning to end. To quote Rashi:
הוא משה ואהרן: הם בשליחותם ובצדקתם מתחלה ועד סוף
 
As noted, Moshe and Aharon never waivered from the first time they approached Paraoh until the last time they saw his face before Makat Bechorot. They are the model for leaders, stripped of all ego, and followers of Hashem’s word to the fullest extent possible.

Va’era

In Parshas Vaera, Hashem appears again to Moshe, giving him a renewed jolt of energy, so to speak, and restarts the geula process. By way of quick review, at the end of Parshas Shmos, Moshe is very troubled by his initial failed efforts to convince Paraoh to allow Bnei Yisrael to leave Egypt. Bnei Yisrael blame him for making their lives even more difficult, and Moshe questions why Hashem has not yet saved His people, and, if anything, has only exacerbated the situation.

In the opening passuk of Vaera, Hashem proceeds to reveal Himself in an even more profound way than ever before; more so than by the burning bush and to the Avot. He instructs Moshe to use the four famous expressions of redemption, inspire the people, and appear before Paraoh as a strong, united front; we are poised for what seems like a huge re-group/4th quarter rally/achdusclinic.

That is the stage, set in the first 8 psukim in Perek 6…

After Hashem’s rousing speech to Moshe, along comes passuk 9, and instead of an exuberant, rallying response from the nation, the Torah tells us (6:9):

יְדַבֵּר מֹשֶׁה כֵּן אֶל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְלֹא שָׁמְעוּ אֶל מֹשֶׁה מִקֹּצֶר רוּחַ וּמֵעֲבֹדָה קָשָׁה
The rally falls flat; Bnei Yisrael still do not believe, and basically from that point until the korban Pesach at the end of Parshat Bo, they play a very passive role in the unfolding of Yetziat Mitzrayim.

Two interesting thoughts from this passuk:

1. The Meshech Chochmah points out that the kotzeir ruach was Bnei Yisrael’s inability to dream and have grand expectations about the future. It was a deflation and contraction of their imagination. They were so drained from simply trying to get through the day in Mitzrayim, that they couldn’t start to fathom the long term dreams of geula, Eretz Yisrael, and serving one Master in Hashem.

This phenomenon exists today as well. We too can fall victim to the hardships and atrocities that are all too ubiquitous in the world today, and lose sight and hope of the future. But just like Hashem fulfilled His promise then to the Avos and Moshe Rabbeinu, by springing Bnei Yisrael from bondage, so too:
אני מאמין באמונה שלמה בביאת המשיח ואף על פי שיתמהמה עם כל זה אחכה לו בכל יום

The message – no matter what difficulties we face and the avodah kasha of our time, we cannot lose hope and fall victim to kotzer ruach.

2. Breishis Rabba links the “avodah kasha” term with virtually an entire chapter in Sefer Yechezkel. Chapter 20 in Yechezkel details the depths Bnei Yisrael descended to in Egypt, and how steeped in paganism they were. Bnei Yisrael were told to lift themselves out of the muck, but they were too mired in avodah zara, and they failed. They refused Hashem’s offer.

The language in Yechezkel is quite shocking. As an example:
וַיַּמְרוּ בִי וְלֹא אָבוּ לִשְׁמֹעַ אֵלַי אִישׁ אֶת שִׁקּוּצֵי עֵינֵיהֶם לֹא הִשְׁלִיכוּ וְאֶת
גִּלּוּלֵי מִצְרַיִם לֹא עָזָבוּ וָאֹמַר לִשְׁפֹּךְ חֲמָתִי עֲלֵיהֶם לְכַלּוֹת אַפִּי בָּהֶם בְּתוֹךְ אֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם
But they rebelled against Me, and would not hearken to Me; every man did not cast away the detestable things of their eyes, neither did they forsake the idols of Egypt; then I said I would pour out My fury upon them, to spend My anger upon them in the midst of the land of Egypt.

They were too involved with the influences of Mitzrayim to listen to the word of Hashem and the word of Moshe. There is a well-known medrash that, while enslaved in Egypt, Bnei Yisrael did not change their names or their manner of dress, but even keeping this in mind, they could still have been living in two worlds – part jewish identity, part enticed by paganism. As the Navi Eliyahu says to Bnei Yisrael, in the famous story on Har HaCarmel, in Melachim I 18:21:

וַיִּגַּשׁ אֵלִיָּהוּ אֶל כָּל הָעָם וַיֹּאמֶר עַד מָתַי אַתֶּם פֹּסְחִים עַל שְׁתֵּי הַסְּעִפִּים – אִם ה’ הָאֱ-לֹהִים לְכוּ אַחֲרָיו, וְאִם הַבַּעַל לְכוּ אַחֲרָיו
And Elijah came near to all the people, and said: ‘How long will you hobble between two opinions? If the Hashem is the Lord, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.’
Surely living in the 21st century, trying to maintain our religion in the modern world, we can understand this concept.

So we see that the two words of “avodah kasha” is a hyperlink to an entire perek in Yechezkeil. It is not a “pretty” perek, so it makes sense that its contents wouldn’t be recorded in Shmot, which is more about the grandeur of yetziat mitzrayim, but it is a part of our history nonetheless.

But what can we learn from Yechekel? As quoted above, Yecehzkel records Hashem considering annihilating Bnei Yisrael. Ultimately, Hashem decides to spare them, because destroying them would desecrate His Name. How so? There was so much that had already been invested with the Avos, and in that region, that it would be a waste to destroy Bnei Yisrael in Mitzrayim. Had Bnei Yisrael been destroyed, there would have been a massive regression of Hashem’s presence in the world. It would have been too counterproductive for the world to destroy Bnei Yisrael. Hashem didn’t want to leave a massive vacuum devoid of kedusha. We didn’t deserve redemption, but were redeemed nonetheless because of our potential.

In a shiur given by Rav Moshe Taragin, he discusses the concept of “deserving” redemption. Certainly, this notion of “deserving” redemption is not something that we as humans can really judge. But Rav Taragin suggest that our role in the 21st Century isn’t as much to infuse the world with the concept of a monotheistic G-d, but rather to defend our G-d and His profile. Much of the world acknowledges the existence of G-d, but vandalize His Name.

Islam is a monotheistic religion, after all, but their deity, as we know all too well, is understood by a powerful sect of that religion to encourage war and bloodshed. Our job as monotheistic believers, is to represent Hashem as befits Him; a kind, merciful, benevolent G-d: Keil rachum v’chanun.

