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Raiders of the Lost Ark Print E-mail
Thursday, 07 March 2024

In Parshat Vayakhel, Shmot 37:1-9, we read about how Betzalel made the “aron” (the ark):

Betzalel made the ark of acacia wood, 2 ½ amot long, 1 ½ amot wide and 1 ½ amot high. He covered it with pure gold from inside and out…”

How and why did we lose the ark?

There is a dispute over whether the ark was purposely hidden or whether it was taken away against our will:

The Talmud, Yoma 52b teaches that King Yoshiyahu purposely hid the ark:

It was taught in a Braita: When the ark was hidden away towards the end of the First Temple era, the following items were hidden with it: the jar of manna, the flask of anointing oil, the staff of Aharon with its almonds and blossoms and the box that the Plishtim sent as a present to the God of Israel…And who hid the ark? Yoshiyahu hid it. Why did he hide it? He saw that it says in Dvarim 28:36 “God will lead you and your king who you will set up over yourself to a nation you never knew.”

In contrast, we learn in the Talmud, Yoma 53b, that the ark was taken away by Nevuchadnetzar:

The Mishna does not teach, “After the ark was hidden,” but rather “After the ark was taken away.”Rabbi Eliezer says: The ark went into exile in Babylonia, as it says (Divrei HaYamim II: 36:10): “King Nevuchadnetzar had King Yehoyachin brought to Babylonia together with the precious articles of the Temple of God.”

Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai says: The ark went into exile in Babylonia, as it says (Yishayahu 39:6): “Behold the days are coming when everything in your house, and whatever your forefathers have accumulated until this day will be carried off to Babylonia. Not a thing will be left, said God.” “Not a thing will be left” refers to the Tablets containing the Ten Commandments within the ark.

Either way, by the time the Second Temple was built, we no longer had the ark as we see in Yoma 21b:

These are the five things that the Second Temple was lacking: 1.The ark, the ark cover (kaporet) and the Cherubim 2.The fire from heaven 3. The Divine Presence (Shechina) 4. The Holy Spirit(Ruach HaKodesh) 5. The Urim v’Tumim.

We see from these two contrasting views that it is possible that the ark is still in Jerusalem or it was moved to Babylonia. As well, it may have been looted from one of those places and taken somewhere else.

I am not a big Indiana Jones fan but I watched Raiders of the Lost Ark in order to see why they were so fascinated with the ark.

The more archeological digs that we engage in, the more pieces of our past that come up. We must continue to excavate in order to understand our history and why the Land of Israel is so important to the Jewish people.

Should Jews Follow the Horoscope? Print E-mail
Friday, 17 March 2023

In Parshat HaChodesh (Shmot 12:3) Moshe and Aharon are told:

Speak to the whole community of Israel and say that on the tenth of this month each of them shall take a lamb to a family, a lamb to a household.

According to Ramban:

The reason for this commandment is that the constellation of Aries (the Ram) is at the height of its power during the month of Nisan, it being the sign of the zodiac that ascends the heavens.

Rabbi Dr. Charles B. Chavel explains that there are twelve signs of constellations in the zodiac, an imaginary belt encircling the heavens, revolving around the sun. Each month, another constellation begins the procession of the signs in their course around the heavens. The ram is the first sign of the zodiac in the month of Nisan.

Ramban adds:

Therefore, He commanded us to slaughter the sheep and to eat it in order to inform us that it was not by the power of the constellation that we went out of Egypt, but by decree of the Supreme One. According to the rabbis (Rambam, Moreh Nevuchim III:46) the Egyptians worshipped it as a deity, He has all the more informed us through this that He subdued their gods and their powers at the height of their ascendency. And thus the rabbis have said (Shmot 12:21): “Take your lambs and slaughter” the gods of Egypt.

Aruch HaShulchan 429 points out that Pharaoh relied on Aries for his strength and luck. In the plague of darkness, Pharaoh wasn’t worried because he knew that the month of Nisan was approaching and he was sure that Aries would bring him good luck.

That is why God said to Moshe and Aharon (Shmot 12:2):

This month shall mark for you the beginning of the months; it shall be the first of the months of the year for you.

Aruch HaShulchan explains:

This month that Pharaoh is waiting for will be the beginning of the months for you, in which it will become clear that there is no truth in the zodiac. HaShem is our God in the Heavens above and on the earth below, there is no other God. And Israel is His chosen nation. Therefore, it is the first month for you.

