שבת טעם החיים פקודי-שקלים תשע”א
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Pekudei-Shekalim 5771
Keeping the Marriage Complete
אלה פקודי המשכן משכן העדות אשר פקד על פי משה עבדת הלוים ביד איתמר בן אהרן הכהן, these are the reckonings of the Tabernacle, the Tabernacle of Testimony, which were reckoned at Moshes’ bidding. The labor of the Levites was under the authority of Issamar, son of Aharon the Kohen. (Shemos 38:21)
In this week’s parasha the Torah begins with the verse that states (Shemos 38:21)אלה פקודי המשכן משכן העדות אשר פקד על פי משה עבדת הלוים ביד איתמר בן אהרן הכהן, these are the reckonings of the Tabernacle, the Tabernacle of Testimony, which were reckoned at Moshes’ bidding. The labor of the Levites was under the authority of Issamar, son of Aharon the Kohen. Rashi writes that the reason the Torah repeats the word משכן is because משכן also means collateral, and the Torah is alluding to the fact that in the future the Bais HaMikdash would function as collateral for the Jewish People’s sins, and the Bais HaMikdash would be destroyed twice. One must wonder why the Torah, while discussing the construction of the Mishkan, a time of joy, would even hint to destruction of the Bais HaMikdash in the future.
In order to answer this question, we will first introduce an alternative interpretation of this verse, and then we can gain an understanding as to why the Torah alludes here to the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash. The word פקד, besides the conventional translations of reckoning or appointment, can also mean a lack, as it is said (Bamidbar 31:49) ולא נפקד ממנו איש, and not a man of us is missing. Thus, our verse would be interpreted as follows: These are the deficiencies, i.e. the sins of the Jewish People [that caused] the Bais HaMikdash to be destroyed twice. The commentators (See Ohr Hachaim Devarim 1:37 and Sforno Ibid) write that had Moshe entered into Eretz Yisroel, the Bais HaMikdash would never have been destroyed and HaShem would have been forced to vent His anger on the Jewish People. The second part of our verse, which reads: “which were reckoned at Moshes’ bidding,” would thus be interpreted as follows: which were “lacking” because of Moshe, i.e. Moshe’s not entering into Eretz Yisroel was so that HaShem would destroy the Bais HaMikdash and not take out His wrath on the Jewish People.
What is the association of this alternative interpretation of our verse to the explanation cited by Rashi? The answer to this question is that the Bais HaMikdash was a symbol of the love that existed between HaShem and the Jewish People. When the Jewish People sinned, HaShem caused the Bais HaMikdash to be destroyed. In a similar vein, every Jewish home is likened to a Bais HaMikdash, as the home is the center of holiness. A man is required to provide for his wife and ensure that she is not lacking anything. If a man does not provide for his wife, he can Heaven forbid cause the fabric of the home to be destroyed. Given this premise, we can better understand Rashi’s interpretation of our verse. There are many instances in Scripture and in the Gemara where our actions create, so to speak, a deficiency in HaShem’s Kingdom. One example of this is that the Gemara (Sanhedrin 67b) states that witchcraft is referred to as כישוף because it isמכחישין פמליא של מעלה, it weakens the Heavenly Abode.
The Torah is teaching us that the correct approach to constructing a Mishkan or a Bais HaMikdash is to be cognizant of the fact that we do not wish to cause a lack, i.e. through sinning, that will necessitate that HaShem destroys the Bais HaMikdash. Thus, the very essence of building a Mishkan and a Bais HaMikdash is predicated on the idea that one should always be cognizant that he does not bring about a deficiency in HaShem’s kingdom, and then we can be assured that the Bais HaMikdash will remain standing. HaShem should allow us to complete His Kingdom by doing His will, and then He will have compassion on His Beloved Nation and bring us the Ultimate Redemption, with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, speedily, in our days.
Shabbos with the Sfas Emes and the Rebbes of Ger
In the Shabbos Zemiros we recite the words מנוחה ושמחה אור ליהודים, contentment and gladness and light for the Jews. The Bais Yisroel writes that Shabbos is a time when the soul rests, a time of reckoning of the soul and a time when the soul rejoices. One is required to serve HaShem with joy. The Gemara (Megillah 29a) states that באחד באדר משמיעין על השקלים, on the first of the month of Adar they would announce regarding the collection of the Shekalim. The Sages instituted that the Shabbos prior to the month of Adar (this year, 5771, prior to Adar II) we read Parashas Shekalim in the Parsha of Ki Sisa. Through the counting of the Jewish People, HaShem lifted up the heads of the Jewish People. Now is the time for one to give a reckoning of his soul and to rectify his soul. Giving the Shekalim atones for ones soul, and Shabbos is also an aid for one to gain atonement. The words אור ליהודים, light for the Jews, reflect the idea that on Shabbos great lights are revealed. Furthermore, the Sefer Hazechus states that the month of Adar reflects the strength of Yosef and in Adar great lights are revealed. Thus, מנוחה, contentment, is reflected in Shabbos, and שמחה, gladness, is reflected in the month of Adar, and through Shabbos and Adar there will be אור ליהודים, light for the Jews.