In that same light, we were given a country in 1948 and it is our job as Jews to use it as a place of morality, peace, advancements in medicine and science, education, etc. Similarly, Jews have risen to great heights in business, political office, wealth; it is our responsibility to use those positions and monetary means for tikkun olam, instead of corruption and greed. Whether we “deserve” to be redeemed now, or whether we have “deserved” it in the past, is obviously up to Hashem. But we are taught that the reason Hashem did not destroy us in Egypt, in spite of our poor behavior, was because the world would have been too devoid of Hashem’s presence without us here to represent Him. Therefore, the message is that we must embrace that responsibility and utilize our time to the fullest, as ovdei Hashem, constantly making kiddushei Hashem, and not, chas v’shalom, the opposite.

Daniella A”H, certainly understood this idea, living up to Hashem’s expectations of us in this world, infusing this world with kedusha and exemplary middos. She lived a life of chessed, integrity, tzniyus, by greeting every person she met with a smile and incredible kindness. May we continue on in her shining example.

Shmos

[Based on Rav Shimshon Dovid Pincus zt”l: Tiferes Shimshon]

In Shmos 1:15, the Torah tells us that the incredibly righteous and brave women who defied Paraoh, and saved the Jewish firstborn males from being tossed into the Nile, were named Shifra and Puah:
וַיֹּאמֶר מֶלֶךְ מִצְרַיִם לַמְיַלְּדֹת הָעִבְרִיֹּת אֲשֶׁר שֵׁם הָאַחַת שִׁפְרָה וְשֵׁם הַשֵּׁנִית פּוּעָה

Rashi comments that Shifra was Moshe Rabbeinu’s mother, Yocheved; Puah was Moshe’s sister, Miriam:
שפרה: זו יוכבד על שם שמשפרת את הולד
פועה: זו מרים שפועה ומדברת והוגה לולד כדרך הנשים המפייסות תינוק הבוכה

A glaring question arises: Why does the Torah uses these alternate names? Here is Yocheved, a woman of 123 years, one of the 70 people who went down with Yaakov to Egypt, the daughter of Levi; and Miriam – a neviah…were they not worthy of being identified by their originally-given names?!

Furthermore, the names describe the seemingly mundane actions they performed, making them no different than any standard baby nurse. Their names don’t call our attention to their bravery and heroism, rescuing Jewish babies, risking their lives in defiance of a cruel tyrant! Instead, they are spotlighted for beautifying babies and making gentle cooing sounds — What kind of tribute is this to the real sacrifices they made?
Rav Pincus zt”l explains that this attention to detail and concern for the small things, is part of what made Miriam and Yocheved so great.

He uses a mashal of a baby that is sick in the hospital, lo aleinu. The doctors are working round-the-clock to try and save the baby and figure out the cause of the illness. But the mother is sitting calmly with the baby, speaking softly in his ear, and trying to eek out a smile, telling herself and the baby that it will all be OK. The doctors are rightfully consumed by the big stuff – the baby’s heart rate or white blood cell count, etc. They can’t worry about the baby’s happiness level or whether the baby is calm or in fear.

The baby’s mother, however, looks at her sick child, speaks softly to him, and just hopes she can bring a momentary smile to his face.

Miriam and Yocheved essentially played both roles, of heroic doctor and caring mother. In the most horrifying circumstances, trying to rescue the lives of these babies who were otherwise sentenced to be drowned to death, Miriam and Yocheved also endeavored to give these babies some semblance of normalcy, by soothing and comforting them, paying attention to the little things. Even during chaos and oppression, they were Shifrah and Puah.

This, says Rav Pincus, demonstrated to Hashem that Miriam and Yocheved were zocheh to become the mothers of klal Yisrael, as noted in the text and in Rashi on 1:24:
וַיְהִי כִּי יָרְאוּ הַמְיַלְּדֹת אֶת הָאֱ-לֹהִים וַיַּעַשׂ לָהֶם בָּתִּים
ויעש להם בתים: בתי כהונה ולויה ומלכות שקרויין בתים

Rav Pincus also includes a story about Rav Shlomo Heiman ztl. His wife was a huge ba’alat tzeddakah, who was particularly focused on helping financially-troubled orphans find enough money to make a wedding.

The Rebbitzen had once planned an entire wedding from A to Z, and raised a lot of money so the simcha could take place. Reb Shlomo gets to the wedding early, and asks his wife if she remembered to buy flowers for the bride to hold. The Rebbitzen answered that she had forgot to get flowers, and figured that since she put the entire wedding together, the small omission of flowers would be OK. Reb Shlomo replied that the flowers were a necessity – why? Not just so this bride could look and feel like every other bride, but because that is the type of small detail that mothers make sure to take care of for their daughters. In this instance, Rebbetzin Heiman wasn’t just a tzeddaka collector; she was also functioning as this orphaned girl’s mother, which required the highest level of attention to detail.

In thinking about this idea from Rav Pincus, I believe there is a related lesson with regards to different types of tzeddakah and kindness. Without making any qualitative distinctions whatsoever, there is the type of tzeddakah done slightly removed from the recipient (such as making a donation), and then there is tzeddakah done up close and personal. The latter requires a unique type of effort, sacrifice and frame of mind. Yocheved and Miriam – Shifra and Puah – weren’t writing checks or prescribing medicine from afar. They were the personal helpers to the newborn babies and their mothers at an incredibly frightening time in our history. They stood on the front lines and got their hands dirty, so to speak.

During this final month before Daniella’s yahrtzeit, I hope to try and highlight at least one or two of Daniella’s amazing qualities in connection with the upcoming parshiot.

Of the many beautiful recollections spoken and written about Daniella since last January, one of the most prominent in my mind is how many people shared their memories of Daniella introducing herself and befriending others. She made people feel welcome and comfortable almost instantaneously. So many girls at shiva said that Daniella was the first person to introduce herself to them, whether at school, camp, seminary, shul, shabbos meal, etc. That is a kindness and a form of tzeddakah of a uniquely engaging and personal nature. Daniella’s qualities of introducing herself to strangers, breaking the ice, bringing people together, making outsiders feel like they belong, working as a HASC counselor, etc., is the type of tzeddakah that forces you to get your hands dirty. It is kindness that cannot be quantified in dollars and cents, rather in personal and emotional investment. Daniella’s attention to the small things, her concern for others and her willingness to truly give of herself to others, were among the many gifts she bestowed upon this world.

