Pekudei 5765 – Gilayon #385
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WHEN YOU TAKE A CENSUS
OF THE ISRAELITE PEOPLE ACCORDING TO THEIR ENROLLMENT, EACH SHALL PAY THE LORD
A RANSOM FOR HIMSELF ON BEING ENROLLED, THAT NO PLAGUE MAY COME UPON THEM
THROUGH THEIR BEING ENROLLED. THIS IS WHAT EVERYONE WHO IS ENROLLED IN THE RECORDS
SHALL PAY: A HALF-SHEKEL BY THE SANCTUARY WEIGHT… THE RICH SHALL NOT PAY MORE
AND THE POOR SHALL NOT PAY LESS THAN HALF A SHEKEL WHEN GIVING THE LORD'S
OFFERING AS EXPIATION FOR YOUR PERSONS.
This [they]… shall
pay – Not with the amount of what he actually does for the common good, but
with the symbolic expression of what he knows is his duty, has he to approach
God in the moment when he is to pass-over out of the ranks of the
uncounted into the circle of those counted… But the symbolic expression of
the duty to work for the common weal is a half-shekel per person. Objectively,
actually, even the most complete and most perfect work of any single individual
is never the whole of the work, can never accomplish everything, the work of
any single person will always remain a fragment, it requires an equally devoted
sacrifice on the part of his brother to establish a whole. No individual is
asked to do the whole, as it states in Avot 2:21, "It
is not for you to complete the work." But it must be a contribution to the
whole, weighed on the scales of the Sanctuary. The shekel must be one of twenty
geras, and that which the individual gives must be
ten, in itself, subjectively, a rounded whole. As far
as the giver is concerned, it must be a whole, his whole, conscientiously
weighed out. However small a fragment what he does may be, in relation to all
that has to be done, he may leave nothing out, no power, no ability, no
possessions, that could further the happiness of the whole may he keep back,
although "It is not for you to complete the work" nevertheless "and
neither are you free to disengage from it."
(R. S. R. Hirsch on Shemot
30:13, following Levi translation)
final days of the Tabernacle's construction: Flushed with excitement, the Chosen
People turns its eyes to the House of its glory, its Holy of Holies, the home
of its God. The pomegranate-ornaments are set in their proper places, the tarps
wave in the wind – and Moses, the leader, arrives. The people stand before
Moses – the nation's material "father" – like a small child holding
out his first artistic work to his father, asking in its heart: "Did we
succeed? Did we understand, chisel, and cut in accordance with God's word?"
Moses perceives the beauty of the completed work, feels the people's excitement
and shares in it, turns to them and says: You have succeeded "May it be
God's will that the Divine Presence shall dwell in the product of your hands"
(Rashi, Shemot 39:43).
is his custom, Rabbi S. R. Hirsch delves between the lines of the leader's
speech, deriving great meaning from them that remains significant for today's
Jews, as it had been for those who stood by the Tabernacle. Verse 3 describes
the event: And Moses saw all of the work, and they had performed it as the
Lord had commanded, so they had performed it, and Moses blessed them. Moses
looks at the people and at their completed work, and finds two significant
They had performed it
does not view the completed Tabernacle merely as a physical house of God. He
does not look at the holy objects,
but rather looks into them. In those
vessels, Moses sees the days that led to their completion. He sees the people's
spirit of volunteerism, the contributions made by every Jewish heart, the team
work, and the solidarity of individuals working side by side towards the
realization of a shared goal. Moses sees
the nation. He sees its unity and strength, its devotion to purpose. In our
day, Moses looks down from above upon our army, and wants to see similar
qualities: unity, perseverance, readiness to volunteer and tremendous devotion.
In these days of calls to refuse to follow orders, which endanger the army,
democracy, the nation, and the state – we must remember and take care, and
persevere in our commitment to the shared goal. Our strength is in our unity,
our perseverance, our readiness to give. Let us all look towards the same goal,
let us unite the Jewish People, love the Jewish People, and know how to resolve
contentious issues through democratic means. In these days when the Land of
Israel is undergoing a difficult surgical operation to save its life and for
the sake of the hope of peace – we must increase love for fellow Jews. We must
love the settlers, understand their distress, see to their well-being, and pray
for them. God forbid that our authentic desire for peace with our neighbors
should give rise to hatred and war between Jewish brothers.