The Forgotten Loan
Quite often we judge an individual with the smug self-assurance that we know the “whole story.” However, there are many instances and incidents that are not as obvious or simple as they appear. Often a hurried judgment leads to embarrassing retractions and deeply hurt feelings. Consider the following episode.
The Rashash (Rabbi Shmuel Shtrashun of Vilna, 1819-1885) was known for his great Torah erudition and great wealth. He spent many hours immersed in Torah study (his commentary on virtually the entire Talmud is printed in most editions of the Talmud) and took off time from his role as merchant banker to administer a free-loan fund.
One day, a tailor named Reb Zalman came to borrow money. He explained his desperate needs to the Rashash, who granted him a loan of 300 rubles to be repaid in one year. The transaction was recorded in the Rashash’s ledger.
One year later, to the day, Reb Zalman appeared with the money at the home of the Rashash. Deeply involved in a Talmudic discourse, the Rashash did not wish to be disturbed. Reb Zalman, who knew that the loan was due that day, came into the room where the Rashash was learning, excused his interruption and returned the 300 rubles.
Wishing to minimize the interruption, the Rashash took the money, and tucked it into the back cover flap of the volume he was using, with the intention of removing it later on. He continued with his studies and was deeply engrossed for the rest of the afternoon. When he finished, he returned each of his books to its proper shelf, including the volume which now held the money tucked away in the cover flap.
A few weeks later at his office, the Rashash reviewed his ledger and saw that the loan to Reb Zalman had not been crossed out and was apparently overdue. He summoned Reb Zalman to inquire about the money.
Naturally, Reb Zalman claimed that not only had he returned the loan but that he had returned it on the very day it had been due. Yet, there were no witnesses to the event, nothing had been recorded and the Rashash had no recollection of the matter. A discussion ensued and it was decided that both parties would go to a rabbinic court where the matter would be decided.
The news spread around the town like wildfire that the plain, simple tailor, Reb Zalman, was involved in a din Torah with the revered Rashash. People were outraged that anyone had the audacity to contradict the scholarly and saintly Rashash, and the tarnishing of Reb Zalman’s character and reputation had begun.
The rabbinical court ruled that since there had once been a debt and it was now the word of one man against the other, Reb Zalman would have to swear that he had indeed repaid the loan and then he would be absolved of further debt. The Rashash, however, did not want to take a chance of having a fellow Jew possibly swear falsely, and so he relented and dropped the case.
Anger and bitterness were cast upon the hapless tailor. People stopped doing business with him, and the tailor and his family became the objects of mockery and degradation. Soon, unable to cope with the constant abuse, Reb Zalman gave up his business and moved to a hamlet out of town, a broken and sorrowful man.
A year later, the Rashash once again was involved with the same subject as he had been studying on that fateful day. Once more, he pulled out the rare volume he had used then. As he leafed through the pages he noticed a large number of bills in the back flap. At first he was puzzled, but then it struck him! Reb Zalman! This was the money that Reb Zalman had claimed he had paid.
Immediately he sought Reb Zalman to make amends. He went to Reb Zalman’s place of business and couldn’t find him. He went to his old house and was told that he had moved.
The Rashash didn’t rest until he found Reb Zalman living in a dilapidated shanty in a desolate area far from the city. “Please forgive me,” pleaded the Rashash, “I just found the money in the book and I realized that it was you who was right, not I.”
“What good is forgiveness!” said Reb Zalman bitterly. “My business is gone, my money is lost, and I have nothing. I am the laughing stock of the community.”
“Not only will I return your money,” said the Rashash, “but I will go to every synagogue, and announce that it was my mistake and that people should restore their proper respect towards you.”
“No,” said Reb Zalman sadly. “People will only say that the Rashash is a tzaddik, and it is his compassion that compels him to act in this manner. They will never believe that I was really right.”
The Rashash was perplexed, for he understood human nature and knew that Reb Zalman was right. People wouldn’t believe him after such a long period of doubt and rebuke. The Rashash thought a moment about how to rectify the situation and then said, “I have a daughter… now if I take your son as a son-in-law, which means that you would become part of my family, then no one would doubt that you are indeed a respectable man.”
Reb Zalman agreed to this proposal. The prospective bride and groom agreed as well, and a marriage was arranged between Reb Zalman’s son and the Rashash’s daughter, and Reb Zalman regained his former status in the community.
Ring in the Window
In the following true story, we see how the spiritual sensitivity of an older sister helps turn a 7-year-old’s tragedy… into triumph.