Pekudei

The final psukim of Parshat Pekudei (and therefore Sefer Shmot) record:

לו  וּבְהֵעָלוֹת הֶעָנָן מֵעַל הַמִּשְׁכָּן יִסְעוּ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּכֹל מַסְעֵיהֶם. 36 And whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the children of Israel went onward, throughout all their journeys.
לז  וְאִם לֹא יֵעָלֶה הֶעָנָן וְלֹא יִסְעוּ עַד-יוֹם הֵעָלֹתוֹ. 37 But if the cloud was not taken up, then they journeyed not till the day that it was taken up.
לח  כִּי עֲנַן ה’ עַל הַמִּשְׁכָּן יוֹמָם וְאֵשׁ תִּהְיֶה לַיְלָה בּוֹ לְעֵינֵי כָל בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּכָל מַסְעֵיהֶם. 38 For the cloud of the LORD was upon the tabernacle by day, and there was fire therein by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys.
The Netziv comments that the Annan (Heavenly Cloud) in the daytime and the fiery pillar at night were the same “object”, so to speak. There were not two separate divine occurrences, rather at night the cloud would simply light up as a consuming fire, and in the morning the fire would disappear and the cloud would remain.
He learns this from 2 places: (1) the Torah tells us in passuk 36 that the cloud would only rise when it was time for Bnei Yisrael to travel to their next destination. If the cloud were replaced by the fire every night, then it would have to move from its spot, and it only did so when it was time to embark to the next location. Bnei Yisrael, however, didn’t travel every night! Thus, it must be that the cloud stayed in place every night and became a large fiery pillar. (2) Additionally, he quotes from later in the Torah, in Bamidbar 9:15-16, which describes how the Annan and Amud/Mar’eh Aish functioned:
טו  וּבְיוֹם, הָקִים אֶת-הַמִּשְׁכָּן, כִּסָּה הֶעָנָן אֶת-הַמִּשְׁכָּן, לְאֹהֶל הָעֵדֻת; וּבָעֶרֶב יִהְיֶה עַל-הַמִּשְׁכָּן, כְּמַרְאֵה-אֵשׁ–עַד-בֹּקֶר. 15 And on the day that the tabernacle was reared up the cloud covered the tabernacle, even the tent of the testimony; and at evening there was upon the tabernacle as it were the appearance of fire, until morning.
טז  כֵּן יִהְיֶה תָמִיד, הֶעָנָן יְכַסֶּנּוּ; וּמַרְאֵה-אֵש לָיְלָה. 16 So it was always: the cloud covered it, and the appearance of fire by night.
יז  וּלְפִי הֵעָלוֹת הֶעָנָן, מֵעַל הָאֹהֶל–וְאַחֲרֵי כֵן, יִסְעוּ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל; וּבִמְקוֹם, אֲשֶׁר יִשְׁכָּן-שָׁם הֶעָנָן–שָׁם יַחֲנוּ, בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל. 17 And whenever the cloud was taken up from over the Tent, then after that the children of Israel journeyed; and in the place where the cloud abode, there the children of Israel encamped.

The Netziv doesn’t say this explicitly, (so this could be entirely incorrect) but I believe that there is an underlying message being conveyed here. The protective cloud and the intense flame were not just from the same source (Hashem – the source of everything), but it was exactly the same “object”. At times the Mishhkan was covered by a cloud and other times by fire. The Midrash in Pekudei notes that Bnei Yisrael rejoiced when they saw the cloud and were in fear of the consuming flame in the evening. At times we feel Hashem’s love and benevolence; and then there are times, lo aleinu, when we feel scared, confused and engulfed by flames. It is the same Hashem who controls both.

The last 2 words of the Sefer, tell us that this Annan / Aish was with Bnei Yisrael “bCHOL mah’seihem” = in ALL their journeys. The Netziv points out from the Torah’s use of KOL that Hashem was with them not just for the travels initiated by Hashem, but through all their travels and sojourns; through the positive journeys and encampments and the negative ones, Hashem was with them. Says the Netziv, at every stop the purpose of the Annan / Aish was fully intact and “tamid”.

The perpetual state of arriving in a place and not knowing the duration of the stay and not knowing the next destination, was probably very unsettling. Indeed, this has been the case throughout Jewish History; wherever we settled, we never knew for how long we would stay and whenever we were expelled, we never knew how long it would take before we would land on safe shores. In a weak attempt to relate, l’havdil, I imagine packing a suitcase and being told to go from city to city, hotel to hotel, on a moment’s notice, not knowing if I should unpack my suitcase at each location or where I was going next. The major difference (among many), however, is that Bnei Yisrael had a promise from Hashem that they would eventually be led into Eretz Yisrael. As it states in Yirmiyahu, לֶכְתֵּךְ אַחֲרַי בַּמִּדְבָּר בְּאֶרֶץ לֹא זְרוּעָה
While it may have felt like wandering, they had a destination. The appearance of the cloud every morning and the guiding nature of the cloud when it was time to travel, was likely a very comforting tool employed by Hashem for Bnei Yisrael.
We continue to have this promise from Hashem with the promise of the ultimate Geulah.

לְהַגִּיד בַּבֹּקֶר חַסְדֶּךָ וֶאֱמוּנָתְךָ בַּלֵּילוֹת
בָּעֶרֶב יָלִין בֶּכִי וְלַבֹּקֶר רִנָּה

The night can be dark and frightening, but, b’ezras Hashem, we can maintain emunah at night and find comfort in the morning.

כִּי עֲנַן ה’ עַל הַמִּשְׁכָּן יוֹמָם וְאֵשׁ תִּהְיֶה לַיְלָה בּוֹ לְעֵינֵי כָל בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּכָל מַסְעֵיהֶם
This final passuk of Sefer Shemot contains promises of protection, through the good and the bad, on all journeys. Perhaps with this in mind, we can feel the permanence of our nation’s existence in this world — hence the special usage of Beit Yisrael”, instead of the more ubiquitous, “Bnei Yisrael”. With such emunah, we can feel we are a more permanent and established house of Israel; a very fitting conclusion to the Sefer Ha’Geula, and a message for all generations as we wait for Bi’as HaMashiach, b’mehaira b’yamienu.

