Vayakhel 5768 – Gilayon #538

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Parshat Vayakhel





If I learned that one rests

from the eve of the Seventh Year for the Seventh Year, so one should similarly

rest from the Sabbath eve for the Sabbath? And also – it is an a fortiori

argument: [working the land on] the Seventh Year does not entail a punishment

of extirpation [karet] or a judicial death

sentence, but one rests from the eve of the Seventh Year for the Seventh Year,

all the more so in regard to the Sabbath, which entails extirpation and a

judicial death sentence [for those who work on it], that one should rest from

Sabbath eve for the Sabbath, and will be prohibited from lighting a lamp or

cooking a stew, or from making a bonfire. We learn from the verse: You

shall not kindle fire in any of your dwelling places on the Sabbath day – you must not kindle it on the Sabbath

day, but you can light it on Sabbath eve for the Sabbath.


DeRabbi Yishmael, Vayakhel, Massekhta DeShabbata 1:s.v. lo teva'aru)


May God double the reward of

the Gaon who responded with perfect answers to the

Sadducees who prohibit lamps on the Sabbath. Once, one

of them encountered me. I told him we should leave aside the rabbinical

tradition and pursue the Scriptural text alone. He was elated, so I asked him: "Who

says that it is prohibited to light a lamp on the night of the Sabbath after

sunset?" He answered: "You shall not kindle fire."

I responded saying that Scripture only mentions the day. And similarly: And on the eighth day, the flesh of

his foreskin shall be circumcised (Vayikra 12:3),

but he cannot be circumcised at night! He answered: And it was

evening and it was morning, one day (Bereishit 1:5) – the two together are called a day,

and the evening preceded the morning. Again I answered that that could not be,

because Scripture says: And God called the light day (ibid). How could it contradict itself by

calling both darkness and light "day"? And then I explained: it is

written: night and day (I Kings 8:49);

and day and night (Bereishit

8:22); three days, night and day (Esther

4:16); three days and three nights (Jonah

2:1). He answered: From evening to evening, you shall observe your rest day (Vayikra 23:32). I again answered, saying that the

verse refers only to Yom Kippur. The proof is that it says your

rest day – in the singular, instead of [the plural] your rest days

as in the verse and observe My rest days (Vayikra 19:30)… then the Sadducee became confused…

he returned a month later, all happy and self-satisfied, since he had found

[the verse]: This day is a day of good news (II Kings 7:9). There it is also written: If

we wait until daybreak [we will incur guilt] (ibid) [implying that he spoke

at night but used the word "day"]. So I answered him: "So this

is the only mention of "day"? Is it not written in the Torah: On

the day I struck every firstborn (Bamidbar 3:13) – and the killing of the firstborn

occurred at midnight! Rather, the word "day" can be understood

in two different ways. One refers to day and night, while the other refers to a

particular moment in time, such as, and it shall be in that day

(Isaiah 17:4). And similarly: This

day you cross the Jordan (Devarim 9:1). I mention these things so that a

discerning person will be able to interpret Scripture to find various meanings.

That is why we are in need of the accepted interpretations, the tradition and

the Oral Torah in connection with [interpretation of] all of the commandments,

as I have begun to do in this book.


Ezra, Short Commentary Shemot 35:3)


The Tabernacle and

the Calf – Squaring the Circle

Yossi Hatav

After the giving of the Torah and parashat Mishpatim, the Torah

devotes a number of parshiyot to the construction of

the Tabernacle, which was meant to serve as the foundation for God's presence

in the world. Parashat Ki-Tissa

describes the Sin of the Golden calf. Beginning with the Sages, various

interpreters have dealt with the problem of the chronological order of these

events. That is to say: does the order in which the passages appear in the

Torah reflect the chronological order of events, or, as Midrash

Tanhuma teaches, does the Tabernacle come

afterwards to atone for the sin of the calf?

In any event, our parasha

concludes the account of the construction of the Tabernacle, and in Shemot 35:8 we read: oil for lighting, and

spices for the anointing oil and for the incense. Details regarding

the incense may be found in parashat Ki-Tissa (Shemot 30:23-33):

And you, take for

yourself spices of the finest sort: of pure myrrh five hundred [shekel

weights]; of fragrant cinnamon half of it two hundred and fifty [shekel

weights]; of fragrant cane two hundred and fifty [shekel weights], and of

cassia five hundred [shekel weights] according to the holy shekel, and one hin of olive oil. You shall make this into an oil of holy

anointment, a perfumed compound according to the art of a perfumer; it shall be

an oil of holy anointment… Any person who compounds anything like it or puts

any of it on an alien shall be cut off from his people.

