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 (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 Harav 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 Harav 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 that they should recognize that their ultimate success would be determined by their willingness to allow the Divine Presence to enter the beautiful edifice that they were about to assemble.
Parashah Q & A
Q: There are 39 creative labors that are forbidden to do on Shabbos. Why does the Torah emphasize (35:3) the prohibition against kindling a fire more than the other 38 labors?
Q: Why throughout Parashas Pekudei does the Torah repeatedly emphasize that each of the garments of the kohanim was made “just as Hashem commanded Moshe,” yet no such mention is made in Parashas Vayakhel about the construction of the vessels for the Mishkan?
A: Harav Yonasan Eibeshutz notes that the Midrash teaches that fire didn’t exist during the six days of Creation. It was initially produced on the night following the first Shabbos. If so, this wasn’t one of the activities from which Hashem “rested” on the first Shabbos. Since the concept of Shabbos is to emulate Hashem’s resting from creative work at the end of the week of Creation, a person might erroneously think that it is permitted to kindle a fire. For this reason, the Torah singles it out to stress its prohibition.
A: The Meshech Chochmah answers that the garments worn by the kohanim contained shatnez. Because other prophets would not be permitted to permanently uproot the prohibition against wearing shatnez, the Torah stresses that these garments were made according to Moshe’s instructions and were therefore permitted. Alternatively, the Gemara in Menachos (28b) rules that it is forbidden to make an exact copy of the Mishkan or its vessels. No such prohibition exists regarding duplicating the garments of the kohanim. Because it would have been prohibited to make the vessels for personal use, there was therefore no need to emphasize that the vessels were made according to Moshe’s command and for the sake of the mitzvah. The garments for the kohanim, on the other hand, could have been made for individual use, and the Torah therefore stresses that each of them was made purely for the sake of the mitzvah.
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.