of Parsha Insights
is presented in Honor of
the Birthday of my Father-in-Law
Mr. Norman J. Osherman
Dedicated by his loving wife, children and grandchildren
"And Moshe assembled the entire congregation of the children of Israel and said to them, "These are the things which Hashem has commanded you to do.'" (Exodus 35:1)
The name of this week's parsha is "Vayakhel", which means to assemble a group of people together. Up until now the Torah related to us the instructions that Moshe Rabbenu received from Hashem concerning the building of the tabernacle. Now it is time for Moshe to communicate these instructions to Klal Yisroel. However, Moshe does something else first. He calls for all the people to assemble.
The Mishkan (tabernacle) in the desert was the symbol of Jewish Unity. It focused and concentrated the the nation's service of Hashem in a central place. Moshe wanted to teach the people that before the Mishkan could be erected, they must first learn to love one another and concern themselves with each other's welfare. This is the prerequisite for the Mishkan as is is stated, (Exodus 25:8) "Build for me a Mishkan and I will dwell within them". Not within it, but within them; within each member of the Jewish people. One who works on the behalf of Klal Yisroel is actually working for himself since Klal Yisroel is really one entity.
The Jerusalem Talmud (Nedarim 9:4), explains Jewish unity. If a person smacks one hand against the other, he doesn't punish the striking hand for hitting, it would be absurd to punish himself. So to with a Jew, when another Jew does him a bad turn, he doesn't hit back because it is like punishing himself.
Jewish Unity, To What Extent?
The first Gerrer Rebbe, the Chiddushei Ha Rim explained this concept as follows: The Talmud (Baba Metzia 62a), poses this scenario, "Two men are on a journey, and only one of them has a flask of water. If they both drink from it they will both die since there is only enough water for one man to survive. If one man drinks it, he will survive and arrive at his destination, but the second man will die of thirst. Ben Petura says that both men should drink, for it is better for both to die than for one man to witness the death of his friend. That was until R' Akiva came along and expounded the verse (Lev. 25:36) "...and let your brother live along with you." It comes to teach that your life takes precedence over your friend's. Therefore the one with the water should drink and live."
But it is troubling the meaning of , "until R' Akiva came along...". Did something suddenly change that now we act according to R' Akiva?
The Chiddushei HaRim explains that in fact there is no difference of opinion between Ben Petura and R' Akiva. Until R' Akiva, the proper thing to do was to act according to Ben Petura, for who could drink water and at he same time witness his friend dying of thirst. Better that both should drink and both should die! Until R' Akiva came along and demanded a higher level of love. One man must willing give up his life so that his friend might live. This is the highest form of love between two Jews.
A Story To Illustrate the Idea
One Erev Shabbos the Baal Shem Tov appeared in a town unexpectedly. Declining invitations from all the locals, he elected to remain alone in the Shul after Shabbos evening davening.
The wonder of the residents turned to alarm when they saw his fervent Tefillah and Tehillim continue the whole night long. Something was surely the matter. But in the morning the Baal Shem Tov was relaxed and joyful, and he accepted the invitation of one of the townsfolk for the Shabbos morning meal.
All of the townspeople crowded into the host's home to see the Holy Baal Shem Tov. As they were sitting at the table, a local peasant came around looking for a drink of vodka. They were about to drive him away when the Baal Shem Tov called out that he should be brought in, and provided with a generous glass of vodka.
The Baal Shem Tov asked him to tell what he had seen in the mansion of the Poritz (wealthy Polish estate owner) the previous night. The peasant's tongue, loosened by a second glass of vodka, related how the Poritz, believing that he had been cheated in a business deal by a Jewish merchant, assembled his peasants and armed them with knives and hatchets telling them to be on the ready to avenge themselves against the Jews at his command. They would then all be able to liberate their "stolen" riches from the Jews.
"The whole night we waited for the command, but the Poritz had closeted himself in his office with an unexpected visitor, an old friend that he hadn't seen for 40 years! Finally, he came out and told us all to go home; that the Jews were upright and honest people and nobody should dare lay a hand on them. We all went home and that was it."
"This old friend", explained R' Avraham Yaacov, "Had been dead for decades." "The Baal Shem Tov had dragged him from the eternal rest of his grave to influence his friend, the Poritz!"
"But I always wondered", he queried knowingly. "Why did the Baal Shem Tov have to travel all the way to that town for Shabbos to avert the decree? Couldn't he just as well have remained in his hometown of Medzibuz?"
"Finally I was able to understand. The Baal Shem Tov said to himself, 'If I can succeed in saving the town, fine. If not, then I will join my fate to that of my brothers and perish together with them!'"
A Peaceful Shabbos
"Don't kindle any fire in all your dwelling places on the Sabbath day." (Exodus 35:3)
Fire can be understood as anger which is antithetical to Shabbos. On Shabbos, there is no room for anger.
By taking few minutes before the start of every Shabbos to review the events of the previous week, one can easily make Shabbos a day of true spiritual and emotional rest.
Many people take these few minutes for inner-reflection just before immersion in the Mikveh, or right before candle lighting. It is appropriate to take all necessary measures to guard against anger on Shabbos, and it is incumbent upon every Jew to heal any wound that his anger caused during the week. A parent is even remanded not to scold or punish his children on Shabbos.
The word Shabbos is Hebrew is spelled ù á ú . This forms an acrostic in Hebrew which reads: ùáú áä úùåá, on*Shabbos*do*Teshuvah (repentence). Shabbos is a day that is unique in that it is a special opportunity to start again fresh.
R' Elimelech of Lizhensk taught that the eve of the Shabbos is like the eve of Yom Kippur. In his household, the family as well as the servants would fervently beg forgiveness from one another every Erev Shabbos until they were trembling and shedding tears. Thusly cleansed, at the moment of the lighting of the Shabbos candles, a sublime and awesome joy enveloped each and every one, and pervaded the entire household.
May all of our Shabboses be so imbued with peace, purity and joy!!
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