Sunday, February 23, 2014

Pekudei & Shekalim 5774

The Torah Portion of "Pekudei - Shekalim"  

The Torah Portion of Pekudei 

"These are the accountings of the Mishkan...which were counted at the word of Moshe."  (Shemot 38:21)

The Holy Zohar asks, isn't it so that the blessing is not to be found except in something which is hidden from the eye, so why did they count all the silver?  And the answer is that regarding the silver which was counted by Moshe Rabbeinu, that the blessing rests upon it even if it is counted and not hidden from the eye.  And that is the explanation of the verse "these are the accountings of the Mishkan...which were counted at the word of Moshe" --  because they were counted by Moshe there was no damage or lack caused by the counting of the sum of the donations for the Mishkan, and on the contrary because of the power of Moshe's greatness and righteousness, there was no reason to prevent the blessing.

"...a hundred sockets (in Hebrew: "Adanim") for a hundred kikar..."  (Shemot 38:27)

The Baal HaTurim wrote that in parallel to the hundred sockets they established to say a hundred blessings every day.  And the Chidushei HaRim says that just as the sockets are the basis of the Mishkan, so also the blessings are the basis of the holiness of every man of Israel, and by means of the blessings he testifies that Hashem, may He be blessed, is the Master of all of Creation.    The Kli Yakar says that a Socket (in Hebrew: Aden) is from the same root as Master  (in Hebrew: Adon), and he says that someone holds himself to be lowly like a Socket, is a  Master, and as in the language of the Zohar, someone who regards himself as lowly, is great.

"...and Moshe blessed them." (Shemot 39:43)

Rashi states that Moshe said to them "May it be Hashem's will that the Shechina (the Divine Presence) should dwell within the work of your hands".  And the explanation of this is, that in all the activities that a person is occupied with, also in matters of physicality and earning a livelihood, it needs to be recognizable within that activity that he is serving the Creator and that the Shechina is present.  And that is the meaning of saying that "the Shechina should dwell within the work of your hands."

" Hashem had commanded Moshe."  (Shemot 40:19 and other places)

There are 18 times in this Torah Portion that it is mentioned "as Hashem had commanded Moshe", and it is brought in the Talmud Yerushalmi that in parallel to this there were 18 blessings established in the Shemoneh Esrei prayer.  And this is also to show us that in every act that a person does, he needs to know if that is in accord with the commandment of Hashem.

We bless "Chazak" at the end of the Torah Portion of Pekudei, which is the end of the book of Shemot.

Parshat Shekalim - The Torah Portion about Shekalim (Shekels)

It is written in the Mishna that on the first of Adar they announce about the Shekalim.  In the time of the Temple it was a Torah Mitzvah that everyone would donate a half shekel to the office of donations in the Temple, in order to purchase with that money all of the public sacrificial offerings.

The Sages established during the time when the Temple existed, that on the Shabbat right before the month of Adar (or on the Shabbat which fell on Rosh Chodesh Adar) they would read Parshat Shekalim, because on Shabbat all the people would gather in the synagogues and study halls.  When they would hear about the obligation to donate the half shekel, they would be reminded and encouraged to fulfill that Mitzvah.  In our times when the Temple doesn't exist, and we don't have the sacrificial altar and sacrifices for our atonement, the Mitzvah of collecting the half shekel cannot be fulfilled.  Nonetheless, we read this portion from the Torah on the Shabbat right before Adar, since "we compensate for the bulls with our lips" (Hoshea 14:3).  May the reading be considered as if we fulfilled the Mitzvah in actuality.

The Sages say that it was revealed and known before the Holy One Blessed Be He that in the future Haman would weigh out Shekalim to the King Ahashvairosh against Israel, and therefore Hashem commanded us to donate Shekalim so that our Shekalim would precede the Shekalim of Haman.

The four Parshiot, special Torah portions which are read  at this time of year before Passover, are: Shekalim (about the shekels), Zachor (about remembering Amalek), Parah (about the red cow) , and Hachodesh (about the month of Nisan).  The names of the four portions give us hints about improving ourselves from an ethical  (Mussar) point of view.  1.  Shekalim - one needs to weigh his deeds  (since the word for weighing has the same Hebrew root letters as Shekalim). 2. Zachor - one needs to remember Hashem (since the Hebrew word Zachor refers to remembering).  3. Para - one needs to purify himself (since the Parah Adumah, the red cow, was used for purification).  4. Hachodesh - one needs to renew himself (since the word for renewal has the same Hebrew root letters as Hachodesh, the month). 

It's written in the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, that when Rosh Chodesh occurs on Motzei Shabbat (the night after Shabbat is over), that during Seudah Shlishit (the Third Meal on Shabbat), one should prevent himself from eating a Kzayit (olive-size portion) of bread at night, in order to avoid  the situation of not knowing whether to mention Shabbat and/or Rosh Chodesh in Birkat HaMazon (the Grace after Meals).  [The Halachic authorities are divided in their opinions about what  to do if one begins the meal while it is still during the daytime on Shabbat and finishes the meal only at nighttime.  According the Ba"Ch and those who follow his opinion, one should only mention Shabbat in the Birkat HaMazon.  According the the M"A and those who follow his opinion, one should only mention Rosh Chodesh.  According to the Ta"z and those who follow his opinion, one should mention both Shabbat and Rosh Chodesh.  And the C"HaCh wrote that one should not mention either of them, because since there is a disgreement, and if one leaves out mentioning Shabbat and Rosh Chodesh it doesn't invalidate the Birkat Hamazon at Seudah Shlishit, and there is a doubt about whether one ought to mention Shabbat and/or Rosh Chodesh, his ruling is that it is preferable to not mention either of them.]

The Torah Portion of "Pekudai" has 92 verses. There are 4 positive commandments and 5 negative commandments.

This Shabbat we bless the coming of the new month of Adar Beit. Rosh Chodesh Adar Beit is on Yom Rishon and Yom Shaini (Monday and Tuesday).  The Molad is on Yom Shabbat Kodesh at the hour 3:10 with 8 Chalakim.

TwoTorah Scrolls are taken out:1) for the weekly Torah portion2) for the Maftir of Parshat Shekalim, from the beginning of the Torah Portion of Ki Tisa until "al Nafshoteichem" The Haftorah is "Ben Sheva Shanim" (Malachim Beit 12)

We say Borchi Nafshi.

"M'shenichnas Adar Marbim B'Simcha"
"When Adar begins Happiness Increases"

May you have a light-filled and happy Shabbat.
Shabbat Shalom.

L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben R' Chaim ztz"l, Nilkach L'Bait Olamo Yud Gimmel Tishrei 5772

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