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אלה פקודי המשכן משכן העדת

These are the reckonings of the Mishkan – the Mishkan Ha’Edus (Testimony). (38:21)

Rashi comments that, since Hashem’s Presence was upon the Mishkan, it attested to the fact that He had forgiven the sin of the Golden Calf. (Otherwise, why would the Divine Presence be connected with the Mishkan?) It would appear from Rashi that the purpose of the Mishkan was as testimony to the world that Hashem had forgiven Klal Yisrael’s sin. In Parashas Terumah, however, the stated reason for the Mishkan is hashroas HaShechinah, the Divine Presence resting among us. We sinned – repented and were (to an extent) forgiven. The fact that the Mishkan is among us is proof that…

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ובצלאל בן אורי בן חור למטה יהודה עשה את כל אשר צוה ד' את משה

Betzalel ben Uri ben Chur of the tribe of Yehudah, did everything as Hashem commanded Moshe. (38:22)

In a well-known exposition, Sforno comments that, in addition to Betzalel, all the men who occupied themselves with the construction of the Mishkan were men of stature, sincerity and piety. This is in contrast to the workmen who built the First and Second Batei Mikdash; those work forces included people from various strata of society. Basically, they did not possess the appropriate spiritual and moral characteristics that would have imbued the project with eternal values. Furthermore, the First Bais Hamikdash built under the leadership of Shlomo Hamelech, was not the same as the Mishkan, built by Moshe Rabbeinu. They were…

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ככל אשר צהו ד' את משה כן עשו בני ישראל את כל העבודה. וירא משה את כל המלאכה והנה עשו אותה כאשר צוה ד'... ויברך אותם משה

Like everything that Hashem commanded Moshe, so did Bnei Yisrael perform all the labor… Moshe saw the entire work; and behold! They had done it as Hashem had commanded… And Moshe blessed them. (39:42,43)

Noticeably, the first pasuk which relates Bnei Yisrael following instructions and building the Mishkan uses the word avodah to describe the work performed. When Moshe Rabbeinu looks at the finished results, the Torah refers to it as melachah. While, on the surface, melachah and avodah are synonyms, a marked difference exists between them. Horav Avigdor HaLevi Nebentzhal, Shlita, explains that the word melachah has a close tie with melech, king, royalty. Avodah, on the other hand, is derived from eved, slave – clearly a salient difference. The fact that avodah, labor/work is connected to eved, slave, is quite understandable. A…

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והלבשת את אהרן את בגדי הקדש ומשחת אתו... ומשחת אתם כאשר משחת את אביהם

You shall dress Aharon in the sacred vestments and anoint him… You shall anoint them as you anointed their father. (40:13,14)

Was something unique about the process of Aharon HaKohen’s anointing that compelled the Torah to emphasize “as you anointed their father”? The meshichah, anointing, was the same for the Kohen Gadol, High Priest (Aharon HaKohen), as it was for the Kohen Hedyot, common Kohen (Aharon’s sons). What might have catalyzed changing the process of the anointing? In his Meshech Chochmah, Horav Meir Simchah, zl (Dvinsk), offers a novel insight. When Moshe Rabbeinu anointed his brother, Aharon, as Kohen Gadol, he felt no jealousy. After all, Moshe was undeniably the Navi, Prophet, manhig, leader, Melech, king, Kohen Gadol, High Priest. (He…

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ששת ימים תעשה מלאכה וביום השביעי יהיה לכם קדש

On six days work may be done, but the seventh day shall be holy for you. (35:2)

Rashi teaches that, in the text, the mitzvah of shemiras Shabbos precedes the building of the Mishkan to warn us that shemiras Shabbos overrides the building of the Mishkan. Interestingly, in Parashas Ki Sisa (preceding the creation of the molten Gold Calf), the Torah introduces the mitzvah of building the Mishkan prior to mentioning the injunction concerning Shabbos. The Chidushei HaRim explains that, prior to the sin of the Golden Calf, the six weekday/workdays prepared for Shabbos Kodesh. (Shabbos was the focal point of the week, with each day bringing one closer to the ultimate goal of Shabbos Kodesh.) After…