Vayakhel

[Based on a shiur given by Rav Moshe Taragin]

The first perek of Parshat Vayakhel can be roughly broken into 3 sections:
1. Psukim 1-3: Moshe gathers the entire nation and discusses Shabbos.
2. Psukim 4-20: Moshe speaks to the entire nation and gives them instructions on gathering items for the Mishkan and what would need to be built. (end of Rishon)
3. Psukim 21-35: The actual Mishkan process begins; details of the actual logistics and carrying out of the instructions for constructing the Mishkan.

An easily “overlooked” passuk is verse 20:

כ  וַיֵּצְאוּ כָּל עֲדַת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל מִלִּפְנֵי מֹשֶׁה And all the congregation of the children of Israel departed from the presence of Moses.

…Obviously Bnei Yisrael were not going to be doing the actual building in the exact same place where the instructions were given. In order to gather the materials for the Mishkan and execute the instructions, they would first have to physically leave Moshe’s tent! It seems like a very technical passuk – they had to leave Moshe’s tent in order to go get the items for the Mishkan – so why do we need it? What is message of vayeitzu kol adas B’nei Yisrael?

Rav Taragin offers 3 possible answers:
1. Eagerness and Relief: The Midrash says the exit was a combination of eagerness and cathartic joy that they were brought back into Hashem’s and Moshe’s good graces after the Cheit Ha’Eigel. No more mask on Moshe – he was now accessible and communicative with them.
The Midrash says: “k’shenisbasru Yisrael b’mechilas oso ha’avon, samchu simcha yeseraih v’yatzu b’zrizus” — When Bnei Yisrael heard that they were absolved of the sin [of the Golden Calf], they had tremendous joy and exited with fervor/excitement. They channeled their relief and joy into positive, creative energy. There are moments in life we feel we’ve been spared or been granted something magnificent. We take this new-found relief and joy and try to use it to propel ourselves to new heights.

2. Unity, attained (2 types): Encountering Hashem is experienced most acutely through the collective. We are most effective when we are together (hence the gathering of ALL of Bnei Yisrael to build the Mishkan, and the concept of a minyan, importance of community, b’rov Am hadras Melech, etc.). But there are two ways of becoming a collective unit:

a) Unification by a skilled leader: During and after the Cheit Ha’Eigel there was a great deal of disunity among the nation; disunity between Shevet Levi (non-transgressors) and the rest of Bnei Yisrael, between the women (also non-transgressors) and the men, the consequences of the killing of Chur, etc. The incredible strength of Moshe’s personality, was that he was able to unite the entirenation. This occurs in the first 19 psukim of Perek 35. And then comes verse 20…

b) Unification through realization of commonality and shared goals: Verse 20 says that Bnei Yisrael left “mi’lifnei Moshe” – they all departed from the presence of Moshe. That is to say, they all decided to go out together “despite” Moshe, so to speak. The project assigned to them of building the Mishkan, created a unified spirit. With this goal in mind, they no longer needed to be held together quite so firmly by the strength of an individual. (This should not be taken as a diminishing of Moshe, chas v’shalom, rather a commentary on how Moshe “put them back together” and gave them a collective mission, which allowed them to move forward as a unit). The internal unity of common interest and agenda is arguably stronger and more enduring than unity borne out from the imposed charisma of a leader.

3. Empowerment to the people (through building): The Torah’s inclusion of Bnei Yisrael walking away from Moshe is a metaphor for taking their newly acquired sense of power and purpose, which was just bestowed upon them:
Bnei Yisrael needed Moshe more than ever in Parshat Ki Tissa and the Golden Calf episode. Part of why Moshe’s name is absent from Parshat Tetzaveh is to contrast it with his towering presence in Ki Tissa, where he “defies” Hashem’s threats, davens relentlessly, doesn’t eat drink or sleep on Har Sinai, he comes down the mountain with his face is shining brightly, etc. He achieves tremendous heights at a time Bnei Yisrael needed him in the worst way.
How do you deliver self-respect back to the people, in an empowering way, without fostering a dependence and a feeling that only the great Moshe could build a house for Hashem? How do you make them not feel small and ashamed?
Moshe appoints Betzalel and Ohaliav. He empowers all men and women to contribute toward the Mishkan and assist in its construction. He activates people, giving them autonomy, and important roles, thus gives them back their dignity and confidence. This is especially critical for a ba’al cheit – to not suppress a sinner in his/her fragility and futility.
Moshe downgrades himself, in a sense, taking a less central role in building the Mishkan, and empowers the nation. He takes a shattered people and rebuilds their unity and allows them to recognize and exercise their talents and confidence, which sustains itself long after they’ve “departed” and walked away from the presence of their leader. THEY build the Mishkan, and this is one of the crowning achievements of Moshe Rabbeinu. After the nation’s most damaging collective sin, he is able to do what is needed to prop them back up to re-assume the role of the Chosen people of HKBH.

Obviously, there are many links between Shabbos and the Mishkan. I would like to suggest that this last idea connects to the first section of the chapter, regarding the observance of Shabbos: We are instructed in psukim 1-3 to work for 6 days, to stop on the 7th day because it’s kodesh, and not to kindle a flame on Shabbos.
The Chasam Sofer explains that when the passuk states, “Six days you shall do your work”, it is teaching us that it is our duty during the six days of the work week to kindle a flame of devotion to Hashem by engaging in Torah study and serving Hashem with fervor… “But the seventh day shall be holy for you, a day of complete rest for Hashem”– so that come Shabbos, this flame of spiritual fervor will blaze on its own. The Torah concludes: “You shall not kindle fire in any of your dwellings on the Sabbath day.” The Torah is telling us not to wait until Shabbos to kindle this flame of spiritual fervor; rather, begin to kindle this flame during the six weekdays. We can’t expect to gain the full potential of d’veikus with Hashem that Shabbos is supposed to bring, unless we make Hashem a part of our lives during the rest of the week. L’havdil, we would never rush into the palace of a king of basar v’dam having given no thought to the visit, so kal vachomer we shouldn’t show up to the palace of the Melech Malchei Hamlachim, without making proper hachanos.
Every day we say at the end of davening, “hayom yom X b’shabbat.” On a daily basis we try to draw down the kedusha of shabbos, but really it’s a two-way street; ouractions during the week influence our Shabbos, and an ideal-Shabbos will hopefully influence our week. By properly utilizing the 6 other days of the week, we have the power to make the occurence of Shabbos even greater.

