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Parshas Pekudei: Guaranteed -100% Right?!

Parshas Pekudei

Guaranteed -100% Right?!


“These are the records of the Tabernacle, the Tabernacle of Testimony, which were reckoned at Moshe’s bidding….” (Shmos 38:21)

I vaguely recall a story of a king who wanted to have a beautiful suit of clothes made by an expert tailor. Besides his own, personal tailor, who was Jewish, the King assembled all the expert tailors in his kingdom. The tailors worked hard and produced many fine suits. The suit made by the Jewish tailor was by-far, the most magnificent. Part of the suit was even sewn with gold threads. The other tailors were jealous of the Jewish tailor. Someone whispered in the king’s ear that the Jewish tailor had stolen, keeping some of the expensive materials that he had been given to make the suit. The king pronounced the death sentence on the Jewish tailor. The Jewish tailor told the king that he had worked for him for many years and would never dishonor the king by stealing from him. The Jewish tailor then took out a pair of scissors and thread by thread, began taking apart the beautiful suit he had made for the king. When the garment was totally taken apart, the Jewish tailor was able to prove that all the materials that he was given had been used for the king’s suit. He had taken nothing for himself.

The Mishna (Meseches Shekalim 3:2) says that the Jewish People gave half-shekalim (silver coins) which were collected and placed in chests in one of the chambers of the Beis Hamikdash. That money was taken out 3 times a year to pay for communal offerings. The one who withdrew the money from the chest was not permitted to enter the treasury chamber wearing a hemmed cloak, shoes, or sandals, tefillin or an amulet. Why?  So that people should not suspect him of thievery. If he would become poor, some people might say that he became poor as a punishment for stealing some of the silver. Conversely, if he would become rich, some people might say that he became rich from the silver that he stole.  Interestingly, the concern was not that the one taking out the money would be dishonest. The concern was lest some people might say that he was dishonest. The Mishna finishes with an important moral note, “It is one’s duty to be free of blame before man, as before Hashem.” A person must carefully guard his reputation, even if in his heart he knows that he is not sinning. It is not enough to just be honest. One’s honesty must be visible to all!

The Parsha begins by giving a detailed reckoning of the amounts of the silver and copper that were donated to the Mishkan (Tabernacle), as well as what they were used for. The Kli Yakar says that Moshe quickly gave an accounting as soon as all the work was completed with the silver and copper. Moshe did so to remove himself from any possible suspicion that he had kept some of the money for himself. The half-shekalim of silver that were collected totaled 301,775 shekalim. Three thousand shekalim were used for each of the 100 adanim, the sockets that supported the upright beams of the Mishkan. The Midrash Rabba (Shmos 51:6) says that Moshe momentarily forgot what the extra 1,775 shekalim had been used for. The Da’as Zekainim says that some of the people suspected that Moshe had kept the extra silver for his own personal use. Suddenly, Hashem’s voice was heard saying that the extra shekalim had been used to make 15 silver hooks for the hangings around the courtyard of the Mishkan [In our Shacharis prayers, 15 adjectives describing Hashem’s attribute of Truth (emes, veyatziv, …) are recited immediately after the krias shema as a reminder of this]. After the Jewish People heard Hashem testifying upholding Moshe’s honesty, they no longer felt a need to receive an accounting of the gold. That is why Moshe did not eventually give an accounting of the gold later in the Parsha.

The Kli Yakar has a different interpretation, based on the Midrash Rabba (Shmos 51:6) and Midrash Tanchuma (7). Apparently, some of the scoffers suspected Moshe of dishonesty. They said that since Moshe had control over so much gold and silver that had been donated for the Mishkan, he must have taken some for himself. In response to that false accusation, as soon as the work with it was completed, Moshe accounted for how the silver and copper were used.

According to either interpretation, it doesn’t make sense to say that Moshe was not trusted or would have felt the need to prove his honesty. The Ohr HaChaim (Shmos 38:21) says that it was quite inconceivable that a man with whom Hashem spoke frequently could be dishonest. Surely Hashem would not speak with him if he was even slightly dishonest. Furthermore, the Jewish People owed their very lives to Moshe. It was only due to his prayers that the Jews were not killed in punishment for being involved in the sin of the Golden Calf. Through Moshe, Hashem had performed miracles for them in Egypt and at the Red Sea. Moshe led them to freedom. He was sensitive to all their needs, and asked Hashem to provide water and food for them in the desert. He was Hashem’s trustworthy servant and spoke directly to Hashem. His face shone due to his relationship with Hashem. Moshe even ignored the opportunity to become wealthy before leaving Egypt, by asking for riches from the Egyptians. Instead, he busied himself looking for Yosef’s coffin.

Was this a man who couldn’t be trusted? According to the first explanation that Moshe had initiated the count on his own, why had he felt it necessary to do so? According to the second explanation that it was in response to the scoffers, why had Moshe felt the need to respond when his credentials were impeccable?