The selection of spices and quantities: 500

shekel of pure myrrh, 250 shekel of fragrant cinnamon, 250 shekels of fragrant

cane, 500 shekel of cassia. All told we have a sum of 1500 shekel, which equals

3,000 half-shekels. The beginning of parashat Ki-Tissa (which we also read as Parashat

Shkalim, this year together with parashat

Pekudei) emphasizes that the half-shekel is intended

to atone for your souls. For what sin does the half-shekel atone? If the

sin of the Golden Calf preceded the construction of the Tabernacle, we it may

be assumed that the 3,000 half-shekels given by 3,000 Israelites who sinned

with the Calf and who were killed by the Levites constitute an atonement for

that sin.

1,500 shekel is a huge quantity of spices,

and the commentators disagree regarding the precise combination of those spices

that must be mixed with olive oil to produce oil of holy anointment.

It would seem that pure olive oil would

suffice for the anointment of the Tabernacle and of Aaron the Priest. The

incense was not needed in order to insure that Aaron and the Tabernacle would

smell good; rather, holy anointment creates holiness,

i.e., difference and separateness (You shall be holy – you shall be

separated). The oil's purity and the complexity of the incense, which was made

from a variety of plants and materials – some better and some worse reflect the People Israel in its entirety, just as the midrashim explain in regard to the four species. There is

danger in the holy: Any person who compounds anything like it or puts any of

it on an alien shall be cut off from his people. It exists at the limit, at

the crossing-point. It contains and separates. The Kabalistic "Tree of Sefirot" portrays this well.

The need for this separateness, for the

creation of a defined area called the "Tent of Meeting" [Ohel Mo'ed; mo'ed also means "an appointed time"] – both

a tent and an appointed time – called for two chief artisans: Betzalel and Ohaliav. Their names

speak of their functions, and their functions influence their names.

Betzalel, as Rashi says, following the Sages, was from the tribe of

Judah – the tribe of the House of David and of the Messiah son of David. He is Betzel el ["in God's shadow"], but

not a replacement for God. He does not stand by God's side and he is not God's


Ohaliav is from the

tribe of Dan – Dan will judge his people. Jacob calls Judah a lion's

cub – Moses calls Dan a lion's cub. The calf and the kid are also "cubs."

Ohaliav – his Father in Heaven is his tent –

the Tent of Meeting. The role of the Tabernacle's architects, Betzalel and Ohaliav, is to

create the place that links heaven and earth, on the earth and within it, as

symbolized by the plants that were mixed into the oil of holy anointment – top,

stem, and roots.

Ohaliav is also the

son of Ahisamakh ["my brother supported"]. Perhaps

he was so named to commemorate the difficult fraternal reconciliation reached

by Joseph and his brothers; perhaps the additional and even chief function of

the Tent of Meeting (stationed in the center of the camp) and of the

half-shekel gift is to bind the Israelites together.

Binding and delimitation, holiness and

separateness are best expressed by the bronze basin. R. Meir

Simkha MiDvinsk writes

about the basin in his commentary, Meshekh Hokhmah (Shemot 38:8):

They made the bronze basin… from the

mirrors of the women who stood – In the command it is written: And

you shall make the bronze basin for washing and you shall place water in

it (Shemot 30:18),

but there is no mention of washing in the description of the

execution of the command. Only in Pekudei is it

written and he placed water in it for washing (40:30). This points to the passage from Midrash

Tanhuma later cited by Rashi,

that Moses did not want to make it out of the women's mirrors and the blessed

Lord told him that he should make it from them, that they were the means of the

Israelites' being fruitful and multiplying and [the women's] being like gardens

locked up for their husbands. That is why the sotot

[women suspected of adultery] would drink from the basin and they would be

cleared and would become pregnant. If so, He revealed to him that the water

would also be for the sotot to drink; not only

for washing, but also for drinking, and that is why he did not write for

washing here.

We again find the principle of binding and

separation in its most human and touching form. The author of Tekhaelet Moredekhai

adds: "It is not enough that the daughters of

Israel offer such contributions – they designate that the mirrors be used

solely for the construction of the basin. From there, from these mirrors of the

evil inclination, the priests will sanctify their hands and feet."

The basin is the only artifact in the

Tabernacle – besides the Menorah – for which no measurements are given. It is

thought to have been circular, but the Torah itself gives no explicit indication

of its shape. People who try to reconstruct the details of the Tabernacle

assume that it was circular because none of its measurements are given by the

Torah. The word "circular" [agol]

appears nowhere in connection with the Tabernacle or indeed anywhere else n the

Torah. If it were not for the written statements of Scripture, we could imagine

a circular Tabernacle, a circular altar, a circular Ark, and a circular table,

and we could invent beautiful explanations about that perfect shape…

However, as is well known, reality is

different. The Tabernacle is entirely constructed from lines, angles, height,

width, breadth, and especially directions, beginning and end, similar to the

incense in the oil of holy anointment: flowers, stalks, and roots. And

just as we find in the Sabbath: reception of the Sabbath with lamp oil, the

first Kiddush with spiced wine, marking off, binding together, directionality –

so too is the history of the People Israel: from exile to crystallization,

wilderness to exaltedness, independence to service of God. And if independence

fails as it did fail, we are granted a second cycle and a third cycle, this

last one perhaps pointing to the final redemption, since it was the cruelest

exile in the most trying desert.

