Thursday, March 11, 2010

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Vayakhel-Pekudei-HaChodesh 5770

שבת טעם החיים ויקהל-פקודי-החודש תש"ע
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Vayakhel-Pekudei-HaChodesh 5770

The Mishkan teaches us to be exact and uncompromising

ותכל כל עבדת משכן אהל מועד ויעשו בני ישראל ככל אשר צוה ה' את משה כן עשו, all the work of the Tabernacle, the Tent of Meeting, was completed, and the Children of Israel had done everything that G-d commanded Moses, so did they do. (Shemos 39:32)
In this week’s parshiyos, Vayakheil and Pekudei, the Torah repeats the entire process mentioned earlier in Parashas Terumah and Tetzaveh, detailing the construction of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, and the fashioning of the vestments of the Kohen Gadol, the High Priest. Surprisingly enough, the Medrash and the commentators do not address why it was necessary for the Torah to expend numerous verses in what appears at first glance to be unnecessary repetition. What could be the reason for this redundancy?
The Mishkan was akin to the Tents of the Patriarch’s
In his introduction to the Book of Shemos, Ramban explains that prior to the construction of the Mishkan, there was a void among the Jewish people. HaShem’s Divine Presence which existed to such a high degree during the time of the Patriarchs was no longer present. A primary goal of building the Mishkan, he explains, was to restore that lofty level of HaShem’s that existed during the time of the Patriarchs. The Patriarchs, through selfless devotion to HaShem and uncompromising beliefs, merited to having the Divine Presence resting on their tents. The Torah therefore repeats many of the details of the Mishkan’s construction to reinforce the idea that the Mishkan was meant to be exact to the last detail – that there’s no such thing as “it’s just a detail.”
Reb Mendel The Shochet
The Bostoner Rebbe, Rabbi Yitzchak Levi Horowitz of blessed memory, recalled an incident with Reb Mendel, a chassid from Jerusalem, who came to America and worked as a ritual slaughterer in New York. His job was particularly hard during the freezing winters, as the slaughterhouse where he worked was open and unheated. However, the slaughterhouse had a small cubicle where one or two people could sit and warm themselves by a small stove. The slaughterers would go out to work but they would hurry back as soon as they could to avoid frostbite.
One cold winter evening, while was waiting in the cubicle for the truck to come in, Reb Mendel dozed off. When it finally arrived, the air was filled with the wake-up call for the slaughterer) Reb Mendel jumped up and ran to his place. The boss and six or seven workers were already there and ready to start.
Reb Mendel quickly recited the blessing and began to slaughter the chickens, one... two... three. He then checked his knife to make sure that it was still perfectly sharp and free from nicks. As he was getting ready for the next batch of chickens, he happened to run his hand across his head and was stunned to discover that he was not wearing a yarmulke!
Apparently, while he was dozing in the cubicle, his yarmulke had fallen off his head. “Oh no!” he thought to himself. “What did I do? I made a blessing and slaughtered without a yarmulke, and I didn’t even know it.”
The hallmark of a professional slaughterer is that he has the requisite sensitivity and focus that allows him to detect even the slightest jerk in the chicken’s neck during the slaughtering process. One who does not wear a yarmulke while slaughtering has not invalidated the act of slaughtering. Nonetheless, the lack of proper sensitivity could render the chicken not kosher.
Reb Mendel said to himself, “if I couldn’t feel whether I was wearing a yarmulke on or not, how could I tell if I had slaughtered the chickens properly?”
A lesser man may have hesitated, but Reb Mendel was a chassid through and through. He walked straight back to the cubicle, laid down his knife, and told his startled boss that he was resigning from his position. When his boss questioned him regarding his plan for earning a livelihood, Reb Mendel responded that he would find a different means of livelihood. Reb Mendel ultimately found a job which paid him handsomely.
The construction of the Mishkan was a microcosm for the life of a devout Jew. Uncompromising belief in HaShem and in His Torah is what sets the standard for true devotion and is what allows the Divine Presence to rest on our homes.
The Shabbos connection
Throughout the week, we are often faced with the challenge to compromise in some manner on our beliefs. We must always remain strong in our conviction that HaShem will provide for us in all circumstances. On Shabbos we are granted special assistance from above to retain a level of holiness and integrity, and even an ignorant person is infused with the fear of Shabbos. HaShem should grants us the fortitude to observe His mitzvos with complete Faith and we should merit the Ultimate redemption with the arrival of Moshiach, speedily, in our days.
Shabbos Stories
Shabbos in the Chafetz Chaim’s home
Leib, a 14-year-old boy, studied in a small yeshiva in Russia. On one occasion, he was due to return home for a visit. The train was scheduled to reach his station on Thursday afternoon. He would board there and travel to his home in Stuchin, Poland. Even if the train ran exactly on schedule, Leib knew that he would arrive home just hours before Shabbos.
As it turned out, the train did not arrive at the station until Thursday evening. By the time Leib had boarded, darkness had fallen. By Friday morning he knew he would never reach Stuchin before Shabbos. He would have to find another place in which to spend the holy day.
