Parhsat Vayakhel seemingly repeats things which were said in the previous Parshah. Yet, our Sages of blessed memory learnt many things in this Parshah about the soul of man, and of societies which we can take with us into our daily lives.
The Talmud Yerushalmi says in the Tractate of Shekalim (Ch.1 H.1) “Rabbi Yehudah ben Pazi said in the name of Rebbe: How can we read this and not be frightened? When for good-“everyone whose heart motivates him” (כל נדיב ליבו), when for bad-“The entire people removed the gold rings that were in their ears” (ויתפרקו כל העם את נזמי הזהב). When for good-“And Moses brought the people forth” (ויוצא משה את העם), when for bad- “all of you approached me and said, “Let us send men ahead of us and let them spy out the land” (ותקרבון אלי כולכם). When for good-“And then Moses and the Children of Israel sang” (אז ישיר משה ובנ”י), when for bad- “The entire assembly raised up and issued its voice” (ותשא כל העדה ויתנו את קולם ויבכו העם בלילה ההוא)”
Reading these verses causes us fear. When the Jewish People are asked to do things for good causes, such as the Mishkan, those “whose hearts motivates him” brought, but apparently not everybody did. Yet, when it comes to do things for bad causes, such as the golden calf, “The entre people removed the gold rings”.
We find this phenomenon is our lives as well. In lowly matters such as watching TV, everybody seems to watch, from professors in universities to those in the lowest positions. Moreover, the professors aren’t ashamed that they watch the same things which even not sophisticated people watch. Yet, when it comes to good things, such as Torah learning, only few learn. Once I heard an important rabbi complain that for an average singer you can get 100,000 people come to the Yarkon Park to listen to the concert, and all of Tel-Aviv will be filled with traffic jams. Yet, to my shiurim on Moreh Nevuchim only 4 people show up. That’s how it is, from the days of the Mishkan till our own. Additionally, everybody has a smartphone, and some people spend hundreds of dollars on them. Yet, for a filter which costs thirty dollars that’s only for “those whose heart motivates him”. This is what the Yerushalmi means, how will we not become frightened. How can the world maintain itself when bad things attract everybody, and the good only manages to attract a few?
Yet, after we become frightened we are able to think to the depth of the matter. What is common to all human beings is what the Kabbalists refer to as their animalistic soul (נפש הבהמית). The evil inclination is connected to our physical nature, and we are all made up of physicality. We are born with a body which needs to be fed, and we feed it. As we age, our physical body demands more things and we give it what it needs. Our good inclination, Yetzer HaTov, only comes in later, and the things it requires our physical body does not demand. We falsely believe that we can live without praying and without learning Torah. Hence, only those whose hearts motivate them give space for the yetzer hatov in their lives.
However, this is not healthy. At least those who merited at some points to be among those who sit in a Beit Midrash and listen to shiurei Torah need to be connected to the Holy and not just the mundane. We need to give space in our lives to the things which are above the physical desires. To things which require concentration and focus and which make up the very foundation of our nation’s existence.
Let us focus on two drashot about the Mishkan. The Tanchuma in Ki Tisa (13) states:
“Rabbi Chanina ben Pazi says: There is no one greater among the tribes than the tribe of Yehudah, and no one lower than the tribe of Dan, who is descended from the concubines…The Holy One Blessed Be He said: Let Yehudah be matched with Dan so that his spirit shall not be haughty, for the great and the lowly are equal before the Holy One Blessed Be He. Says Rabbi Chanina: Never should a person be haughty as the Mishkan was made by these two tribes.”
For the building of the Mishkan the Torah matched two people, the first, from the highest of places, the tribe of Yehudah, the tribe of the monarchy. The second person came from the lowest of the tribes, the tribe of Dan, yet the Torah states regarding both of them: (Shemot 35; 30-35)
“And Moshe said to the Children of Israel, “See, Hashem has proclaimed by name, Betzalel son of Uri son of Hur of the tribe of Judah. He filled him with Godly spirit, with wisdom, insight and knowledge and with every craft…and Ohilav son of Achismach of the tribe of Dan. He filled them with a wise heart to do every craft ect…”
Thus, both of them build the Mishkan, and to both God gives “a wise heart” (חכמת לב). This teaches us a great lesson in life; a person should never be haughty. Furthermore, this midrash teaches us how to interact with the general public. In the world of yeshivot it teaches us what the requirements are to accepting new students. The Torah does not allow the tribe of Yehudah to be on its own, it demands it to be matched with the tribe of Dan, the lowest of the tribes, so that the tribe of Yehudah shouldn’t become arrogant. Thus creating yeshivot for only the best students is a recipe for disaster. True, the students might end up knowing a lot of Gemara, but they will become arrogant and immoral. The Torah wished to teach us ethical behavior, and one who is arrogant doesn’t know anything at all.
Moreover, the Divine Presence does not rest on Israel unless there is a connection between the brightest and the lowest, a connection which is meant to enrich Israel with humility and fraternity. Hence, the Zohar states (Pinchas 3, 237) that in the beginning God wanted everyone to be included in the building of the Mishka, including the Erev Rav as it states “From every person whose heart motivates him”- even the Erev Rav”. Yet the mixing of Israel with the Erev Rav is what brings to the sin of the Golden Calf, and in our Parshah God commands to gather only “the congregation of the Children of Israel” (עדת בנ”י), without the Erev Rav. Therefore, we see that with regards to the Children of Israel we need everyone; from Yehudah to Dan, but whoever is not part of the Jewish People cannot partake in the Mishkan. This shows us that there are also limits to inclusion.
In our times anyone who wishes to be filled with the “spirit of wisdom” (רוח חכמה) is able to, if he wills it. Ahliav came from the tribe of Dan, a lowly place, yet he wished to be filled with holiness and God gave him the “spirit of wisdom” to help build the Mishkan. Yet without will or desire, one cannot become close to God. The Erev Rav did not wish to become close to God, they only desired power and strength and were therefore ultimately excluded from the Mishkan.
It should be clear that I am not trying to find out who among us is an Erev Rav, God Forbid. Rather, my message is that we need to learn the words of the Sages and use them as a guide in our own lives. What we need to understand is the power of will. When there is will, then one is able to learn Torah and become a partner with God in fixing this world. This must be done without haughtiness, which ultimately leads to heresy, but with humility, which leads to the resting of the Divine Presence. Therefore, we must give everyone a place in our communities and schools, without leaving any Jew behind. Parallel to this we must beware not to permit any evil inside our communities, and our homes. Through this, God Willing, will merit building a true Mishkan for the Torah in our times.
Rabbi Yehoshua Weitzman
, born 1949 in Tel-Aviv
, is the Rosh HaYeshiva of Yeshivat Hesder Maalot. He studied at Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavneh
and is a student of RabbiShlomo Goren
zt”l and Rabbi Sha’ar Yeshuv Cohen
When in 1989 Yeshivat Ma’alot
was about to close down due to lack of students, Rabbi Weitzman was appointed Rosh Yeshiva. Since his appointment, Yeshivat Ma’alot has grown into one of the largest Hesder Yeshivot with over 300 students. Rabbi Weitzman’s hashkafah is deeply based in Torat Eretz Yisrael
, the belief that the uniqueness of Torah is internally connected to the Land of Israel.
During the Second Intifada, Rabbi Weitzman coined the phrase “The eternal nation is not afraid from a long journey” (עם הנצח לא מפחד מדרך ארוכה) based of the teachings of Rav Kook. The phrase has since become the motto of the Settlements of Judea and Samaria, especially after the expulsion of Jews from Gush Katif in 2005.
Translated by Nimrod Soll