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Friday, 15 March 2024

Parshat Pekudei (Shmot 38:21-22) opens with the words:

These are the records of the Tabernacle, the Tabernacle of Testimony, which were drawn up at Moshe’s bidding—the work of the Levites under the direction of Itamar son of Aaron the priest. Now Bezalel, son of Uri son of Hur, of the tribe of Yehuda, had made all that God had commanded Moshe.

Sforno points out:

The Torah begins to list the many ways in which the “Mishkan”, the Tabernacle, was superior to the Temples that superseded it.

Firstly, it was “Mishkan HaEdut”, the Tabernacle of Testimony, so named because the Tablets of the Testimony were deposited therein.

Secondly, “Asher Pakad al pi Moshe”, which were drawn up at Moshe’s bidding, it had been put up at the command of Moshe.

Thirdly, “Avodat HaLeviim b’yad Itamar”, the work of the Leviim under the direction of Itamar: The entire service of the Levites had been entrusted to the illustrious Itamar, son of Aaron.

Fourthly, “Bezalel, son of Uri son of Hur, of the tribe of Yehuda” the divinely inspired Betzalel was its principal architect.

In view of all the above advantages of this structure none of it fell into enemy hands.

By contrast, the First Temple erected by King Solomon had most of its work done by laborers from Tzor. Even though the Shechinah, Divine Presence, came to rest on it, it was eventually destroyed, all of it having been lost totally. The inferiority of that structure is evident from the fact that the building itself was in need of regular, almost annual repairs (Melachim Bet 22:5).

The Second Temple was even more inferior and it was not even called Mishkan HaEdut, the Residence of the Testimony, as the Tablets had already been lost. Neither had it been established by God’s command but by a dream that a gentile named King Cyrus dreamed that it was his duty to build a temple to the God in heaven (Ezra 8:15).

Moreover, there were hardly any Leviim that bothered to return to the Land of Israel at the time to take part in Shivat Zion, the Return to Zion.

In addition to this, among the people building this Second Temple were also pagans called Tzidonim and Tzurim, as documented in the Book of Ezra.

We see from Sforno’s comments that the original Mishkan which was constructed in the desert was better quality than the First and Second Temples and was built totally by members of B’nai Yisrael.

In the midst of the war in Israel today, the question has come up as to who will be doing the building if we are not opening up our doors to construction workers from Judea, Samaria and Gaza. As well, many of the foreign workers have gone home.

Now is the time for us to support Israelis who want to take part in building up the State of Israel by training those who are interested in working in construction and by paying them fair wages.

Yearning for the Beit HaMikdash Print E-mail
Thursday, 03 March 2022

Parshat Pekudei, the last Parsha in the Book of Shmot is very moving. After reading about all of the contributions that B’nai Yisrael made to the Mishkan (Tabernacle), it is finally completed and ready to be dedicated on the First of Nisan.

 The Haftarah is exciting as well. The Beit HaMikdash is completed and the inauguration is on Sukkot. The Aron, the Ark with the Luchot, The Ten Commandments that Moshe brought down from Mt. Sinai are inside.

 How did B’nai Yisrael feel about going up to the Beit HaMikdash on the Shalosh Regalim- Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot?

According to Rav Yisachar Yaakovson, the answer can be found in the book of Tehilim, including Psalm 84:2-4 where their yearning for the Beit HaMikdash is described:

How lovely are your dwelling places, O Lord of hosts. My soul longs, indeed, it pines for the courtyards of the Lord: My heart and my flesh pray fervently for the living God. Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young. O to be at Your altars…

The group of Psalms which begin with the words Shir HaMaalot (Tehilim 120-134)- are interpreted by Radak to be about Aliya- Songs of thanksgiving about immigration to Israel from the exile.

Although we don’t have the Beit HaMikdash, in Jerusalem today, we can still get a taste of how B׳nai Yisrael felt at the dedication of the Mishkan in the desert and the later the inauguration of the Beit HaMikdash in Jerusalem. On the Shalosh Regalim, the Kotel is packed with visitors from all over the world who are yearning for a chance to squeeze in and pray at the footsteps of our holiest site, Har HaBayit, the Temple Mount.

