1.This weeks parsha is called Pikuday. It means accountings. Moshe recounts all the items used in the mishkan and how much of each material was used in total. Why was it necessary to do this? Not for a valiant reason, but a shameful one, namely, the masses were murmuring that Moshe had profited quite handsomely from being the CEO of such a extravagant operation.
Not everybody had the same suspicions. Some spread outright libel that he pocketed a pretty shekel in the deal; The righteous of the generation had no doubts
whatsoever on their saintly leader. The majority, as usual, quiet, and moderately hovering between the strident parties, felt that Moshe probably took
something for himself, but not enough for them to make a tumult about, for he certainly deserved his bonuses for all he had done.
In general it is risky business to count things of value, and to publicize greatness, for as we
have discussed before the ‘evil eye’ only has authority in such domains. Nonetheless, it is a tenet
of Judaism that one ought to be concerned with his image, and not to harbour an ill-reputation, for it is
unbecoming for a servant of Hashem, and one striving to realize his being made in His image to be suspect
or repugnant in the eyes of others. We must also bear in mind that others are likewise important and sacred,
and we can’t just shrug our shoulders and say ‘who cares what they think’. And so the great Moshe
Rabbeinu (our teacher), deemed it necessary to put an end to all the nonsense and potential slide in the
nation’s faithfulness, and he convened an accounting of all that was contributed to the Mishkan. (This
explains various items in the parsha, such as why only here are we told about the making of the golden
strings for the embroidery -namely being it a most extraordinary and challenging craft, many people might
not accept that part of the gold was used as such. (The Ramban adds that Moshe was also showing that he
is not merely a leader by directive, but that he was also familiar with the ‘dirty work’ and nuts and bolts
of the job)
The root of our nation’s error, was that we looked at Moshe as if he was just like us. The
position of each group was based on their own level, a few would have surely succumbed to the temptation and outright pocketed some. Most assumed that it was perfectly justified for Moshe to take a fair salary,
for they would have rationalized likewise for themselves. It was only the faithful minority whose
hearts were undivided against their leader, because, even if they were not on his transcendent level, at
least they were elevated enough to know that Moshe was a spiritual giant bar none. In every generation the
same corruption creeps into our people, in various forms and forae. Because we lack an appreciation and
connection to truly great people, we don’t evaluate them and their actions in the proper framework, and
when we lessen our leaders we lessen ourselves and whole nation.
3. Moshe first listed the vessels then the building, while Betzalel carried out the work in the reverse
order. The idea behind this is that Moshe was the visionary behind the Mishkan, and he directed Betzalel
according to the greater purpose of the Mishkan, which would mainly be fulfilled by the vessels (ark, altars,
menorah, etc.). Betzalel however, was the craftsman and on-site manager and he pragmatically pointed out
to Moshe that the logical order to build a home was to start with the structure and then to bring in the
furniture, and Moshe concurred.
4. The mitzvah to build the Mishkan (according to Rashi) was first given after the sin of the Calf on
Yom Kippur. The construction was delayed to be completed for erection in Nissan, the midrash says in
honour or Isaac, who was born and died on that day. They actually practiced setting up the Mishkan the
week before Nissan, and on Rosh Chodesh Nissan it was erected for its inaugural use. The Midrash says that
this was one of ten crowns that day took. (The princes brought their offerings, the Cohen and Cohen
Gadol were sanctified and began their service, the fire, incense and other offerings began, fire came
down from heaven,
5. A passive verb is used (the mishkan was erected) instead of all the active verbs used in the construction until now. The midrash says that the setting up of the boards was too overwhelming for anybody -and they were miraculously made impossibly heavy to raise in order to give honour to Moshe who finally lifted them. Nonetheless a reflexive verb is used, for even Moshe could not accomplish the feat by himself, so Hashem told him that ‘just do your best, and I will see that the task is completed’.
This event portrays a major principle in life, and which reappears throughout scriptural and rabbinic teachings, -to quote Pirkei Avos (the last mishnah in the second chapter) ‘the job is not upon you to complete, nor are you exempt however, from doing your part’. We are part of a big team with a phenomenal job, namely, to repair ourselves and the world to a state of perfection, and to usher in the Messianic Age. As time passes, we inherit the bulk of the work from past generations, yet usually we hardly fill their shoes to do as great, (perhaps why the population increases – to make up for losses in quality). We may despair and say, if even the giants like Moshe and his generation, and the patriarchs could not bring the world to completion, so how can there be any claims on us (the midrash exhorts – any generation that does not rebuild the Temple, is considered as if they destroyed it).