I recall that my Rosh HaYeshiva, Rabbi Alter Henach Leibowitz zt”l, would always say, “How would your actions be perceived if they were on the cover of the NY Times?” In other words, are your actions so noticeably honest that there is no way that they could be misconstrued to be dishonest. Similarly, Rabbeinu Bachya (Shmos 38:25) says that people must always be on guard. They must conduct themselves in an exemplary fashion. They must not arouse suspicions in their fellowmen of having been guilty of a misdemeanor.

We must be concerned that our actions should not be misconstrued as inappropriate! We must be concerned, even if it would only be scoffers who would look down upon us. We must be concerned even if it would be illogical to misconstrue our actions! Our actions must always be 1,000% “kosher”!

Parshas Ki Sisa: He Will Lend You a Million Dollars for 70 Years!!

Parshas Ki Sisa

He Will Lend You a Million Dollars for 70 Years!!


“When Hashem finished speaking to Moshe on Mount Sinai, Hashem gave Moshe the two Luchos of stone, inscribed by the finger of Hashem.” (Shmos 31:18)

“For the last ten years of his life, Rabbi Shimon Schwab zt”l, was confined to a wheelchair, unable to walk. His grandson asked him why he always smiled and never complained about his circumstance. Rabbi Schwab replied, ‘Imagine that a wealthy man lent you a million dollars and let you keep it to use as you wished for seventy years! After the seventy years, he told you that he wanted one hundred or one thousand dollars back. Would you be angry with him? He gave you the opportunity to use a special gift for so long, he is entitled to take any part of it back whenever he wants. My feet were a gift from Hashem. He has the right to take them back.‘ (Reflections of the Maggid by Rabbi Paysach Krohn)

After speaking with Moshe on Har Sinai, Hashem presented him with the two Luchos which were “inscribed by the finger of Hashem”. Before Moshe descended the mountain to return to the Jewish People, a terrible situation occurred. Through imagery, the Satan had convinced the Jews that Moshe had died. Events moved quickly and culminated with the construction of the Golden Calf. Less than 3,000 of the 600,000 males (from ages 20-26) sinned. The sinners were mainly from the mixed multitude of nations who had joined the Jews leaving Egypt, and not from the Jews themselves. Yet, since the creation and the subsequent serving of this idol were done publicly, and no one protested, all the Jews were considered culpable. At this point, the Torah continues with the narrative of Moshe descending Har Sinai, carrying the Luchos. The Torah describes the Luchos in detail (Shmos 32:15-16). The Luchos were inscribed on both sides. Rashi explains that the words could be seen the same way whether one saw them from the front or from the back. The Ohr HaChaim explains that Hashem Himself had inscribed the Tablets so that the writing could be read from either side, something which would have been impossible if they had been inscribed by human hands. Such writing would appear on the reverse side as if it had been written backwards had it been inscribed on one side by a human scribe.  The Talmud (Megillah 2B- 3A) says that the final letters ס and ם appeared with their respective centers suspended in the air miraculously. The Chizkuni says that the raw material that the Tablets consisted of was of Divine manufacture.”

The Ramban and many other commentaries are bothered by a question. Why was the specific description of the Luchos mentioned at this point and not earlier when Hashem had first presented the Luchos to Moshe?

The Ramban answers, it teaches us that despite the greatness of the Luchos and despite how extraordinary they were, Moshe did not hesitate to break them when he saw that the Jews were sinning. The Tur Ha’aruch (by Rabbi Yaakov ben Asher, also known as Ba’al haTurim) adds that despite the fact that the Luchos were Hashem’s personal handiwork, that did not stop Moshe from smashing them.

Rabbeinu Bachaya asks, how was Moshe permitted to break the Luchos? He should have returned them to Hashem or asked Hashem what to do with them. The Avos D’rav Nosson says that Hashem told Moshe to break them. Rabbeinyu Bachaya answers, when Moshe came in sight of the Golden Calf, the letters on the Luchos flew away. At that point, Moshe realized that the Luchos no longer retained holiness and that he was permitted to break them.

Returning to our initial question of why the description of the Luchos was mentioned at this later point in time, the Ba’alei Bris Avraham (by Rabbi Avraham Azulay, a student of Rabbi Chaim Vital) gives a beautiful answer.  He says that it is to teach us a very important lesson. Human nature is that we don’t appreciate the value of something that we receive without hard work and without paying for it. Once it is gone, THEN we appreciate it. Only when the Luchos were broken, that’s when their full value was recognized. Then, at that point, the Jews recognized the magnitude of losing such a gift made by Hashem’s own hands.

This is a very important lesson for life. We often do not fully appreciate what we have until we lose it.

Often, we don’t fully appreciate our loving and supportive parents until they have passed on.

Do we fully appreciate a good friend before he moves to a different state?

Often, we don’t realize to appreciate Hashem’s gift of health until it is taken away from us.

We must stop, think, and appreciate the loving gifts that Hashem bestows upon us,

as well as the loving people He puts in our lives.