Should we believe in astrology as it is part of nature and God ultimately created everything?

We learn in a Midrash in Eicha Rabbah 3:8:

Rabbi Abbahu said in the name of Rabbi Yochanan: A king entered a province and had with him generals, captains and military commanders and the notables of the province were sitting in its midst. One of them said, “I will take a general to my house.” Another said, “I will take a captain to my house”; while still another said, “I will take one of the commanders to my house.” But a shrewd man there said, “I will take the king, because while the others may pass away the king will not do so.”

Similarly there are idolaters who worship the sun, others the moon, and still others wood and stone; But Israel worship God alone.

Nisan had to be the first month, in order to prove to both Pharaoh and B’nai Yisrael that God is above the zodiac.

Clever Tasks Print E-mail
Wednesday, 23 February 2022
Sponsored by Elaine and Leon Genesove on the yahrzeit of Elaine’s mother, Rochel bat Tzvi Hersh z”l

Parshat Vayakhel (Shmot 35:1-3) begins with the words:

Moshe assembled the entire congregation of B’nai Yisrael, and said to them, “These are the words that God has commanded you to do. Work may be done six days, but the seventh day must be holy to you, it is a Shabbat Shabbaton for God. Whoever does work on it (Melacha) shall be put to death. You must not kindle a fire in all your dwelling places on the Shabbat day.”

B’nai Yisrael were already commanded to observe Shabbat when they received the Ten Commandments in Parshat Yitro, so why does the Torah teach us about Shabbat again in Parshat Vayakhel, a parsha which is primarily about building the Mishkan (Tabernacle)?

Rashi, who quotes the Mechilta explains that first God admonished them concerning Shabbat before commanding them about the works of the Mishkan, saying, in effect, that building the Mishkan does not supersede Shabbat.

Later in that same chapter in Parshat Vayakhel (Shmot 35:30-33) we read:

Moshe said to B’nai Yisrael, “See, God has designated by name, Betzalel, son of Uri, son of Chur of the tribe of Yehuda. And He endowed him with Divine spirit, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with skill to perform all types of crafting (Bechol Melacha) to devise plans (Lachshov Machshavot) with ingenuity, to execute those plans in gold, silver and in copper, in masonry for settings and in carpentry, to execute all kinds of clever tasks (Malechet Machshevet)…”

Many of the requirements necessary to consider an act a Biblical “Melacha” are learned from “Malechet Machshevet,” an act of craftsmanship, derived from the verses above.

We learn in the Talmud, Shabbat 49b:

A Braita taught that the 39 Avot Melacha (categories of work that may not be done on Shabbat) corresponds to the 39 labors of the Mishkan. One is only liable (Biblically) for a labor like which was performed in the Miskan. They planted, and likewise you shall not plant, they reaped, therefore you shall not reap etc.

In order for the Melacha to be considered Malechet Machshevet and forbidden from the Torah, one must have Kavana (intent) when doing it. If it was done accidentally, then it is not Malechet Machshevet. As well, the act must be constructive (Mitaken) not destructive. The act must be performed in the same way that it was done in the Mishkan (Tzricha L’Gufa). It must be done in the usual way (Kedarka). The act must cause permanent results (Mitkayem), not temporary. If the act can be performed physically by one person then it must be performed entirely by one individual in order for it to be a Biblical transgression.

We see from here that Malechet Machshevet is Biblically forbidden on Shabbat. In addition, the Sages added many Rabbinic prohibitions.

May we have the strength to study the laws of Shabbat in depth in order to gain a deeper understanding of how to observe Shabbat which is on such a high spiritual level that it superseded the building of the Mishkan. 
How mitzvah observance has temporarily changed Print E-mail
Friday, 20 March 2020

Every morning we say the Birkot HaTorah, blessings for the Torah that we will study that day. To ensure that we are not making a blessing without fulfilling the mitzvah of Torah study, after the brachot, we read a teaching from the Torah, a teaching from the Mishna and a teaching from the Gemara. Since we recite these short paragraphs each day, they have become very familiar to us and we may take them for granted. During these difficult times, we see how important the passage in The Talmud, Shabbat 127a really is:

These are the precepts whose fruits a person enjoys in this world but whose principal remains intact for him in the world to come.

