This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Vayak'hel-Pekudei (5766)
In this week's double portion the Torah relates how the vessels and priestly garments of the Tabernacle were actually made by the Jewish people and it is basically a repetition of what we read just two weeks ago in Parshat Truma-T'tzave when G-d told Moses what He wanted made.
At first glance this is not understood.
Why did the Torah have to repeat an entire section when it could have said the whole thing in one sentence: "And the Jews did what G-d said and made all these vessels and garments"?
Also it isn't so clear how the section begins. Moses gathers the people and tells them, not about the vessels and the garments but ... about the Shabbat! "Six days your work should be done and the seventh day is holy etc." What has this got to do with the vessels etc.
Also, this week is parshat "HaChodesh". We bless the month of Nisan and after the Shabbat Torah-reading, add a special paragraph about 'sanctifying' each month (the first commandment given to the Jewish people).
Is there a connection between the vessels and the new month?
To understand this here is a story that was told to me by a past pupil of Ohr Tmimim Rabbi Yosef Silverman of Pittsburgh.
He has a good friend who we will call Chiam, that learned in the 770 Eastern Parkway Yeshiva and used to do 'Mivtzoim' every Friday with a group of his friends.
'Mivtzoim' means leaving the four walls of one's home, store, yeshiva etc. and going out to encourage 'unaffiliated' Jews to do a commandment. (The Lubavitcher Rebbe enumerated ten of them for starters; Tefillin, Lighting Shabbat and Holiday candles, Giving Charity, Torah Education and more).
The driving force behind this dynamic, pro-active type of Judaism is the Baal Shem Tov's teaching that every Jew is essentially very close to G-d and wants to do all of His commandments. It's just that they have to be reminded, awakened and sometimes even defrosted in order to realize it.
Chaim used to take the subway with four of his friends to the sky-scrapers in the heart of Manhattan and go visiting the exclusive offices one after the other looking for Jews that perhaps wanted to put on Tefillin.
Generally they got positive responses and a few Jews even bought Tefillin on for themselves. But one Law Firm was like an impenetrable iceberg.
The non-Jewish lawyers were friendly and good humored but the Jewish ones had no time. And those that might have been interested were quickly discouraged by the head of the firm.
He was a no-nonsense every-moment-is-precious hard as nails attorney that was worth several hundred dollars per hour. When he was anywhere in the office, even in his room, there was no chance that our heroes could even pass the front desk. And if he chanced to come out of his office he would have them evicted; he'd mumble something to the receptionist on the way to his room and after a few minutes she would politely ask them to leave.
This went on for about a half a year, they made zero headway but they didn't give up. In any case it was only one of the offices on their route and some Jews have to be asked a thousand times before they agree. At least they would get in the first few hundred.
One Friday they arrived at the subway just to see their train pulling out and were waiting for the next to come when one of the vendors there, a Mexican fellow who set up a table and sold pens and other small items, approached them, pointed to Chaim, held up a black tie and said, "You need a tie."
"No thanks." Chaim said politely. "I don't like ties. But thanks anyway."
"No, NO!" The Mexican insisted "You NEED a tie. You are an important person with a white shirt. Such a person need a tie. Here, I sell you the tie for less. I give you a reduction. Five dollars instead of seven. Good? Here, take it!"
"Nope! Sorry. I don't want a tie!" Chaim protested calmly. "But thanks anyway. Okay? But sorry. I don't want it!!"
But the fellow wouldn't take no for an answer. For the next five minutes he kept it up. "This tie is just for you! If you wear it you will look good! I know what I am saying. You need it." etc etc.
Chiam protested more assertively, "Hey! Leave me alone. I don't have money for a tie, okay? And I won't wear it anyway. None of us wear ties!" But to no avail. The Mexican was not giving up. Finally the fellows decided the only way to get rid of him was to simply buy the tie.
Each put in a dollar, gave him five and Chaim took the tie happy to finally have a little peace and quiet. "Okay?" one of the fellows said "Now are you happy? See, we bought the tie. Okay?"
"No, NO!!" The salesman said. "I'm not happy! You must WEAR the tie! What, you think I sold for me the tie? No! it's for you! You MUST wear it. It will make you look good. See?" As he grabbed for the tie.
"Look," Said Chaim exasperatedly, "Leave me alone, nu! It's my tie now and I'll do what I want with it. If I want I don't have to wear it. Okay! Comprede'? Not only that but I never wore a tie in my life, I don't like ties, and I don't even know how to make a knot! So do me a favor and go away. Okay amigo?"
"Oh! No problem!" he answered "I show you how to tie it. Here, look. Give me the tie, bend over a bit ... I put you collar up like this. Seel' And before Chaim knew it the fellow had done it! Chaim was wearing a tie! (thinking to himself that as soon as he gets on the train he'll take it off.)