This is true as we prepare in the days leading up to Shabbos, and certainly on Shabbos itself. The central commandments of Shabbos are Zachor and Shamor. I think that they reflect the power of what Hashem did during the first 7 days of Creation and every day since, on the one hand, and what we are empowered to do with our observance of Shabbos, as well:

Zachor: Stopping to remember that Hashem created the world for 6 days, and then rested. It is a commemoration of what Hashem did during the 6+1 days of Creation, which we try to emulate. There are countless aspects of the world to marvel at, and so much about the power of creation to inspire us, yet there is also something wonderful about taking a day to stop creating. So we try to remember this and the lessons of Creation. It seems to me, however, that this is slightly more passive than Shamor. The 7th day of the week is going to come no matter what; Shabbos occurs regardless of our remembrance. But its mere occurrence is only one piece of Shabbos.

Shamor: Our active role in observing and enjoying Shabbos. As we say, Yismichu b’malchuscha, Shomrei Shabbat v’korei oneg am mekadshei shevi’i – we are given an active part in sanctifying Shabbos, just as Hashem and Moshe gave Bnei Yisrael a key role in the construction of the Mishkan. Shabbos is about so much more than eating, taking naps and being mindful of all the things we can’t do. We are empowered to elevate the day of Shabbos through our actions (teffilaTalmud Torah, appreciation of what we have, dibuk chaveirim, etc.) and observance, and hopefully merit to use each passing week to enhance the week to come.

Ki Tissa

After the description of the making of the Golden Calf, the Torah says that B’nei Yisrael offered sacrifices, and then “the nation sat to eat and drink, and they [then] got up to revel” (32:6).

The Midrash in Shemot Rabba 41, takes note of the word “vayeishev” (“sat”) used by the Torah in this context. While this term is itself innocuous, and there is certainly nothing criminal about “sitting”, the Midrash observes a pattern of the use of this term in Biblical narratives involving cardinal sins:

  • The story of Migdal Bavel began when the people “settled” (“vayeishvu”) in the Shinar Valley (Breishit 11:2).
  • In the story of the sale of Yosef, just before they sold Yosef as a slave, the Torah says the brothers “sat [or returned] to eat bread” (“vayeishvu le’echol lechem” – Breishit 37:25).
  • The Torah introduces the tragic story of Ba’al Pe’or – where BNY engage ritually and sexually with the women of Moav – with the words, “Vayeishev Yisrael ba-Shittim” (“Israel settled in Shittim” – Bamidbar 25:1).

Here, too, in the context of the Golden Calf, we find the perpetrators “sitting” to eat.  The Midrash thus makes a statement, “Wherever you find ‘sitting,’ you find an offense [takala].”

What is the connection between the term “vayeishev” and sinful behavior?
Rav Yehuda Leib Ginsburg, in his Yalkut Yehuda, explains that Chazal detected within this term a connotation of complacency and comfort — an improper sort of menucha.
Beyond the word’s narrow definition of a sitting position or settlement in a certain geographic location, the root verb י.ש.ב also alludes to a general sense of ease and contentment with one’s self. (Obviously, the word is not a blanket statement for complacency or always related to something negative. See a Yeshiva and Yishuv Ha’aretz, etc.)
The Midrash warns that feeling too content with one’s achievements and spiritual condition can often lead to wrongful behavior. Religious devotion requires a certain degree of restlessness and unease, constant ambition and desire for growth and advancement. He quotes from Mishlei 15:24:

אֹרַח חַיִּים לְמַעְלָה לְמַשְׂכִּיל לְמַעַן סוּר מִשְּׁאוֹל מָטָּה
The path of life goes upward for the wise, that he may depart from the nether-world beneath.

The Vilna Gaon, in his peirush on Mishlei, explains that a human being is called aholeich (walker), who must ascend from level to level, and if he doesn’t go up, then he will not stay in place, but actually go down.

Chazal saw within the pattern of “vayeishev” a warning against feeling toocomfortable.  While we must certainly take pride and satisfaction in what we’ve achieved, we must also be concerned about what we have yet to achieve.  If we fall into the trap of “vayeishev,” of staying comfortably in place without looking to reach higher and improve further, then we are prone to fall.

I think it’s interesting to note, that in each of the 3 instances listed by the Midrash, the “sitting” that took place, took place before the maiseh. Only in Cheit Ha’Eigel, did BNY sit after the sinful act of creating the Golden Calf.
[I encourage any and all suggestions for another idea as to the relevance, if any…]

Perhaps the Golden Calf differs slightly from the other 3 examples because of BNY unifying, but for a severely improper purpose, and something that emerges from looking at the sequence of events:
The people had Aharon create the Golden Calf, Aharon then delays by saying they will make a holiday on the following day (thus creating a break in the action), BNY arose the next morning, “sat” to eat and drink, and then got up to worship:

וַיַּשְׁכִּימוּ מִמָּחֳרָת וַיַּעֲלוּ עֹלֹת וַיַּגִּשׁוּ שְׁלָמִים וַיֵּשֶׁב הָעָם לֶאֱכֹל וְשָׁתוֹ וַיָּקֻמוּ לְצַחֵק
And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt-offerings, and brought peace-offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to make merry.

The Ramban says on the passuk, that BNY sat as one in honor of the Eigel, presumably learned from the singular verb “vayeishev ha’am” instead of the technically correct, “vayeishvu.”
So what emerges, is that (i) the people were united as one, but for a terribly misguided reason, and (ii) during the pause, between creation of the Calf and the worship of the Calf, no one thought about turning the ship around. Their pause, and their lack of use of the pause, was critical. Their complacency, in this instance, was one of being so steeped in what they were doing, that nobody thought to re-evaluate their actions when given the chance.

The sin of the Golden Calf is probably the greatest and most costly collectively-perpetrated sin of the Jewish people. We went from being “k’ish echad b’lev echad” – as Rashi explains on the passuk “vayichan sham Yisrael negged ha’har” before receiving the Torah on Har Sinai – to being in the same one-ness for the exact opposite – for Avodah Zarah.
The contrast between the two was so terrible, that Hashem was ready to destroy us. Similarly, by Migdal Bavel, the people were also joined together, to build as one (as the Torah says: vayehi kol ha’aretz safah echad u’devarim achadim), and Hashem actually did destroy that entire generation. Unlike the Dor Haflagah, fortunately the BNY had a Moshe to plead with Hashem on their behalf, and avoid complete destruction.