They are: Kibud Av Va’Em (honoring your parents), Gmilut Chasadim (acts of loving kindness), Hashkamat Beit HaMidrash Shacharit v’Aravit (early attendance at the study hall in the morning and in the evening), Hachnasat Orchim (welcoming guests), Bikur Cholim (visiting the sick), Hachnasat Kallah (providing for a bride), Levayat HaMet (escorting the dead), Iyun Tfila (absorption in prayer), Hava’at Shalom ben Adam L’Chaveiro (bringing peace between man and his fellow) v’Talmud Torah K’neged Kulam (Torah study is equivalent to them all).

As we look at this list of basic mitzvot, we realize that right now we are closed out of observing almost all of them in the ways that we have keeping them for our entire lives.

Honoring parents is an issue now as in many cases older parents have been told not to be in physical contact with their children or grandchildren.

Doing acts of loving kindness is also difficult when you can’t get too close to another person or if you are told not to leave your house unless it is an emergency or if you need food.

Attendance at the Beit Midrash and synagogue are now off limits as so most minyanim should be closed down.

We have been instructed not to bring guests into our homes and we can’t go to visit others.

We are forbidden from visiting the sick and hospitals are not allowing visitors to make sure that the germs don’t spread.

Wedding are now limited to almost no guests as it is forbidden to congregate in groups.

Funerals are also limited to very close family and shiva houses are not open to the public.

Which mitzvoth from the list can we focus on?

We can try to have greater intent in prayer, even when it is not with a minyan, keeping the peace in our households and taking the opportunity to studyTorah.

How has Israel been managing without being able to fulfill the basic mitavot of loving kindness?

Calling parents that we can’t visit, making sure that their basic needs are cared for through caregivers and deliveries.

Staying out of synagogues and Batei Midrash for the short term so that we can help get this difficult situation cleared up on the sooner side. Some segments of the population have not yet come to grips with such a difficult lifestyle change, but it needs to be enforced.

Even if we can’t welcome people into our homes or go out to visit the sick, we can call to let them know that we are thinking of them, especially many elderly people who do not use the internet.

Small weddings are literally taking place on street corners and in back yards and are being broadcast on the internet so that friends and family can virtually participate.

Shiva calls have become just that- calls.

There are now virtual minyanim and online interactive Torah classes to keep the communities connected.

May we return to the time that we can freely observe all of these mitzvoth as they were meant to be observed.

The Lost Unicorn Print E-mail
Friday, 01 March 2019

In Parshat Vayakhel, there are three mentions of the “tachash skins” which are used to make the “ohel”, the covering of the Mishkan (Tabernacle).

In Parshat Trumah, the ‘tachash skins’ are on the list of materials that God tells Moshe to request from B’nai Yisrael to be donated for the Mishkan (Shmot 25:5):  “…Red dyed ram skins, ‘tachash’ skins and acacia wood...” In God’s instructions of how to make the Mishkan (Shmot 26:14) we read: “Make a covering for the ‘ohel’ out of red dyed ram’s skins, and a covering of ‘tachash’ skins above that.”

In Parshat Vayakhel, Moshe passes on God’s message to B’nai Yisrael (Shmot 35:5-7) “Collect from among yourselves a trumah offering to God…and red dyed ram’s skins, ‘tachash skins’ and acacia wood.” The generosity of B’nai Yisrael to donate materials to the Mishkan is evident (Shmot 35:23) “Every man (or woman) who had tchelet (greenish blue wool), argaman (dark red wool) tola’at shani (crimson wool) fine linen, goat’s hair, red dyed rams’ skins and ‘tachash skins’ brought them.” Once they had enough materials, the Mishkan was constructed (Shmot 36:19) “He made a covering for the ‘ohel’ out of red dyed ram’s skins, and a covering of ‘tachash’ skins above that.”

Where do the “tachash skins” come from?

Rashi (Shmot 25:5), based on Rav Yosef’s opinion in the Talmud, Shabbat 28a explains that “tachashim” is a species of animal which only existed at the time of Moshe. It had many (possibly six or sixty) colors and Onkelos translated it Sasgona (Sas=rejoice, Gavna=color) because it rejoices and is proud with its multi-colors.

