B’Ezras Hashem

Va’yevarech osam Moshe (Shemos 39:43)

After all the requisite components of the Mishkan had finally been built and were ready to be assembled, they were brought to Moshe for inspection. After determining that everything had been done precisely as Hashem had commanded, the Torah records that Moshe blessed the people, but omits the content of his blessing. Rashi elucidates that Moshe blessed the people that the Divine Presence should rest upon their work. Although this is a meaningful blessing, it seems completely unnecessary. Hadn’t Hashem already promised the Jewish people (Shemos 25:8) that if they built the Mishkan according to His instructions, He would dwell within? Was Moshe simply blessing the people that Hashem should keep His word to them?

The lesson of the following story will help us appreciate the profound depth of Moshe’s true blessing.

A businessman once approached Harav Yehudah Assad for advice about a potential venture. He explained that an abandoned lot was for sale for a good price, and he was confident that with his entrepreneurial skills and hard work, he would be able to build a business there which would be very successful. After listening to the details of the proposal, the Rav advised him not to proceed.

A short while later, a second man came to Rav Assad to inquire about purchasing the identical piece of property. In presenting his case for wanting to do so, the man explained that he was optimistic that with a lot of effort and Heavenly assistance, he would make a nice profit from the project. After listening to the man’s reasoning, the Rav agreed that the opportunity was a good one and encouraged him to pursue it.

When the original businessman heard that somebody else had purchased the property with the support of the Rav, he was quite upset and approached Rav Assad to demand an explanation for his seemingly contradictory advice. The Rav explained that as he listened to each of the two men explain their rationales for wanting to buy the lot, there was one critical difference between them.

The first man had assumed that he would be successful solely due to his talents and hard work, a formula that the Rav recognized was doomed to failure, so he advised against going ahead with the deal. The second advice-seeker, on the other hand, had said that he was hopeful that his efforts combined with Hashem’s help would enable him to make a profit. When the Rav heard him include Hashem in his calculations, he saw the potential for success and recommended that the man proceed with his plan.

In light of this story, Harav Mordechai Kamenetzky suggests that when the Jewish people brought the parts of the Mishkan to Moshe for assembly, he became concerned. For the first time since the Exodus from Egypt, they had undertaken a project which required tremendous artistry and craftsmanship. There was a danger that the people would fall prey to the temptation to arrogantly take credit for their creation. Although Hashem had promised to dwell in the assembled Mishkan, Moshe was worried that, just like the first businessman, the people might be so focused on their own sense of achievement that they might not be interested in partnering with Hashem. Therefore, Moshe blessed them that they should never forget that everything they had accomplished was only because of Hashem’s assistance, and they should recognize that their ultimate success would be determined by their willingness to allow the Divine Presence to enter the beautiful edifice they were about to assemble.

Q: The Midrash teaches (Tanchuma 7) that Moshe made an accounting for the use of the materials that were donated for the Mishkan because some Jews questioned where all of their donations had gone and whether Moshe had kept any of them for himself. Why didn’t they similarly demand an accounting from Aharon, who collected a large amount of gold from them and managed to produce from it only one small golden calf?

Q: In reference to the making of the Tzitz (head-plate) of the Kohen Gadol, the Torah states (39:30) that “they wrote on it ‘Holy to Hashem.’” Why was it necessary for multiple people to inscribe a mere two words on the Tzitz?

A: Harav Meir Shapiro cynically suggests that human nature is such that only when people donate funds for charitable and mitzvah purposes do they suspect the agents and demand an accounting. Harav Zalman Sorotzkin, however, casts this phenomenon in a more positive light by explaining that the core inner desire of a Jew is always to do Hashem’s will. When he donates toward lofty causes such as the Mishkan, he wants every penny of his contribution to be used for its purpose, and he therefore demands an accounting to assure himself that this was the case. When his evil inclination tricks him into donating toward less-than-kosher causes, such as the golden calf, his inner self mourns his error and doesn’t demand proof about the use of his money. In fact, he secretly hopes that the collectors pocket part of his donation, as this will diminish the magnitude of his sin.

A: The Moshav Zekeinim explains that because one of the words written on the Tzitz was Hashem’s Holy Name, it had to be written in the presence of a minyan of 10 men. They add that this requirement was not limited to the Tzitz, but every time a scribe writes Hashem’s name when he is writing tefillin, mezuzos, or a sefer Torah, he must first immerse in a mikveh and then write Hashem’s Name in the presence of a minyan. However, Harav Moshe Sternbuch notes that this opinion is quite original and is not quoted by other sources or legal authorities.


Originally from Kansas City, Rabbi Ozer Alport graduated from Harvard, learned in Mir Yerushalayim for five years, and now lives in Brooklyn, where he learns in Yeshivas Beis Yosef, is the author of the recently-published sefer Parsha Potpourri, and gives weekly shiurim. To send comments to the author or to receive his Divrei Torah weekly, please email oalport@Hamodia.com.