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Parshat Vayakhel

And the men came with the women, everyone of willing mind,

they brought brooch and nose-ring and signet-ring

And necklace, every kind of gold object

(Shemot 35:22)


The reason for 'and the men came with the women' is that the contribution of ornaments is more common amongst the women, they all possessed them, and they removed their nose-rings and rings immediately, and came first, and the men who were with them brought [their donations] along with them, because the women came first, and the men who were among them brought together with them, because the women were there first and the men attached themselves to them, and similar to this is "And Aram had allied itself with Ephraim" (Yeshaayahyu 7:2) because that war was Ephraim's, and "which he did not put with Laban's flocks" (Bereishit 30:40), "and with it the tribe of Ephraim" (Bemidbar 2:20) , and similar cases, and it says that all, men and women , with brooch and nose-ring and signet-ring and necklace, every kind of gold object such as bracelets and ear-rings, because everyone had articles of jewelry and he said that some of them raised up offerings of broken gold or coins.

(Ramban Shemot 35:22)


With the women etc. - The reason they came with them was because the men were embarrassed to bring their contributions because only several days earlier they gave much gold for the calf and they feared lest their donation not be received favorably, therefore they mixed their contribution together with that of the women who had contributed nothing to the calf, as explained by our rabbis of blessed memory, so that their contribution would be accepted together with that of the women.

(Rabbi David Pardo (18th cent.), Maskil L'David, ibid., ibid.)


"And their faces toward each other,

Toward the cover were the faces of the cherubim"* (Shemot 37:9)

Chaim Rubinstein

Images which man creates have their source close to home. Having to express emotions, or abstract ideas, or perhaps feelings towards a subject - and the words are missing from his mouth - he borrows from his familiar world in order to explain the unknown. Thus is a creation constructed in all its dimensions, and so the spirit of man is afforded new spaces in which to travel - words covered by a mantle of might.

Man's relationships to God, composed of awe and closeness, of fear and love, of intimacy and total ignorance, are transmitted in the Jewish dialogue through verbal similes and practical symbols. The ban on expressing the image of God in his physical form, "He has no semblance - He is bodiless" led to practical expression of feelings toward Him as a substitute for occupation with his essence. The pair of cherubim growing out of the external covering of the pair of tablets of the covenant expresses the intimate connection between Israel and He who gave them the Torah. "Like a man embracing his consort" (Yoma 54b), that is to say, like a man embraced by his beloved.

This image of the lover-beloved relationship is found on different levels in Biblical texts. The intimacy of modest relations inside the home, in the holy of holies, covered with sealskins** during the tabernacle's disassembly and wanderings, but "All know why the bride has entered the bridal canopy."

This image multi-faceted - love - the most noble of emotions, can easily turn into the most vulgar frivolity... refined behavior becomes coarse... caress turns into cruelty, love into self-centered demand... love of God turns into idol worship... sacred into profane. The opposite of closeness - hatred. The lover-beloved, man-God set is not neutral. It involves the entire soul, and leads man to externalize the depths of his soul, for good and for bad. The most powerful emotional experiences are played out on the pitch of these relationships.

How are they positioned? Rabbi Yochanan and Rabbi Elazar answer: One says, each faces his brother and the other says they face inward. And according to the one who says 'each facing his brother', is it not written "facing inward"! There is no contradiction - here it speaks of when Israel does the will of the Omnipresent, here where Israel does not do the will of the Omnipresent. And according to the one who says that they faced the chamber, is it not written "each facing his brother" (Bava Batra 99b).

Here [it speaks of ] when Israel does the will of the Omnipresent - they face each other, as exemplified by the love of male and female who love each other. A sign that the Holy One loves Israel, and at the beginning they were created face to face so that the Holy Presence rests upon Israel and Israel will do the will of the Omnipresent, and when they fail to do so, by miraculous means, their faces turned inward" (Rashbam, ibid.)1

Man's relationships to himself are balanced by his marital relationships, "And the Lord created man in His image" (Bereishit 1:27) "Bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh - this shall be called woman" (Bereishit2:23). Direct extension to myself, my image, my spouse. The privacy of relations with God built an inner world, hidden from all and recognized by its scope, only within the soul. God's lack of physicality transfers the relationships to spiritual planes as it constructs a kind of completion to man's spiritual portion, a completion best symbolized by the soul's unification with the partner, a sort of area shared and unseen but very tangible.

