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Teachings on Vayakhel-Pekudei from Reb Sholom Brodt, z”l


June 2, 2020 2:03 pm June 2, 2020 2:03 pm America/New_York Teachings on Vayakhel-Pekudei from Reb Sholom Brodt, z”l

Vayakheyl-Pekudei – For The Sake of The Unity of Am Yisrael Teachings of Reb Sholom Brodt, z”l, one of Reb Shlomo’s highest students This week we read the last two parshiot of ‘sefer Shmot’, the book of Exodus. And we have an additional reading for ‘Parshat Hachodesh’, from Exodus chap. 12. “This month shall be for you the beginning of all months, it is the first of the months of the year”. The theme of Parshat Vayakheyl is Unity. Parshat Vayakheyl follows right after the story of the ‘golden calf’. As a result of having committed such a transgression a mere forty days after receiving the Torah at Mt. Sinai, we were quite demoralized and we lost our self-confidence in our ability to return to and be close to Hashem once again. The parsha begins as follows: “And Moshe gathered the children of Israel and said to them, “these are the things that Hashem has commanded, to do them. Six days [a week] work shall be done, but the seventh day must be holy to you, it is a Shabbos of Shabbos to Hashem…” Moshe said to the entire congreagation of B’nai Yisrael, saying, “This is the word that Hashem has commanded: Take from your possessions a ‘t’rumah’ to Hashem.” Sh’mot 35: 1-5 We wonder why Moshe gathered us together; after all we do not find that Hashem told him to do this? And why did he choose to speak to us about Shabbos and about the building of the sanctuary, again without having been instructed to do so by Hashem? The Ishbitzer Rebbe teaches that Moshe Rabbeinu gathered us together to explain to us how it came about that we made a golden calf, to comfort us in spite of our doing so, and to tell us what we needed to know to prevent a recurrence. We are told by Moshe Rabbeinu that we made the golden calf because we did not maintain our unity! Before receiving the holy Torah at Har Sinai, we were united “as one person with one heart”. Tragically this lasted for only forty days. By making the golden calf we had caused the Shechinah to retreat from amongst us. But how did our fragmentation come about? To convey the importance and necessity of our re-uniting Moshe Rabbeinu did not this time transmit his teachings in the usual manner, via the Kohanim and the Seventy Elders. Instead, he gathered all of us together and spoke to us in community, to realistically convey that first and foremost we must be united; to be “as one person, with one heart”. Moshe Rabbeinu then speaks to us about the holiness of Shabbos and about the holy Mishkan sanctuary. We need to understand why Moshe Rabbeinu talks to us about these two matters in particular? How do we restore our unity? How can we regain our self-confidence, our ‘azzut d’kedusha’ holy chutzpah, to not give up? What is the source of our unity? Moshe Rabbeinu speaks to us, teaching us that the holy Shabbos is the source of our unity. Hakadosh Baruch Hu wants to have a dwelling place […]

Vayakheyl-Pekudei – For The Sake of The Unity of Am Yisrael

Teachings of Reb Sholom Brodt, z”l, one of Reb Shlomo’s highest students

This week we read the last two parshiot of ‘sefer Shmot’, the book of Exodus. And we have an additional reading for ‘Parshat Hachodesh’, from Exodus chap. 12. “This month shall be for you the beginning of all months, it is the first of the months of the year”.

The theme of Parshat Vayakheyl is Unity. Parshat Vayakheyl follows right after the story of the ‘golden calf’. As a result of having committed such a transgression a mere forty days after receiving the Torah at Mt. Sinai, we were quite demoralized and we lost our self-confidence in our ability to return to and be close to Hashem once again.

The parsha begins as follows:

“And Moshe gathered the children of Israel and said to them, “these are the things that Hashem has commanded, to do them. Six days [a week] work shall be done, but the seventh day must be holy to you, it is a Shabbos of Shabbos to Hashem…” Moshe said to the entire congreagation of B’nai Yisrael, saying, “This is the word that Hashem has commanded: Take from your possessions a ‘t’rumah’ to Hashem.” Sh’mot 35: 1-5

We wonder why Moshe gathered us together; after all we do not find that Hashem told him to do this? And why did he choose to speak to us about Shabbos and about the building of the sanctuary, again without having been instructed to do so by Hashem?