Leib asked a conductor for a list of the stations where the train was due to stop. He had decided that if he recognized one of the stops as a place where Jews lived, he would get off the train, in the hopes that someone would invite him home for Shabbos. To his joy, the conductor informed him that one of the cities was very close to Radin. Leib was quite excited at this news, because his aged great-uncle, the Chafetz Chaim, lived in Radin. Leib’s grandfather was the Chafetz Chaim’s brother. It looked as though he would be able to spend Shabbos at the home of his illustrious relative.
When the train came to his stop, Leib gathered his belongings and got off the train. He asked passersby the way to Radin, and quickly made his way to his great-uncle’s house. His arrival was greeted with joy by the Rebbitzen. She explained that her husband had already left for shul, adding that, as a rule, the Chafetz Chaim, as the Rav, went to shul early in order to learn with some of the congregants before davening. She advised Leib to rest a bit before going to shul.
Having spent the entire previous night awake on the swaying train, Leib was exhausted. He fell asleep immediately.
Upon awakening, the first thing he saw was the Chafetz Chaim seated at his Shabbos table, learning from a sefer. His uncle welcomed him warmly, then suggested that the boy wash his hands and daven Kabbalas Shabbos and Ma’ariv, after which they would eat the Shabbos meal together.
When Leib had finished davening, the Chafetz Chaim summoned his wife to join them at the table. The Chafetz Chaim made Kiddush, and the three of them -- the aged rabbi, his wife, and the 14-year-old youth -- sat down to their Shabbos feast.
When the meal was over, the Chafetz Chaim excused himself and went to his room to sleep.
Leib prepared himself for bed as well. He tried to fall asleep again but to no avail. At last, he rose and went into the kitchen, where a clock stood on a shelf. Leib looked at it to check the time, then rubbed his eyes in disbelief. The clock appeared to be functioning and yet it showed 4 o’clock! How could it be 4 in the morning already? Shaking his head in bewilderment, Leib returned to his bed.
When he awoke in the morning, he again went into the kitchen, where this time, he found the Rebbitzen.
“Good Shabbos,” he began. Then he asked her the question that had been troubling him. “Last night, after the meal, I couldn’t fall asleep right away. I went into the kitchen, and saw that the clock showed that it was 4 in the morning! Does the clock work properly? What time did we finish the meal last night?”
“It was very late when we finished,” she answered.
“But the meal didn’t last that long! What time did we sit down to eat? Did I sleep so long when I first came?”
“I’ll tell you what happened,” replied the Rebbitzen. “When the Rav returned from shul, you were in a very deep sleep. I wanted to wake you so that you could hear Kiddush, but my husband stopped me. He said that you were tired from your long journey, and advised me to let you sleep. He said that he would wait, and make Kiddush when you woke up.
“When some time had passed, not wanting to make me wait any longer, he asked our son Aharon to make Kiddush so that my son and I could eat our meal. Meanwhile, my husband sat and learned, waiting for you to wake up. We agreed that he’d call me when you did, and that we would sit down together to the Shabbos meal, in your honor.”
The Rebbitzen added, “You slept for hours, but the Rav was determined not to start the Shabbos meal without you!”
Had Leib not asked his question, neither the Chafetz Chaim nor his wife had planned to say a word about their extraordinary behavior that Shabbos night! (
Skolya Rebbe
The Skolya Rebbe, Rabbi Dovid Yitzchok Isaac Rabinowitz, was known for his great genius and depth in Torah learning, among other things. He had a certain custom at his tishen. Somebody present was chosen to say a pasuk (verse), any pasuk, from the Torah. The Rebbe would instantly begin to expound on the pasuk. He would expound, and he would expound, sometimes for up to two hours. The person honored with giving the Rebbe the pasuk was usually a guest or somebody prominent. The Rebbe never failed to impress, and hold those present at the tish rapt. Once while visiting Ireland the Rebbe was at the home of a prominent Rav. During the course of conversation the Rav said, "why doesn't the Rebbe come clean! Everyone knows that the Rebbe plans which pasuk is going to be said ahead of time." The Rebbe challenged the Rav, and asked for a pasuk. He thought for a second, and said "Reuven, Shimon, Levi, VeYehuda." The Rebbe closed his eyes, and expounded on the verse until the Rav had to stop him at 2:30 in the morning. He begged the Rebbe's forgiveness, who, in turn, said, "I forgive you, but please don't accuse another Jew of lying in the future."
And now to the story: The Rebbe was sitting in his apartment when he heard a truck pull up downstairs. Suddenly, the horrifying sound of boots running through the halls and up the staircase was resonating in the corridors of the building. It was a Nazi raid. Amidst the banging on doors, smashing down of doors, dragging of Jews out of their apartments, horrifying screams and, the incessant sound of boots, the Rebbe, scared for his life, sat at his table, and began to say the pasuk, "ve'es ha'anashim asher pesach habayis hiku basanveirim mikaton v'ad gadol vayeel'u limtzo hapasach" (and the people who were at the entrance of the house were stricken with blindness, from young to old, and they tried in vain to find the entrance. Shemos 19:11. It refers to the people of Sodom who surrounded Lot's house in order to terrorize him and his visitors, but were stricken were blindness, and were unable to find the door to the house). The Rebbe, with intense concentration, repeated the pasuk over and over again. The apartment to the right of his was raided, the apartment to the left was raided, and all Jews had been emptied out of the apartments above and below, and later shipped off to their deaths. But with this pasuk a great neis (miracle) had occurred, and the Rebbe was later able to escape from Europe with his life.
Rabbi Eliezer Silver and the Satmar Rebbe

