Shabbat Violation

Shavua Tov. Regarding today’s Parsha, there are two consecutive verses that don’t seem to make sense.

The first Pasuk says that Shabbat needs to be observed because it is a holy day. This is followed by, מחלליה מות יומת, and those who desecrate it, shall surely die. The death penalty alluded to is death by stoning.

The very next Pasuk says that anyone who does מלאכה on Shabbat, ונכרתה הנפש ההיא מישראל, that soul should be cut off from his people. This is the punishment known as כרת.

Doing a מלאכה, loosely translated as work, is the clearest violation of Shabbat.

So we have one verse that says סקילה is the punishment and the other says כרת is the punishment for violating Shabbat. The explanation is that if one was properly warned and there were two witnesses, he would get סקילה. If he was not warned and there were no witnesses, but he knew of his transgression, he would get כרת.

If one violated Shabbat in error as he did not know something was forbidden, or he forgot it was Shabbat, he would owe a קרבן חטאת, a sin offering.

Why Are There Poor

The emphasis of the current Parshiot is the importance of giving generously to the construction of the Mishkan. Similarly, we are to show kindness and generosity in helping the poor.

The Talmud in בבא בתרא has a dialogue between רבי עקיבא and the Roman Emperor Turnisrufus. The Roman felt that being poor was a sign of rejection by Hashem. Therefore, giving him charity would be going against G-d’s wishes.

Rabbi Akiva explained that there exist poor in order to give merits to the wealthy where the giver can gain great merit.

The מכתב מאליהו goes a step further by saying that there are rich and poor in the world in order to present challenges to each of them. Based on the Midrash, he shows that the poor gain a double merit in the next world. They become the vessel in which the wealthy are able to perform the Mitzva of צדקה, and are rewarded again if they accept their fate and don’t become negative or bitter about their fate.

Hashem has created a complex system of challenges for different members of society. We all must be careful to act in a way that is right and just in the eyes of G-d. Shabbat Shalom

אך את שבתותי

A major theme of פרשת כי תשא, is the holiness of Shabbat. After more than two Parshas that discuss the details of constructing the Mishkan, we are suddenly told, אך את שבתותי תשמורו, “But you shall observe my Shabbats.”

One of the immediate explanations of this Pasuk, is that although the construction of the Mishkan is a holy act, such work is not permitted on Shabbat.

The other important lesson learned from the positioning of this topic in the middle of the detailed instructions of the Mishkan, is the thirty nine מלאכות of Shabbat.

The activities that are forbidden to be done on Shabbat are all connected to the Mishkan.

Many of the מלאכות are the steps taken to bake the Showbread. Many others are related to preparing the curtains and covers of the אוהל מועד, tent of meeting.

It is always important to know the source for the Mitzvot we observe.

Purim Katan

Today and tomorrow are called פורים קטן, the “little” Purim. This occurs when there is a leap year with two Adars. Purim is celebrated in the second month of Adar.

Purim Katan is considered a happy day. As a result, we do not say תחנון and we are not permitted to declare a fast on these two days. It is also forbidden to give eulogies on these days.

At the time of the Sanhedrin, a leap year could still be declared up to the end of Adar. In a situation like this, where Purim was already celebrated, and a leap year was declared later, Purim would need to be observed a second time in the second Adar.

Meanwhile, today and tomorrow we can greet our friends with a פורים קטן שמח!

Nothing Happens for Nothing

We believe very strongly in the concept of השגחה פרטית which is translated loosely as “Divine supervision”. Hashem guides our lives and all that happens in the course of any given day, is orchestrated by Hashem.

When we make the decision to choose a particular path, Hashem helps us get there. If we choose good, we will be directed in that way. And if our decision is to distance ourselves from holiness, that will also happen. In short, nothing happens for nothing.

One such example is a story told by Rashi. He once was walking on the road and a woman came galloping by on a horse. Rashi wondered why Hashem ordained it that this woman should pass right by him.

As she passed, he saw her from her back and noticed she was wearing a dress that was criss-crossed. Rashi had his answer. Until that moment, he couldn’t figure out how the Kohein Gadol wore his special apron. Hashem showed the woman on the horse to answer his question.

This is השגחה פרטית. Nothing happens for nothing.

Spiritual Light

According to Rav Shlomo Mann, זצ״ל, the commandment to light the Menorah is also a hint to lighting the Shabbat candles.

There is an interesting difference between the Chanukah Menorah lights and Shabbat candles. The purpose of the Shabbat candles was to benefit from its light and create Shalom Bayit.

The Chanukah candles were meant only to be looked at and we were not to benefit from its light. Similar to the Menorah of the Beit Hamikdash, the light was to create a קשר between Hashem and the Jewish people.

The Shabbat candles were intended to create peace between husband and wife. It is interesting how there are different ways that we benefit from spiritual light. The trick is to seek out the light and be inspired by it.

אורים ותומים

Shavua Tov. The אורים ותומים that were worn on the breastplate of the Kohein Gadol, were magical in nature.