The Talmud, Shabbat 28b continues the explanation of the “tachash”:

Rabbi Illa said in the name of Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish: Rabbi Mayer used to say: The “tachash” that existed in the days of Moshe was a unique creature for the sages could not decide whether it was a type of beheimah (domesticated animal such as cattle, sheep, goats, horses, donkeys) or a type of chayah (non-domesticated animal such as deer antelope, canines, felines) and it had a single horn on its forehead. It presented itself to Moshe according to the need of the hour. He made of it a cover for the Mishkan. And then the species was hidden.

Since Rabbi Meir said that the “tachash” had a single horn in its forehead, it is likely that it was a kosher animal since animals with horns and split hooves are kosher.

On the other hand, since the keresh (a chayah with a single horn) exists, it can be said that the ‘tachash’ is actually a type of chayah and not a beheimah.

What is the keresh?

According to Rashi it is a single horned deer. Aruch says that it is a unicorn, a giant beast whose horn has many medicinal properties.

The Talmud is inconclusive as to whether the ‘tachash’ was kosher or not. What we do learn is that it was a very colorful animal with one horn and only appeared for a short period of time, which leads us to believe that it was a unicorn.

Where else in the Tanach do we hear about the tachash?

The only reference to the ‘tachash’ in the Prophets is in Yechezkel 16:10 which speaks of God’s care for B’nai Yisrael: “And I clothed you in embroidered garments and shod you in ‘tachash’, bound you with linen and covered you with silk.”

Targum explains that God gave them precious shoes made from ‘tachash’ skins.

Mizrachi asks: How did they have the leather of the ‘tachash’ for shoes if the animal was extinct?One possible answer was that its temporary existence lasted throughout the forty years that B’nai Yisrael wandered in the desert.

It looks like the unicorn is not just a legendary creature after all.

Instilling Generosity in our Children Print E-mail
Friday, 04 March 2016

Sponsored by Sharona, Josh, Dov, Moshe and Yehuda Halickman on the occasion of Isaac Halickman becoming an American Citizen


I received an email from the Efrata elementary school that my sons, Moshe and Yehuda attend asking if any parents would like to volunteer to speak to the children about the community service that they do in honor of the school’s community service week. What didn’t make sense to me was why the children would want to sit and listen to a parent speak about community service. In my mind, a better idea was to actually do community service with the students!


The teachers liked my idea so I arranged two projects. The first was for Moshe’s class, a group of 32 sixth graders. We visited the Beit Frankforter senior center, just a block away from the Efrata school in Baka. The students came in costumes and brought treats for the seniors, they sang and danced and played a Purim trivia bingo game together. The students learned that six of the seniors in the room actually come from the city of Shushan, where the story of the megilla takes place.


The second project was for Yehuda’s class, a group of 36 third graders. The teacher asked the students to bring in snacks, coffee and tea so that we could prepare gift baskets together for the soldiers. As well, each student prepared a card that we attached to one of the baskets.


There were a few children who forgot to bring something but the teacher told them not to worry, that the baskets were a collective gift from the entire class. I told them that by helping us pack and by making the card they were also giving of themselves.


As soon as school was over, I went with Josh, Moshe and Yehuda to distribute the packages to the soldiers protecting the Armon HaNetziv neighborhood on the border of Jabel el Mukaber and the soldiers protecting Kever Rachel (Rachel’s Tomb) on the border of Bethlehem. The soldiers were excited to receive the pages and even asked for a picture with us.


What does all of this have to do with Parshat Vayakhel?


In Parshat Vayakhel, Moshe asked the congregation of Israel to bring a Trumah offering (contribution) for the Mishkan (Tabernacle). Those with a wise or generous heart were extremely generous with their contributions. In fact, so much was brought that in Shmot 36:4-7 we read: “All the wise men came, who were executing all the holy tasks, each and every man from the task in which he was engaged. They said the following to Moshe: ‘the people are bringing too much, more than which is needed for the tasks that God has commanded to execute.’ Moshe commanded, and they proclaimed throughout the encampment saying, ‘Let no man or woman bring any more material for the sacred offering.’ And the people stopped bringing. The material was enough for all of the work that had to be done and some was left over.”


May we be so lucky to have such as outpouring of love and support in our times!


May the students who are being introduced to Tzedaka and chesed at such a young age continue to contribute as they grow.


One of the third graders asked if the students brought too many food contributions for the soldiers. I told them that unlike in the parsha where the people were told to stop giving as enough had been contributed, our soldiers can never get enough snacks, coffee and love. 

