12 March 2010

Shabbat Shalom


Jerusalem, Israel
HaRav Yehuda Kreuser SHLIT"A, Rosh Yeshiva

27 Adar 5770/12-13 March 2010
"And every wise-hearted man among you shall come and make all that the L-rd has commanded, the tabernacle, its tent and its cover, its clasp, and its board, its bar, its pillars, the table and its poles, and all its vessels, and the show bread, the candlesticks and its vessels, and its lamp, the altar . . "

Once again the Torah, in the last two parshiot of the book of Exodus, goes over the very detailed laws of the building of the Tabernacle and the making of the Priestly garments. The question that comes to mind is: Why, why would the Torah bother to once again go over all the details of the Tabernacle and garments and repeat who made them, "Bezalel ben Uri ben Chur", when we have just been told that in the past few parshiot? Why does the Torah repeat itself, especially in light of the fact that the Tabernacle, replaced by the Temple in Jerusalem, will never be built and used again?

We find something similar in the book of Genesis, when Abraham sent his servant, the Damascene, Eliezer to find a wife for his son Yitzchak. The Torah relates to us Eliezer's miraculous journey and his self-made test to find a suitable mate for Yitzchak. Then, as if we have never just heard the account, the Torah goes on and re-tells the story again, with all its details. Rashi comments that the acts of the Patriarchs are so dear to G-d that the Torah repeats them, while other principals in the Torah, complex as they may be, are only hinted at in the text.

We must conclude that the repeating of the works of the Tabernacle and the Priestly garments in our parshiot comes to teach us the endearment which the Creator of the world holds for these works. Not only are more than half of the Torah commandments connected directly or indirectly with the Temple service, but we also find that the Mishna teaches us that the world stands on three foundations: Torah study, kindness and the Priestly service.

It comes, then, as no surprise that we find in the books of Ezra and Nechemiah the list of the Jewish people who returned to the Land of Israel at the beginning of the Second Temple period. After being given permission by Koresh, king of Paras, to return and rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem, the texts go on to list the families who came back home. Pathetically, they numbered only a faction of the entire population, most of who preferred to remain in the exiles. Interestingly, though, the text lists the names of each family that returned and their possessions: "Their horses were seven hundred and thirty six, their mules two hundred and forty five, their camels four hundred and thirty five . . . " (Ezra 2/66). Now, do we really care how many horses or camels they had, that it got listed in the Bible for all eternity??? The equivalent of this would be to list today the Cohen family, who came back to Israel from Baltimore, Maryland with their Chevrolet, does anyone care what car they brought with them when they made aliya? Doesn't seem to make much sense. Rather, once again we see how dear the returnees were to Hashem, that each individual family is listed with their possessions, for all eternity.

Even more astounding is the fact that these very same families that returned in Ezra's time were not really the cream of the crop, to say the least. The people who came from "Tel Melach" were called so because their deeds were like the deeds of the people of Sodom, hence the word "melach", which means salt. "Tel Charsha", which means "deaf", were called so because the people from that city were like deaf people who did not know who their father or mother were. There were Cana'anite slaves, mamzerim, priests who were unfit to work in the Temple service, and a great many who had married foreign wives. Still, the book of Ezra calls them "Cherub", which was the holy angel-like figure over the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies. The Talmud explains that in spite of the fact that these returnees were not very righteous, they were regarded before Hashem like the holy "Cherubim". Why? How is that possible? Because they returned to the Land of Israel and helped in the rebuilding of the Temple - they were cherished by G-d!

Well, you ask, what about all the others who stayed in Babylon and the other exiles, all those "righteous Jews"- like today, those who do not return to take part in the Redemption process have absolutely no part in it. All those who stayed were lost to the Jewish people within a few generations.

People, wake up! The Torah in our parsha repeats the all-important work of the Temple service to teach us just how important it is before He who Created this world. And Ezra lists the returnees to the Land in spiteof their debased deeds, because they are precious before Hashem. Want to be loved by Hashem? All it takes today is to get on that plane and come home.

Levi Chazen

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