Zipple - The Jewish Supersite

Events Calendar

Joke of the Week
Recipe of the Week
Quote of the Week
Tip of the Week


w.w.w. Zipple  

Click Here to Visit!

Torah Portion

Home > Torah Portion >

VAYAKHEL and PKUDEI EXODUS 35:1-38:20, 38:21- End

A short study of the readings by Yaakov Fogelman, who lectures on Torah and Religious Zionism; sets and disks of these studies, as well as his audio and video tapes, are available at TOP. See In the Service of God, by Shalom Freedman (Jason Aronson), for his views, together with those of 20 other teachers of Torah, on Judaism, Zionism and the Jewish People today ($30).

All of our weekly, holiday and general studies are available, in English and Hebrew, on our World Wide Web site: Join over 2150 subscribers to our studies on internet (the best things in life are free!); just send us your e-mail address.

This study is sponsored by Allan Levine, Ph.D. in memory of his Father, Irving Levine, Yisrael ben Binyamin Ha'Levi, who died khaf dalet Adar, 51 years ago (March 13 l950).

AN INTRODUCTION TO VAYAKHEL: God finished teaching Moshe (Moses) how to build the MISHKAN (tabernacle), a model of the original perfect patterns of creation. AFTER the sin of the calf, He gave him a MUCH GREATER personal revelation, his reward for leaving Sinai to save Israel. The Jews got a suspended sentence, additional detailed laws, and two new tablets. Israel was on a high spiritual level before the sin; God would have prevented them from sinning, but He wanted to teach future generations the potential for repentance in every situation (per A. Z. 4b, Marshah). Now Moshe, his face aglow (unlike during his first descent from Sinai), gathered together the whole community of the Children of Israel and told them: "these are the things which God commanded- to do them (Hirsch- "to make them"). 6 days shall work be done, and the 7th day shall be holy to you, a sabbath of sabbaths to God- anyone doing forbidden work then will be killed. Don't ignite fire in all your dwellings on Shabat day". (then) Moshe spoke to the entire Israelight community: "This is the thing (singular) which God commanded saying... (35:1f)"-

Moshe now gives Israel instructions for the materials, building and furnishing of the mishkan, all subordinate to Shabbat. He waited until after Yom Kippur, to be sure that any thieves among the Jews would return their stolen property, rather than donate it to the mishkan- only "clean" (not "laundered") money should be used for holy projects, if they're to be imbued with God's Presence (Freddie of Gur Aryeh bookstore told me of a young haredi lad who came in, close to Y.K., to pay for some Playboy magazines, which "his friend" had "borrowed"!). So all that goes into the State of Israel today must be pure if God's Presence is to fully dwell in His Sanctuary-Nation. Shlomo didn't use Dovid's treasury for the Temple (IK7:51), lest people later say that it was destroyed due to being built with spoils of war ("Tal Yaldut"- cf. Israel's armaments industry; per Rambam, it's forbidden to sell arms which will be used for aggression; see A. Z. 15b-16a)! Jewish unity was abused when Aharon was pressured to join Israel to make the calf; now unity was used properly- to build God's House, to bring down heaven and raise up earth (cf. those who ask observant Jews to compromise on halacha, e.g. re "Who Is A Jew", in the name of "Jewish Unity").

"ZICHRON MENACHEM" (by 8 of my grandchildrens' great-great grandfather) portrays a model for all future rabbis, when Moshe "gathers all the people to tell them God's commandments"- to avoid embarrassing someone or arousing his resistance, chastise him only by raising the issue generally and indirectly, while speaking to a crowd- many a sermon or class is directed at someone special!- but only he/she is to realize it. Rav Mattis Weinberg notes that the Torah, as the intellectual gesture itself, is symbolized by its permanent "carrying poles"- the true scholar is constantly "travelling", searching for new ideas, info and insights; he must be balanced by the depth and stability symbolized by the House, the Sanctuary. Perhaps those who are emotionally most uncomfortable in their early infantile environment are those most attracted to the intellectual life, if they are bright enough. But creativity is so intimately interfaced with neurosis and egocentricity- Freud was asked if one could be truly creative without being neurotic; he replied that it was extremely rare (he too?); the Chazan Ish stressed merging one's ego with Divine tradition, rather than trying for egocentric creativity and originality, based on confidence in my own understanding and manipulation of reality.