In the image of the Lord He created him, male and female he created them (ibid) The "couple-ness" symbolized by the cherubim, "and these two cherubim which I have shown you, that the one secret can be seen only through two" (Ibn Ezra short version. Shemot 25:20) is the foundation for deep experiences. From the traits of the single God who reveals himself to the eyes of man as two, as material and form, through the electron in which the secret of one is revealed only through two, through the partnership in which is revealed the secret of the singles, in their embrace...this is the source of their strength. Male and female, each partner in the couple standing by himself, with his different attributes, his unique nature and viewpoint and reaching full expression through the partnership, through the mutual supplementing of attributes. Israel cannot do without the Holy One, and the Holy One cannot do without His people. He lacks her and she is missing him. Sometimes He is the male and she is the woman and sometimes He is the beloved female and they are the beloved male. There is deep equality between the two parts which supplement each other, who yearn for each other...'the voice of my beloved approaches'. His life is incomplete without her, and his secret cannot be seen in the chill of his loneliness and from where shall she come and who will come to her.

No other image has the power to examine our relation to our God, the love, the closeness, the intimacy, the merging into one, as against the controversy, contention, hatred, alienation, the following other gods. " . .saying as follows: If a man divorces his wife and she leaves him and marries another man, can he ever go back to her? Would not such a land be defiled? Now you have whored with many lovers; can you return to Me? - says the Lord." (Yirmiyahu 3:1)

Our closeness to our God is intimate, hidden. It essence is a quiet soft voice. In delicate personal relationships. Who can know its secrets? Despite their audacity, our words with Him cannot be heard by the human ear. A fluttering heart, closed eyes. Our head leans back. A whisper. We encompass Him in our hearts and he encompasses us inside him. The Omnipresent. His glory, his majesty, his beauty, his honor are all within.

In the silence of our internal conversation, that fusion which will spread over us His Tent of Testimony will be built. Our unseen relationship with He-who-has-no-image, transfers the center of our life's equilibrium to its positive value and cloaks our activity in splendor. The moral standard of the human act is a result of the heavenly mantle attached to its navel, and in the future it becomes its essence. They cannot ever separate, bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.

"And it is written: On the day that Moshe completed erecting the tabernacle", as soon as the tabernacle was completed, immediately His Presence descended into it, as is written "And Moshe was unable to enter the Tent of Assembly, because             the cloud has rested upon him, and the glory of God filled the Tabernacle", and it is written "For the cloud of God was upon the tabernacle", thus realizing the        statement "His help is very near close to those who fear Him to make His glory dwell in our land." Said the Holy One: In this world my presence was among you and visible to your eyes, as is said: "Now the Presence of the Lord etc," and in the future the Holy Presence shall never leave you, as is said (Kings I 7) "And I will abide among the children of Israel, and I will never forsake My people Israel. Blessed is the Lord forever, Amen Selah." (Midrash Tanhuma, Pekudei 11)

*This article appeared in the Vayakhel-Pekudey issue in 5759, but inasmuch as its vigor remains undiminished, we repeat it here.

**Other suggested identifications for ohr takhash include dolphin skins, giraffe skins, tanned-leather skins, and ocher-dyed skins.

1More on this subject: "But Jehosheba, daughter of King Yoram and sister of Ahaziah, secretly gook Ahaziah's son Joash away from among the princes who were being slain, and put him and his nurses in a bedroom. And they kept him hidden from Athaliah so that he was not put to death. (Kings II, 11:2)

Rosha, loc. sit: In the bedroom - in the upper chamber of the Holy of Holies, as is written (ibid, ibid, v.3) "He stayed with her for six years, hidden in the House of the Lord etc." With reference to him did David say (Psalm 27:5) "He will shelter me in His pavilion on an evil day, grant me the protection of His tent" and he refers to it as the bedroom, based upon (Song of Songs 1:13): "He lies between by breasts". (Thanks to Yosef Pnini for this reference.)

Chaim Rubinstein is an educator.



