Wednesday, February 27, 2019

no cheshbonos

Last in the list of items donated for the Mishkan mentioned in the opening of P' Terumah are the precious stones of the avnei milu'im and avnei sho'ham.  Chazal (see Kiddushin 31) tell us that these stones literally cost a fortune.  So why are they mentioned last?  Why not give these gifts the prominence they deserve and mention them first, at the beginning of the list of donations?

The Ohr haChaim gives two answers, both elaborated on by R' Chaim Shmuelevitz in his Sichos Mussar (5732 #22).  I want to focus on the second answer. 

Rashi in our parsha (35:27) tells us that these precious stones were donated by the nesi'im, the princes of the tribes, after everyone else had given their gifts.  The nesi'im said: let everyone else donate, and whatever shortfall is left, whatever is needed to complete the job, we'll make it up.  Because they procrastinated, says Rashi, the word nesi'im in our parsha is written chaseir, missing a letter "yud."  And, writes the Ohr haChaim, because they waited until the end of the collection to bring their gifts, these gifts are recorded last on the list, as if they were lacking in importance.

What do you think the reaction of a yeshiva administrator or shul president would be if someone were to tell them that whatever the budget shortfall for the year is, they will cover it, no matter what the amount?  That gvir just made that administrator or that shul treasurer's year!  No more having the plead people for money, no more worry about cash flow, about spending, etc. 

What's so wrong with what the nesi'im did?

Answers R' Chaim Shmuelevitz: it's a wonderful cheshbon, but when you love something, you don't make cheshbonos.  When you love something and are passionate about it, you can't stop yourself from being involved from the get-go. 

I want to add two points.

A) R' Chaim Shmuelevitz sees this idea as a general principle in avodas Hashem.  I would like to suggest that it may be especially relevant, if not exclusively applicable, to the Mishkan.  "V'asu li Mikdash... k'chol asher ani mareh oscha... kein ta'asu."  (25:8-9)  The sentence starts "v'asu...;" why repeat "v'kein ta'asu" at the end?  Answers Ramban: ba ha'keifel l'chizuk u'l'ziruz.  The Torah repeats to add emphasis because the command to build the Mishkan must be fulfilled with alacrity and with zealousness.

Maybe the cheshbon of making up the shortfall is not such a bad idea when you deal with your local yeshiva or local shul, but when it comes to building the Mishkan when there is an explicit command to act with zerizus, then all bets are off, all cheshbonos should fall by the wayside. 

B) Why do we need a command to act b'zerizus with respect to building the Mishkan in particular?  I would suggest as follows: Rashi in last week's parsha writes that the people thought Moshe Rabeinu was late in coming down from Har Sinai and they went into panic mode.  They thought Moshe was dead, they thought they were leaderless, and the rest is history -- cheit ha'eigel. 

But they had an excuse -- by their estimation, Moshe had not come back!?

That excuse is no excuse.  If you love someone, then what's a few extra hours, an extra day, of waiting to see if they will come back?   If you love someone, how do you so easily give up hope of seeing them again?

The Mishkan is a kapparah for the cheit ha'eigel.  If the sin of the eigel was because we did not love Moshe Rabeinu enough to wait for him just a little longer before throwing in the towel.  The tikun has to be showing our love and passion for the Mishkan, for Hashem.  The way to do that is by rushing to give, not making cheshbonos.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

nikras HA'tzur -- THE very important rock

Sorry, not a lot of time this week, so this will be brief.  2 quick points.

1) "Kol milchama ba'machaneh."  Yehoshua was the one who led Bnei Yisrael in their battle against Amalek, which was as much clash of competing ideologies as a physical battle.  Amalek attacked those stragglers who were outside the ananei ha'kavod, those on the periphery of the camp.  When Yehoshua heard the commotion of eigel worship taking place, he recognized that sound -- "kol milchama," that's the sound of battle with Amalek, with evil, but now it is, "ba'machaneh," the battle has penetrated the camp itself and is not longer restricted to the periphery.  (Sefas Emes)

2) If you have a minute, look back at the few pesukim at the beginning of ch 17 in Parshas Beshalach.  There we are told that Bnei Yisrael were camped in Refidim and had no water.  After the complaining started, Hashem told Moshe to take his staff, take the Zekeinim, and "avor lifnei ha'am... v'halachta," go walk out from the people.  "Hineini omeid lifnecha al ha'tzur b'Chorev," G-d says he is waiting by a rock at Chorev.  All Moshe has to do is hit the rock and it will produce water.  You know the rest of the story.

I don't know why I never paid attention to the fact that although the people were camped in Refidim, that's not where the miracle of the rock producing water happened.  Moshe had to leave the camp and go to Chorev, and it was there that the miracle happened.  Why?  Why not just give them water in Refidim?