Rebecca Goldstein is a worthy successor to the late Chaim Grade, master portrayer of Lithuanian misnagdic society, spiritual biographer of the Chazan Ish; she wrote "The Mind-Body Problem", a deep existential exploration interwoven into a spicy novel about Princton U., until recently the home of the pagan Nude Olympics, and "Mazel", an engrossing and captivating tale of the generational transformation of East European Jews- from medieval Orthodoxy to modern egocentric secularity to a sophisticated Torah-true interface of tradition and modernity. She asks ("Mazel", Ch. 18):

"Are all great artists egomaniacal? ... A delusion of grandeur might well be a necessary component in the mysterious process of creativity. Just to embark at all upon some daunting imaginative project- an opera, a symphony, a novel (a parsha sheet?)-a man must be filled with a quite unjustified sense of his own powers and importance. Otherwise, he simply does not presume to write that first sentence, that first measure. Those whose egos maintain perfectly normal dimensions don't set out to recreate the world according to their own conceptions of content and form... after all, who but an egomaniac would ever attempt a masterpiece on the order of "War and Peace"? The unfortunate fact was not that the great artists are great egotists (note their disfunctional family lives, as a group); what is unfortunate is that great egotists are not necessarily great artists. There is a good deal more pomposity out there than there is talent".

INTERACTIVE MEDIA: The Torah could just state that the Jews collected all the materials and made and presented the Mishkan as God commanded; instead it repeats the detailed list of materials and objects made 3 times- in Moshe's charge to Israel, in its execution, and in their presentation of the completed Mishkan before him. But Torah doesn't just convey information to passive recipients. God wants us to interact with its words, to graphically experience the "vibes" of each entity and action, what it feels like to "give blue wool", to "connect sets of curtains", to present the completed work (cf. multi-media CD-ROM- should Torah be so presented today for maximum impact?). Just reading about a rose is not to experience a rose. So the rabbis wrote separate blessings for each sort of food from the earth (apparently other food, e.g. meat, coke, and milk, isn't as didactic or important); I'm not just to thank God for food, but to briefly experience the wonder of His tree, which grew my good guava, the earth, which produced one of the few thousand varieties of potatoes in the seed bank in Peru, which I am eating, with every bite, and His constant kindness to all creatures- despite all the destruction in a yet unredeemed world, both ruined and redeemable by Man.

So ritual objects do not exhaust their meaning and impact in a logical exposition of their symbolic nature, but transmit their soul messages via direct experience of them and their functions- to read about the menora, even to see a good picture of it, is not the same as viewing it, especially when it is lit. Rav Dovid Hartman, at his wife's urging, publicly identified himself as an Orthodox Jew, despite his doubts about the Messiah and redemption of mankind by the Jewish people; nevertheless he believes that all details of halacha are necessary and must be followed, as symbols of Judaism's great ideas and ideals, without which the latter will be ignored and forgotten. But how long will one be halachically strict regarding mere symbols of Divine concepts, as opposed to God's commandments, of intrinsic value per se, as are His laws of Nature? The sacred character of the mishkan and its furnishing depended on the artisan's focus on the unique symbolic significance of each article, per Hirsch; each object had to be made, handled, and assembled in a spirit consistent with its purpose (cf. writing a valid sefer torah). But why repeat all these details when WE read Moshe's charge to Israel?- Perhaps God wants to give the same importance to Moshe's charge and its execution as to His own; very human Moshe is the first indispensable rabbinic connection between God's mouth and man's ears, yet even he must never be deified (cf. those who assume their Rebbe is always right).

The Mishkan instructions are given to Israel only AFTER the sin of the calf (per Hirsch). They now realized how far they still had to go, tho the gates of return are always open. They knew the Almighty both as Lord of Judgement and God of Grace. The Mishkan and later Temple gave them aid and inspiration to retain their high state and to achieve self-renewal, whenever they fell off their pedestals- until they misused the Temple and sacrifices themselves, for magic ritual, rather than spiritual transformation, e.g. stressing animal blood, rather than repentance, as the means to atonement (so some folks view religion as black or haredi magic to serve their ends, rather than as a source of inspiration and ethics, e.g. little red strings). The Tabernacle used their senses to lead them beyond their senses. God's Presence is to enter them in the mishkan and they are then to carry it back home with them to build a truly holy nation. Yet Israel achieved their great Calfian atonement, return to God, BEFORE erecting the mishkan- they can attain atonement without a Temple too! But the loss of the Temple may have caused another Golden Calf to arise, Jesus, who became worshipped by those who could not relate to an abstract God, even tho He told them to make NO image of Him. If the Temple had remained, that might have satisfied their need for some physical connection to God.

