Pekudei 5768 – Gilayon #539


Shabbat Shalom The weekly parsha commentary – parshat


(link to original page)

Click here to
receive the weekly parsha by email each week.

Parshat Pekuday

WHEN THE CLOUD ROSE UP FROM

OVER THE TABERNACLE, THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL SET OUT IN ALL THEIR JOURNEYS.

 (Shemot 40:36)

 

Tabernacle and Temple – Temporariness

and Constancy

When the cloud rose up – the Shekhinah's

presence in the Tabernacle was so constant that it would only leave it when the

Israelites had to travel. This was not the situation in Shiloh, or in the

First Temple, or in the Second Temple. However, in the Third Temple, may it

be built speedily in our time, it will be even more constant, as it says, But

I will be for it-says the Lord-a wall of fire around, and for glory I will be

in its midst. (Zachariah 2:9).

(Seforno Shemot 40:36)

 

all the gold – it reports on the quantities of gold,

silver, and copper used in constructing the Tabernacle, which was of much less

value than was the wealth of the First Temple as described in the Book of Kings,

and the wealth of Herod's Temple was even greater (Sukka

51b). Despite all that, the

appearance of God's glory in Moses' Tabernacle was more constant than in the

First Temple, and was not seen at all in the Second Temple. This shows that

the quantity of wealth and the size of the building are not cause for the Shekhinah to reside in Israel. Rather, it is people who

fear God and the deeds of such people that makes Him want to dwell in their

midst.

(Seforno Shemot 38:24)

 

And

find favor and good understanding in the sight of God

and man

Yehudah Pinchover1

This

year Shabbat Shkalim falls out on the Shabbat of parashat Pekudei. It is

interesting to note that the two parshiyotPekudei and Shkalim – as well as the

haftorah from the Book of Kings, all mention the moral rectitude required of public servants who

deal with communal funds.

Ours

is not the first generation to be suspicious of its leaders and to gossip about

them. Even our Rabbi Moses, whom the Holy One blessed be He called faithful

throughout My house, was suspected of embezzling funds belonging to the Tabernacle. Midrash Tanhuma (Parashat

Pekudei, 8) describes the distrust accorded to public servants and the practices of

transparency they had to adopt in order to avoid talk of links between money

and political power:

These are the numbers of the Tabernacle,

the Tabernacle of the Testimony, which were counted at Moses' command (Shemot 38:21). When the construction of the

Tabernacle was complete, he told them: "Come and I shall prepare an

accounting for you"… and why did he prepare an accounting for them? The

Holy One blessed be He would have trusted him, for it

says: Not so is My servant Moses; he is faithful throughout My house (Bamidbar 12:7). Yet

Moses gave an accounting! Rather, he did this because he (Moses) heard the

jokesters of the generation talking behind his back, for it says: And it

would be that when Moses would go out to the tent, all the people would rise

and stand, each one at the entrance of his tent, and they would gaze after

Moses until he went into the tent (Shemot 23:8). And what would they say? They would

look at him from behind and one would say to the other: "See his neck! See

his calf! His food is from us, his drink is from us." And the other would

say, "Worthless man! Someone is put in charge of the construction of the

Tabernacle, in charge of unfathomable quantities of silver and gold ingots that

that are beyond being weighed or counted – and you want him not to be rich?"

When he heard this, he [Moses] said: "By your lives, when the construction

of the Tabernacle is completed, I will give them an accounting. As soon as it

was completed, he told them: These are the numbers of the Tabernacle.

Every

slander requires supporting evidence. According to the midrash, Moses was slim; the son of Amram had enough flesh on his back to raise and support the

suspicions of the riff-raff of the generation regarding their leader. In order

to silence the chatter, Moses decided to give a detailed accounting, a

comprehensive report of all the revenues and expenditures surrounding the

Tabernacle's construction.

The haftorah gives us a contrasting and ideal picture of the

Temple's refurbishment in the reign of King Yehoash. Those

involved in work were assumed to be honest and no demands of transparency or

accountability were made of them:

And they would not reckon with the men

into whose hand they would give the money to give the foremen over the work,

for they did [the work] honestly. (II Kings

12:16)

An atmosphere of suspicion towards public

servants can deter people from taking on public roles, lest they end up

suffering reproach and humiliation. Therefore, as we have seen in the Book of

Kings, the public is duty-bound to nurture, support, and encourage its faithful

representatives. On the other hand, as we have seen in the case of Moses,

transparency and accountability are required of the public servant.