On the morning of Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Day which commemorates Israel’s victories in the Six Day War including Israel’s control over the Temple Mount, The Kotel and the Old City, there is passion in the air. Religious Zionist teenagers fill the Kotel plaza reciting Hallel with a blessing, reading the special Haftara of the day and singing and dancing.

On Yom Yerushalayim, it is extremely sentimental to be standing in the Old City of Jerusalem and reciting Psalm 122, Shir HaMaalot L’David Simachtim B’Omrim li Beit HaShem nelech:

 A Song of the Ascents. Of David. I rejoiced when they said to me,“We are going to the House of the LORD.” Our feet stood inside your gates, O Jerusalem. Jerusalem built up, a city knit together, to which tribes would make pilgrimage, the tribes of the LORD, as was enjoined upon Israelto praise the name of the LORD. There the thrones of judgment stood, thrones of the house of David. Pray for the well-being of Jerusalem; “May those who love you be at peace. May there be well-being within your ramparts,peace in your citadels.” For the sake of my brethren and friends, I pray for your well-being; for the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will request good for you.

 May we merit to participate in the inauguration of the Third Beit HaMikdash.

Moshe’s Auditors Print E-mail
Sunday, 14 March 2021

Parshat Pekudei (Shmot 38:21) begins with the words:

These are the accounts of the Mishkan (Tabernacle), the Mishkan of Testimony that were drawn up by Moshe’s order...

Midrash Tanchuma Pekudei 7 asks the question: Why did Moshe render account? God trusted him as it says in Bamidbar 12:7 “He is trusted in all My house.” Notwithstanding Moshe rendered account! But this was because the scorners of his time gossiped about him…What did they say? They looked at his back and said to one another: What a neck! What legs! Eats of that which is ours and drinks that which is ours! His fellow would reply: Fool! A man who is in charge of the work of the Mishkan, talents of silver, talents of gold, uncounted, unweighed and unencumbered- what else do you expect- that he should be rich! When Moshe heard this, he said: By your lives! As soon as the work of the Mishkan is finished, I will render them an account. As soon as it was finished, he said to them: “These are the accounts of the Mishkan.”

Nehama Leibowitz points out that our Sages showed how B’nai Yisrael dared to find fault with Moshe and how he, nevertheless, took account of their whisperings. From this they wanted us to learn that it was not sufficient for a man to justify his behavior to God but he must “find grace and good favor in the sight of God and man” (Mishlei 3:4).

She adds that the Torah itself explicitly enunciates the same principle in Bamidbar 32:22 “Then you shall be guiltless before God and before Israel.”

The Talmud explains how public servants sought to keep themselves above the slightest suspicion. One example is in Yoma 38a:

The members of the Avtina family were experts in the production of incense, but never did a bride go out of their house perfumed. When they married outside the family, they would stipulate with the bride the she could not perfume herself, so that people would not say: They are perfuming themselves from the production of the incense. They did this to fulfill what is stated “Then you shall be guiltless before God and before Israel.”

Moshe went out of his way to give a detailed account of everything that B’nai Yisrael contributed to the Mishkan so that he would always have a clean slate.

As the elections in Israel approach, may our candidates keep Moshe’s behavior in mind and may they carefully weigh their actions and keep their behavior unblemished both in the way that they are seen by God as well as in the way that they are seen by their fellow person.

The origins of the copper basin Print E-mail
Friday, 08 March 2019

In Parshat Pekudei, we read that the copper which was donated to the Mishkan (Tabernacle) amounted to seventy talents and 2,400 shekels. This copper was used for the sockets for the door of Ohel Moed (Tent of Meeting), the copper alter and its copper grating.

Shmot 39:33-42 describes the completion of the Mishkan and its inventory. Verse 39 lists “the copper altar and its copper grate, along with its poles and all its vessels, the basin (kiyor) and its base.”