As the Lord had commanded, so they had performed it
with the above, and no less important – Moses sees absolute obedience to God's
will. No personal interests, no differential treatment, no desire for one Jew
to outshine his brothers. All are "as one man with one heart" with a
strong will to execute God's commands down to the slightest detail. That is the
Torah's purpose in giving us chapter after chapter of detailed description,
worthy of the technical plans for a new communications satellite. The Torah means
to show the reader that the Israelites did as they were commanded; that the
only interest they considered was the divine command.
That is meaning of being a servant of God. "Negate
your will before His will" (Avot 2:4) – so Rabban Gamliel tells us. As servants of God we must concentrate on
one goal – the will to uphold God's word, his commandments, statutes, and laws.
Of course, God's word is sometimes ambiguous and dependent upon human
understanding. However, the written and oral Torah supply
us with enough criteria to distinguish in most cases between God's word and
conclusion, I shall touch upon Moses' blessing. Rashi's
comments cited above say that Moses blessed the people with the words, "May
it be God's will that the Divine Presence shall dwell in the product of your
hands: May the favor of the Lord, our God, be upon us; let the work of our
hands prosper, O prosper the work of our hands. (Tehillim 90:17)." Let us try to
find a deeper meaning in that verse from Tehillim, a
message that Moses relayed to the people on the day of the Tabernacle's
prays for the future of the Jewish People. Moses sees the path which combines
freedom with discipline as God's promise for happiness. To walk the tight-rope
between freedom and discipline – that is the goal of a servant of God – the
central message of Moses' blessing. Moses asks, let the work of our hands
prosper, O prosper the work of our hands. The work of
our hands – that is the freedom granted the Jew. O prosper
the work of our hands – that is the discipline, the commandments and laws. This
combination – the middle way – is the object of Moses' prayer. If only the Jewish
People would learn to combine divine discipline with this freedom, as Moses
hoped. On the one hand – the freedom granted us by God to develop. On the other
– we are certainly obligated by many laws and boundaries to be disciplined. It
would seem that to a secular person or to a Christian, this must appear to be
an enormous contradiction; how can one be both free and bound at the same time?
S.R. Hirsch speaks of how the tzitzit are
designed: Partially formed by knots, but ending in free and unencumbered
strings. So it is with us Jews: Only when we tie ourselves with commandments,
with statutes and laws, with the Jewish halakhah – only
then can we really be free. Free of physical enslavement, from the enslavement
of the day and from material enslavement. Then our souls "exit Egypt"
Yonatan Orich is a high school student, and believes in God and in
Peace (Shalom), which is one of God's names.
But will God really dwell on the earth? Even the heavens to their
uttermost reaches cannot contain You, how much less
this House that I have built!
(I Kings 8:27)
One would say: "When
our love was strong, we could lay together on the flat of a sword; now that our
love is not strong – a bed of sixty cubits is not large enough for us." Rav Huna said: The things are
written in biblical verses – first it says and I will make myself known to
you there and I will speak to you from over the covering, and we learn from
a braita that the Ark was nine handbreadths high, and
the covering itself a single handbreadth, making a total of ten – in the
beginning when God loved Israel, the Divine Presence would reveal itself even
in such a cramped place! But regarding the Temple it is said: And the House
that Solomon built for the Lord was sixty cubits long and twenty wide and
thirty cubits tall. In the end, it is written: So spoke the Lord: The
sky is My throne and the earth My footstool; what
house shall you make for Me? When Israel sinned, the entire Temple was not
sufficiently spacious for the Divine Presence to dwell in it.
