Vayeitzu kol adas Bnei Yisrael mi’lifnei Moshe (Shemos 35:20)
Parashas Vayakhel begins by relating that Moshe gathered together all the Jews to instruct them about observing Shabbos and building the Mishkan. Nineteen verses later, after he concluded his instructions, the Torah relates that the Jews left “from in front of Moshe.” As the Torah doesn’t write an unnecessary letter, why was it necessary to emphasize a fact that should have been obvious, as Moshe gathered them together at the beginning of the parashah and they hadn’t gone anywhere in the interim?
Harav Eliyahu Lopian explains that when encountering a person in the street, it is generally impossible to discern from his appearance and actions where he is coming from. The apparently superfluous wording is coming to indicate that in this case, it was clear to any passerby that the Jews had just left the presence of Moshe.
In what way was this recognizable? Although they had just spent time learning about Shabbos and the Mishkan from Moshe, this factual knowledge wasn’t discernible to the naked eye. Rather, their conduct and interactions with other people were on such a lofty level that it was apparent that they had just been studying Torah.
The Gemara in Yoma (86a) teaches that part of the mitzvah to love Hashem is to cause Hashem to be loved and praised through our actions. The Jews who merited learning Torah directly from the mouth of Moshe reached such levels in sensitivity and caring that anybody who saw them would immediately understand from where it originated and would bless Hashem and His Torah for producing such conduct.
This lesson is illustrated in a story about the Brisker Rav, who was renowned for his diligence and toil in the study of Torah. When his daughter once returned home with an axe that she found, he realized that this was a golden and rare opportunity to fulfill the mitzvah of returning a lost object to its owner. The Brisker Rav recognized that it belonged to a man who lived several miles away on the edge of the forest. He took his daughter and the axe and set out on the long, arduous journey. They finally arrived at the owner’s home and knocked on his door.
The Brisker Rav assumed that the owner would express his gratitude for their efforts and exertion in returning his axe to him, but he was taken by surprise by what happened next. When the man answered his door and realized what had transpired, he was so moved by the Rav’s actions that he literally bowed and prostrated himself on the ground, exclaiming, “Blessed is the Jewish G-d Who has given His people a Torah which causes them to act with such compassion and mercy!”
The message of Parashas Vayakhel is that we should conduct ourselves in a manner which loudly declares that we study the Torah and are elevated by it. The typical person with whom we interact will not be able to discern this from the number of penetrating insights we deliver into the words of the Ketzos or even the weekly Torah portion, but rather through our acts of kindness and exemplary interpersonal conduct, which will sanctify the name of Hashem and His Holy Torah.
Parashah Q & A
Q: Rashi explains (35:2) that the Torah preceded the commandment to keep Shabbos to the requirement to build the Mishkan to teach us that its construction doesn’t take precedence over observing Shabbos, and it may only be built during the six days of the week. If the primary focus of this section is the laws of the Mishkan, why did the Torah repeat the mitzvah of Shabbos at such length to teach this lesson in such a roundabout manner instead of succinctly and directly commanding, “You shall not build the Mishkan on Shabbos”?
Q: The Torah emphasizes (35:21) that the artisans who assisted in the construction of the Mishkan were those whose hearts inspired them. Why was this necessary for their success, and what lesson is it coming to teach us?
A: Harav Dovid Povarsky suggests that had the Torah begun with the laws of the Mishkan and only mentioned the fact that it may not be built on Shabbos at the end, the listener would have briefly thought that the Mishkan may in fact be built on Shabbos until he reached the verse which states otherwise. Even though at that point he would recognize that his assumption was incorrect, every thought leaves an impression, and his temporary view of the lack of severity of working on Shabbos would still leave a psychological impression which could negatively impact his observance of Shabbos in the future.
A: The Ramban explains that due to the enslavement in Egypt, there were no experienced Jewish craftsmen, as they hadn’t been offered the time to learn these skills. Nevertheless, there were Jews who recognized their innate talents and through the inspiration of their hearts volunteered to assist in building the Mishkan, trusting that Hashem would enable them to properly perform His will. Harav Yerucham Levovitz derives from here that in any endeavor for the sake of Hashem, one who becomes inspired and dedicates himself to a project for the purpose of increasing Hashem’s glory, even if he doesn’t possess the talents and skills necessary for the task, will be blessed with Heavenly assistance and success that he never dreamed possible — something to which this author can certainly attest!
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.