This tension between faith in public servants

and the need to keep track of community funds finds expression in the laws of

charity. The RaMBaM writes in Hilkhot

Matnot Ani'im:

He [the charity collector] shall not count

the coins from the charity-box two by two, but rather one by one, because of suspicion,

for it is said, And be guiltless

towards the Lord and towards Israel (Bamidbar 32:22)

And one does not calculate charitable funds

with the charity collectors, nor funds dedicated [to the Temple] with the

treasurer, for it is said: However, no reckoning shall be made with them of

the silver that is given into their hands, for they deal honestly (II Kings22:7).

Let us return to consider the commandment of

the half-shekel. This commandment is described in Parashat

Shkalim as a one-time order given to the Generation

of the Wilderness. However, the haftorah and its

parallel in Chronicles teach us that it was a permanent commandment. Indeed,

the half-shekel is counted among the positive commandments that are in force in

all places when the Temple is standing. The entire Mishnaic

tractate of Shkalim is devoted to it. That is the

only tractate in the entire order Mo'ed that

has no Gemara in the Babylonian Talmud. My father of blessed

memory, who served for many years as a charity collector, had the privilege of

editing this unique tractate in the dissertation he completed in 5758.

Like the Midrash

Tanhuma, the tractate Shkalim

deals with the steps that community leaders must take in

order to avoid slander:

He

who made the appropriation did not enter the chamber wearing either a bordered

cloak or shoes or sandals or tefillin or an amulet,

lest if he become poor people might say that he became poor because of an

iniquity committed in the chamber, or if he became rich people might say that

he became rich from the appropriation in the chamber. For it is a man's duty to

be free of blame before men as before God, as it is said: And be guiltless

towards the Lord and towards Israel (Bamidbar 32), and again it says: And find favor and

good understanding in the sight of God and man. (Shkalim

3:2, based on Soncino translation)

The Mishnah is discussing a charity collector who wants to take

silver from the Temple donation-boxes that were found in a special room in the

Temple, in order to use it for the public good. The Mishnah

requires the collector to enter the office wearing only items of apparel that

lack pockets. If the collector fails to follow his policy the public might

suspect him of taking some of the silver for himself, and then it would be too

late for explanations, since if he becomes poor that will be counted as a

punishment for embezzlement and if he becomes rich they will say that he became

wealthy with embezzled funds.

The Mishnah sets up the following principle: one must fulfill

one's duties in the eyes of humanity as one must fulfill one's duties in the

eyes of God. This is an egalitarian demand; every human being in general and

every Jew in particular is obliged to be guided by it. The principle states

that a person must strive to be considered faithful and honest by his fellow

human beings and blameless and good in the eyes of God. It is not sufficient to

be faithful to the Holy One blessed be He; transparency and faithfulness in the

eyes of the public is also required. In particular, one must be thought of as

honest by a civilized society.

In

his marvelous and famous statement, HaRav Kook goes

even farther than this egalitarian principle. The Rav

is considering what must be done when there appears to be a contradiction

between finding favor in God's eyes and finding favor in the eyes of humanity. What

should be our scale of values and order of priorities? He writes:

It

is forbidden for fear of Heaven to push aside one's natural morality, for then

it would no longer be pure fear of Heaven. The sign [by which one can

recognize] pure fear of Heaven is when the natural morality which is rooted in

man's honest nature ascends by means of [the fear of Heaven] to higher levels

than it would have attained without it.

But

if there should be a fear of Heaven, such that without its influence, life

would tend to function better, and would actualize things beneficial to the

individual and society, whereas with its influence that actualizing power would

diminish – such a fear of Heaven is invalid.(Orot haKodesh, vol 3, Rosh Davar,

paragraph 11, pg. 27 translation from haretzion.org website)

A

Jew whose behavior contradicts the standards of natural morality is not considered

to fear Heaven because the commandments of the Torah only serve to complete and

add to the standards of moral behavior required by any enlightened, just, and

civilized society. HaRav Kook says that we possess a

human criterion for discovering whether an individual truly loves God. This

criterion is the standard of moral behavior that is universally accepted by

humanity. May we find favor and good understanding in the sight of

God and man.

[1].

In memory of

my father and teacher, Eliezer Pinchover,

who passed away on the 16 of Shevat 5768.

Yehudah Pinchover is a founder of Netivot Shalom

 

 

You shall be clear before

the Lord and before Israel.

The house of Garmu was expert in preparing the showbread… Never was

fine bread to be found in their children's hand, lest people say: These feed

from the [preparation of] the showbread – Thus [they endeavored] to fulfill

[the command]: You shall be clear before the Lord and before Israel.

