Shalom and Bracha!
This Shabbat we read from two Torah scrolls. In the first scroll
we read a double portion, Vayakhel and Pekudei. Because this
concludes the book of Shemot (Exodus), we finish off the last
reading with the entire congregation say “Chazak Chazak
V’nitchazeik” which means strength, more strength, and let us be
strengthened. This is because the Torah is the strength of the
Jewish people and concluding a book of the Torah and beginning a
new oneis a well of strength and cause for celebration. In the
second scroll we read the portion of Parah and thereafter bless
the month of Nissan whoch begins next Shabbat.
Throughout the last three portions, Hashem has instructed Moshe
concerning the construction of the Tabernacle, the garments of
the Kohen, and the consecration process. In this week’s
portions, Moshe gathers the Jewish people, relays the
instructions of Hashem, and the Jewish people construct the
Tabernacle and the garments and perform the consecration. This
year is very special in that this Shabbat, the 23rd
of Adar, is the actual date of the beginning of the consecration
and the first time the Tabernacle was erected. Seemingly, it is
difficult to understand why we spend so long (five weeks)
discussing the measurements of the Temple and the garments. In
truth, however, it is very important.
One perspective is that by studying the Temple and the garments,
we show our love for Hashem. When we love and admire someone, we
want to know all about them. If someone offers us a private tour
of their home or a glimpse of their wardrobe or an invite to the
opening, out of love and admiration we would joyfully accept.
The Tabernacle is Hashem’s home and the garments are those that
He has chosen to be worn in his home and the consecration is the
opening. Additionally, each vessel and each garment teaches us a
lesson in bettering ourselves. These portions are our private
Yearning for Moshiach is central to Judaism. When we don’t see
the Temple, we can G-d forbid reach a situation of “out of sight
out of mind.” When we study the Temple, envisioning the Ark, the
Menorah and the Kohen Gadol in his full splendor, our yearning
is aroused and we serve Hashem with a greater intensity knowing
that each Mitzvah is a building block of the Temple.
Every Mitzvah has three parts: thought, speech and action. When
all three are possible, action is the most significant and
thought and speech enhance the deed. When action cannot be
performed, thought and speech take their place. This is much
like someone who has G-d forefend lost one of their senses; the
other senses to some extent fill the vacuum. Right now, we
cannot construct the Temple. The Midrash says that when we study
the construction of the Temple it is reckoned as though we were
building it. Bearing in mind the words of the Gemara that every
generation that doesn’t rebuild the Temple is like the
generation of the destruction, studying these portions becomes
As mentioned before, Moshe gathered the Jewish people in order
to tell them this Mitzvah. As we rarely find mentioned in the
Torah that Moshe gathered the Jewish people, it is worthwhile to
consider why it is mentioned here. The construction of the
Tabernacle and thereafter the Temple is to reveal Hashem’s
presence in the world. Unity is the prerequisite for Hashem’s
revelation. Before the Torah was given, there had to be unity
amongst the Jewish people. Similarly, before the Jewish people
could create a dwelling place for Hashem, the aspect of unity
had to be intensified. The word Vayakhel comes from the word
Kehillah, a congregation. Moshe didn’t simply gather the Jews;
he formed them into one entity, a congregation.
The importance of unity is also seen in the miracle of Purim
that we have just celebrated. Upon hearing of the decree to
destroy the Jewish people, Esther told Mordechai gather
all of the Jews in Shushan. This display of unity gave her the
ability to overcome the evil decree.
Just as unity was the prerequisite for the revelation of
Hashem’s presence in the construction of the Tabernacle, unity
is a preparation for the coming of Moshiach. The second Temple
was destroyed because of strife and wanton hatred. Unity will
caused it’s rebuilding. May we speedily merit his coming, and in
the words of the prophet Yirmiyahu terminology Kahal (from the
same root as the word Vayakhel) Gadol Yashuvu Heina (A great
congregation will return there).
Parshat Parah-Self Sacrifice
For the Maftir, a special portion, Parshat Parah, is read.
Parshat Parah describes the Mitzvah of the Parah Adumah, the red
calf, which was a necessary purification to enter the Temple in
Yerushalayim and partake in the offerings. Since the entire
Jewish people participated in the Passover offering, about which
we read next week, this week we read about the necessary
preparation. All of the Mitzvot connected to the Temple, in
addition to their application in the time that the Temple stood,
have teachings and meanings in our daily lives. Parshat Parah,
in addition to the general reminder that Pesach is approaching,
and that we must prepare our spirits and our deeds for the
rebirth of the Jewish people that occurs on Pesach, has a very
specific teaching as to the necessary prerequisite to the
service of Pesach.
Whoever came into contact with a dead body was forbidden to
enter the Temple until he was sprinkled with the ashes of the
red heifer mixed with fresh well water. The ashes were prepared
in a very elaborate ceremony and kept for future generations.
This ceremony has been performed nine times and the final time
will be when Moshiach comes.
The Mitzvah of the red heifer presents certain paradoxes. Unlike
all offerings in the Temple, the red heifer was slaughtered
outside of the Temple, and outside of the walls of Yerushalayim.
However, the Kohen had to constantly face and see not only the
Temple, but also the inner sanctuary. This was so significant
that the Temple wall facing the Mount of Olives was built lower
than the other walls of the Temple in order that the inner
sanctuary would be visible from the Mount of Olives. Whoever was
involved in preparing the red heifer became ritually impure, and
had to go to the Mikveh and wait until the next day before
reentering the Temple. The ashes, however, were retained at a
degree of sanctity that surpassed even that of the sacrifices.
Coming into contact with death represents straying from the path
of Torah. The Torah is the tree of life and separation from the
Torah cuts us from our bond of life. When we see a fellow Jew
who is astray from his heritage, the Torah tells us that it is
our duty to help him. The red heifer was prepared outside of the
Temple to teach us that we must be ready to make personal
sacrifices and leave our own ‘sanctuary’ in order to ‘purify’
another. Even the Kohen Gadol, who is supposed to spend his time
inside the Temple had to leave the Temple in order to purify
another Jew and include him in the Temple service. However, we
must constantly face the inner sanctuary. When reaching out to
others, we can easily make a mistake and provide a diluted
Judaism, thinking that it’s better than what they have now.
Facing the inner sanctuary reminds us that our goal is to bring
people to the Torah, not change the Torah to suit people.
This is echoed in the name of the second portion this week,
Pekudei. Pekudei means enumerations. After the construction of
the Tabernacle the Torah enumerates all of the specific parts
and weights and measurements. This reminds us that every detail
is significant in the eyes of Hashem.
As aforementioned, the Parah is the prerequisite for Pesach. The
birth of the Jewish people, their survival and final redemption
all depend upon self sacrifice for Jewish continuity.
Maimonides teaches that the tenth Parah Adumah will be brought
by Moshiach. May he be speedily revealed Amen!!
In reverent memory of my beloved mother, Bryna Bas Reb Gedaliah
Michoel Halevy A”H, who’s first Yahrtzeit falls this Shabbat.
May her soul be bound in the bond of eternal life with Hashem
project of Chabad of Great Neck
East Shore Rd.
Great Neck NY 11024
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