The אורים refers to how the breastplate, the חושן, lit up when an inquiry was made by the כהן גדול. The תומים, referred to the ability of the High Priest to unscramble the message. There were a total of seventy two letters on the חושן, which included the names of the twelve tribes as well as אברהם, יצחק, ויעקב.

At the very beginning of the Book of Shoftim, the following question is asked of Hashem. “Who will go forth to do battle with the כנעני?” The answer given was, ״יהודה ועלה״.

The commentators explain that the אורים ותומים were asked this question and the name, “יהודה” lit up as well as the four letters that spell, ״יעלה״. The people then knew that Hashem wanted the Tribe of Yehuda to lead the battle against the כנעני.

The אורים ותומים were magical, indeed.

Moshe’s Greatness

Parshat תצוה is the only Parsha since the beginning of the Book of שמות that does not have Moshe’s name in it.

The reason for this was that when Moshe pleaded with Hashem to forgive the Jewish people for the sin of the Golden Calf, Hashem made him an offer. He told Moshe that He was willing to start all over again with him and destroy עם ישראל.

Moshe would not hear of this and told Hashem to erase his name from the Torah, rather than harm the Jewish people.

This is the reason we have one Parsha without Moshe’s name in it.

We also do not mention Moshe’s name in the Haggadah for a different reason. We do not want to deify Moshe into more than being a great man. Both the Parsha and the Haggadah actually indicate just how great a man Moshe Rabbeinu was. Shabbat Shalom

Kohein Health Issues

There is a reference in this week’s Parsha by Rabbeinu Bechaye to the difficulties the Kohanim had to endure by serving in the Temple.

Parshat תצוה speaks of the Priestly garments that were worn in all types of weather. The כהן הדיוט, regular Kohein, simply wore a hat, long shirt, a belt and pants. He walked barefoot and was not allowed to wear anything other than these four garments. The Temple did not have under floor heating, so that it was a major challenge to do the Temple service in winter.

Kohanim could be asked to eat a great deal of sanctified meat as part of their service.

We are taught in מסכת שקלים that there was a resident doctor in the Temple at all times who was expert in both feet issues and digestion.

It is fair to assume that our third Temple will have all of the amenities available, to make serving in the Beit Hamikdash a little easier. May it speedily be rebuilt.

זהב

The Mishkan was built with זהב וכסף ונחושת, gold, silver, and copper. Generally, we view the pursuit of gold as a strictly material pursuit.

Our Parsha teaches that זהב can also symbolize a golden holy pursuit. Someone can have a golden personality. His word could be as good as gold. We even say that silence is golden.

Rabbeinu Bechaye suggests that the word זהב hints to the three Torah blessings of ברכת המזון.

The letter “ז” refers to the first blessing of הזן, that Hashem sustains us. The “ה” refers to הארץ where we praise Hashem for the good Land of Israel. And the “ב” refers to the third blessing of בונה ירושלים, that we ask that ירושלים be rebuilt,

The real זהב that we are to pursue is recognizing Hashem’s blessings and appreciating Israel and Jerusalem.

Holy Ark

Of all the vessels of the Beit Hamikdash, the ארון הקודש, the holy ark, is the most prominent and holy. It was from above the כרובים,  Cherubs, that Hashem communicated with his prophets and High Priests.

The Torah says, ועשו ארון, “And They shall make the ארון.” It should have said, “And You shall make the ארון.” The reason for the “they” was so that all of Israel will have a share in its construction. All were to benefit from the light that emanated from it.

The ארון was also the symbol of purity, honesty, and integrity. It was meant to teach the importance of being upright in how we conduct our affairs. We were not supposed to be אחד בפה ואחד בלב, one way with our mouth and another with our heart.

This is why the ארון had gold on the inside and on the outside. Holiness does not tolerate שקר, falsehood. To achieve holiness, one needed to be clean in thought and deed. This was what the ארון קודש symbolized.

Due Diligence

There is a very important lesson taught by the Rabbis about the nature of things. The Rabbis say the following: לא יגעתי ומצאתי אל תאמין. יגעתי ומצאתי, תאמין.

If one claims that he achieved something of significance, with no effort, don’t believe him. But if one says that he accomplished with great effort, believe him.

The point of the Rabbis is that anything worthwhile has to come with hard work and diligence. If something comes easy, it will probably not last.

This is true of our Torah study and Mitzva observance, as well as how hard we work in our marriages, our jobs, parenting, and being a trusted friend. There is no substitute for due diligence and hard work.

480

Shavua Tov. Today’s Haftarah is very important in connecting major events in Jewish history.

The source is מלכים א׳ Chapters five and six describing the construction of the בית המקדש of Shlomo. We learn of the massive seven year project that he undertook.

We learn that Shlomo used 70,000 workers who were נשא סבל, those who carried all of the heavy material for construction. He also used 80,000 workers who were חצב בהר, chiseled into the mountains. But the key number is 480.

In Chapter six verse one it reads, that at the end of 480 years from יציאת מצרים, the Temple of Shlomo was completed. When we know that the first Temple lasted 410 years and the second, 420 years, everything comes together. We only need to remember the seventy years between first and second Temple as prophesied by Jeremiah, and all makes sense.

