VAYAKHEIL (Exodus,35:1-38:20) — “Missing Yud = Missing YID!”

The very thing that makes America great is tearing Israel apart.

There is a political party in Israel today that has gained power on the simple platform of rejection of the Torah and hatred for its adherents.  The United States is great because it allows every person to practice his religion as he sees fit.  All the secular Israelis want is the right to make their own definitions of who is a Jew, marry whomever they want, and shop 7 days a week.  What is wrong with that?

(DISCLAIMER: If you are expecting to read a resolution to this problem, or a politically correct statement on this issue, you may want to click to another site.  I offer no solution, just a thought that may provide some insight into this dilemma.)

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The past several Torah Portions have dealt with the construction of the Mishkan, the portable Tabernacle built in the desert.  The nation responded generously to Moses’ appeal for donations of materials.  Silver and gold, expensive fabrics and supplies were donated by the masses.  The donations came from the rich and the poor.

There is an interesting comment made about the precious stones that were required for the garments of the High Priest.  He wore an Ephod, a type of apron that had two jewels on the shoulder strap, and a breastplate that had twelve stones.  These 14 stones were donated by the Nesi’im, the Princes of each tribe.

The Torah tells us that the Nesi’im brought the onyx stones, and the stones to be set, for the Ephod and the breastplate.   (Exodus, 35:27)  Rashi points out that the word Nesi’im, Princes, is spelled differently than usual.  The letter Yud is missing.  While it doesn’t really affect the pronunciation of the word, that’s not the way it’s supposed to be spelled.

(NOTE: For those sticklers for Hebrew grammar, there IS a minor change in pronunciation.  When an “ee” sound is spelled with a Yud, it is pronounced like a long “e.”  When the Yud is missing, it is more like a short “i.”  Hence, the difference would be Nesih-IHM, as opposed to Nesih-EEM.  For those of us who are less meticulous, the difference is moot.)

Rashi explains that the reason the word is spelled with a missing letter is to indicate that there was something lacking in their donation.  When Moses let the word out that he was accepting contributions for building the Tabernacle, the twelve Tribal Princes, men of great wealth, offered to underwrite the project.  They committed themselves to make up whatever shortfall there might be in communal donations.  There was no shortfall.  The Nation of Israel responded to the call, and in two days, Moses had more than he needed.  There was nothing left for the Princes to donate except for the 14 stones.

Why are the Nesi’im criticized?  Shouldn’t they be praised for taking the initiative to insure that everything would be provided?

My Rebbe, Rabbi David Feinstein, Shlit”a, points to a Mishna in Tractate Avos (A.K.A. “Ethics of the Fathers”.  In listing four categories of charitable donors, the Mishna includes “one who wishes to give himself, but wants others NOT to give; he begrudges others.”  Rabbi Feinstein suggests that by promising to make up the difference, the Princes were, in fact, DISCOURAGING the masses from giving.  If people who were not particularly affluent knew that all the money would come in regardless of their own efforts, they would be less inclined to participate.

In other words, the Princes wanted to keep the Mitzvah for themselves.

When you love someone, you want everyone to share your love for them. In serving G-d, one should want OTHERS to serve G-d as well.  In wanting to be the sole donors to the project, the Princes were, as the Mishna states, begrudging others.  By wanting to be the major contributors, they wanted to serve G-d themselves, and not allow others to serve Him.

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What business is it of mine whether or not YOU choose to serve G-d?  Why can’t we all live and let live?

This is a valid argument only if one views Torah as a quaint cultural choice of little genuine value.  Do you like Fluffernutters?  I love ‘em.  You don’t?  That’s O.K.  How about asparagus?  I never touch the stuff.  You like it?  That’s fine.  Live and let live.

But what about the important things in life?  Why can’t we let “scientists” engage in human cloning?  What business is it of mine if consenting adults do experiments that could, G-d forbid, create children with hideous deformities?  Shouldn’t I be allowed to drink and drive if I want to?  And how about our good friend Saddam Hussein?  Is it really our concern if a sovereign nation wants to amass nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons?

Obviously, this is different.  You cannot compare an anthrax-tipped missile to a peanut butter and fluff sandwich.  One is a personal decision and the other is a threat to others.  Of course, there is no comparison.

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Is Shabbos a personal choice, or does it affect others?  Does it affect the life of the average religious Israeli if the local grocery store sells pork chops to Jews on Yom Kippur?  Does a Saturday matinee in downtown Jerusalem affect the serenity of a Shabbos table in a religious neighborhood?  Does the fact that one’s fellow Jews are playing soccer on Saturday afternoon diminish his enjoyment of a hot Shabbos Chulent?!

