Wednesday, March 07, 2007

m'cheini na m'sifricha - the mishkan and the sin of the eigel

Moshe pleads with Hashem in our parsha, “Micheini na m’sifricha”, if you, Hashem, deliver a harsh penalty to Bnei Yisrael, erase my name from your sefer. There are many interpretations of this enigmatic dialogue between Moshe and G-d. The Chasam Sofer explains that we find that each of the parshiyos dealing with korbanos, e.g. the parsha of olah, the parsha of chatas, etc., opens with the phrase “VaYidaber Hashem el Moshe leimor”, Hashem spoke to Moshe and related that particular parsha. Each specific korban, explains the C.S., constitutes a unique type of kapparah which was taught to Moshe on a korban by korban basis. Had the Jewish people not sinned, the parshiyos of the Mishkan should have been taught the same way – each kli, e.g. the menorah, the shulchan, the mizbayach, etc., served its own unique function which would have been taught to Moshe on a kli by kli basis. The instructions of how to make each kli would have been prefaced with, “VaYidaber Hashem el Moshe…”. However, now that the Jewish people had sinned so grievously, the Mishkan as a whole served one purpose and one purpose only – as a kapparah. Moshe said to Hashem, “micheini na”, erase my name, meaning the phrase “VaYidaber Hashem el Moshe” is no longer needed before each item because the parts of the Mishkan are now subsumed under the more global function of achieving kapparah for the eigel.

Although he does not mention it, it seems to me that the pilpul of the Chasam Sofer should depend on the machlokes Rambam and Ramban discussed in previous posts. According to the Ramban, since each kli functioned as a hechsher mitzvah for a specific type of avodah, we would have anticipated a phrase like “vaYidaber Ashem el Moshe leimor” introducing it. However, according to the Rambam, the kelim are not hechsheirim, but chalakim of the larger mitzvah of building a Mishkan, and one introductory statement should suffice for all the parts.


  1. Anonymous10:02 AM

    What came first, the tzivuy to build the mishkan or the chet ha'Egel? Why does the Torah place T'ruma and Titzaveh ahead of Ki Sisa? And why are Vayakhel and Pikudei after Ki Sisa?

  2. Anonymous, do you plan to answer these questions, or is this homework for me? : )

  3. Anonymous11:09 AM

    I figured the answer would be in a Rashi or something. These are ABC questions that I don't know the answer to, and I was hoping that you might.

    Your post presupposes that the mishkan is a kapara for the eigel; I thought it was weird that the Torah was "hikdim refua l'maka".

  4. Rashi is in 31:18, and the Zohar argues about the order of events.

    And the Minchas Osher here has a lengthy discussion on the machlokes Rambam and Ramban re mitzvah as part of mitzvas mikdosh/hecsher mitzvah. Say what you will, you have to admit that his sefer is a great resource.

  5. My comment was not quite accurate. He doesn't really address the issue of what comprises hechsher as opposed to mitzvoh atzmoh, although he discusses the general issue at great length.

  6. Bill Selliger is going to want to smack me if he reads this comment : ), but believe it or not I do not own a Minchas Asher, so you will have to fill me in.

  7. Why should I say over someone elses torah, when I find my own so much more interesting? Anyway, he really doesn't address the interesting issue of how to distinguish a machshir from etzem hamitzvoh.
    But I think it's tolui in the machlokes Bavli and Yerushalmi in Sukkah 9a regarding whether building a sukkah is a maaseh mitzvoh, and the Mogen Avrohom in 14 and 649 on the Rabbeinu Tam regarding a koton putting on the schach/making tzitzis.