Dedicated Leilui Nishmat Margalit bat Victoria A’h by her Son Sam J. Kassin
Parashat Vayakhel-Pekudei Good Intentions This week’s parshiot discuss the erection of the Mishkan. Rabbi Frand reviews an interesting Midrash from Parashat Pekudei. According to the Midrash, the boards of the Mishkan were so heavy that the people could not hold them up next to each other long enough for them to assemble the Mishkan. They kept toppling over. In frustration, the people brought all the boards and poles to Moshe, and he assembled it with miraculous strength that Hashem granted him especially for this purpose. The passuk in the parasha, however, states that the Jewish people “brought the Mishkan to Moshe (39:33).” This would seem to imply that they brought him a completely assembled Mishkan. What does that mean? Regarding this same verse, the Midrash tells a story concerning Rabbi Abahu's departure from this world. On the threshold of Olam Habah, he was shown all the reward that awaited him, and he remarked with astonishment, “All of this is for Abahu? I thought I had been toiling in vain, and now I see I have a great portion in the World to Come!” What point is the Midrash making by bringing this story in connection to the erection of the Mishkan? And how do we understand Rabbi Abahu's surprise? Did he really expect that having spent his life learning Torah and doing mitzvot he would not be rewarded in Olam Habah? Rav Shlomo Breuer explains that Judaism is a deed-oriented religion. It is not enough to say, “I am a Jew at heart.” Deeds count: learning Torah, performing mitzvot, doing chessed. Being a Jew is about doing, from the moment we rise in the morning until the moment we go to bed. At the same time, however, intent also plays a great role in Judaism. If someone is prevented by circumstances beyond his control from doing a mitzvah, the Torah considers it as if he had done it. Judaism demands deeds, but not necessarily results. If a Jew puts in the honest and sincere effort, he is rewarded even if he is not successful. Hashem, in His infinite kindness, considers good intentions as deeds. Rabbi Abahu was saying, “There were so many times in my life when I made the effort, but I was not successful. I had assumed that on these occasions my efforts had been futile. Now I see that I have been rewarded even for my intentions even when they were unsuccessful.” When the time came to assemble the Mishkan, the Jewish people made every effort to do it by themselves. Sweat poured from their brows; veins bulged on their foreheads; they strained, and they pushed those heavy boards with all their might, but they could not erect the Mishkan. It was simply beyond them, and they had no choice but to turn to Moshe for help. Nonetheless, the Torah reports that they “brought the Mishkan to Moshe,” because that is what they intended to do and what they tried to do with all their hearts. Hashem considered it as if they had erected the Mishkan themselves, and He rewarded them! Repairing the Sin of the Golden Calf In last week’s parasha, before the sin of the golden calf, Hashem spoke to B’nei Yisrael about the importance of Shabbat. And now this week’s Parashat Vayakhel opens with, “And Moshe gathered the people of B’nei Yisrael and said to them, ‘These are the things that Hashem commanded... On six days, work may be done, but the seventh day shall be holy for you, a day of complete rest for Hashem!’” We see that the Torah brings up Shabbat again, but this time it’s discussed prior to the construction of the Mishkan. Rashi explains that this is to inform the nation of Shabbat’s magnitude, that even building the Mishkan cannot take precedence over Shabbat. The Or HaHayyim explains that idol worship constitutes a repudiation of all 613 mitzvot. Therefore, for B’nei Yisrael’s teshuvah for the golden calf to be complete, and for them to merit the Mishkan in their lifetime, they had to once again accept all the mitzvot upon themselves. Shabbat is equivalent to the entire Torah. Hashem repeated the mitzvah of Shabbat to give B’nei Yisrael the means to accept all 613 mitzvot. The Or HaHayyim continues and says that the first passuk ends with, “These are the things that Hashem commanded, to do them,” which can also be interpreted as, “to repair them” — because the commandment of Shabbat was a means to repair the damage of the sin of the golden calf! Hashem’s Hidden Treasure If you would ask any wealthy man today where he keeps his most treasured possessions, he might tell you that he has his precious jewels in his safe. Another will say that he has his coin or stamp collection in his safety deposit box in the bank, along with his cash, and yet another will say that his priceless art collection is hidden safely in his vault. There’s an amazing Gemara in Masechet Shabbat (10b) that says, “Hashem said to Moshe... ‘I have a wonderful gift in My treasure house and its name is Shabbat. I wish to give this precious gift to the Jewish people; go and inform them!’” Hashem is telling us that He has a special treasure that He has hidden away and wants to give it to us, the Jewish people. How can we even try to compare the treasures of humans, like jewels, coins, and works of art to the magnificent gift of Shabbat that Hashem kept in His treasure house and gave to us at Har Sinai? It’s impossible. So why don’t we treasure the gift of Shabbat that Hashem gave us as we would any other earthly riches? The answer is that we don’t understand the magnitude of the gift of Shabbat, so we take it for granted and we don’t treat it as we should. We must understand that the degree to which we elevate the Shabbat spiritually is the same level of beracha that we will receive from Hashem! Shabbat in Vayakhel The Arizal says the reason that Shabbat comes right after the episode of the golden calf is because when B’nei Yisrael sinned with the golden calf, they lost the crowns they received when they had accepted the Torah with the words naaseh ve’nishmah. Those crowns brought so much beracha for health and prosperity. If we keep the Shabbat in the proper way, we will merit to get some of those crowns back! Another Gemara in Masechet Betza (16a) says that, “Hashem placed an additional soul in all of us on Erev Shabbat and it’s taken away from us when the Shabbat ends.” In Masechet Shabbat (118a) it says that “Those who delight in the Shabbat are given a boundless inheritance which will