Furthermore, in addition to Moshe’s teffila of the 13 Midos HaRachamim, the atonement for the Golden Calf was also the collection of the half-shekel for the Mishkan in next week’s parsha, Vayakhel. Part of the reasoning behind the half-shekel and Terumah for the Mishkan, was that Hashem wanted us to act, and not be passive, and to give, and not complain; but the actions taken and objects donated, had to be for a rightful purpose. We became builders of a Divine Sanctuary for the Shechinah to reside – instead of builders of a golden idol or a towering structure aimed at piercing the heavens.
In Vayakhel, the people come together for the correct purpose: to learn about Shabbos, to give their possessions, and to build a Sanctuary. They even give so much that Moshe has to put a halt to the giving, in 36:5-6.

When we shake off complacency, to join together and spring into action with the proper goals in mind, then we become worthy of the gifts of Shabbos, true cheirus, a Mishkan and hashra’as HaShechina.

Tetzaveh

[based on Rav Shimshon Pincus ztl: Tiferes Shimshon]

One of priestly garments, worn by The Kohen Gadol, was the Me’il (robe), described in Shmot 28:31-35. This magnificent robe had 72 gold bells on it, separated by alternating pomegranate-shaped tassels of t’cheilet, purple and scarlet wool.
There are many beautiful explanations offered for the purpose and deeper meaning behind the bells, the pomegranates, the robe’s design, and its function to atone forLashon hara, etc. (discussed in some detail below.)

Using the Ramban’s explanation for the Me’il, Rav Pincus writes about an importantyesod… The Ramban explains that the Kohen Gadol wore this garment as a way to announce himself, so to speak, to Hashem before he went into the Kodesh, the holier parts of the Mishkan. He was asking for “permission” of Hashem to enter the Kodesh and perform his priestly service.

Why did the regular kohanim not wear the Me’il? Because there is an added level of approval needed for the highest leader. Such a role cannot be undertaken by just anyone. Such a person needs to ask permission and receive verification of his worthiness for the task.

Rav Pincus points out, however, that on Yom Kippur in the Kodesh HaKedashim, theMe’il was not worn; it was not one of the 4 articles of clothing worn by the Kohen Gadol on this holiest of days, per Vayikra 16:4.
The question begs — when the Kohen Gadol went into the holiest place of all, he no longer needed to introduce himself?? Of all times – when the Kohen Godel went lifnay v’lifnim, representing all of Klal Yisrael and pleading with the Master of the Universe for atonement – we would think that asking for permission to enter would be mostappropriate!

The greatest concentration of Torah in the world was in the Kodesh HaKedashim, since the Aron and Luchot HaBrit were housed there. The lesson, says Rav Pincus, is that Talmud Torah is available to anyone. No matter a person’s background, no matter a person’s level of observance – Torah is always available. We don’t need someone “closer” to Hashem than us to make an intro. No “hookups” needed. Noreshus needed, and no need to ask “permission” to access Torah. Anyone asher yidvenu libo can tap into the infinite lessons of Torah.

To quote Rav Pincus, and roughly translate –
את כתר התורה כל אחד יכול ליטולו ולשימו עטרה על ראשו
Everyone is capable of taking the crown of Torah and placing it as a crown on their own head.

——
I believe this yesod connects with another lesson learned out from the Me’il
As mentioned above, The Gemara in Erachin 16a states that the robe atoned for the sin of Lashon hara; Hashem said, “Let a noisy object [the bells] atone for the act of making noise [Lashon hara].”
How so? What’s the connection?

I believe there are a few related ideas to help explain.
Rav Moshe Alshich prived an explanation for the Torah’s description of the arrangement of the bells and pomegranates. The bells and pomegranates were placed in alternating fashion: a bell, followed by a pomegranate, followed by a bell, followed by a pomegranate, and so on. Yet, the Torah speaks of the bells as being placed in between the pomegranates. Even though each pomegranate was surrounded by two bells, just as each bell was surrounded by two pomegranates, the Torah nevertheless chooses to specifically describe the bells as being surrounded by pomegranates.
The Alshich explains that the Torah here alludes to the great value of silence. The stress in the passuk is the siginificance of the pomegranates surrounding the bells — Megilla 18a teaches: “mila b’sela mashtuka b’trin”  = a word is valued at one sela (coin) and silence is worth two (sela’im). Rashi explains: If one were to buy a word for one coin, it would be worth it to pay two coins for silence. For every measure of speech, one should have two measures of silence. The Torah thus emphasizes that each bell – each sound that a person makes – must be surrounded by two silent pomegranates.

To this point, often times Lashon hara is just noise; audible information to just fill space; For example, Reuvein speaks Lashon hara about Shimon. Reuvein’s real goal was not to speak against Shimon to ruin his reputation; he spoke Lashon hara because the silence was too bothersome, or because he couldn’t think of something better to say at that moment. He had some juicy news to share with his peers that he used it to gain some attention and popularity. Most people, when they speak about others, actually care little about the one they’re speaking against. They doing it for themselves — with an eye toward improving their own image and popularity, rather than (and carelessly inconsiderate of) the resulting damage to their fellow man. So as not to seem dull, we often engage in conversation that isn’t particularly profound, but fills the empty space.

This idea of guarding our speech by keeping our lips tightly closed, and only talking when we have something important to say, is even symbolized in the physical shapes of the bells and pomegranates of the Me’il. The bells with the ringers inside resemble an open mouth with a tongue. The pomegranates resemble a mouth tightly shut. Each golden bell was surrounded by a pomegranate on either side to remind us of our responsibility to think twice before we speak. In this way, we atone for the sin of Lashon hara.

Finally, the Gemara in Zevachim 18b explains that the term used for the simple garments worn by the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur – Michnisei Bahd, Ketonet Bahd, Mitznefet Bahd, Avneit Bahd – were linen garments, learned out from a passuk in Yechezkel; Bahd = Pishtim = Linen.
As stated above, the absence of the Me’il from the Kohen Gadol’s garb when he entered the Kodesh HaKedashim on Yom Kippur, teaches us that no permission or access code is needed to tap into Torah. There is, however, (at least) one prerequisite for Talmud Torah and D’veikus with Hashem, and that is humility. This is signified by the Bigdei Pishtim – the simple, white, linen clothing, which were the only clothing allowed to be worn when encountering the Luchot.
I believe humility connects to the lessons of avoiding Lashon hara in that a humble person has no designs to put someone else down by spreading Lashon hara; he has no desire to one-up or overtake someone else. Instead he thinks – ‘I am so far from perfect myself, so who am I to speak ill of someone else??’ The Torah’s punishment for Lashon hara is tzara’at, not to cause him pain, but to humble and lower him in his own eyes and in the eyes of others. In fact (thanks to an internet search), Erachin 15b says that the remedies for speaking Lashon hara are Torah study and humility.