Abravanel points out that the basin and base were not made from the regular copper that was donated as a free offering by B’nai Yisrael. Rather, they were made from the copper mirrors which were donated by the women. We see this in Parshat Vayakhel, Shmot 38:8, “He made the basin out of copper and its base out of copper, from the ‘mar’ot ha’tzovot’, mirrors of the women who had gathered at the entrance of Ohel Moed.

Ibn Ezra explains that it is customary for every woman to make up her face in the morning and look in a bronze or glass mirror in order to adjust her hairstyle and ornaments…But there were pious women who overcame this worldly temptation and freely gave away their mirrors because they found no more need to beautify themselves but instead came daily to the door of Ohel Moed to pray and hear religious discourses and study the mitzvot. The text states “Who crowded at the door of Ohel Moed” because there were many of them.

This reminds me of many women in Jerusalem who attend Torah study classes on a regular basis. Instead of spending their days in the beauty salons, they crowd the Batei Midrash and auditoriums to study Torah during their free time.

This past week, I had the opportunity to visit Machon HaMikdash, the Temple Institute in Jerusalem where the vessels of the Beit HaMikdash have been recreated based on the information that we have from the Torah. I was surprised to see a very large basin, larger than I would have expected. I inquired and was told that a very generous family donated it.

Nechama Leibowitz points out that there were no measurements listed for the basin the way that there were measurements listed for all of the other objects in the Mishkan and she leaves us with the question of why.

The answer may be that God was willing to accept as many mirrors as the women were willing to contribute with no required minimum or maximum amount. The women proved their generosity and therefore a large basin was able to be built.

Today, on International Women’s Day, and every day, may we have the generosity and thirst for Torah that the women demonstrated in the desert.

Everyone has something to contribute Print E-mail
Thursday, 10 March 2016

Sponsored by Sharona and Josh Halickman in Honor of Aaron Rosenberg’s Bar Mitzvah

In Parshat Pekudei, Shmot 39:32 we read: “Thus was completed the work of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) of Ohel Moed (the Tent of Meeting). B’nei Yisrael did everything just as God commanded Moshe, so they did.”


Did B’nai Yisrael as a whole do everything that God commanded Moshe? Did the whole nation of Israel make the Mishkan?


Abravanel explains that the fact that B’nai Yisrael brought the materials also counts as making the Mishkan even if not everyone actually crafted it.


Ohr HaChayim does not count bringing the materials as actually making the Mishkan. He explains that the Torah can be observed collectively, by the people as a whole, each individual deriving benefit from the observance of his neighbor and each individual’s performance complimenting that of the other.


We learn this from the concept of “And you shall love your neighbor as yourself”-your neighbor’s welfare will contribute to yours and through him you compliment your own perfection.


Even if Betzalel and the other wise hearted craftsmen and craftswomen were the ones who physically made the Mishkan, the whole nation is included as one.


The same is true for the Jewish community. Ohr HaChayim points out that it is impossible for one person to observe all 613 mitzvot. Some are for Kohanim, some are for Leviim, some are for men, some are for women. When each person fulfills the mitzvoth that they are personally obligated in then the entire Torah is observed.


Nehama Leibowitz explains: “Our Torah is a social code designed for observance in the communal context and not for a solitary Robinson Crusoe on his desert island... The Torah can only be realized in practice by the nation as a whole and the Mishkan was constructed by the nation as a whole.


We now understand why Hillel taught in Pirkei Avot 2:5: “Don’t separate yourself from the community.”


When the community is together, different members make up for the shortfalls of others. If a member of the congregation looses concentration while praying with a minyan, they are still considered part of the public prayer service. One who prays alone does not have that luxury.


Israeli society is made up of a lot of different types of people from different backgrounds with diverse talents yet each and every person has something to contribute which is what makes the State of Israel so special. 

Where Did They Get All of the Materials to Contribute to the Mishkan? Print E-mail
Friday, 28 February 2014

Over the past few parshiot we have been reading about B’nai Yisrael’s contributions to the Mishkan.