It should.  I observe Shabbos because the Master of the World expects us to.  Expects US to.  Can I force another Jew to observe Shabbos?  No.  SHOULD I force another Jew to observe Shabbos?  No.  But that doesn’t change the fact that WE ARE ALL SUPPOSED TO observe Shabbos.  It doesn’t change the hurt I feel over the fact that many of my coreligionists don’t YET appreciate the beauty of Shabbos

The Tribal Princes are taken to task because they were selfish.  They wanted to be the ones doing the Mitzvah of building the Tabernacle.  They should have been concerned to see to it that EVERY Jew joined in the Mitzvah.

Part of my obligation to serve G-d is the requirement to help others to see the depth and profundity and wealth of a Torah lifestyle.  That’s why I teach Torah.  I can’t force others to believe as I do, but I am certainly obligated to try.  If ONE of my 121 (so far!) TorahTalk messages can reach ONE fellow Jew and inspire him to be more observant of ONE Mitzvah, it would justify all the effort.

 Does that make me an evangelist?  No, it makes me a Torah-observant Jew, trying to fulfill the Mitzvah of teaching others.  Does that make me intolerant of other people’s views?  I am obligated to love my fellow man, even if I vehemently disagree with him.  You can call that intolerant if you like.  As I have stated previously on this website, tolerance is a virtue for those who have no principles.

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What is the solution to the discord between religious and secular Jews in Israel?  I wish I knew.

But this much I do know.  The founders of the State of Israel recognized the significance of Torah as part of the lifeblood of that State.  Even such anti-religious Jews as David Ben-Gurion saw the need for a “Religious Status Quo.”

That status quo is being undermined.  As our enemies threaten to destroy Israeli lives from without, new policies being proposed threaten to destroy Israel’s Soul from within.

Israeli hero Ilan Ramon delivered a lecture from heaven to millions of Israelis.  Holding a Torah scroll, Ramon, himself a secular Jew, declared that “it is very, very important to preserve our historical tradition, and I mean our historical and religious traditions.”

We cannot force anyone to observe the Torah, nor should we.  We cannot expect anyone to embrace values that they don’t believe in.  We should, however, keep one thing in mind:

Our entire claim to the Land of Israel is based upon the Torah.  If the Torah is not what guides us, we may as well give it all to Arafat and move to Brooklyn.

Have a great Shabbos.

Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz

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FROM THE ARCHIVES

Some years the two Torah Portions of Vayakheil and Pekudei are  read together, and some years they are read on two separate Sabbaths.  For your convenience.  For your convenience, I present both Portions:

 

Links to this week’s first Torah Portion:

“Mirror, Mirror In The Sink…” (2010)

 … Moses had a dilemma.

Donations were coming in for the Tabernacle…The problem was that women had donated their polished copper mirrors.  They wanted to have their mirrors melted down and made into a copper sink.

Moses was repulsed.  How could he accept these mirrors?  The Tabernacle was to be a holy place filled with holy vessels! These mirrors represented vanity.  Women would sit in front of these mirrors for hours on end preening and painting and brushing themselves…What could be more secular and unG-dly than a woman trying to make herself beautiful? How could Moses permit such vanity in G-d’s house? …

Read more.

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“The Architect” (2008) 

The donations were pouring in.  Moses had put out the word that he was accepting contributions of precious items for the construction of the Tabernacle…

It was a massive project.  There were plenty of good-hearted people willing to help.  What was still needed was someone to pull it all together…

Now the Tabernacle crew had a foreman.  Bezalel, the head architect and his assistant Oholiav, were given their mandate:  Coordinate the volunteers into a cohesive, organized work force, and build the House of G-d.

… the Torah uses a very unusual terminology:  “Observe that G-d has selected Bezalel…”

What did Moses mean by “Observe…”?  What is there to observe?  …

Rabbi Feinstein answered that Bezalel’s assignment should have been obvious…

Read more.

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 “The King’s Day Off” (2006) 

What’s wrong with driving on Saturday?  If G-d doesn’t want me to work, fine, I’ll take off from work.  I’ll spend a pleasant day with the family.  We’ll drive to the local orchard and pick apples.  Then go to the park and have a barbeque, maybe take in a movie.  Then we’ll go home and I’ll help my son build a tree house.  What could be more relaxing?

Read more.