Don’t Make Hasty Decisions Print E-mail
Friday, 20 March 2015

Parshat Vayakhel goes to great lengths to describe the gifts that both the men and women brought to the Mishkan (Tabernacle).

The Torah doesn’t waste words so what is the meaning behind the listing of all of the intricate details of their contributions?

According to Ramban, the passage outlining the way that the people brought their contributions for the Mishkan as well as Moshe’s proclamation that they received enough (and his request that people stop contributing) stresses the fact that the people were generous, the craftsmen were dedicated and Moshe was unselfish.

This can be contrasted with the Sin of the Golden Calf (Shmot 32:3) where the giving of the jewelry was done very quickly and without details: “All the people broke off their earrings of gold…And they brought them to Aharon.”

When the people donated to the Mishkan, their contributions were made with their hearts and souls.

The contributions for the Golden Calf were done hastily and without much thought. Moshe had not yet returned from Mount Sinai and the people were looking for a leader so they quickly contributed. As soon as Moshe returned they just as quickly turned away from the Golden Calf.

We see from here that it is important to take the time to consider what we are doing as opposed to making a quick decision that we may later regret.

Unfortunately many people get mixed up in “get rich quick” scams that look too good to be true but don’t end up panning out.

The proper path to follow is to emulate what B’nai Yisrael did when they made contributions to the Mishkan, they gave their hearts, their souls and their material belongings.

In the Shma prayer (Dvarim 6:5) we are commanded to “love our God with all of your heart, with all of your soul and with all of your possessions.”

In the case of the Golden Calf they were only contributing their possessions, independent of their hearts and souls.

As the elections in Israel are approaching, we must remember that the choice of who to vote for should be well thought out. The idea of having campaigners trying to sway us on our way to vote belittles the voters who have already put their heart and soul into the decision of who they will be voting for.

The Extraordinary Wisdom of the Women Who Spun the Goats for the Mishkan Print E-mail
Friday, 21 February 2014

In Parshat Vayakhel, Shmot 35:26 we read: “And all of the women whose hearts inspired them with wisdom spun the goats.”


Why does it say “spun the goats” and not “spun the goat’s hair”?


According to Rashi who quotes the Talmud, Shabbat 74b, this was a craft of special skill for they spun the goat’s hair while it was still on the animals’ backs.


The Talmud, Shabbat 99a explains the special expertise for spinning the goat hair: It was taught in a Braita in the name of Rabbi Nechemia: The hair was washed on the goats and spun while still on the goats.


Sforno points out that the goat hair would be washed and spun into thread before being shorn from the goats. This was done so that the final product should be especially lustrous, since goat hair tends to diminish in quality as soon as it is removed from its source of growth.


The upper curtains of the Mishkan were of goat hair construction and it took greater expertise to make the upper curtains than to make the lower ones which were made of blue wool, purple wool, scarlet wool and linen.


For the making of the lower curtains it says in Shmot 35:25, “Every wise hearted woman spun with her hands” while for the making of the upper curtains it says 35:26, “All the women whose hearts inspired them with wisdom spun the goats.”


The Talmud, Shabbat 74b talks about forms of labor that are forbidden on Shabbat. Rabbah bar Chanah said in the name of Rabbi Yochanan: One who spins wool that is still on the back of an animal on Shabbat is obligated to bring three chatat (sin) offerings for shearing, disentangling and spinning which are all forbidden on Shabbat. Rav Kahana disagrees and says that this is not the usual manner of shearing, disentangling or spinning and therefore he should not have to bring any chatat offerings. The Gemara then brings the Braita from Rabbi Nechemia that says that for the Mishkan the women washed the hairs of the goats and spun them while on the goats. Does this prove that “spinning the goats” is a normal manner of spinning? The Gemara answers that an act performed with the extraordinary wisdom of those who constructed the Mishkan is different than the acts of ordinary people.


We see from here that “spinning the goats” was a task that was only done for the Mishkan to ensure that the upper curtains would be of the finest quality. And who was entrusted to perform this difficult task? The extraordinary women whose hearts inspired them with wisdom!

Tzedaka is a Mitzva for Men and Women Print E-mail
Friday, 23 March 2012
In Parshat Vayakhel, Shmot 35:22 we read: “The men came with the women, all who were generous of heart brought  bracelets, nose rings, finger rings and buckles, all kinds of golden vessels, and every man that offered a wave offering of gold unto God.”