Moshe already knew Chorev was a significant place.  G-d does not tell Moshe that he *will stand* -- ya'amod -- future tense, at the rock to do the miracle, but rather G-d is "omed," already standing there.  Chorev was the desert where Moshe took Yisro's sheep to graze and where he saw the burning bush.  G-d told Moshe, "You know already where I stand, where I can be found -- go back to that same place."

But more important than what had already happened in Chorev is what will happen there.  Chorev is where we came after Refidim in order to get the Torah.  There is a deliberate parallel here: G-d, the Tzur Tamim, gives Torah at Chorev, without which we cannot live; Moshe hits the tzur (note the word tzur is used for rock in this parsha, as opposed to the word sela, which is used in Chukas) at Chorev to get water, without which we cannot live.  "Ain mayim elah Torah."  The going out of the camp, the turning of attention to Chorev, is meant to bring the people to the realization of this parallel -- Torah is like water for the neshoma.  We can't live without it.  (The Ramban touches on this, but it is spelled out beautifully in the Abarbanel at the end of Beshalach.)

When Moshe in our parsha asks Hashem to reveal himself, Hashem responds that Moshe can only view what little he can see from within "nikras HA'tzur," a cleft in THE rock, with a "hey ha'yediya."  THE rock means the famous rock, the same rock that Moshe hit back in Parshas Beshalach!  You want Hashem to reveal himself?  Then you have to bury yourself in the concept that ruchniyus is as essential as water for your survival, the concept THE rock revealed.  If Torah is your life, then you will experience Hashem revealing himself to the fullest.

Monday, February 18, 2019

purim katan

The Mishna (Meg 6) writes that if the megillah was read in Adar Rishon, it must be re-read in Adar Sheni or you are not yotzei. The Mishna continues that the only difference between Adar I and Adar II is with respect to megillah reading and matanos la'evyonim.

The gemara is medayek from the Mishna that with respect to hesped and ta'anis the two Adars are equivalent -- just like on Purim of Adar II one cannot fast or give a hesped, so too one cannot fast or give a hesped on the same date in Adar I.

This is the source for what we call Purim Katan. It's not a day of full celebration, but it's not an ordinary weekday either.

The Rosh, however, learns a completely different pshat in the Mishna. The Mishna is not two separate statements, but rather is one halacha: in a case where megillah was read in Adar Rishon, and then **afterwards** beis din declares a leap year, the only difference between the two Adars will be that the megillah must be re-read and matanos la'evyonim given again in Adar II.  However, if beis din declared it a leap year sometime before 14 Adar I and everyone knew not to read megillah in Adar I, there would be no issur hesped or taanis on 14 Adar I either -- the month, writes the Rosh, would be no different than Shevat.

B'pashtus the machlokes Rishonim here boils down to how to understand the concept of adding an extra month to the year. According to the Rambam and RIF, a leap year means there are 2 Adars, and therefore there should in theory be 2 Purims.  In practice, the gemara darshens from pesukim that the megillah need only be read in Adar II. According to the Rosh, even in a leap year there is only one Adar and only one Purim. The month we add could just as well be called Shevat II, or "Extra Month."  It is Adar in name only, but carries none of the character or significance of the true Adar, Adar II.  

How do we celebrate Purim Katan?  Ran writes that the issur hesped and taanis is a symptom of an underlying chiyuv of simcha; therefore one should have some sort of festive meal.   Tosfos disagrees. S.A. paskens like Tos; the Rama quotes the Ran's view.

Chasam Sofer has an amazing chiddush that Purim Katan may be even more significant that the real Purim.  The gemara darshens a kal v'chomer: if we say hallal on Pesach when we were freed from bondage, then certainly we should say hallel when our lives have been spared such as occurred on Purim.  (Kri'as ha'megillah is a kiyum of hallel.)  A kal v'chomer is one of the 13 midos the Torah is darshened by, and anything learned through the 13 midos has the status of a din d'oraysa. Therefore, says Chasam Sofer, exactly what to do to commemorate the nes -- reading megillah, seudah, etc. -- may be derabbanan, but the obligation to do so in some way is d'oraysa.     

Based on this logic, since since Adar I has the status of Adar (according to most Rishonim, not like the Rosh), the celebration of Purim Katan, marking the nes of Purim, is a chiyuv d'oraysa.   Zerizim makdimim -- why wait for Adar II when you have the chance to mark the miracle already in Adar I!  Chazal tell us for various reasons to defer reading megillah and matanos la'evyoniom until Adar II, but when we fulfill those mitzvos derabbanan should not impact out obligation to fulfill the mitzvah d'oraysa of remembering the nes in Adar I.   