When Moses went up to heaven, our ancestors

had just witnessed the splitting of the Red Sea, the victory over Amalek, and the theophany at

Mount Sinai, where they heard the "direct" speech of God, making them

ready to enter the Land of Israel. However, they lost their patience and wanted

"Moses Now," "Israel Now," and "Comfortable Life-Style

Now." In a certain sense, they had lost their faith in God but not their

need for some god or another. Therefore, it was only natural that they asked

Aaron, the man closest to Moses, who was the man closest to God, to get up

and make us a god!

This is a legitimate request when coming from

the mouths of an enslaved nation, a nation crippled by a lack of faith in the

ability of human beings to confront their fate and the difficulties of the

wilderness on their own.

Aaron returned them to the event that had

just transpired and which still echoed throughout the world. He returned them

to the theophany at Mount Sinai, where they saw

the sounds; he directs them towards their ears and their wives' and

children's ears – those same ears which had heard Torah directly from God. He

asked them to detach themselves from schemes [mimizimot],

from the schemes of their ears [nimzei

ozneikhem – usually understood as the rings in

your ears] and they understood it in literal, tangible terms. It was from

those nimzei oznayim

that the calf was formed.

The Sages disagree regarding Aaron's role in

the sculpting of the Calf. Did Aaron actually choose to give it the shape of a

calf, or did the wizards from among the mixed multitude – and not the

Israelites proper – bewitch the lump of gold, making it take the form of a

calf? The latter view explains why the verse reads, these are your gods,

o Israel rather than these are our gods.

What could be created from nimzei oznayim,

which are agilim [earrings], if not an egel [calf]? Not a circle [igul]

as a set form, but rather a calf as the making of a circle, and a circle dance

[ma'agal] – the calf and the dancing.

That is what emerged from the furnace into

which Aaron threw the gold earrings: a circular form and a circle dance. I can

imagine to myself a ball that is spherical but not a number [sifra], the complete opposite of the Tabernacle – a

ball closed within itself, without direction, without connection between

interior and exterior, without a Tent of Meeting, without a process, a

deviation from the path. That is why the Israelites had to drink the water into

which the ashes of the Calf had been thrown. They were like a woman who has

deviated [sota– more specifically, a woman

suspected of adultery] from her role and loyalties, who also has to drink of

the bitter waters.

According to some commentators, the Calf

received its shape accidentally within the furnace, as Aaron said,

I threw it in the fire, and out came this calf. In the Tokhaha [speech of warning and rebuke] it says: If

you treat Me as happenstance… I shall angrily treat

you as happenstance. Happenstance, the circle in which every point is

equivalent to the others, is entirely a matter of coincidence and randomness. Randomness

is the complete opposite of tikkun olam [mending the world]. It opposes the ability of the

People Israel to engage in tikkun, and it

opposes the opportunity for tikkun offered by

the Tabernacle, which represents God's presence in the world.

The Calf is called Egel

HaZahav [literally: "calf of the gold"].

It is not called Egel shel

Zahav ["calf of gold"]. Gold is Torah. When

Torah is contained in a circle [igul], the

Torah becomes closed-up, belonging only to individuals who close themselves up

in their own closed circles. Such a Torah is neither studied nor interpreted. That

calf is a masekha [molten-image or mask], as

we read in Psalms (106:19): And they made a calf at Horev,

they bowed before a masekha. This Torah made "circular"

is closed in on itself, it hides its face behind a

mask [masekha]. That mask is different from

the veil worn by Moses. Moses donned a veil to protect those who saw him; the

mask protects the one hiding behind it from showing his true face. A mask

deceives, and so does the Calf: the grand deception continues unto this day.

In contrast to the mask, Moses' veil protects

the onlooker, for the skin of Moses' face beamed [with light]. The veil

invites the onlooker and draws him near. While the mask blocks, the veil

filters and draws near.

The Sages find a connection between the

Golden Calf and the Red Heifer: "Let the mother [heifer] come and clean up

its child's [the Calf's] excrement." A kid and its mothers' milk is the

archetype for the prohibition of mixing milk and meat. Rashi,

following the Sages, writes: "The calf and the lamb are included under the

rubric of ‘kid'; ‘kid' is just a term for ‘offspring.'"