But the Mexican knew his business. "Ahh! It is beautiful!!" he stepped back and said admiring his own work. "Now you must promise me that you won't take it off."
"What? You mean I have to wear it the rest of my life?!" They all laughed including the salesman. Chiam was wondering why the subway was taking so long. "Why don't you leave me alone?"
"No no!" he answered. "Just promise me you will wear it today. So you give it a chance. Good? Promise? You see it looks so beautiful! You must promise!"
"Listen" Chaim said "Who are you anyway? Did my mother send you or something?"
But for some reason he suddenly blurted out "Okay! Okay! I'll leave it on today."
At that moment the subway came roaring in, they all got on and twenty minutes later they were in Manhattan involved in putting Tefillin on Jews and they forgot the Mexican and the episode with the tie.
Finally came the turn of the 'ice berg' law firm.
They got out of the elevator on the fifteenth floor, entered the large marble-floored reception room and smiled at the receptionist. A few of the gentile lawyers passed them by and said hello as they rushed from room to room.
Then he appeared. It was .... the boss!
"Who are they?" he said coldly to the receptionist. Then, not waiting for an answer, turned to them and said sternly, "Who are you? What do you want here?"
"We're from the Lubavitcher Rebbe and we came to see if there are Jews here that want to put on Tefillin." one of them answered, preparing to get evicted as usual.
He narrowed his eyes at them silently for a second or two like a wolf about to pounce on his prey, pointed at Chaim and said. "YOU! I want you to follow me!"
It didn't look good. After all, this guy knew all the laws. He was the head of the firm! It could be that somehow they were trespassing. Maybe he would call the police. But Chaim, without thinking too much, followed him down a wide, highly polished corridor into his plush office.
The lawyer closed the door behind them, turned to Chaim and said. "I want to put on Tefillin."
After a few years of Mivtzoim nothing really surprised Chaim anymore and after five minutes he had finished the 'Mitzva'.
"You probably want to know why I put on Tefillin, right?" The attorney asked. "Well, I'll tell you."
"I might look like a successful man but the fact is I'm having several big crises in life. Our firm is loosing a few very big cases and suffering other financial setbacks and I'm having some personal problems as well. I'm not used to being on the helpless side but I needed help. I didn't know to whom to turn, I mean, someone who really cared. We lawyers live a pretty cold life sometimes.
"Then, yesterday I happened to see one of the cards you fellows left here with the Lubavitcher Rebbe's picture on it and it stuck a note. I began to wonder if perhaps he could do something. After all, I did put on Tefillin after my Bar Mitzva for a while. Anyway, maybe you won't believe this but last night I had a dream.
"I dreamt that I saw the Lubavitcher Rebbe. He smiled and I asked him if he could help me. He answered, 'But I send you a group of young men every Friday with Tefillin!' To which I replied. 'What, those ragamuffins? They look terrible, like a bunch of bums! Why none of them even wears a tie!!'
"Then the Rebbe looked at me and said 'You want a tie? Okay, I'll send someone with a tie!' And I woke up."
"So when I saw you with a tie I knew that it wasn't only a dream."
The attorney began putting on Tefillin regularly and a close friendship developed between him and the fellows. As far as anyone knows his problems were alleviated.
This answers our questions. The purpose of Judaism is to make this world into 'heaven on earth'. It is here that Moshiach will come, build the third Temple and even raise the dead. Even time will become holy.
But in order to accomplish this goal we need three ingredients. The first is the Torah; knowing what to do. The second is action: actually doing it. And the third is faith in G-d: knowing that we can only make vessels and garments for success but it is G-d himself that actually gives the blessings.
So here in our section.
First, three weeks ago in Parshat Truma-T'tzave, we learned what G-d wants: the vessels and garments.
This week we learn that the Jews ACTUALLY did it.
But the section begins with: Six days you work will BE DONE (i.e. not to DO but it will BE DONE). Namely that the success comes AUTOMATICALLY from G-d we must only make the proper vessels.
Like the Chiam in our story. He had to buy the tie, put it on and actually go to the law office. But in the end the success was above nature.
So it will be in the future redemption through Moshiach. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe pointed out in his speech of parshat Mishpatim 5752 that G-d will put pure ideas in the minds of people (as He did then to the leaders of the world when they decided to stop developing Atomic warfare) so the world will become a blessed, meaningful, peaceful place.
Then the entire world, even time, will be holy; which is hinted at in our special Maftir portion on sanctifying the month.
But it's up to us to prepare the world. We just have to make a few more vessels and do all we can to bring...
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