Thursday, February 14, 2019

perpetual chinuch

1. The Maharal in Gur Aryeh (Parshas Matos) explains the difference between the nevuah of Moshe "b'ispaklarya ha'mei'ira" which he communicated using the words "zeh ha'davar" and the nevuah of other prophets, "b'ispakkarya she'eina mei'ira," which they communicated using the words "koh amar Hashem" is that Moshe spoke of ideals and principles -- Torah and mitzvos are a description of what should be, not what is -- and ideals and principles are eternal; the other prophets spoke of G-d in the here and now of the world, the interaction of the divine with temporal, physical reality. 

Our parsha opens the description of the process and korbanos of the miluim, the one week during which the kohanim were inaugurated, with the words "v'zeh ha'davar asher ta'aseh lahem l'kadesh osam..." (29:1)  Shem m'Shmuel asks: if "zeh" signifies the eternal, the unchanging ideal, why does the Torah use this term here in describing the milium which lasted a mere one week?

"Chanoch la'na'ar al pi darko gam ki yazkin lo yasur mi'menu" does not mean that if you train a child at 5 to blow his nose using a tissue, then at 75 he will still have manners and do the same.  We should aspire to more than merely holding on to what we learned at age 5.  What the pasuk is telling us is that if you do chinuch properly at age 5, then when the same person is older "lo yasur mimenu" -- from chinuch!  Learning will be a lifelong process.  There will be perpetual freshness and renewal; the person will never cease growing.

The week of the miluim was the chanukas ha'kohanim and the prelude to the chanukas ha'mishkan.  "Zeh ha'davar asher ta'aseh" -- it was not just a one week inauguration ceremony, but it was an inauguration of a lifetime of constant chinuch and chanukah.  The "minchas chavitim," the korban the kohen gadol offered every day was the same as that offered by a regular kohen on the day he began avodah.  For the kohen gadol every day was a fresh start, a new inauguration, and new opportunity to grow.

2. "...V'lakachta mi'damo [of the slaughtered ram] v'nasata al t'nuch ozen Aharon v'al tnuch ozen banav ha'yimanis v'al bohan YADAM ha'yimanis v'al bohen RAGLAM ha'yimanis." (29:20) 

Meforshim (see Meshech Chochma, Netziv) note that in describing the placing of the blood of the ram on the ear, the pasuk refers to Aharon individually and then his sons individually.  When it comes to placing the ram's blood on the thumb and toe, the pasuk refers to Aharon and his sons as one unit, one group.  Why the difference?

The ear represents understanding.  Shema Yisrael means to understand, not just to hear.  The thumbs / hands represent putting one's ideas into practice.  The toes / feet represent practice becoming second nature, regel = hergel

When it comes to action, there is no difference between Aharon and his sons.  We all have to do the same mitzvos.  But when it comes to understanding, to the ear, there is a difference between the kohen gadol, between Aharon, and those under him.  Everyone has their own "ear" for the music, the shirah of Torah, each according to his own level. 

3. I was thinking of writing about the machlokes Rambam/Ra'avad re: the relationship between the choshen and u'rum v'tumim, but earlier in the week when I asked my son if he had any thoughts on the topic he answered that he already had a whole post written on it.  Oh well -- saves me writing time.  If you want lomdus, read it here.

Monday, February 11, 2019

a mitzvah to believe in angels?

1) R' Bachyei says something extraordinary on last week's parsha.  He writes that the keruvim are there to remind us of the existence of angels, "because just as we are commanded to believe in G-d, which is the primary ikar of the ikkarim... so too we are commanded to believe in angels and this is the second ikar."  (25:18)

Since when does belief in angels rank up there with the ikkarei emunah?  

But that's what he says, so take it up with R' Bachyei.    

2) Why does the Torah include the command to put the lechem ha'panim on the shulchan (25:30) in the instructions of how to build a shulchan?  The Torah does not stick the command to light the menorah in the middle of the instructions of how to build a menorah, or stick the command to offer korbanos in the description of what the mizbeiyach looked like.  Why is the shulchan different?

My son did a post quoting sources to prove that putting lechem ha'panim on the shulchan is not just an independent mitzvah, but it part of how the mitzvah of building a shulchan.  A shulchan without lechem is not a shulchan.

(In a similar vein, the Da'as Zekeinim asks why in the list of items donated to the Mishkan recorded at the beginning of the parsha -- zahav, kesef, nechoshes, etc. -- the Torah singles out only three of those items and tells us what they were used for: shemen la'ma'or, besamim l'shem ha'mishcha u'l'ketores ha'samim.  He answers that when you construct a new house you want it to smell nice, you want it to be light and bright, you want everything to have a new house look.  The menorah, ketores, shem ha'mishcha are not being mentioned here in their role as as independent mitzvos, but rather they are being mentioned in their role as part of the mitzvah of binyan ha'mishkan.)