Just as an aside from this week's parsha, as well, the first Satmar Rebbe was once late for a bris. In attendance was Rabbi Eliezer Silver, who was on a tight schedule that day. The bris was to begin at 9:00 sharp, but the Satmar Rebbe was nowhere to be seen. 9:15 came, 9:30. At twenty minutes before ten the Satmar Rebbe walked in, and with a look of astonishment on Rabbi Silver's face he said to the Rebbe, "what happened to 'vayashkeim Avraham baboker? (and Abraham woke up early in the morning)'" The Satmar Rebbe replied, "it doesn't say how long the 'vayachavosh es chamoro (and he saddled his donkey)' took!!!"
Rizhiner and the Tzemach Tzaddik
The Tzemach Tzaddik was the son-in-law of the holy Rizhiner Rebbe. The Rizhiner was known for his riches and malchus (royalty), but for all of his material wealth, he was on a very high, exalted level. When it came to physical matters such as eating he took after the tradition of his grandfather, Reb Avrohom the Malach (the angel), given this title for his reluctance to partake in earthly delights such as food.
One day when the Tzemach Tzaddik and the Rizhiner were engaged in a meal, the Rizhiner put his fork down after he was only half way through with his meal. When the Tzemach Tzaddik questioned him the Rizhiner said that before he was born, he had made a deal with his neshama (soul), only to eat enough to get by, and not a morsel more. The Tzemach Tzaddik then commented that he just realized something. "All my life there was something that bothered me, and I just figured out the answer," he said. "On Friday night we sing shalom aleichem, welcoming the angels that accompany us home from shul into our homes. But then, just a short while later, we sing tzeischem lishalom, bidding them farewell. Why do we send them away so soon? Now I realize why. It's because angels can't partake in earthly pleasures. They can't taste food. We don't want to show them disrespect by eating in front of them, so way say goodbye before we begin our meal," at which point the Tzemach Tzaddik put down his fork, indicating that he was in the presence of a malach at that moment, the Rizhiner himself.
Speaking of food, the mother of the Rebbe Reb Shmelke of Nickolsburg and his brother Reb Pinchas once complained that one of her sons doesn't say Bircas HaMazon (grace after meals), and the other doesn't say Kriyas Shema al Hamitah (prayer before going to bed). (one didn't eat and one didn't sleep). (
I Think I Came To Israel Just To See You
On one of R' Nachman Bulman's trips from his home in Eretz Yisrael to New York, his close friend, Rav Yechiel Perr, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Derech Ayson, came to see him. He noticed how exhausted R' Bulman appeared and asked him why he was so tired. R' Bulman answered that he was up the night before the trip. R' Perr expressed surprise that R' Bulman didn't make sure to rest before his long flight. R' Bulman sighed and told him a story which aptly illustrated his devotion to helping and inspiring people.
A young girl from the States had traveled to Paris to study art, and she became involved with a non-Jewish artist there, who eventually proposed marriage. She called her parents and told them she was thinking of marrying this artist, and wanted to know if they had any objections to the fact that he wasn't Jewish. Her parents reassured there that they had no problem with it whatsoever, and if she loved him, she should marry him.