Rav Shmuel Avigdor Hacohen notes that the Sabbath institution precedes the building of the sanctuary. The Shabat is Israel's eternal sanctuary in time, even when it does not have its temporary sanctuaries in space. Wherever the Jew wanders, the Shabat is always there with him. More than the Jews preserved the Shabbat, the Shabbat preserved them (see "Shabbat Shalom" by his brother Pinchas Peli, $20 from TOP). Rav M. Miller calls Shabbat and Torah gifts of unconditional love, available to help the Jew regardless of his spiritual state. The land, Davidic Monarchy, and the Tabernacle, however, will only remain with, and help, Israel when they are on a level to use them properly.

HAFTARAT VAYAKHEL is I Kings 7:40-50 for Ashkenazim, 18-25 for Sfardim (when Vayakhel is read alone, except on the Sabbaths of Shekalim, Parah and Hachodesh).

A VALID TEMPLE: The simple tabernacle stands in contrast to Solomon's opulent Temple, with 2 immense pillars, Yachin and Boaz, at its entrance. These two great pillars, by their names, proclaim to the visitor that the Temple is only worthwhile and viable if it is a fulfillment of the "word of God". Ten pedestals and basins, magnificent and ornate, were divided into two lines of five, on either side of the "sea" supported by 12 oxen. Ten menoras surround the original menora of B'tzalel and 10 tables the original table; some say that only the original ones of Moshe were used, the rest being only decorative (Men. 98b). "Tal Yaldut" concludes that one is to spend one's wealth lavishly on God's glory (visit the Israel and Hechel Shlomo museums and tasteful and elegant Judaica Heirlooms at the Laromme Hotel!). Solomon kept the extra equipment donated, for future use, rather than limiting the donations to need, as did Moshe; his "donations" of work and material from the people were compulsory, unlike Moshe's. The pillars of Solomon of the tribe of Yehuda were cast by Chiram of Tyre, the talented son of a coppersmith of Naftali and a widow of Dan. Likewise, in the tabernacle, the work was directed by Betzalel of the leading tribe of Yehudah, aided by Oholiov of the last and least tribe, Dan (Pesikta Rabsi; see II Ch. 2:13). The Talmud, Arachin 16a, concludes that a son should learn his father's trade (he has a head start and so bonds with his father; artistic talent is also likely to be hereditary).

AN INTRODUCTION TO PARSHAS PEKUDEI- THINKERS & DOERS: The Jews now complete the Tabernacle, following instructions which Moshe received from God. Moshe is gradually withdrawing from direct action- Joshua fights Amalek, lesser leaders judge the folk, Moshe no longer lives with a woman, and Aharon takes over the high priesthood; Betzalel and Oholiav organize the building of the Tabernacle. The rare gifted thinker and spirit needs gradually increasing separation from mundane tasks of life, to explore the infinite and bring it down to earth- cf. "One appointed a communal leader may not do menial work in public (Kid. 70a)". "Reduce business activity and be preoccupied with Torah (Avot 4:12)". "All who take upon themselves the yoke of Torah, the community gradually removes from them burdens of government and worldliness"(Avot 3:6- all must share burdens, but not all take the same burden; yet the scholar must still support himself, per Rambam M.T. T.T. 1:7, 3:10-11, Avot4:7; see Rama, Y. D. 246:5). Moshe's primary role is to teach and guide the activists- God is the producer, Moshe the director, as Israel begins to act out its national drama on the stage of world history. So Ashet Chayil, the Woman of Valor, oversees and guides her household, even when her active years have ended, unwilling to eat "the bread of idleness" (Prov. 31, Hirsch). But erecting the weighty Tabernacle was beyond normal human capacity; God then ordered Moshe to step in and finish the job- he exerts a bit of effort and the Tabernacle pops up on its own (Rashi- 39:33)!