The Ishbitzer Rebbe teaches that Moshe Rabbeinu gathered us together to explain to us how it came about that we made a golden calf, to comfort us in spite of our doing so, and to tell us what we needed to know to prevent a recurrence. We are told by Moshe Rabbeinu that we made the golden calf because we did not maintain our unity! Before receiving the holy Torah at Har Sinai, we were united “as one person with one heart”. Tragically this lasted for only forty days. By making the golden calf we had caused the Shechinah to retreat from amongst us. But how did our fragmentation come about?

To convey the importance and necessity of our re-uniting Moshe Rabbeinu did not this time transmit his teachings in the usual manner, via the Kohanim and the Seventy Elders. Instead, he gathered all of us together and spoke to us in community, to realistically convey that first and foremost we must be united; to be “as one person, with one heart”.

Moshe Rabbeinu then speaks to us about the holiness of Shabbos and about the holy Mishkan sanctuary. We need to understand why Moshe Rabbeinu talks to us about these two matters in particular?

How do we restore our unity? How can we regain our self-confidence, our ‘azzut d’kedusha’ holy chutzpah, to not give up? What is the source of our unity?

Moshe Rabbeinu speaks to us, teaching us that the holy Shabbos is the source of our unity. Hakadosh Baruch Hu wants to have a dwelling place here in the lowest of worlds and He gave us the task to prepare the vessel to receive the Shechinah. Moshe Rabbeinu further teaches that if we want to build a holy sanctuary for Hashem we can do so only if we are truly united, only then will the Shechinah dwell in it.

The Ishbitzer Rebbe continues to explain; one of the miracles that occurred in the building of the Mishkan was that although hundreds of people were involved in its construction, when it was completed it looked as if it had been made by one person. The Mishkan possessed an inherent unity. This was possible because miraculously all the craftspeople were inspired with a spirit of unity to work in unison and that is what made it so special and holy. By keeping Shabbos holy we are inspired by its unity, for Shabbos is the unity that permeates each one of us and allows us to be in harmony with each other.

When we are united, when we really care about one another the Shechinah dwells amongst us, and no one desires to make any kind of golden calf. But if we are divided we [can] become idolatrous and make idols, i.e. we deify and worship division. The idols we make and idolatrous worship then divide us even further. But when we unite, when we live in Shabbos, Hashem joins us and dwells among us.

There is a ‘natural’ truth: the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The vessel is greater than all its bits of clay. Then there is the additional aspect of what fills the vessel. When the Jewish people unite, the vessel of “Knesset Yisrael” – the community of Israel – is formed and then the holy Shechinah dwells in it. We are obligated not only to believe that Hashem is one, we are obligated to live Hashem’s oneness.

When we say the Shma Yisrael, we put our hand over our eyes and close them in order to better focus on the words “Hear O Israel, Hashem is our G-d, Hashem is One”. Then when we open our eyes we have to see that Hashem is One, that everyone and everything we see and don’t see, is all part of Hashem’s oneness. The truth of this concept will be fully appreciated only when Moshiach comes.

“V’atem tee-h-you lee mamlechet kohanim v’goy kadosh”. Sh’mot 19. We are commanded to be a ‘kingdom of kohanim and a holy nation’. In Vayikra Chap. 19, Hashem tells Moshe Rabbeinu to gather everyone together in order to tell the people of Israel “kedoshim tee-h-you” you shall be holy. The commentators explain that here too we all gathered together because everyone had to be there to personally hear this mitzvah that calls upon us to live a life of holiness. Many people believe that being holy and living in a holy way is possible only for a few select individuals in each generation. However the truth is that every one of us can live a life of ‘kedushah’ holiness. That is why everyone had to hear this mitzvah personally.

The Hemek Davar offers an additional explanation; the reason that every one of us had to be present to hear this mitzvah together is that we were thereby being informed that kedushah-holiness can be found only in togetherness and unity. No matter how scrupulously you observe the mitzvot, no matter with how much ‘kavanah’ holy intention and focus you perform your mitzvot, you can be connected to holiness only if there is a real place for every Jew in your heart and soul.