According to Ramban, we learn from here that the men were secondary to the women. The men came “al HaNashim”, after the women. Since the jewelry that is listed here was normally worn by women, the Torah pays tribute to the women. As soon as the women heard that precious metals were needed, they immediately removed their most precious possessions and gave them in.


Rashi says that the men and women came together, the men came with the women or close to the women, since it was important for both the husband and the wife to be comfortable with the contribution that they were making.


We see from here that the women were first with wanting to make the contributions and the husbands supported their decisions. The women were not forced in any way to give their jewelry to the mishkan but rather gave willingly since they felt that it was the right thing to do.


Tzedaka is a mitzvah for both men and women and the decision of what each contribution should be and who the contributions should be given to should be a joint decision between the husband and the wife.


Why Specifically Mention Fire? Print E-mail
Friday, 25 February 2011

In Parshat Vayakhel, Shmot 35:2-3, B’nai Yisrael are told: “Work may be done six days, but the seventh day must be holy to you, it is a Shabbat Shabbaton to you. Whoever does work on it shall be put to death. You must not kindle a fire in all your dwelling places on the day of Shabbat”.


If B’nai Yisrael were already commanded in the Ten Commandments to observe Shabbat then why does the mitzvah need to be repeated again and what do these psukim add?


Ramban points out that this time we are told not to kindle a fire. In other words, cooking and baking would be prohibited on Shabbat. This was not outlined in the Ten Commandments where we were told that work should not be done but the types of work were not specified.


When the laws of Pesach were presented, Devarim 16:8, B’nai Yisrael were told that they may not do work: “For a six day period you shall eat matzot and on the seventh day shall be an assembly to God, you shall not perform any labor”,  yet they were allowed to cook.


From this we see that the fact that we are not allowed to cook on Shabbat has to be clearly stated.


Ramban states that B’nai Yisrael may have actually already been aware from the manna that we are not allowed to cook on Shabbat as they were commanded in Shmot 16:23: “…Bake what you want to bake and cook (on Friday) what you want to cook and whatever is leftover, put away for safekeeping for yourselves until the morning (Shabbat)”.


If they already knew that cooking and baking were prohibited then why did they need to hear specifically about lighting a fire?


B’nai Yisrael may have assumed that anything that wasn’t officially work but rather something that benefits the body such as lighting a candle, making a fire or washing their entire body in hot water should be allowed since they are not being done for work but rather for enjoyment, “Oneg Shabbat”. Therefore, the Torah had to state that lighting fire is not allowed for any reason even if we feel that it may enhance our Shabbat day and therefore we shower, prepare our food and light candles before Shabbat starts.


It also helps us answer the frequently asked question: Why can’t we watch TV on Shabbat if watching TV would enhance the day for us?


We officially start and end Shabbat with fire. The Shabbat candles help transition us into Shabbat (as well as give us light while we have our dinner) and the Havdala candle takes us back into the reality of the regular work week.


As Shabbat concludes and we strike the match to light the Havdala candle after 25 hours, we realize that nothing in life should be taken for granted including the lighting of a simple match.



Mirror Mirror on The Wall Who’s The Fairest of Them All? Print E-mail
Friday, 12 March 2010

In Parshat Vayakhel, Shmot 38:8 we read about how the “Kiyor”, the Laver was made: “He made the Kiyor of copper and its base of copper, from the ‘marot hatzovot’, mirrors of the legions who massed at the entrance of ‘Ohel Moed’ the Tent of Meeting”.


The Kiyor was very important as it was where the Kohanim would wash their hands and feet before performing the service. The Kiyor was made exclusively from the polished sheets of copper that the women had used as mirrors.


Accrding to Rashi, the daughters of Israel possessed mirrors into which they would look when adorning themselves. Even those they did not withhold from bringing as a contribution to the Mishkan. However, Moshe found them to be repulsive since their purpose is to incite the evil inclination. God said to him: Accept them, for they are dearer to me than everything else because through them the women raised multitudes in Egypt. In Egypt after the men had come home from a long day of crushing labor, the women would bring them food and drink and feed them. The women then used their mirrors to entice their husbands to have relations with them, they would take out the mirrors and each one would look at herself and her husband in the mirror and entice him with the words saying: “See I am more beautiful than you.” Thanks to these mirrors many children were born.