Beth Shapiro stood in the jewelry store imagining she was standing inside the middle of a crystal prism. The whole world was glimmering with rainbow, incandescent reflections. She stood with her seven-year-old nose pressed against the clear glass display case. She had never seen such jewels before! The world of opal, amethyst, diamond, pearl and coral stood before her. She looked down at the bubble-gum-prize ring on her finger and knew it would never again seem quite so precious.
Beth had gone shopping with her elderly aunt, who was a widow with no children of her own. It was their way of spending the afternoon together. Although Aunt Tzippi had heart trouble and had to carry nitroglycerin pills in her bag, she had never lost a certain youthful vivaciousness.
Out of the blue, every now and then she would tell Beth, “Today is a fun day. Let’s go out for ice cream!” And despite protests and warnings about cholesterol from her worried sister, Beth’s mother, Aunt Tzippi would take her by the hand and they were off into a world of their own. They went to a place where cardiologists were not allowed to enter and where the heart of a little girl was made to feel special.
That day, after the chocolate ice cream, Aunt Tzippi had announced, “I need to have my gold earrings fixed. Let’s go across town to the jeweler.” She took Beth on a bus for the very first time and they got off under [New York City’s] Lexington Avenue uptown railroad tracks to go to the jewelry store.
As the jeweler explained what needed to be done to her earrings, Beth heard Aunt Tzippi ask, “Do you have anything especially for children?” He brought out a tray of rings.
Beth felt a warm hand on her shoulder breaking her trance-like stare at the jewelry case. “Look, darling, do you see something you like? Aunt wants to buy you a present.”
Beth looked up at her in wide-eyed disbelief. “Mama won’t let me, Aunt Tzippi,” she whispered.
“It’s a present, darling, it’s okay.”
Beth’s hand was cold as she picked out a tiny amethyst heart centered on a gold ring. It fit her ring finger perfectly. Aunt Tzippi gave her a kiss and said, “A special girl like you deserves to have a special present from her aunt.”
Beth was very happy and felt very grown up. She put her bubble-gum ring in her pocket and thought of her three-year-old cousin Mashie who would want it.
When they arrived home, the ring was met with cries of “Oh, Tzippi, how could you get her something so expensive!” But Aunt Tzippi, with her typical fun-loving, spunky side, replied, “It gives me more pleasure to spend it on her now than after I’m dead! Besides, when I’m dead you’ll use the money for practical things and she’ll never have anything pretty.”
That night it was Beth’s turn to clean out their parakeet’s cage. She put newspapers on the floor, and of course took off her precious new ring because she didn’t want to get it dirty. After she finished with the cage, she quickly rolled up the newspapers and took them to the incinerator chute.
When she went back inside the apartment, she looked all over for the ring. She couldn’t find it anywhere. She felt a cold emptiness in her heart and her stomach knotted up. Her ring, her beautiful new ring was lost forever in the incinerator chute!
One glance at the stern look on her mother’s face and she burst out crying and ran to the bedroom she shared with her two older sisters.
Within two minutes Beth’s sister Mindy came and quietly sat down next to her on her bed where she lay sobbing, her face buried in the pillow.
“Beth,” she began gently, “one day, God willing, I will buy you another ring. I can’t do it now, but when I get older and have more money, I will buy you a beautiful ring, as pretty as the one from Aunt Tzippi. But right now I want you to try to understand something: In our house, we don’t cry about things. Thank God, we have a wonderful family and there are so many people who love you. And we have Torah.
“Look, honey,” she said, reaching for a Book of Psalms, “you are learning to read so well. What does this say?”
Beth had planned to stay buried in her pillow because she was too embarrassed to show her red, puffy face. But her sister’s appeal to her new love and passion, reading, aroused an unbearable curiosity. She picked up her face from the wet pillow and looked into the Book of Psalms.
Slowly she read in a whisper, “The Torah from Your mouth is better for me than thousands in gold and silver.”
Her sister looked deep into her eyes. “Even if you had a thousand rings like that, our Torah is much more precious. Aunt Tzippi loves you very much and she wanted to buy you a special present. Don’t worry, I’ll help you tell her the ring was lost. She might be upset, but you’ll apologize and she’ll get over it. But in our house, sweetheart, we never cry about things like rings.”
Her sister looked down at her with a smile and brushed her tear-damp hair away from her eyes. “Rings are things, and things are fine, but they won’t give you happiness. We have something better than gold: Torah!”
Beth hugged her sister in a wordless thank-you. Little did she know how profound and lasting an effect those words would have on her throughout her lifetime. (www.innernet.org.il)
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Pekudei-Shekalim 5771
is sponsored anonymously in Michigan in honor of Rabbi Doniel Neustadt and Rabbi Smicha Klein for all their devotion to our community.
Have a wonderful and delightful Shabbos
Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler
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