As we have learned in the past that if a Sefer Torah is missing even one letter, or if one letter is damaged, the whole Sefer Torah is not kosher and may not be read from in public. Chassidut explains that each letter represents a neshamah, and if one letter is missing, it is as if that neshamah is missing, chas v’shalom.

The same is true about the Mishkan. Reb Shlomo ztz”l used to emphasize the teaching, that if even only one tiny peg was missing in the Mishkan, then the Shechinah would not dwell in it. The Mishkan was constructed with the t’rumot contributions of every ‘nediv leyv’, everyone contributed generously, and when everyone’s ‘generosity of the heart’ was brought together, the Dwelling Place of the Shechinah was created.

“Olam chessed yiboneh”, the world was built with the attribute of chessed, kindness. Creation is an act of ‘chessed’. The building of the Mishkan was a re-creation of Bereishis, the creation of the world. Just as Hashem created the world with chessed, we too can create the home for Hashem, the Mishkan, only through our acts of chessed, generosity of the heart. Hashem, the One, created the many; we the many have to bring it all together to create the home for the One.

I once saw a teaching that ‘Chessed’ has the ‘gimatria’- numeric value- of 72, which equals 4×18. 18 is “chai”, representing life. 4×18=72, represents the life vitality which comes through each of the four letters of Hashem’s Name… ‘Yud’- ‘Hey’ – ‘Vav’ – ‘Hey’. All together 72 = ‘chessed’ [‘Chet’=8 + ‘Samech’=60 + Daled= 4 = total 72.

The deepest generosity that we have been given is the holy Shabbos. The deepest way we can celebrate Shabbos is by being “nediv leyv”, of generous heart, sharing together rather than having commercial transactions with each other. The Slonimer Rebbe explains that, from the fact that the Torah teaches us about Shabbos and the Mishkan again in this week’s parsha, right after we read the story of the golden calf last week, we learn that there is Shabbos before the sin, and there is Shabbos after the sin. Even after making a golden calf, we still have Shabbos; we still can connect deeply with Shabbos.

It is natural for us to feel embarrassed when we daaven to Hashem after we have done something very wrong. After we made the golden calf we were very broken hearted, we were very ashamed to stand before G-d again and to sing to Hashem. How could we ever really open our mouths in song and prayer again? But we must not allow our shame to interfere with our singing to Hashem, or our celebrating Shabbos fully again…. but how do we overcome these feelings?

So we have Shabbos after the sin. We have Shabbos again, but now we need to prepare ourselves for it. All the work that we have to put into our Shabbos preparations is but Hashem’s way of helping us overcome our shame. By allowing us the opportunity to ‘do’ something in preparation for Shabbos, Hashem is restoring our self-confidence and we are healed in our ‘making Shabbos’.

Gevalt! Gevalt Hashem please bless us with a Gevalt Shabbos, please give us the ‘ko-ach’ to do our Shabbos preparations with joy; please send Shabbos warmth and joy to all the broken and suffering families. Hashem please send Moshiach NOW.
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This week we also read the last parsha of ‘sefer Shmot’, parshas Pekudei. At the conclusion of the Torah reading we will energetically say out loud, “Chazak Chazak V’nitchazeik!” Strong, strong! And we will be strengthened!” May this be true for all of us b’simcha! Amen !!!

Pekudei: The letters ‘pei’ – ‘kuf’ – ‘da-led’ are the root of this word. Hebrew, or as we call it ‘LASHON HAKODESH’ is a most beautiful language, and this one root, [like many others], provides us with many words of different but related meanings, each offering a deeper understanding of the other. Here are some of the uses of this verb. LIFKOD [inf.]: to remember’; to count; to appoint; to order [to command]; to remember; to notice the absence of.

In parshas Pekudei we learn about “Pe’kudei ha’mishkan” – the accounting of all the donations received and used in the making of the Mishkan. Each part of the Mishkan is accounted for. Each contribution was noted, respected and valued. Every half-shekel, even the smallest button and peg, was noted and deemed significant. The Shechinah would dwell only in a complete and unified Mishkan.

May we be blessed that every person, every moment, every good deed, every Hello, every Shalom should be precious and significant. Amen.