Pekudei 5782

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Guilty conscience[1]

ויביאו את-המשכן אל-משה וגו’ הוקם המשכן: ויקם משה את-המשכן וגו’‏
[The people] brought the Mishkan to Moshe…and the Mishkan was erected. Moshe erected the Mishkan[2]

After all of the materials were collected, tapestries woven, and implements constructed, the Mishkan, the portable Temple, was ready to be assembled. We are told that the people brought the Mishkan to Moshe. What is this referring to? All of the vessels? All of the tapestries? Why did they bring it to him? Shouldn’t they have brought everything to the craftsmen behind the Mishkan? Wasn’t it their job to finish the construction? To address all of these questions, Rashi brings[3] an interesting idea from our Sages. It’s based on a verse which appears later, that the Mishkan “was erected”, which sounds passive. Immediately following this verse, we are informed that Moshe erected the Mishkan all by himself. Which one was it?

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Vayakhel / Shekalim 5782

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Careful word choice[1]

ויקהל משה את-כל-עדת בני ישראל ויאמר אלהם אלה הדברים אשר-צוה יקוק לעשת אתם: ששת ימים תעשה מלאכה וביום השביעי יהיה לכם קדש שבת שבתון ליקוק וגו’ ויאמר משה אל-כל-עדת בני-ישראל לאמר זה הדבר אשר-צוה יקוק לאמר: קחו מאתכם תרומה ליקוק וגו’‏
Moshe congregated the entire assembly of the Children of Israel, and said to them: “These are the matters which Hashem commanded you, to perform them. Six days work shall be done and on the seventh day it shall be Holy, a restful Shabbos for Hashem…” Moshe said to the entire assembly of the children of Israel, saying: “This is the matter which Hashem commanded, saying: ‘Take from yourselves a donation for Hashem…’”[2]

The beginning of this week’s parsha contains many oddities and inconsistencies. First, we are told that Moshe congregated the entire Jewish people to tell them about the observance of Shabbos. Why was there a need to teach them about Shabbos? This isn’t the first time they’ve heard about it. In fact, it was already repeated in last week’s parsha! What’s being added this time around? Furthermore, why is it stressed that Moshe congregated them? We don’t find this action associated with any other mitzvah in the Torah.

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Ki Sisa 5782

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Monumental mountain manipulation[1]

למה יאמרו מצרים לאמר ברעה הוציאם להרג אתם בהרים וגו’‏
Why should Egypt say that [Hashem] brought [the Jews] out of Egypt with evil [intent], to kill them in the mountains?…[2]

The episode of the Sin of the Golden Calf is an unfortunately famous one. Forty days after a National Revelation of G-d, the Jews created and worshipped a foreign idol. Hashem told Moshe that the Jews would be annihilated as a result of their betrayal. Moshe valiantly defended them, saving them from a sure destruction. One of his defenses was a concern for what the Egyptians would say. Hashem went through all this trouble to redeem the Jewish people from slavery, and for what? To kill them in the desert? What’s interesting is the way Moshe describes what Egypt would say. He specified surprise that Hashem would kill the Jews “in the mountains”. What was he adding with this specification? Besides the question of what Moshe was adding, we could ask a more basic question. What mountains was he referring to[3]? The Jews were in the desert.

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Tetzaveh 5782

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Hashem’s concern for injustice[1]

ואלה הבגדים אשר יעשו חשן ואפוד וגו’ לאהרן אחיך וגו’ ועשו את-האפד זהב תכלת וארגמן וגו’ ועשית חשן משפט מעשה חשב וגו’‏
These are the garments that you shall make for Aharon, your brother: The Choshen and the Eiphod…You shall make the Eiphod out of gold, techeiles, and argaman…You shall make the Choshen of Justice, the work of a craftsman…[2]

One of the prominent features of parshas Tetzaveh is the focus on the bigdei Kehuna, the Priestly garments. The Kohanim had to wear four special articles of clothing for their Temple service to be accepted[3]. The Kohen Gadol had four additional articles of clothing as part of his uniform. The Torah introduces these special garments by first mentioning the Choshen, an ornate breastplate, and then mentions the Eiphod, a type of decorative apron. What’s interesting is when the Torah proceeds to describe how to make them, it starts with the Eiphod, and only then discusses the Choshen. Why is there this switch in the order?

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Beshalach 5782

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Hashem’s question for Moshe[1]

ויאמר יקוק אל-משה מה-תצעק אלי דבר אל-בני-ישראל ויסעו
Hashem said to Moshe: “Why are you crying out to Me? Speak to the Jews, and journey”[2]

As the Jews reached the Reed Sea, they panicked. They were supposed to be freed from Egypt, but there was a barrier of water in their way. The Egyptian army was quickly approaching. We aren’t told how they reacted, but presumably they were terrified for their lives. The Torah doesn’t tell us what they did, but we are told Hashem’s response. Hashem asked Moshe why he was crying out to Him. Rashi explains[3] that Moshe was praying to Hashem that they be saved. Hashem responded that this wasn’t a time for prayer. They should journey towards the sea, and they shall find salvation. Indeed, the sea miraculously split, allowing their salvation.