A few years ago, Rav Moshe Weinberger shlita, in his Shabbos Shuva derasha, noted that pishtim (linen) has the same letters as sefasi (lips). The Kohen Gadol, as an extension of Klal Yisrael, comes to Hashem offering just the teffilos of his lips. Lips of his, and the collective lips of Klal Yisrael, that were hopefully employed for good things throughout the preceding year. Lips that know when to stay closed, and lips that know when to be used for Talmud Torah, teffila, and redifas shalom.

Humility and proper treatment of others, are key ingredients to help ensure the fulfillfilment of our daily request of: Hashem sefasai tiftach, u’fi yagid tehilasecha.

Terumah

[Based on a combination of ma’amarim from the sefer, Imrei Baruch: Terumah, ma’amarim ה and ז ]

One of many lessons that can be learned from the Kruvim, described in this week’s Parsha, is the importance of respecting differing method of avodas Hashem.
As an intro, there is a relevant question asked by Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky zt”l: Why was the institution of the flags for each tribe, described in detail in Parshat Bamidbar, not incorporated until the second year from when BNY left Egypt?

He answers, that the unique tribal flags could only exist properly after the Mishkan was erected. Each shevet had its own way of serving Hashem. The Ramban explains that the reason the Torah lists out every Nasi from every shevet and the korban each one brought for the Channukat HaMizbeach, despite the fact that all the korbanot for each Nasi were exactly the same in form, is because each one had a slightly differentkavana when they brought the korban. For example, the Nasi of Yehuda had kavanaregarding kingship; Yissachar for Torah study; Zevulun for commerce, etc.  Each tribe served Hashem in different ways and using different skills and traits.

Hashem knew that it would be dangerous to divide the tribes under different flags/colors before a centralized symbol of service of Hashem was established. And along came the Mishkan to fill that role, in Nissan of the second year. Before the Mishkan, a brand new nation, partitioned under 12 different flags could easily slip into quarreling and fighting over which shevet’s method, motto or style was the correct way of serving Hashem. Once the Mishkan was in place, however – serving as a reminder to every member of every shevet that the key to how they lived was to follow the word of Hashem and serve Him – then it was safe for the shvatim to begin identifying themselves by their own unique style. They could do this while always keeping in mind the broad national responsibility and loyalty. Symbolic of this equality, is the fact that the tribes set up their flags in a circle around the Mishkan, with no preferential treatment.

Two features of the Kruvim demonstrate this idea of the importance of respecting methods of avodas Hashem that may differ from our personal style:

1. The Kruvim faced each other: Shmot 25:20 says:

וְהָיוּ הַכְּרֻבִים פֹּרְשֵׂי כְנָפַיִם לְמַעְלָה סֹכְכִים בְּכַנְפֵיהֶם עַל-הַכַּפֹּרֶת
וּפְנֵיהֶם אִישׁ אֶל-אָחִיו אֶל הַכַּפֹּרֶת יִהְיוּ פְּנֵי הַכְּרֻבִים

And the cherubim shall spread out their wings on high, screening the ark-cover with their wings, with their faces one to another; toward the ark-cover shall the faces of the cherubim be.

Facing each other is a sign of respect, and acknowledgment that each person canlearn from the other. Furthermore, the Kruvim were placed in the Kodesh HaKedashim,which was covered with the skins of very special animals: Shmot 26:14:
עֹרֹת תְּחָשִׁים מִלְמָעְלָה

Rashi explains that the techash was a type of animal that only existed during the time of the Mishkan, and its skin was full of many colors. The colorful skin of the techashsignifies the many ways one can properly serve Hashem.

2. The Kruvim had the faces of children: a sign of innocence, free of any concept of competition, grandeur or entitlement.

…So how can we achieve this level of respect for our fellow Jews and ovdei Hashem? One suggestion is to follow the famous maxim in Pirkei Avos 1:6: “Yehoshua ben Perachya omer – Asei lecha Rav v’kanei lecha chaveir. V’havei dan et kol adam l’kaf zechut.”

What is the connection between (i) getting for yourself a Rav and a friend, and (ii) giving people the benefit of the doubt?
If you don’t give people the benefit of the doubt, then you’ll think that person is acting improperly and want to divorce yourself from them. There may be times that your Rav or your friend is doing something that doesn’t seem correct. In fact, there are times when they may actually be incorrect. But don’t think that your friend has to always be perfect, or that they must do exactly as you do in order to be worthy of your respect.  Don’t think that we are in a place to judge.  Rabbi Sacks, in his Letters to the Next Generation, writes, Be very slow indeed to judge others. If they are wrong, G-d will judge them. If we are wrong, G-d will judge us…Always seek out the friendship of those who are strong where you are weak. None of us has all the virtues. Even a Moses needed an Aaron. The work of a team, a partnership, a collaboration with others who have different gifts or different ways of looking at things, is always greater than any one individual can achieve alone… The righteous see the good in people; the self-righteous see the bad.”

If there is mutual respect among us, then we put ourselves in the greatest position to learn and grow from one another.

—————————————————

[Based on a shiur given by Rav Moshe Taragin]

One of the most famous psukim about the Torah is found in Parshat V’zot Ha’bracha:
Devarim 33:4:

תּוֹרָה צִוָּה לָנוּ מֹשֶׁה מוֹרָשָׁה קְהִלַּת יַעֲקֹב

Pretty straightforward concept that Hahsem commanded the Torah to Moshe. The ambiguous word is morasha — what exactly does that mean and why is Torah described in that way?

Morasha is usually translated as inheritance, legacy, province.

This passuk, written at the very end of the Torah, is discussed in detail in Medrash Rabbah in Terumah.
To give some context to the discussion of this passuk from another parsha within Parshat Terumah, it is important to note that Parshat Terumah is actually chronologically out of order, and to highlight why that might be: The collection for the Mishkan was a kaparah for the Eigel HaZahav. This atonement is therefore done afterthe Eigel in Parshat Ki Tissa. So Terumah is juxtaposed to Matan Torah for a reason…

The Ramban explains that building the Mishkan and the concept of the everyday rituals is a continuation of Har Sinai. We transition from grandiose experience of Sinai to the everyday observance of Halacha. Religion is not all fireworks and dramatic revelations.