For our culture – in contrast to cultures

such as that of India – both the flesh and the milk of the cow are dietary

staples. Judging from the sacrificial rite, we may conclude that cattle and tzon [sheep and goats] "starred" a more or

less equally in the lifestyle of our ancestors in the wilderness.

The kid and the calf symbolize the complete

opposite of Israel's destiny as it was presented in the Brit ben Habetarim ["Covenant

of the Severed Pieces"]. Israel's destiny is enduring and directed towards

tikkun and the Messianic Age. In contrast, the

calf and the kid together constitute the "Wheel of Fortune,"

happenstance. They also stand in contrast to the cow [para],

which symbolizes fertility [poriyut]. The "mother"

of every kid or calf does not merely symbolize, but rather actually constitutes

continuity and directionality.

After Moses prays and God is appeased, the

Holy One blessed be He does not want to take any

additional risks with the Israelites, the stiff-necked people who had

lost their finery which they had received at Horev,

so He speeds them on their way to Canaan. He destroys the Amorites and the

other nations which had caused the Israelites to pass time in the wilderness

and He gives the Israelites a number of commandments that would be essential

for beginning their new lives in their own land: the destruction of idolatry,

the organization of time and space, and no less important – the strengthening

of Moses' position as leader, together with Joshua, so as not to leave the

Israelites in the circle of the wilderness, but rather to direct them towards

positive activity in their land. All of this was cut short by the Sin of the

Spies, which overturned everything.

Facing, on the one hand, the danger of the

Spies' call for a return to enslavement and defeat in Egypt, and the

possibility of using the Tabernacle to fortify the people in the wilderness on

the other, God chose to allow the Israelites to contend with the wilderness and

holiness that the Tabernacle engraved into their memory.

In conclusion: these events offer an

encounter with two worldviews, two paths. The first is represented by the

Tabernacle, with its precise details, its measurements, its

lawfulness. This lawfulness is thrust upon it in the manner of the expression "When

you see it like this, sanctify it" when the "this" refers both

to that which is seen and He who points it out. The other, more natural, path

is represented by the Calf. It is the way of happenstance, cyclicalness,

and primitive drives, described by the Torah in the verse, and they ate and

drank, and got up to carouse.

If so, the purpose of the

Tabernacle is to "square the circle."

Dr. Yossi Hatav is a psychiatrist. He treats children and youth and

directs the pediatric department of the Etanim



The Cherubs:

Facing each other or facing the Temple?

How did they stand? R. Yohanan

and R. Elazar [disagree about it]: One says they

faced each other, the other says they faced the Temple. How does the one who

says they faced each other deal with the verse, and they faced the Temple

(II Chronicles 3)?

There is no difficulty – one refers to times when Israel

does God's will [and they face each other] the other refers to times when

Israel does not do God's will. How does he who claims that they faced the

Temple deal with the verse and they faced each other (Shemot 25)? [The

answer is that] they turned slightly away [to look at each other]. It is

taught: Onkelos the Convert said: The cherubs (II Chronicles 2:3) were formed like children

and they turned their faces [to the Ark] like a student taking leave of his


(Bava Batra 99a)


Rabbi Binyamin (Ben) Hollander, z"l

Our member, Rabbi Binyamin (Ben) Hollander, passed away on Sunday the

fifth of Adar Aleph. In the midrash

about the Cherubs quoted above, the Sages emphasize the link between facing

each other and the performance of God's will. Similarly, we read in a brayta (Ketuvot 103b): "If he died laughing – that is a

good sign for him; if [he died] crying – that is a bad sign for him. If he

faced upwards – that is a good sign for him; if he faced downwards – that is a

bad sign for him. If he faced the people – that is a good sign for him; if he

faced the wall – that is a bad sign for him."

All those who were acquainted with Ben know that he was always "facing

the people" and that he knew how to laugh, to offer encouragement, to

instill hope, and to console others even in the most difficult of times.

Alongside his good temper, his winning smile, and his pleasant and

welcoming way with everyone, Ben was also a relentless fighter for peace and

human rights. He believed with all his heart that a day would come when members

of the Jewish People and members of the Palestinian People would be able to

live in peace in this land, and that although that day may seem far off,

everything must be done in order to bring it closer, in accordance with the

verse seek peace and pursue it – "seek it in your place and pursue

it elsewhere."

As a disciple of Nehama Leibowitz,

he taught Torah in many places in Israel and abroad and he believed that the

seeds of Torah that he sewed would germinate and bear fruit. Indeed, the many

friends and students who attended his funeral validated that faith.

What a pity we have lost him!

We offer our condolences to his children Ilana,

Eli, Devir, and Netanel. May

Heaven console you!

Pinchas Leiser,


The staff of Shabbat Shalom

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