Friday, March 12, 2010

PARSHA - Vayakhel/Pekudei

In the previous Torah portions of Teruma and Tetzaveh, G-d commanded Moses to build the Mishkan (Sanctuary) and make all its vessels. This week, in Vayakel and Pekudei, G-d's command is transmitted to the Jewish people and carried out in full.

Without exception, everyone participated in the building of the Sanctuary. Jews from all walks of life, men and women, rich and poor, all contributed as much as they were able.

Their contributions, however, were not equal in value. As no specific amount was required, some donated less and some donated more, there were contributions of gold and silver and contributions of oil and wood.

Yet, significantly, the type of contribution a Jew offered had nothing to do with his connection to the Sanctuary. Every Jew was connected to the Sanctuary to the same degree.

Although the individual contributions may have varied, the intention behind the offering was always the same. All Jews wanted to build a House for G-d; all Jews therefore shared an equal portion in its construction. It makes no difference whether one is rich or poor. The only qualifier is that the Jew's heart be directed toward heaven!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

PARSHA - Vayakhel/Pekudei (Shabbos imp.)

This week, we read two Parshiot: Vayakhel and Pekudei. They both describe in detail the building of the Sanctuary, the portable Temple which was to become the home for G-d's Presence to dwell amongst the Jewish people. At the very beginning of Vayakhel (the first of the two), it tells us that Moses gathered together the whole nation to announce the importance of observing the Shabbat. Why was this necessary?

One answer is, the enthusiasm and generosity displayed by everyone in the task of building the Sanctuary was remarkable. One might expect that such crucial work as building G-d's house might override the laws of Shabbat. Moses called this general gathering in order to emphasize and help us understand the nature of Shabbat. The message was: Nothing, except a matter of life and death, is more important than the observance of the Shabbat.

The Torah tells us not to work on Shabbat. But how do you define 'work'?

Our Sages explain that the kind of work we are forbidden to do on Shabbat is precisely the kind of activity which went into making the Sanctuary. They define thirty nine categories of work. Based on this system, one is able to analyze all of our daily activities, including those which depend on modern technology, and define which kinds of activity are forbidden and which are permitted on Shabbat.

The daily work of the Jewish people then, was to build a Sanctuary. In a sense, our work too during the six days of the week, taken on its highest level, is for the same purpose: to reveal the Presence of G-d. But on Shabbat, in a remarkable way, the Sanctuary is complete. For this reason, no further work is necessary.

On Shabbat, there is an atmosphere of peace and tranquility that descends onto our home. It transforms our home into an island of holiness. The special glow from the Shabbat candles, the father making Kiddush over a goblet of wine-what a contrast to the whirlpool of activity in the streets outside.

The Shechina, the Presence of the Divine, is in every Jewish home on Shabbat.
Make her feel welcome.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Simchah (joy) is a bulldozer that can break through barriers; depression, although not reckoned among the 365 negative commandments, leads to the lowest spiritual depths.

In the Chassidic way of life, "Serve G-d with joy!" is the living agenda of a chassid. Imagine two wrestlers. One may be physically stronger than the other, but it is the one with enthusiasm that will win. Similarly in the service of G-d, the "animal soul" is in constant combat with the "G-dly soul," and only with a happy disposition and Heavenly aid will a person overcome his darker nature.

In Tanya, Rabbi Schneur Zalman explains that if a person is saddened by his spiritual state and yearns for a higher plateau, then the bitterness can act as the springboard to renewed vigor in climbing the spiritual ladder. However, if the sadness turns into depression, which is translated into apathy, it stems from the scheming Evil Inclination.

Happiness may be defined as the knowledge that at all times one is doing what G-d wants.

The previous Lubavitcher Rebbe recorded in his memoirs that there once lived a Jew called, 'Reb Yisrael the happy one'. He would always be found jumping for joy, and would oft refrain, "If Reb Yisrael, who's a nobody, can give G-d pleasure by doing a mitzvah, should I not jump and dance with joy?"

His point was simple. In comparison with G-d, we are nothing. Yet G-d has communicated to us that He has pleasure when we observe His commandments. To think that a mortal human flesh and blood can bring joy to Almighty G-d is truly wondrous and certainly the cause for celebration. Reb Yisroel understood the greatness of this opportunity. He understood that we have been endowed with a unique gift- the ability to become attached and bound up with Holiness.

Monday, March 8, 2010


King David (Dovid Hamelech) in Tehillem (Psalms) advises us, "Serve G-d with joy, come before Him with jubilation."

G-d attaches a great deal of importance to joy, as it says in the Talmud "The Divine Presence rests only upon one who performs a mitzva in a joyous spirit." In fact, it is said about the famous Kabalist, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, that he merited Divine inspiration and even got to meet Eliyohu Hanavi (Elijah the Prophet), because he infused his mitzvot with so much joy.

The Tzemach Tzedek (the third Chabad Rebbe) once advised someone who found it difficult to be happy, he told him: "Thought, speech and action are within one's control. A person must guard his thoughts and think only thoughts that bring joy. He should be cautious not to speak about sad or depressing matters. And he should behave as if he were very joyous, even if he doesn't feel especially happy. In the end, he will ultimately be joyous."

It says that Rava would begin his lesson with a humorous remark so that his students would be cheerful and that way more receptive and better able to understand the lesson.