So the Torah puts Terumah and the Mishkan here, right after Yitro and Mishpatim, to teach us about the different roles of Torah – the grand and the everyday.

Chazal, therefore, use this opportunity to invoke Torah tziva lanu Moshe, and teach us about another characteristic (or two) about the nature of Torah…

The Midrash says: Al tikri morasha, elah me’orasah =
Our relationship to Torah and Hashem is a marriage. The concept of a romantic, martial relationship with Torah and Hashem is found in many places.
In the same exact Midrash, it says on our passuk: “Al tikri morasha elah yerusha“…

So which one is it? Is Torah an inheritance or a marriage??
If anything, the concepts of an inheritance and a marriage are in opposition to one another – one is handed to you (unless you’re into the prearranged marriage thing, in which case both are handed to you); the other is a romantic pursuit, full of excitement and initiative!?!

The answer is that Torah encapsulates both. The Torah has been handed down to us (yerusha), but we also each find our own passionate chelek in Torah.

Speaking to the yerusha aspect: Part of religion is the wisdom to accept certain truths. We can’t self-intuit everything. We can’t say: I only believe in what I can rationally prove. Some things are handed down, and, as G-d fearing and believing Jews, we simply accept as true. To quote Rabbi Sacks, “faith is not a certainty; it is the courage to live with uncertainty.”
There is nothing intellectually weak or lacking by adhering to the concept that we cant know or prove everything.

Of course there is a tremendous amount of intellect and introspection demanded in Judaism as well – and that is the romantic piece; finding personal ways the Torah speaks to us, hopefully every day of our lives.

“Reishis chochmah yiras Hashem” – To be pious, you need to be intelligent; and to be intelligent you have to be wise enough to understand the limits of human intellect. That is the dual nature of our religion.

To further elaborate on the yerusha aspect, the Midrash brings a parable of a prince who is captured at a young age, and raised by barbarians. He returns to his kingdom after many years and isn’t shy about staking a claim to his rightful throne. The words in the Midrash are: “L’yerushas avosai ani chozeir” – I am returning to the inheritance of my forefathers.

The nimshal is that no matter how far you wander, you can come back and not be embarrassed. It is yours and you can always return.

Inheritance and romance are both necessary aspects of Torah and religion. The message to the most religious and least affiliated Jew is the same: recognize that you are grounded in Torah with a chelek elokah mima’al (“neshama sheh’nattata bi tehora hee” as we say every morning), and no matter how far we wander or how often we stumble, we cannot lose that anchoring.

Shabbat Shalom and a Gut Rosh Chodesh Adar.

Mishpatim

[Based on a dvar torah written by R’ David Silverberg]

The Shalosh Regalim – Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot – have at least two main significant aspects.

Perhaps the more dramatic and exciting aspect of these festivals are their respective historical significance: Yetziat Mitzrayim, Matan Torah, and the miraculous journey through the wilderness under the protection of the Annanei HaKavod.
These three holidays, however, also mark the three basic agricultural periods of the solar year in Eretz Yisrael: Pesach marks the beginning of Spring, and thus the beginning of the harvest; Shavuot occurs when the harvest of the first fruits is completed; and Sukkot celebrates the completion of the entire harvest.
Parshat Mishpatim focuse on the agricultural element. Shmot 23:14-16
:יד:  שָׁלֹשׁ רְגָלִים, תָּחֹג לִי בַּשָּׁנָה
:טו:  אֶת חַג הַמַּצּוֹת תִּשְׁמֹר שִׁבְעַת יָמִים תֹּאכַל מַצּוֹת כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוִּיתִךָ לְמוֹעֵד חֹדֶשׁ הָאָבִיב, כִּי בוֹ יָצָאתָ מִמִּצְרָיִם וְלֹא יֵרָאוּ פָנַי רֵיקָם
:טז:  וְחַג הַקָּצִיר בִּכּוּרֵי מַעֲשֶׂיךָ אֲשֶׁר תִּזְרַע בַּשָּׂדֶה וְחַג הָאָסִף בְּצֵאת הַשָּׁנָה בְּאָסְפְּךָ אֶת מַעֲשֶׂיךָ מִן הַשָּׂדֶה

These two components – the historical and the agricultural – do not necessarily constitute two independent lessons; the two are very much related, as each sheds light upon the other.

Specifically, the seasonal progression from Pesach to Shavuot symbolizes the historical progression from the Yetziat Mitzrayim to Matan Torah. Pesach is the holiday of springtime; the harsh winter conditions begin to subside, flowers begin to blossom, the ground once again becomes suitable for vegetation. These external conditions, however, only begin the process whose significance ultimately comes to fruition – literally – with the arrival of Shavuot – the first harvest. The springtime, while beautiful, is only the very beginning of the results it will ultimately produce several months later.

Similarly, some suggest, that Pesach signifies the beauty and splendor of Am Yisrael. In essence, it commemorates the birth of Jewish nationalism and pride, our singularity and ascent as “b’ni bechori Yisrael”. However, this pride lacks an anchoring to something significant when considered in the absence of Shavuot – the giving of the Torah. Just as Spring marks the beginning of a development that only culminates with the first harvest, so does Pesach trigger a progression that culminates with Hashem’s revelation on Har Sinai seven weeks later. Just as flowers that don’t bear fruit are merely attractive to the eye, but lack substantive significance, so does our sense of nationalism lose much of its meaning without our acceptance of the Torah. We didn’t leave Egypt to wander indefinitely; we left so that we could accept the Torah and become Avdei Hashem.

There is tremendous unrealized potential in identifying solely with the status and freedom afforded to us through the story of the Exodus, without committing ourselves to the obligations and demands of Matan Torah. If we only gaze upon the beautiful flowers of Springtime – the elevated stature of Am Yisrael as represented by Pesach, but fail to reap the harvest of Summertime – to submit ourselves to the demands of a Torah lifestyle, as we were commanded on Shavuot (and to the detailed laws contained in Mishpatim), then we fall tragically short of Hashem’s expectations for His Chosen Nation. One of the main themes of Pesach is Hashem establishing Himself to the world as Creator and Sustainer. We channel Hashem’s message, through our learning and observance of the mitzvot, and by spreading the infinite Torah lessons and values. The splendor of the spring must go hand-in-hand with the substantive results of the summer.