The girl was surprised by her parents' reaction since she had expected them to be opposed. Her own doubts about marrying a non-Jew led her to inquire about Yiddishkeit. Eventually, she decided that she should travel to Israel, where she had never visited, before she made a decision to marry him or not. She impulsively set out for Israel, without any concrete plans of what she would do when she stepped off the plane. Once she was off the plane and standing in line, she started chatting with the person next to her. She admitted to the woman that she wasn't sure why she had come to Israel, but she had simply felt she had to come, and she had no idea where she would go. The person she was talking to said, "There's someone in Jerusalem, R' Nachman Bulman; you must go talk to him."

The woman gave her the phone number, and the girl called from the airport. "Rabbi Bulman, I was told I must see you." R' Bulman apologized that he was unable to meet with her as he was leaving to America the next day. She said, "Please, I think I came to Israel just to see you. Please don't say no." Rav Bulman agreed, and the girl came that night. After speaking to him for a few hours, she enrolled in a seminary for ba'alos teshuvah, and Rav Bulman lost his night's sleep. (Rabbi Yechiel Perr) (
Not merely an appellation
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky writes: Rabbi Zev Wilenski, shlita, recited that a student of Rabbi Boruch Ber Lebowitz, zt”l, had undertaken to transcribe the notes of the revered sage to prepare them for print. This work would eventually be known as the Birkas Shmuel, one of the classic exegetical works on Talmudic Law.
As the student reviewed the work, he noticed a seeming redundancy of the titles mentioned about Rabbi Yitzchok Zev Soloveitchik, the Brisker Rav who was a son of Rabbi Lebowitz's own teacher Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik, and revered as well, by Rabbi Lebowitz.
Each time that Rabbi Lebowitz quoted him, he would preface Rabbi Soloveitchik’s name with all due titles and accolades, "the true Gaon, Rebbe and Teacher of all of Israel, The Gaon of Brisk, he should live to see long and good days."
Even three or four times in one paragraph, Rabbi Lebowitz would repeat the words, each preceded with a slew of praise and reverence, "the true Gaon, Rebbe and Teacher of all of Israel, The Gaon of Brisk, he should live to see long and good days."
The next time that Rabbi Soloveitchik was quoted in the works, the student, in the interest of brevity, decided to leave out the seemingly supplementary appellations. Instead he wrote, My Rebbe, the great sage, Rabbi Yitzchak Zev Soloveitchik, shlita.
Upon reviewing the work, Rabbi Lebowitz was visibly shaken. "Why did you leave off the introductory appellations? "But, Rebbe, countered Rabbi Lebowitz's student, "I mentioned them the first time. Must I repeat them every single time?
Rabbi Lebowitz was dismayed. "Why am I publishing this book?" he asked in true sincerity. "What do I have from it? Honor? Money? Of course not! I wrote this work so that a student will understand how to learn a Rashba (a medieval commentator) or to understand the Rambam."
He paused. "The same way that I want them to understand the text, I also want them to understand to appreciate the greatness of the Rebbe. I want them to see and understand that Rav Yitzchak Zev is "the true Gaon, Rebbe and Teacher of all of Israel." (
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Vayakhel-Pekudei-HaChodesh 5770
Have a wonderful and delightful Shabbos
Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler.
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