While teaching this topic over the last few weeks, I have been asked over and over again: “How did B’nai Yisrael, in the middle of the Sinai desert have all of those items to contribute?”


B’nai Yisrael actually took many of the valuables out of Egypt during the Exodus. During the plague of darkness, B’nai Yisrael were instructed to take gold, silver and clothing from the Egyptians as a form of payment for all of the years that they worked and were never paid.


Even though some of the gold was used for the Sin of the Golden Calf it was only a small portion of the nation that contributed and those who did contribute only gave in small earrings, leaving plenty of gold to contribute to the Mishkan, a much better cause.


The more difficult questions are:


Where did they get the wood to build the Mishkan?


Where did they get the olives to make the olive oil?


Midrash Tanchuma 9 states that Yaakov planted trees when he went down to Egypt with the intent that B’nai Yisrael would take the wood with them during the Exodus.


One form of the Acacia (the Shittah tree) is called nilotica since it grows near the Nile.


This Midrash teaches that Yaakov believed God’s promise to Avraham that B’nai Yisrael would one day be redeemed and therefore he helped plan for it.


However, it is hard to take the Midrash literally. When B’nai Yisrael were rushing out of Egypt with hardly enough time to make the dough for the matzot, did they have time to cut down trees to take with them?


When researching what grows wild in the Sinai desert, we find the Atzei Shitim (the Shittah trees) a form of the Acacia that occur in the desert wadis of Sinai whose wood was used to make the Mishkan.


If that is the case, then B’nai Yisrael were able to find the wood in the desert and wouldn’t have had to bring it from Egypt.

The “sneh” (burning bush) may have also been a form of this tree.


If you have visited the Sinai desert recently and haven’t seen these trees it could be due to the fact that the Bedouins uprooted them and didn’t replant them.


There were probably wild olive trees in the Sinai Peninsula as well which B’nai Yisrael were able to use in order to make the olive oil that was needed for the Mishkan. We don’t hear about B’nai Yisrael eating olives with their manna because in those days the olives were used exclusively to make oil and were not eaten as a fruit as they are today.


We see from here that between the valuables that B’nai Yisrael brought from Egypt and the wild trees that grew in the desert they had all of the materials needed to construct the Mishkan despite the fact that they were in the middle of nowhere.



Next Year in the Rebuilt Jerusalem! Print E-mail
Tuesday, 05 March 2013

The Book of Shmot concludes with the subject of the completion of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) when the Glory of God filled it continuously.


According to Ramban, in his Introduction to the Book of Shmot, the entire Book of Shmot is dedicated to the Egyptian exile. It begins with the names of those who went down to Egypt (even though the names are already mentioned at the end of the Book of Breisheet) since their descent constituted the beginning of the exile.


When B’nai Yisrael left Egypt, even though they came forth from the house of bondage, they were still considered exiles since they were in a land that was not theirs, entangled in the desert.


When they came to Har Sinai and completed the Mishkan, God caused the Divine Presence to dwell again amongst them. They then returned to the status of their fathers. At that point, they were considered redeemed.


The Book of Shmot is concluded with the consummation of the building of the Mishkan and the Glory of God filling it always as it signifies the end of the Egyptian exile.


As Rosh Chodesh Nisan is almost upon us and we prepare for Pesach, we should keep in mind that God used four words of redemption from Egypt, vehotzeiti (I took them out), vehitzalti (I saved them), vigaalti (I redeemed them), vilakachti (I took them) which correspond to the four cups of wine that we drink at the seder.


The word that signifies the fifth cup (Eliyahu’s cup) is Veheveti (I will bring you- to the Land of Israel). The full redemption would only be completed when B’nai Yisrael would bring the Mishkan to the Land of Israel and build the Bet HaMikdash.


We hope and pray that the words that we conclude the seder with “L’Shana HaBa B’Yerushalyim Habnuya”, “Next year in the rebuilt Jerusalem” will be answered speedily in our days.