Our Rabbis taught: The house of

Abtinas was expert in preparing the incense… Never

did a bride of their house go forth perfumed and when they married a woman from

elsewhere they expressly forbade her to do so lest people say: From [the

preparation of] the incense they are perfuming themselves. [They did so] to

fulfill the command: You shall be clear before the Lord and before Israel.

(Yoma 38a Soncino translation)

 

There are other things

that are a profanation of the Name of God. When a man, great in the knowledge

of the Torah and reputed for his piety, does things which cause people to talk

about him, even if the acts are not express violations, he profanes the Name of

God. As, for example, if such a person makes a purchase and does not pay

promptly, provided that he has means and the creditors ask for payment and he

puts them off; or if he indulges immoderately in jesting, eating, or drinking,

when he is staying with ignorant people or living among them; or if his mode of

addressing people is not gentle, or he does not receive people affably, but is

quarrelsome and irascible. The greater a man is, the more scrupulous should he

be in all such things, and do more than the strict letter of the law requires.

And if a man has been scrupulous in his conduct, gentle in his conversation,

pleasant toward his fellow-creatures, affable in manner when receiving them,

not retorting, even when affronted, but showing courtesy to all, even to those

who treat him with disdain, conducting his commercial affairs with integrity,

not readily accepting the hospitality of the ignorant nor frequenting their

company, not seen at all times, but devoting himself to the study of Torah,

wrapped in a tallit, and crowned with

phylacteries, and doing more than his duty in all things, avoiding, however,

extremes and exaggerations – such a man has sanctified God, and concerning him,

Scripture says, And He said to me, "You are My servant, O Israel, in

whom I will be glorified" (Isaiah 49:3).

(RaMBaM Hilkhot Yesodei Ha'Torah 5:11, Hyamson translation)

 

The rich shall give no more, and the poor shall give

no less than half a shekel.

(Shemot 30:15)

 

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)

 

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.

(Sanhedrin

7a)

 

The Calf and the Tabernacle

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)

 

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… (Psalms 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)

                                                                                                                

Shabbat Shalom is

available on our website: www.netivot-shalom.org.il

If you wish to

subscribe to the email English editions of Shabbat Shalom, to print copies of

it for distribution in your synagogue, to inquire regarding the dedication of

an edition in someone's honor or memory, to find out about how to make

tax-exempt donations, or to suggest additional helpful ideas, please contact

Miriam Fine at +972-52-3920206 or at ozshalom@netvision.net.il

 

If you enjoy Shabbat Shalom, please consider contributing towards

its publication and distribution.

  • Hebrew edition distributed in Israel

    $700

  • English edition distributed via email $

    100

Issues may be dedicated in honor of an event, person, simcha, etc. Requests must be made 3-4 weeks in advance to

appear in the Hebrew, 10 days in advance to appear in the English email.

In Israel, checks made out

to Oz VeShalom may be sent to Oz VeShalom-P.O.B.

4433, Jerusalem 91043. Unfortunately there is no Israeli tax-exemption for

local donations.

US and British tax-exempt contributions to Oz VeShalom may be made through:

New Israel Fund, POB 91588, Washington, DC 20090-1588, USA

New Israel Fund of Great Britain, 26 Enford

Street, London W1H 2DD, Great Britain

PLEASE NOTE THAT THE NEW ISRAEL FUND IS NO LONGER ACCEPTING DONATIONS

UNDER $100.

PEF will also channel donations and provide a tax-exemption. Donations

should be sent to P.E.F. Israel Endowment Funds, Inc., 317 Madison Ave.,

Suite 607, New York, New York 10017 USA

All contributions should be marked as donor-advised to Oz ve'Shalom, the Shabbat Shalom project.

 

About us

Oz Veshalom-Netivot Shalom is a movement

dedicated to the advancement of a civil society in Israel. It is committed to

promoting the ideals of tolerance, pluralism, and justice, concepts that have

always been central to Jewish tradition and law.

Oz Veshalom-Netivot Shalom shares a deep

attachment to the land of Israel and it no less views peace as a central

religious value. It believes that Jews have both the religious and the national

obligation to support the pursuit of peace. It maintains that Jewish law clearly

requires us to create a fair and just society, and that co-existence between

Jews and Arabs is not an option but an imperative.

5,000

copies of a 4-page peace oriented commentary on the weekly Torah reading are

written and published by Oz VeShalom/Netivot Shalom

and they are distributed to over 350 synagogues in Israel and are sent overseas

via email. Our web site is www.netivot-shalom.org.il.