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ראו קרא ד' בשם בצלאל בן אורי בן חור

See, Hashem has called by name Betzalel, son of Uri, son of Chur. (35:30)

The Torah mentions Chur twice (other than the three places that he is listed as Betzalel’s grandfather). Who was Chur, and how important was he as a member of Klal Yisrael’s spiritual leadership? The first time that Chur is mentioned concerns the war against Amalek. This despicable nation ignored Klal Yisrael’s special status as Hashem’s chosen people and attacked them shortly after their liberation from Egyptian slavery. Moshe Rabbeinu sent Yehoshua to lead the Jewish men in battle against Amalek. Our leader stood and prayed with his hands spread out. As long as Moshe’s hands remained straight (out), Yehoshua prevailed….

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ויאמר משה אל בני ישראל ראו קרא ד' בשם בצלאל בן אורי... וימלא אותו רוח אלקים בחכמה בתבונה ובדעת... ולחשוב מחשבות... ולהורות נתן בלבו

Moshe said to Bnei Yisrael, “See, Hashem has proclaimed by name, Betzalel son of Uri… He filled him with G-dly spirit, with wisdom, insight and knowledge… To weave designs… He gave him the ability to teach.” (35:30,31,32,33,34)

Betzalel was filled with a G-dly spirit, with various forms of wisdom and understanding. The Torah goes on to state v’lachashov machashavos, which is translated as the ability to put his extraordinary wisdom to practical use. Furthermore, he was granted the ability to teach. Is it not all part of the “wisdom package”? If one is Heavenly endowed with uncanny wisdom and ability, what is added by his ability to weave designs and mentor others? Targum Onkelos defines v’lachashov machshavos as u’lalfa u’manin, to train others in how to carry out the tasks of working with the gold and silver….

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לך רד כי שחת עמך... סרו מהר מן הדרך אשר צויתם עשו להם עגל מסכה

Go, descend – for your people has become corrupt… they have strayed quickly from the way that I have commanded them. They have made themselves a molten calf. (32:7,8)

Hashem ordered Moshe Rabbeinu to return to his people. They were no longer worthy of his leadership. They had quickly strayed – they had made a molten idol. Upon reading the text, the first question that emerges is: Was this a digression in which they first strayed, and their turning away from Hashem ultimately led to the nadir of idol worship? Or, is it all one sin, in which the people strayed by creating and worshipping the idol? Let us return to the text: when Hashem informs Moshe that his people have strayed quickly. Does it really make a difference…

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ויאספו אליו כל בני לוי

And all Bnei Levi gathered around him. (32:26)

Moshe Rabbeinu issued a call to arms, and Shevet Levi, the tribe which stood strong, defying the rabble-rousers who created the Golden Calf, came forward in his support. What happened to the rest of the nation? In total, only three thousand men worshipped the molten idol. Where was everyone else? Did they not hear Moshe call out Mi l’Hashem eilai, “Whoever is for Hashem, join me!”? Horav Leib Chasman, zl, explains that, while one may not agree with the rebellion against Hashem and not support them in any way, he still may not be ready to take a stand against…

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ויחר אף משה וישלך מידיו את הלוחות וישבר אותם תחת ההר

Moshe’s anger flared up. He threw down the Tablets from his hands and shattered them at the foot of the mountain. (32:19)

To break something which Hashem made is an act that transcends. Unquestionably, for someone of Moshe Rabbeinu’s stature to make such a move requires remarkable insight into what he was about to do. This was not a simple decision. Indeed, the fact that Hashem agreed with Moshe is in and of itself an indication that Moshe did not act out of anger, but rather, because he felt that it was the correct and proper thing to do. The commentators endeavor to provide a rationale to come to grips with this decision. Horav Shimon Shkop, zl, offers a novel explanation. He…

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