I saw R' Nevenzahl has a different suggestion.  The lechem ha'panim was usually placed (and the old lechem removed) on Shabbos.  The chanukas ha'mishkan took place on a Sunday.  Therefore, one might have thought that the shulchan should remain empty all week until the next Shabbos, kah mashma lan our pasuk that from day #1, from its inauguration, the shulchan should have lechem on it.

Thursday, February 07, 2019

bri'ach ha'tichon of chessed.

1) The Rambam writes in Hil Beis HaBechira (1:12):

והכל חייבין לבנות ולסעד בעצמן ובממונם אנשים ונשים כמקדש המדבר.

"Everyone has to participate in the mitzvah of building a mikdash, both men and women, just like all participated in building the Mishkan in the desert."

Why does the Rambam add that last phrase?  Why can't he just say that men and women must participate -- why add the comparison to the Mishkan?


2) According to Chazal the "bri'ach ha'tichon," the central beam that went through the middle of all the boards of the Mishkan, miraculously curved itself around the entire structure.  Where did this special beam come from?  Targum Yonasan (26:28) writes that it came from the tree planted by Avraham, "Va'yita eisehel b'Be'eir Sheva," to provide shade and a place to rest for his guests.  When Klal Yisrael left Egypt the angels came and cut down that tree, threw it into Yam Suf, and from there it was retrieved by Bnei Yisrael.

Why did the angels bring davka that tree?  Was there no closer place to get wood from?  R' Yaakov Kaminetzki has a wonderful insight regarding the "atzei shitim," which Chazal tell us were planted by Yaakov Avinu (see my son's post here).  The gemara (Yoma 72) writes that the word "omdim" used to describe these boards means they are eternal.  R' Yaakov points out that the word "omdim" is part of the tzivuy, the command of how to build the Mishkan.  It's not a bracha -- it's something we have to make happen.  So where do you get wood that will last for an eternity?  The answer is you get wood that Avraham used for hachnasas orchim; you get wood that Yaakov invested his kochos in to prepare for the future and give his children bitachon that they would one day get out of galus and have a Mishkan.  That's wood saturated with kedusha that will therefore be with us forever. 

The world stands on three things: Torah, avodah, and chessed.  Which of these values would you most associate with the Mishkan?  The  obvious choice is avodah = offering korbanos.  The slightly less obvious choice is Torah.  Ramban writes that the revelation of Shechina in the Mishkan parallels the revelation of Shechina at Har Sinai.  The aron containing the luchos was the focal point of the Mishkan.  Yet we see from the Targum Yonasan that the ingredient of chessed must be there as well.   Only the wood that served as a vehicle for Avraham's welcoming of guests could serve to connect and hold that walls together.

My wife added that the Mishkan is a microcosm of the world.  "Olam chessed yibaneh" - the world is built on chessed.  The Mishkan follows suit.

The keruvin that stood atop the aron stood "pneihem ish el achiv" -- facing each other.  R' Shternbruch suggests that the Torah is telling us that the key to being able to enter the kodesh kodashim, to be able to come close to the aron, to Torah, is to always look toward your fellow Jew -- to be aware of the needs and plight of your fellow man.  Chessed is at the heart of the Mishkan.

What is true of the "house" of Hashem should be equally true of our own homes.  Hashra'as haShechina requires avodah, requires Torah, but without chessed, it will all fall apart.

Monday, February 04, 2019

story time

In Sivan Rahav-Meir's parsha shiur last week she noted how until Parshas Mishpatim, the Torah is a book of stories -- narrative, not law.  Parshas Mishpatim changes all that.   She then related how her little daughter learned the parsha in school.  The teacher discussed with the class what would happen if one child borrowed a sweater from another child: what are the responsibilities of the borrower, what should be done if something happens to the sweater, etc.  Sivan Rahav-Meir commented that she thought this showed the genius of the gannenet.  Instead of teaching laws -- not very appealing to 5 year olds -- the teacher turned Mishpatim into more stories.  The parsha of shomrim thus became the story of a borrowed sweater. 

Sivan then remarked that this works great for little kids, but we adults don't approach the parsha in the same way.  For us, there is that great shift from stories to halacha.

On this point, I beg to differ.  We never outgrow stories, and Chazal know it!  There is no Mishna, for example, that talks about "mammon ha'mutal b'safeik" in the abstract, the way a law book might present it, the way a lamdan discusses the theoretical foundation.  Instead we have a story: two people are holding a talis, each one says the talis is mine, etc.  Maybe our brains are naturally wired to absorb stories; maybe there is some other explanation as to why Chazal present it in this way. What do you think?