God said that not only should these mirrors be accepted, they should be used in their entirety. Therefore, Eben Ezra points out, the Torah does not give a specific size for the Kiyor, since every single mirror had to go into it, no matter how big the Kiyor would become.


As we are about to usher in the month of Nisan, we should keep in mind that the women were “the fairest of them all” as they were the ones who were instrumental in the continuation of the Jewish people as well as in the redemption of the Jewish people from Egypt and in the building of the Mishkan.

Becoming a Kehillah (Community) Print E-mail
Friday, 20 March 2009

Parshat Vayakhel (Shmot 35:1) begins with the words: “Vayakhel- Mosehe assembled the entire congregation of B’nai Yisrael and said to them: ‘These are the things (mitzvoth) that God commanded you to do’”.


According to Ohr Pnai Moshe, it was essential for the Jewish people to be united at the time of the dedication of the Mishkan (tabernacle). Therefore, Moshe assembled the entire congregation of B’nai Yisrael. The completion of the Mishkan was dependent on the unification of the Jewish people.


Ohr Pnai Moshe adds that unfortunately, the reason that the Beit Mikdash was destroyed was because of sinat chinam, baseless hatred, the fact that the Jewish people were not unified.


Rabbi David MiTzotkov points out that every Jewish person understands the Mitzvot to the best of their ability. Some have a more intellectual understanding, some have more kavana (intent). Yet, where mitzvah observance is concerned, God looks upon all of us as equals and we must all join together as a community (kehillah).


At a time when the Jewish people are so divided, we must focus on what unites us in order to bring all Jews together to become a true kehillah, ultimately bringing us closer to the building of the third Beit HaMikdash which will never be destroyed.

A Good Heart Print E-mail
Thursday, 28 February 2008

The following phrases are part of everyday speech and are not taken literally: “She poured out her heart”, “a broken heart”, “a heart of gold” and “a heart of stone”.

What about “a generous heart (nediv lev)”, “a man whose heart lifted him up (nesao lebo)” and “a wise heart (chacham lev)” can those expressions from Parshat Vayakhel be understood at face value or do they have a deeper meaning?

Let’s take a look at these expressions in the context of Parshat Vayakhel:

Vayakhel 35:5: “Take from yourselves ‘terumah’, a portion for God, ‘kol nediv lebo’, everyone whose heart motivates him shall bring it, as the gift for God: gold, silver and copper…”

Rashi states on the words “nediv lebo” in Vayakhel 35:5 that since it is the heart that inspires a person to give, he is called generous of heart.

Vayakhel 35:21: “Everyone ‘ish asher nesa’o lebo’ whose heart lifted him up came and everyone ‘nedava rucho’ whose spirit motivated him brought the portion…”

Ramban explains that “nesao lebo” in Vayakhel 35:21 refers to those who came to actually do the work of weaving, sewing, building etc., not those who merely brought donations (nediv lev). While working as slaves in Egypt, they never even saw silver, gold or precious stones and they certainly did not have the opportunity to learn these crafts or to be trained.  Rather, a person who felt in their nature that they knew how to do such skills, his heart was lifted up in the ways of God (Divrei Ha Yamim II 17:6) to come to Moshe and say “I will do all that God speaks”.

Vayakhel 35:25: “Every ‘chochmat lev’, wise hearted woman spun with her hands…

Vayakhel 35:26: “All the women ‘asher nasa leban otana bechochma’ whose hearts inspired them with wisdom, spun the goat hair.

Rashbam points out that the definition of chochmat lev in sentence 25 is a smart woman.

Rashi comments that the women in sentence 26 take it a step further “those whose hearts inspired them with wisdom” actually refers to women with a special skill since they spun it while it was still on the animals’ backs.

We can learn from here that giving tzedaka with a full heart (because you really want to and not just because it is an obligation) is great. However, an even greater level is rolling up your sleeves and actively being involved in the hands on mitzvah of using your talents in order to truly give of yourself with a full heart.



Everyone Deserves a Chance Print E-mail
Tuesday, 13 March 2007


The appointment of Betzalel and Aholiav to construct the Mishkan (tabernacle), the Ark and all of the vessels is found in Parshat Ki Tisa, Shmot 31:1-6 as well as in Parshat Vayakhel, Shmot 35:30-35.