THE HAFTARA for Pekudei is 1 Kings 7:51-8:21, per Ashkenazim; it deals with the completion of the First Temple (Sefardim read 7:40-50; Ashkenazim also read this when Shabbat Vayakhel is also Parshat Shekalim). David not only acquired the site of the Temple, but also dedicated materials and utensils for it. In the painful exiles of Golder's Green and Kew Garden Hills, this haftara is also read on the 2nd day of Sukkos, when we pray that God restore the Temple, "David's fallen sukkah" (tho the first 2 verses, mentioning David, are left out on Sukkos!). The haftara for the first day of Sukkos deals with the 3rd Temple and the messianic era; this 2nd day haftara may warn us that the best Temple, if a substitute for moral development, will become the Temple of Man, rather than of God, and be destroyed. Thus the 3rd Temple awaits Jewish spiritual perfection. Per Ramban, it will be built without opposition (Gen. 19-22), corresponding to Yitzchak's third well, Rechovot; either the Jews will first develop their Divine potential to be a true kingdom of priests to all mankind, impressing even the Arabs, or God will openly proclaim to All that the Temple's restoration is His Will.

S'prono explains that the 3rd Temple will be 45 mil away from Jerusalem; thus no one will attribute the city's holiness to its Temple ritual, rather than to its more important holy essence- truly holy people (see the great Artscrolls Ezekiel, by Rav Moshe Eisemann, Chs. 40,45,48- it's not clear if this is his idea or that of S'porno- does anyone out there know?).

On Shabbat HaChodesh (this year), when the month of Nissan is proclaimed, Maftir is Ex. 12:1-20, the commandment to start our holiday calendar with Nissan and the laws of Passover; the Ashkenazi Haftara is Ezekiel 45:16-46:18, the Sephardic 45:18-46:15, dividing responsibility for Temple offerings between the princes and the people, and giving details of Temple and Passover observance.

FINIS: So I finish, with God's help, what I think is the 17th or 18th edition of Exodus- does anyone remember exactly when I started these studies (with Parshas Miketz) at the NCSY Israel Center? They contain something for everyone to disagree with. True, they are a bit complex, tho only a first glance into the infinite meanings and messages of the Divine Word; but nothing good comes easy for either the writer or the reader. I am not a professional scholar, tho Providence seems most helpful in bringing relevant items to my attention, to reflect my age in the light of the Torah. Yehudi Menuhin (in "The Complete Violinist") said that he'd rather be an amateur, one who loves what he or she is doing, than a professional. The professional often hates his work, perhaps forced to sacrifice his childhood to practice violin or memorize Tosafot! Menuhin (as Teddy Kollak?) hopes to see a society, as Old Vienna, where all play music; I'd look forward to an Israel where all are joyfully engrossed in both Torah and life, joined, in friendship, by the whole world. "Every Yeshiva boy should join Tzahal and every soldier should join a yeshiva!" (Rav G. Gurfein); so every Jew should put out his/her own parsha sheet- this, in English and Hebrew, and the hebrew Shabbat b'Shabbato, were the first contemporary popular ones; there are now, thank God, many, each with its own particular contribution and audience- from tidbits to banquets, ultra-traditional to avant garde! May they multiply! I seek help in publishing these studies in book form.

Bible Prof. George Brooke of Manchester U, a highly talented writer, in his forward to "The Copper Scroll Decoded," by Robert Feather, writes: "The Dead Sea Scrolls have played a part in popular imagination for over 50 years, since their discovery (YF: my mother-in-law, Hilda Freeman, an archeologist, may she soon recover from her fall, was among the first to see them). Their public appeal stems from a distinct combination of factors. Reflecting some of the highest human aspirations, they were found in caves near the lowest place on earth, in an area where it was thought that no ancient manuscripts could have survived. Against the odds, the scrolls speak to us from 2000 years ago. They tell us of the time when the Pharisees established their dominance and formed the religion which was the immediate predecessor of the Rabbinic Judaism, which, in many ways, is still with us. They describe for us much of the background of Christianity, in their portrayal of views of the end of times and their messianic hope. They fill a void, which historians and theologians of many generations have tried to sketch in vain (YF: But halachic scholars, who seek to study and fulfill the expressed detailed Will of God, rather than dabbling in philosophy, theology and history, have little time for such nebulous pursuits).