To answer this concern the verse, and the mishna come to teach us, that we just have to do our best, the results are ultimately out of our hands. As long as we are moving in the right direction we are building the Temple, as long as we are working on one character trait we are achieving perfection, as long as we learn one more daf of gemarra we are accomplishing the mitzvah of knowing all of Hashem’s Torah. We have a great team, and we are rely on each other to carry the weight, and fulfill our unique roles (e.g. a Yisrael cannot do the mitzvos of a Cohen and vice versa, nor a man do a woman’s mitzvos or vice versa, or a farmer do a businessman’s or vice versa, a king do a sage’s or high priests, etc, etc, ) – just like we all needed to be together to receive the Torah (the midrash says that there are 600,000 letters in a Torah scroll, for the 600.000 Jews who received it), so too we all need to synthesize and cooperate to fulfill it’s noble plan. In addition we learn from this verse, that we have a helping hand from above, our Man on the inside, pulling strings for us, and just as He was a shield to Avraham when he stood against the entire world, so to Hashem shields and acts for us when we come against our daily challenges.
6. MISHKAN MISHAKAN HAEYDUS
Pikuday – the word for accounting is the same word as to deposit, to pledge. The verse is alluding to the two temples which were taken as collateral, a pledge for our sins. The Maharal asks – why was this allusion made over here, in the last parsha about the mishkan – he answers based on what we said above. Since this parsha is about counting, and it is a rule that the ‘evil eye’ has authority over things revealed and counted, therefore our temples (which are also given a detailed accounting in scripture (Kings, and Chronicles), were susceptible to danger and destruction.
If we recall that the reason for the countings was because the nation suspected Moshe, then we find that this consequences is perfectly measure-for-measure; in other words, by having narrow eyes, and immature perspective on our leader, we caused our efforts to become finite and surface from eternity to superficiality – bringing it into the world of mortals, and under the winds of change.
We know that the clouds only rested on the Mishkan when they were encamped, so the term ‘their travels’ must be referring to their encampments. Still, we must ask – why then does the Chumash call it their travels? Rashi explains, since it was from each encampment that they traveled. Okay, so the word fits, but still it would have been simpler to write ‘their encampments’ -why did the verse change it’s language?
Rabbi Yerucham Lebovits – head of the Mir Yeshiva in the last century, when it was in Mir Poland, among others, explains, that the entire 40 years we spent in the desert was one great journey – for we were going from an small-minded, unlettered, coarse slave nation, to become a nation of priests, servant to the Creator and a beacon of light to the entire creation. Nevertheless, as Rashi points out, the great bulk of those 40 years were spent in a few places, and not in constant nomadicy. This is because their journey was primarily a spiritual one, and one need not be in physical motion to generate personal growth, in fact the reverse is more often true, that to really grow with one’s mind and heart, which is the true movement unique to man and that we are looking to do during our time here, one needs focus and peace, which is more available in a fixed location.
Rabbi Yerucham goes on to explain the word yeshiva, not to mean sitting, (as it could be translated) but dwelling, focusing – as clear from many places in scripture where it says so-and-so ‘sat’ (Yeshiv) in a certain place for X years. (In fact, it was their tireless running around as slaves in Egypt which contributed to their spiritual downfall from the forefathers in a couple short generations.) So too the generation of the desert was in history’s greatest yeshiva program, suited for all gender and ages, with the ultimate teachers (Moshe, Aaron, Yehoshua, and of course Hashem), with their physical needs being provided be the hand of heaven (it says in Deuteronomy that their shoes and clothes never wore out the entire 40 years )- they were totally free to put all their energy into learning and growing. Whatever place we find ourselves in, we can reflect ‘how can I grow here? How can I be more able to focus on true growth and good where I am?
I heard a nice comment from Tosfos (12th centuryschool of talmudicists) that the three levels ofdonations of gold, silver and copper reflect three types of tzedaka. Gold is the tzedaka given in the prime of one’s life. Silver is what one gives when they are sick, and in the sunset of their life, when the pleasures of life have waned and the concern for preparation for his eternal abode has grown. Copper however, is that which one waits until after death to give.
- Beth Shifra Crew
- Have a Great Shabbos everybody