“And God spoke to Moshe saying: See (re’eh) I have called by name Betzalel the son of Uri, the son of Chur of the tribe of Yehuda. I have filled him with the spirit of God in wisdom (Chochma), understanding (tvuna) and in knowledge (da’at) and in all manner of workmanship. To devise skillful works to work in gold, silver and bronze and in the cutting of stones for setting and in carving wood to work in all manner of workmanship. And I behold have appointed with him (ito) Aholiav the son of Achisamach of the tribe of Dan. In the hearts of all that are wise-hearted I have put wisdom that they may make all that I have commanded.”


“And Moshe said to the children of Israel: See (re’u) God has called by the name Betzalel the son of Uri, the son of Chur from the tribe of Yehuda…both he and Aholiav the son of Achisamach of the tribe of Dan. God has filled them with wisdom of heart to work all manner of workmanship of the craftsmen, of the skillful workman and of the weaver in colors , in blue, purple, scarlet and in fine linen and of the weaver also that of laborers and planners.”

If the Torah doesn’t waste words, then why is this account repeated two parshiot in a row?

When examining the differences you will find that in Ki Tisa when God says “nattati ito”, I have appointed him with Betzalel, one may conclude that Aholiav is just assisting Betzalel. In Vayakhel, Moshe says “hu ve’Aholiav”, both Betzalel and Aholiav, clarifying that in fact they are working together as partners.

Betzalel and Aholiav came from very different backgrounds. Betzalel was from the prestigious tribe of Yehuda, son of Leah. Aholiav was from the tribe of Dan, son of Bilha, Yaakov’s maidservant. Rashi points out that despite their differences Aholiav and Betzalel are seen as equals in regard to their work in the Mishkan. This shows that God does not choose the rich over the poor. Rather, God chooses leaders based on their merits and skills.

In our own lives it’s important to follow this formula and give everyone a fair chance regardless of their backgrounds or economic situations. The State of Israel was built on the idea that everyone will work together to build the land regardless of their social and economic backgrounds. The problem in Israel today is that unfortunately there is a huge disparity between the rich and the poor. It is up to each of us to do what we can to bridge that gap.
There Are Exceptions to Every Rule Print E-mail
Thursday, 23 March 2006

Parshat Vayakhel begins with the words "Vayakhel Moshe et kol adat B'nai Yisrael.", "Moshe assembled the entire congregation of B'nai Yisrael and said to them: These are the words that God has commanded you to do: Work may be done six days but the seventh day must be holy to you it is Shabbat Shabbaton for God..." (Shmot 35:1).

According to Ramban, The reason why "kol", "all" is used is because it includes the men, women and children who are all obligated in the commandment of Shabbat.

One may have thought that women are not obligated in the positive mitzvot of Shabbat since they are time bound commandments and there is a general rule in the Mishna in Kiddushin that women are exempt from all positive mitzvoth that are bound by time.

The Gemara in Shabbat 20b teaches that women are obligated by Torah law in the recitation of the Shabbat Kiddush. Why is this so? Isn't Kiddush a time bound positive commandment from which women are excused from performing? Rava explained: When recording the Shabbat commandment in Shmot 20:8, Scripture says: Zachor, Remember the Shabbat day and when recording it in Devarim 5:12 it says Shamor, Guard the Shabbat day. This teaches us that these two aspects of Shabbat observance are compared to one another. Whoever is included in the commandment of guarding Shabbat is likewise included in the commandment of remembering it. Therefore, since women are obligated in the mitzvah of shamor (the negative commandment to refrain from the 39 forms of forbidden work), they are also obligated in the mitzvah of zachor (the positive commandment to recite Kiddush).

A similar ruling is taught in the Gemara in Pesachim 43a-b concerning women's obligation to eat Matzah: Rabbi Elazar said: Women are obligated by the Torah to eat matzah as it is written in Devarim 16:3, "You shall not eat chametz with the Korban Pesach sacrifice, for seven days you shall eat matzah with it." Whoever is obligated in the prohibition not to eat chametz is obligated as well in the commandment of eating matzah. Since women are included in the prohibition against eating chametz they are included as well in the obligation to eat matzah.

The general rule in the Mishna in Kiddushin that women are exempt from all positive time-bound mitzvot has many exceptions. There are in fact many positive time bound mitzvot that women are obligated in.

As the saying goes, there are exceptions to every rule!