Be the First to Contribute! Print E-mail
Friday, 04 March 2011

As the Mishkan is being dedicated, we must take note of the fact that all of B’nai Yisrael made contributions to help build it.


When the Torah was given and the covenant was made, Dvarim 29:9-10, all were included, not just the wealthiest classes:“…the heads of the tribes, the elders, the officers, all of the men of Israel: the little ones, the wives, the stranger…, from the hewer of wood to the drawer of water…”


The Midrash in Bamidbar Rabba asks why the nesiim (princes) only brought their contributions after everyone else, as it says in Shmot 35:27: “The princes brought the Shoham stones and the stones for the settings for the Ephod and the Breastplate”. What took them so long?


The princes may have been disappointed that Moshe asked the nation as a whole to bring contributions, not specifically singling them out. They figured that they would wait until everyone else made contributions and then they would fill in whatever else was necessary. However, B’nai Yisrael were so excited about being able to contribute that they actually brought everything that was needed. The princes were disappointed that it was too late to contribute to the Mishkan and therefore they helped contribute to the garments of the Kohen Gadol (High Priest).


Since the princes waited too long to make their contribution, a letter was taken off of their name. The pasuk says “v’hanisim” without the “yud” rather than “v’hanisiim” to show that they were remiss.


We can learn from here that it is always best to be the first to contribute and not wait until it is too late.


How many opportunities do we miss out on because we don’t jump at the chance to participate as soon as we are asked to?


Often, people who are called to be counted for a Shiva minyan say: “when you are up to nine, I will be the tenth man”. The problem is that if everyone has the same excuse, then how are they ever going to get up to ten? If each of those people said: “yes, you can count on me”, then we would already be up to ten.


The princes learned their lesson. After the Mishkan was built, they were the first ones to bring the Korbanot (sacrifices).


The next time that you are invited to participate in a mitzvah or make a contribution, don’t wait until it is too late! Be the first to contribute!

Mishkan or Mashkanta? The Relationship Between the Tabernacle and a Mortgage Print E-mail
Thursday, 06 March 2008

Sponsored by Adam Burnat in memory of my Grandmothers Enah Sheyna Bat Miriam and Esther Gitel Bat Chaya.


The beginning of the first pasuk of Parshat Pekudei seems repetitive (Shmot 38:21) “These are the accounts of the mishkan (hamishkan), mishkan of testimony”.

Why does the word mishkan have to be written twice?

According to Rashi, the fact that the word mishkan is written twice is an allusion to the Beit HaMikdash shenitmashken, the holy Temple which was taken as collateral by being destroyed twice because of the iniquities of Yisrael.

Sefer HaZikaron, Rabbi Avraham Bukrot adds that just as collateral is confiscated in lieu of an unpaid debt, God took the Temples rather than collect his debt/ rather than exacting punishment that B’nai Yisrael deserved.

Lifshuto shel Rashi, Rabbi Shmuel Gelbard explains that just as collateral is held to insure the ultimate payment of debt, God holds the Temple until B’nai Yisrael repent.

The root of mishkan is from the same root as the word shechina (Divine Presence) as well as the word mashkanta (modern Hebrew word for mortgage).

When Bilam blessed the Jewish people he said “Ma Tovu Ohalcha Yaakov, Mishkenotecha Yisrael”, How wonderful are your tents, Jacob, your miskenot, Israel. Allegorically, How wonderful are the first two Batei Mikdash, they will have to be pawned off when the times will get tough. From here we learn what was in Bilam’s heart: Tzvi Yisrael compares this to a person who acquires new objects, jewelry etc. His friends will be truly happy for him and bless him that they should be used for happy occasions. The enemy on the other hand will say that these jewels will come in handy during a difficult time when they will be needed to be pawned off.

With the numerous terrorist attacks that have taken place in Israel this week, many of us are asking ourselves if we have already suffered enough and if the mortgage can finally been paid off so that the shechina can again rest in Jerusalem and we can resume our lives in peace and tranquility.