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Bo 5782

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New Moon dilemmas[1]

החדש הזה לכם ראש חדשים ראשון הוא לכם לחדשי השנה
This month shall be for you the beginning of the months. It is the first for you for the months of the year[2]

Our Sages learn from this verse the mitzvah of Sanctifying the New Moon[3]. Unlike our current calendar, which is fixed, the Jewish months originally weren’t set in stone. For the new month to begin, two witnesses had to declare in a Jewish Court that they had seen the Moon after the New Moon occurred. Three judges would interrogate the witnesses, and after confirming that they weren’t mistaken, the judges would declare the month sanctified, and the new month would begin.

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Va’eira 5782

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The three Shauls[1]

ובני שמעון ימואל וימין ואהד ויכין וצחר ושאול בן-הכנענית אלה משפחת שמעון
[These are] the children of Shimon: Yemuel, Yamin, Ohad, Yachin, Tzochar, and Shaul the son of the Canaanite. These are the families of Shimon[2]

As Moshe began his mission to rescue the Jewish people from bondage and release the devastating ten plagues on Egypt, the Torah lists the descendants of the first three children of Yaakov. The purpose is to show us just exactly who Moshe and his brother were, and their prominent lineage[3]. It starts with Yaakov’s firstborn Reuven, then Shimon, and ends with Levi, who formed Moshe’s tribe of Moshe. When listing the sons of Shimon, we are told that one of his sons was called “Shaul, the son of the Cananite”. Why is he referred to this way? Was his mother really a Canaanite?

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Vayakhel/Pekudei 5781

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One mitzvah, or many?[1]

ויקהל משה את-כל-עדת בני ישראל ויאמר אלהם אלה הדברים אשר-צוה יקוק לעשת אתם: ששת ימים תעשה מלאכה וביום השביעי יהיה לכם קדש שבת וגו’ ויאמר משה אל-כל-עדת בני-ישראל לאמר זה הדבר אשר-צוה יקוק לאמר: קחו מאתכם תרומה ליקוק כל נדיב לבו יביאה את תרומת יקוק וגו’‏
Moshe gathered the entire assembly of the Children of Israel. He said to them: “These are the matters which Hashem commanded to do: Six days you shall work, and on the seventh day it shall be for you a Holy Shabbos”…Moshe said to the entire assembly of the Children of Israel, saying: “This is the matter that Hashem commanded, saying: Take for yourselves a donation for Hashem. All those with a generous heart will bring their portion for Hashem”[2]

This week’s parsha begins by speaking about the mitzvah of Shabbos. It then continues with a detailed description of the construction and materials of the Mishkan, the portable Temple the Jews built in the wilderness. There’s a discrepancy with how these two mitzvos are introduced. The mitzvah of Shabbos is described as, “these are the matters which Hashem commanded”, and the mitzvah of constructing the Mishkan is described as, “this is the matter”. Besides the inconsistency, these descriptions are also counterintuitive. One would think that Shabbos is only one prohibition, to refrain from creative labor. This is unlike the construction of the Mishkan, which involves many parts, such as the Ark, the Altar, the Menorah. Why then is Shabbos described in the plural, and the Mishkan in the singular?

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Ki Sisa 5781

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Charity assurances[1]

העשיר לא-ירבה והדל לא ימעיט ממחצית השקל לתת את-תרומת יקוק לכפר על-נפשתיכם
The wealthy shall not increase, nor shall the poor decrease, from the half-shekel donation. To give the donation of Hashem [is] to atone for their souls[2]

This week’s parsha begins with the mitzvah to give the half-shekel donation to the Temple, known as the machatzis hashekel. This donation was to help fund the offerings throughout the year. In this instance, it was also to help fund the construction of the Mishkan, the portable Temple while the Jews were in the wilderness. There’s an interesting message embedded into the mitzvah. The same amount is donated by every Jew. It doesn’t matter what the person’s standing is. If they’re exceedingly wealthy, or terribly poor, every Jew is to donate the same amount. The wealthy shouldn’t give more, and the poor shouldn’t give less[3]. It shows that in many ways, we’re all equal. We’re all children of Hashem.

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Terumah / Zachor 5781

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Amazing abode allusions[1]

דבר אל בני-ישראל ויקחו-לי תרומה מאת כל-איש אשר ידבנו לבו תקחו את-תרומתי: וזאת התרומה אשר תקחו מאתם זהב וכסף ונחשת
Speak to the Children of Israel: “Take for Me a portion from each person. [From] those whose heart feels generous, take My portion. This is the portion that you should take from them: gold, silver, and copper”[2]

This week’s parsha introduces us to the Mishkan, or Tabernacle, the portable Temple that the Jews constructed and used in the wilderness. It was literally a place for Hashem’s presence in this world. His presence was palpable, and allowed the Jews a chance to connect with Hashem in a way we can only imagine. The Torah tells us that the Jews were asked to take part in its construction. Each person would donate the materials needed for the Mishkan, donating what they saw fit. Besides gold, silver, and copper, many other materials are listed. However, if we focus on these three materials, we’ll find an amazing allusion hidden in their letters[3].

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