Remember that number, 480. Very important.

Show and Tell

We are taught all about the construction of the Mishkan in this week’s Parsha. Each of the vessels of the Mishkan were very impressive to see.

Most of these vessels were housed in the אהל מועד, tent of meeting, or in the היכל in the Beit Hamikdash. Only Kohanim were allowed to enter these structures.

When the nation would come to the Temple during the pilgrimage festivals, they were treated to an amazing sight.

The Kohanim would pick up the שלחן with the showbread and bring it to the entrance of the Heichal, so that all could see it. Likewise, the curtains to the Holy of Holies were opened so that the holy ark, the ארון הקודש, could be seen by non-Kohanim from the entrance.

The Temple experience was very spiritual and elevating. May it be built speedily in our time. Shabbat Shalom

זריזות

This week’s Parsha discusses how the Mishkan, portable Beit Hamikdash was to be built for immediate use in the desert.

Rabbeinu Bechaye says that the main lesson to be learned is מידה הזריזות, measure of alacrity. It describes the manner in which we are to approach the observance of Mitzvot.

We are to do our spiritual obligations with enthusiasm and swiftness. When one puts such emphasis on spiritual matters, there is reward in this world and the next.

We are to be able to distinguish this pursuit as compared to the pursuit of money and physical pleasures. The amassing of gold and silver does not bring such rewards. It can create many obstacles and much damage. People with material desires are off the track and are left feeling empty and confused.

The זריזות, alacrity, for Torah and spirituality, will always bear fruits.

Reward and Punishment

One of the Thirteen Principles of Faith of the Rambam is that we clearly believe in reward and punishment. We are to understand that our good deeds are rewarded and we are liable for our sins.

Hashem is the true judge and He is the One who decides how to carry this out. Ultimately, there is absolute justice.

When we learn of certain sins that carry with it the death penalty, it is obvious that these are viewed as very serious violations. However, it is difficult to carry out such punishments. There must be two witnesses and a clear warning before carrying out capital punishment. We need a court of twenty three and a clear majority of thirteen to ten.

What should make an impression on us is the moral outrage that the Torah is expressing when mentioning a death penalty. We must not take these laws lightly and not forget that there is justice in the end.

Loans

Chodesh Tov. One of the important ideas of פרשת משפטים is the idea of giving loans. The Pasuk says, אם כסף תלוה את עמי, “If you will loan money to my people.”

In this case the word “אם” is not meant to mean “if” but more like, “when”. This means that every Jew should see it as his duty to help others with loans.

Among the highest levels of charity, aside from giving a poor person a job, is giving him a loan.

The Talmud spends pages and pages discussing the subject of loans and their repayment. The Rabbis needed to create a simple apparatus for the collection of laws. They did not want to create a situation where people would not want to lend for fear they would not get paid back.

In short, we must never minimize the importance of loans as a means to help those in need.

Torah Oath

We learn in yesterday’s Parsha the strength of the שבועה, oath, in order to settle disputes.

There is a concept called שבועה דאורייתא, or Torah oath in three situations. The first case is where there is only one witness to prove a claim. If supplemented with this שבועה, claim is accepted. The second situation is where there is a שומר, watchman, who claims that the object under his care was stolen. He must swear that he had nothing to do with the theft. And the third case is מודה במקצת, where one admits part of a loan obligation but not all of it. He must swear that he actually owes only that particular amount.

This Torah oath was made in בית דין by holding on to a Torah scroll and swearing in Hashem’s holy name. This was meant to impress upon the individual that he must tell the truth.

עיר מקלט

Shavua Tov. There is a small reference in פרשת משפטים to the עיר מקלט, city of refuge.

The Parsha is giving a procedural instruction in the event that one causes someone else’s death. Ultimately, it is the court that decides whether one is a murderer, totally innocent because of it being an accident, and the situation where one was negligent. In the latter case, the killer remains in the עיר מקלט until the death of the כהן גדול.

Just like today we have notification on highways where the nearest hospital is, there used to be similar notifications as to where the closest עיר מקלט was found.

We needed to protect the killer from the גואל הדם, avenger of blood from prematurely taking the law into his own hands.

The court authorities escorts the alleged killer to בית דין for protection. He is judged in court who will determine his final fate.

עבד עברי

This week’s Parsha begins with the case of the עבד עברי, Hebrew slave. This is referring to a Jew who was convicted of being a thief who was unable to pay back what he stole.

The Beit Din will sell him into slavery for six years. His owner or master will be a Jew who is obligated to treat this slave with respect and dignity.

He lives with and becomes part of a respectable family. This was judged to be the best form of rehabilitation for the criminal עבד עברי.

Here again we see the wisdom of the Torah. Only recently are criminologists realizing that jail does not help create a righteous person out of the thief.

Living with a family and being accepted despite the crime, works wonders at helping this individual function again as part of society.

The Torah knew some 3500 years ago what they are only learning today! Shabbat Shalom