"Of all the Dead Sea Scrolls, however, none is more fascinating than the famous Copper Scroll (YF: also the object of maverick archeologist Vendyl Jones' research). Here is what seems to be a list of buried treasure, perhaps in quantities that would impress even the richest person today, engraved peculiarly on copper pieces, written in a Hebrew which is difficult to decipher, with several coded elements in Greek. After over a generation of study by some of the best modern detectives of the ancient world, it still refuses to yield all its secrets. Robert Feather's study represents the best work of the English amateur, a tradition of research, which is based on asking common sense ??? from a variety of angles, and then pursuing the answers doggedly, so as to take the discussion forward. The great enthusiasm with which the work is written may result in more being said than the skeptic might allow, but there are some nuggets of insight here which even the authors of the Copper Scroll might well have recognized (YF: sounds like a description of myself and other passionate Jerusalem pursuers of truth, who practice avocations, rather than professions). From the outset, the debate on the meaning of the Copper Scroll was focused on whether the treasure was real or fantastic.

"To begin with, those who were on the side of realism were few and far between. They were argued against vociferously by some experts, whose principal evidence was that the weight of the gold and the silver mentioned in the scroll was simply incredible- producing a total of precious metal which exceeded all that had been smelted in the world until then (YF: How could they know? What records were there?) The realists could only argue back that to inscribe a fantasy on expensive copper plates with such care, and with elements of code, seemed to be playing a game too far. Nevertheless, in recent years, the reality of the treasure has become increasingly accepted by the experts, but always with qualified remarks about the quantities. Now R.F., from his own background expertise as a metallurgist, offers us a very intriguing interpretation of the troublesome signs for weights, by reading them in light of Egyptian systems of a somewhat earlier time. The results may not convince everybody, but, as far as understanding the system of weights and measures in use by the authors of the scroll is concerned, they are a valuable contribution to the ongoing weighty debate...Some scholars naturally tend to split all the evidence into minute pieces, and, in so doing, to stress the differences between things; however similar things may seem, they can rarely be directly associated w/one another.

"Other readers of the same evidence will tend to put things together and, in so doing, emphasize the similarities; differences are explained away thru acknowledging that the evidence comes from alternative times and contexts, but the similarities remain, and often suggest a direct causal relationship between the two phenomena." In discussing the Tabernacle, Feather assumes that its curtains were of red, blue and purple linen, rather than of white linen and red, blue and purple dyed wool, as stated in Jewish tradition. His error consists of reading "And blue and purple and red linen and goats (25:4)" rather than carefully translating the Hebrew: "And blue and purple and red (dyed wool- see Rashi, his grandson Rashbam and Ibn Ezra, who cites views that the red thread is silk, ibid) AND linen and goats" (cf. 26:1, where there is no linen, just the 3 dyed wools in the tabernacle cover, 26:31, 36; 27:16 and 38:16, where the curtains of the courtyard are only linen, with no dyed wools).

Mazal Tov to Tsvia Gilboa and Geert (Chaim) and Marian Cohen Stuart upon the marriage of Chaim Hod and Elisheva in Bnei Brak on Adar 26

Extensive Torah Reading study sheets and video lectures on many Judaic subjects, as well as Jewish educational gifts and music, are available at TOP. Your purchases and donations enable us to continue our mission. The perspective is eclectic and holistic, but traditional- that the written Torah is the word of God, much of the oral His explanation. Together with science, they comprise His factory authorized instruction manual for mankind. Help support these studies and our other Jewish information projects- a complete set of our weekly & holiday torah reading studies or our monthly summaries and general studies is sent upon request with your donation of $50 or more.. $250 funds a weekly study, in honor or memory of whomever you wish (2000 copies; $150 funds 1000 copies).

Hosted by Shamash: The Jewish Network A service of Hebrew College, offering online courses and an online MA in Jewish Studies,

TEL. (02) 628-8968

Our studies are on our site:
Join over 2150 subscribers to our free studies on internet- just send us your e-mail address.

TOP is not affiliated with any other group or any particular political viewpoint-may God bless all Israel and all mankind.


People & Cultures

About Zipple | Legal Stuff | Link to Us | Add Your URL | Advertising | Feedback | Contact Us