come in Olam Habah but will reap the benefits of that gift in Olam Hazeh as well.” In the Torah it says, “On six days, work may be done, but the seventh day shall be holy for you, a day of complete rest for Hashem! Whoever does work on it shall be put to death. You shall light no fire in any of your dwellings on the Shabbat day (35:2).” The Shabbat laws were already mentioned in greater detail in last week’s parasha (31:12-17). The repetition this week, at the beginning of Vayakhel, seems redundant. Why is it necessary to begin the section dealing with donating money to the Mishkan with this brief preamble about Shabbat? Many commentaries deal with this question. Rav Naiman notes in his Sefer Darkei Mussar a peculiarity in the expression “Sheshet yamim taaseh melacha,” which literally means “six days WORK SHALL BE DONE.” A more common expression, as we indeed find elsewhere in the Torah, is “Sheshet yamim taaseh melachtecha” which means “For six days YOU SHALL DO YOUR WORK.” It is peculiar to use the passive form of the verb for doing work. The Darkei Mussar suggests that by use of this expression, the Torah is teaching us a fundamental rule for anyone who is engaged in earning a livelihood. The amount of money a person makes is NOT commensurate with the amount of effort he puts into his job. As we mentioned earlier, intentions are extremely important. A person is indeed required to try to earn a living and support a family. One who does not make that effort and expects “maan” from heaven will be disappointed! However, it is flawed to make the equation that “The more work I do the more money I will make.” It does not work like that. The Almighty decides what each of us should earn. We can exhaust ourselves in our professions and either we will not succeed in earning as much as we feel we should earn or we perhaps will earn all that money and then lose it due to unforeseen expenses or poor investments, or a variety of other “unforeseen circumstances.” On the other hand, one can exert the right amount of effort and the Almighty may bless the actions of his hands to earn large sums of money, far greater than others who work much harder. This is a fundamental belief in our religion and it really is what Shabbat observance is all about. Common wisdom is, “Of course if one works seven days a week, he will make more money than if he works six days a week.” And yet, the Torah commands us to work only six days. If the Almighty wants to bestow upon us a certain degree of financial success, he will bestow it to us whether we expend six days of effort to earn it or we expend seven days of effort to earn it. “For six days work SHALL BE DONE.” The work must be done, but one should not think “You shall do work.” The “you” is not what makes the money, it is the “He” (Hashem) allows “you” to earn a living. There’s a famous saying that goes “As much as the Jews kept Shabbat, the Shabbat kept the Jews!” The Shabbat that we keep today and that was kept throughout the generations is the secret that preserved the Jewish nation until this very day. “Shabbat Kept the Jews” Dan, from Dansdeals, told an incredible story illustrating this point. In 2014, Andy, a Jewish businessman, had requested an itinerary from his travel agent for an upcoming trip around Asia. He had business in Hong Kong, then Kuala Lumpur, and then a conference in Beijing on Saturday March 8th. The travel agent prepared the itinerary but offered Andy a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on Friday morning, instead of early Saturday like Andy wanted. Andy asked the travel agent for a Saturday flight, and the travel agent replied, “I wish I could give you a day later, but you know I don’t like flying Jews on Shabbat. I can take out that flight if you want and you can book yourself with the price drop.” Andy was familiar with his agent’s policy, so he said he would book it himself. The agent reminded Andy that if he changed his mind, he’d be happy to book the Friday flight for him. Shortly after, Andy did change his mind. “You’re right,” he emailed the travel agent. “I’ve reconsidered. Since I’ll have an extra night in Beijing, can you recommend somewhere I can get Shabbat dinner?” And the travel agent recommended a place to get a nice kosher meal and booked him the originally proposed itinerary, flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on Friday early morning instead of Saturday. On Saturday morning, March 8th, 2014, Malaysia Flight 370 had taken off from Kuala Lumpur to its destination Beijing, and mysteriously lost communication with air traffic control and disappeared forever. With 227 passengers and 12 crew members presumed dead, the disappearance of Flight 370 was the deadliest Boeing 777 incident in history. After Shabbat, Andy saw the news and frantically emailed his travel agent thanking him for saving his life and begging to pay him back somehow. The travel agent replied, “No need to thank me. Hashem and Shabbat were your life savers. You owe them something! I’m so happy for you, Andy.” May we all learn to appreciate the Shabbat and keep it to the highest standards that we possibly can, because it is the true source of all our berachot. May we also see the fruits of our Shabbat berachot through the Shabbatot that we enjoy with our children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren! May we all stay safe and healthy and have an easy time ahead of us in the coming weeks and years! Amen! Shabbat Shalom! Rabbi Amram Sananes as written by Jack Rahmey Discussion Points:
Do we treasure Shabbat as much as we do our earthly possessions?
The Torah reports that B’nei Yisrael “brought the Mishkan to Moshe,” even though it was in pieces, because they intended to build it but couldn’t. Hashem considered it as if they had erected the Mishkan themselves, and He rewarded them!
We must understand the magnitude of the gift of Shabbat, so we don’t take it for granted, because the degree to which we elevate the Shabbat spiritually is the same level of beracha that we will receive from Hashem!
A person is indeed required to try to earn a living and support a family. One who does not make that effort and expects “maan” from heaven will be disappointed! However, it is flawed to make the equation that “The more work I do the more money I will make.” The Torah commands us to work only six days.
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