The Tabernacle as a Divine "Concession" and Atonement for the
Sin of the Calf
And Moses blessed
them – how did he bless them? "May it be God's will that the Divine
Presence shall dwell in the product of your hands: May the favor of the
Lord, our God, be upon us… (Tehillim 90:17)" Rabbeinu
Behayeiy explained: This is in accordance with that
which is said in the beginning of the Psalm: A prayer of Moses, the man of
God, etc. However, this is not enough to make the point if there is no
mention of the Tabernacle in the whole psalm. But I say that the beginning and
end of the psalm hint clearly at the building of the Tabernacle, for in the
beginning it says, Lord, you have been our refuge in every generation,
and this is in agreement with what Solomon said in his prayer at the Temple's
consecration: Even the heavens to their uttermost reaches cannot contain
You, how much less this House – that is in keeping with what is said, You
have been our refuge – You are the world's refuge, but the world is not Your
place and refuge. If so, how could it ever occur to anyone to say that they
would prepare a house for You to be located in? And he
proved it, since before the mountains were born and the land and earth
created throughout eternity You are God – if God
needed to occupy a space, which space did He occupy before creating the world? Rather,
the world is certainly not His place. Quite to the contrary, may He be blessed
is the place and refuge for the whole world. And how could it be that God
commanded him to build a house for Him, as if He was going to live there? Regarding
that, he said by means of an answer, You
return man to dust; You decreed, "Return you mortals!" God had to
concede His honor and make Himself a dwelling among the mortals in order to
absolve them for the sin of the calf, for according to the Sages the entire
Tabernacle was built as atonement for the calf (Tanhuma Pekudei 6).
(Keli Yakar on Shemot 39:43)
The Israelites were
commanded: Bring Me gifts, gifts of all that was needed for constructing
the Tabernacle. Afterwards, when the command was executed, we read that all
those whose heart moved them brought the gifts. The midrash reads this passage carefully, noting that
when a good cause is involved, e.g., building the Tabernacle – all those
whose heart moved them brought gifts. All those whose heart moved them
is not a collective name for all of the people, all of
the community, or all of the public. In contrast, when the people themselves
wanted to worship what they saw as a god – the calf – it is written: and all of the people removed
their golden nose-rings.
So: for the good – all those whose heart moved them,
for the bad – all of the people.
The worship of God does
not derive from an innate human drive. It requires that man make a
psychological effort to overcome his nature and accept the yoke of the kingdom
of heaven upon himself. However, people are naturally
driven to idolatry…
(Prof. Yeshayahu Leibowitz ztz"l, He'arot le'parashiyot ha'shavua, pp. 63-64)
In the first of Adar,
the collection of shekalim is announced.
In the first of Adar,
the collection of shekalim is announced – So that Israel would bring the gift
of shekalim in Nisan, as it is written, in its
month [hodesh] of the months of the year do
something new [hadesh] and bring me an
offering from the new
(Rashi on Mo'ed Katan 6a)
Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish said: It was revealed
and known to God that in the future, the wicked Haman
would weigh out shekalim in payment for Israel[‘s destruction]. Therefore, he had their shekalim precede his.
…and they would begin
to collect in the month of Adar and gave in the first of Nisan. And why do they
start in Adar and give in Nisan? In order not to pressure
The rich shall not add
He said not to add or
detract – since it is a ransom of the soul.
(Ibn Ezra 30:15)
So that the rich cannot
say, "My part is greater than yours."
Mi'Ba'alei Ha'Tosafot, loc
Just in this equality,
the symbolic nature of the fixed gift of half a shekel is expressed. As long as
the rich man and the poor man give, each all that he can, does the whole of
what he can do, then, as far as God and His Sanctuary are concerned, the pounds
of the rich weigh no more than the pennies and shillings of the poor, and the
pennies and shillings of the poor are quite equal to the pounds of the rich. The
rich man can do no more, and the poor man can do no less, than the half of a
whole shekel. God and the Sanctuary weigh, not the actual, but the relative
size of the contribution, they value what is given and what is done in relation
to the fortune and the abilities of the givers. Every one who uses the full
powers of the fortune and the abilities with which he
has been graced, in the service of God, in furthering the aims of the
Sanctuary, lays thereby his half shekel as his "symbolum"
on the Altar of God.
(Rabbi S. R. Hirsch on Shemot
30: 15, Levi translation)
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