Right, Justice, and Peace Are Essential for the Dwelling of the Shekhina

 "Moshe then convoked the whole Israelite community" - Rashi explains: On the morrow of the Day of Atonement. And in Parashat Yitro it is written: "And on the morrow, Moshe sat to judge the people" and there Rashi explained that it was on the morrow of the Day of Atonement.

It seems to me that it was known that the purpose of this convocation was to inform them of the mitzvoth of the Mishkan and of contribution, as will be explained shortly, and Moshe feared lest someone contribute to the Mishkan something which was not his but which he thought [incorrectly] was legally his; it is inconceivable that this great and holy edifice be constructed from stolen materials, that the place of justice be the place of iniquity, so therefore Moshe first announced: Whoever has a dispute, let him appear before me for adjudication, in order that everything be peacefully settled, and everyone should know what is his, and what is not - and only then he informed them of the matter of donation, saying "Take from among you gifts to the Lord" -- "from you" i.e., yours and not that of your neighbor.

By way of intimation, we can say that this convocation was intended to mediate and bring peace between them, for a person does not dwell with a snake in close proximity; because he wanted to inform them of the Mishkan project - in which all will be partners, as though gathered into a single compartment, therefore it was necessary to first convoke them, that they be one brotherhood.

(Kli Yakar, Shemot 35:1)


You Shall Not Light Fire… in All Your Settlements on the Shabbat Day

On the one hand, kindling fire in itself is not a productive, creative, but primarily, rather a destructive activity. But on the other hand, the ability to produce fire artificially is just that which first gave Man his true mastery over the materials of the world. Only by means of fire can he create his tools, can analytically and synthetically probe into the inner nature of things. We can accordingly understand why it is mentioned separately by itself as the classic example for all the other major work categories.

(Rabbi S. R. Hirsch, Shemot 35:3)


The Secret of Tsimtsum* Facilitates the Presence of the Omnipresent Everywhere

Betzalel made the ark: Why did the Torah expressly describe Betzalel's personal construction of the ark? Because he placed the shadow of the Holy One Blessed Be He , there He diminished His Holy Presence. Therefore was he named Betzalel ["In the shadow of God"] because he made the shadow of the Holy One between the two cherubim, as is written: "There will I meet you and I will impart to you etc." (Shemot 25:20). But is it not written: "For I fill both heaven and earth"? (Yirmiyahu 23:24). Explained Rabbi Yehoshua of Sachnin in the name of Rabbi Levi: An allegory - a cave on the seashore, the sea rages, the cave is filled with water, yet the sea is not diminished. So the Holy One, His Memory Be Blessed, even though it is written "And the glory of God filled the tabernacle (Shemot 40:34), despite this, "His glory is over the earth and the heavens" (Psalms 145:13) do not say that the Holy One diminished his presence into the tabernacle, but even within the ark that Betzalel made He diminished his presence, as is written: "The Ark of the Covenant, sovereign of all the earth". (Yehoshua 3:11), this the Holy One who was inside it. And who made it? Betzalel, as is written: "And Betzalel made".

 (Midrash Tanhuma: Vayakhel 7)


*Jewish mystical tradition solves the problem of how - if God is everywhere - can there be room for the world by positing that God reduced himself (tsimtsum) to make room for his creations.


Rabbi Menahem Mendel of Kotzk was wont to say: The Holy One is found wherever we allow him to enter."


Midrashei tsafon - from the pen of Ronen Ahituv

You are not to let fire burn throughout your settlements on the Sabbath day (24:3)

In the settlements you may not let fire burn, but you may let fire burn in the Temple. Why is fire different, that it should be permitted in the Temple? Because fire is similar to the Temple, and fire is similar to the Sabbath, yet it is not similar. Just as fire provides light to man, so the Sabbath lights up the day of man, and similarly the Temple gives Israel light. Just as fire, when a man touches it, he is burned, so Shabbat, if one does work on it, he dies immediately, as is written: "Anyone who does work on it shall die", so the Temple, one who enters it dies immediately, as is written "An outsider who comes near is to be put to death" (Bemidbar 3:38)

And it is not similar to the Temple and the Sabbath, because the former is secular whereas the Temple and the Sabbath are holy. Said the Torah, there may be no secular light on the Sabbath, but the Sabbath is your light.


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