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 “(Madison Square) Garden of Eden” (2005)

… Lublin, Poland.  Once a center of Jewish life, it was one of the first Polish cities that the Nazis succeeded in declaring Judenrein… The Nazis derived great pleasure in burning the library of Yeshiva Chachmei Lublin in 1939.  There were so many books that the dastardly deed took twenty hours to complete.  But in their perverted sense of values, twenty hours were a small investment to pay for the dividend of destroying Rabbi Shapiro’s work and silencing the voice of Torah study.  Jewish Lublin was dead.  The Rabbi of Lublin’s dream was crushed and destroyed, never to rise again.

Or, perhaps not…

Read more.

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“Missing Yud = Missing YID!” (2003)

… the High Priest… wore an Ephod, a type of apron that had two jewels on the shoulder strap, and a breastplate that had twelve stones.  These 14 stones were donated by the Nesi’im, the Princes of each tribe.

… there was something lacking in their donation.  When Moses let the word out that he was accepting contributions for building the Tabernacle, the twelve Tribal Princes, men of great wealth, offered to underwrite the project.  They committed themselves to make up whatever shortfall there might be in communal donations.  There was no shortfall.  The Nation of Israel responded to the call, and in two days, Moses had more than he needed.  There was nothing left for the Princes to donate except for the 14 stones.

Why are the Nesi’im criticized?  Shouldn’t they be praised for taking the initiative to insure that everything would be provided? …

Read more.

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Links to this week’s second Torah Portion:

“Four-tenths of an Ounce of Prevention…” (2008)

…Haman hated Jews.  He wanted, more than anything, to destroy them.  Being a superstitious man, he decided to draw lots (“Purim” in Hebrew) to see when would be a good time to wipe out his enemies.  He drew the month of Adar.  Haman was thrilled.  Well-versed in Jewish history as he was, he knew that Adar was the month during which Moses died.  Obviously, Adar must be a bad month for Jews.  His mistake was that Moses was also BORN during Adar, a particularly auspicious event for the People of Israel.

…Haman hated us so much that he was even willing to pay the bill for our slaughter.  And the king, no lover of Jews himself, told Haman he could keep the money.  The extermination would be “on the house.”

Miscalculating the significance of the month of Adar was not Haman’s only mistake…

Read more.

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 “Wasting Shekels and Wasting TALENTS” (2005)

Beware the Ides of April!

With tax time little more than a month away, we must to remember to do it right.  Make sure you have receipts for all your donations and business expenses.  After all, what will happen if the IRS calls you in for an audit?

On the Jewish calendar, this week is tax time AND audit time. …

Moses feared the appearance of impropriety.  First, he collects precious stones, metals and other materials for the Tabernacle.  Suddenly, he’s driving a Lexus!  Now, how does that look?  He ordered an audit in order to demonstrate that everything collected was used for the Tabernacle.  Nothing was “skimmed off the top.”…

“That’s it?!” I asked out loud in my passenger-less car.  THAT eyesore is what two intelligent people spent twenty-one million dollars of their own money on?! …

Read more.

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 “I Saw the Face of G-d!” (2004) 

…”The cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and G-d’s glory filled the Tabernacle.”  (Ibid. 40:34)

G-d allowed the Shechina, His Divine Presence, to be apparent for all the world to see.  The Tabernacle, and later, the Temple in Jerusalem, was a place where miracles were a daily event.  One could not spend the day in this place and deny the existence of G-d.

Sadly, this Divine Presence is much harder to perceive than it used to be.  Even in the Second Temple, many of the blatantly obvious miracles no longer took place.  G-d is no longer so easy to find.

Or is He?…

Read more.

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“You have to PRAY Attention!” (2003)

… IF YOU PUT ON TEFILLIN WHILE THINKING ABOUT TREES FALLING IN THE FOREST WHERE NO ONE CAN HEAR THEM FALL, DID YOU PUT ON TEFILLIN???

… Every family has its own private jokes. One of ours is “Delicious Soup.”…

Read more.

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“Sure, You’ve Got the Keys, But Who’s Really Driving?”  (2001)

…The entire Nation of Israel worked together — weavers, embroiderers, silversmiths — craftsmen of many disciplines performed this labor of love to build a House of G-d… the people brought all the parts to Moses because they weren’t able to put it all together due to the weight of the beams.  Now Moses was expected to do it for them!

How, wondered Moses, would any human be able to put those massive timbers together?!  …

Read more.

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 This is the weekly message at www.torahtalk.org.   Copyright © 2000-2011 by Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz.  May be reprinted. Please include copyright information.

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Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz is a Mohel (www.Brisrabbi.com)  and chaplain in Monsey, New York. For information about scheduling a Bris or a lecture, or just to say hello, call (800) 83MOHEL.

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Published in: on February 28, 2003 at 7:32 am  Leave a Comment  

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