The Torah Portion of "Vayakheil Pekudei - Para"
Excerpted and Translated from the the Teachings of Rabbi Gershon Steinberg ztz"l
L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben Chaim ztz"l
"And Moshe assembled..." (Shemot 35:1)
Rashi says that this occurred on the day after Yom Kippur. It is customary for people to appease their friends on the day before Yom Kippur, but also on the day after Yom Kippur we should take care to continue to assemble together and to live in peace and brotherhood. And that was the intention of what Rashi says "And Moshe assembled - on the day after Yom Kippur".
"You shall not light fire in any of your dwellings on the day of Shabbat" (Shemot 35:3)
It is brought in the holy books that even though the fire of Gehinnom is extinguished on Shabbat, for someone who desecrates Shabbat the fires of Gehinnom are kindled especially for him to punish him. And this is what the Torah is warning us, that one should be careful not to desecrate Shabbat since that would cause the fires of Gehinnom to be lit up for him. Also, the Sages said that the sin of desecrating Shabbat causes fires, G-d forbid. And this is what the Torah is hinting to us, that you shouldn't cause fires to flare up in your dwelling places, because of desecration of Shabbat, G-d forbid. Similarly, if we are careful not to desecrate Shabbat, then as a result there will not be any fires in our houses. In addition, it is hinted in the holy books, that on the holy Sabbath, one needs to be especially careful to prevent the kindling of the fire of divisive argumentation (Machloket). On Shabbat people are present in the Bait Knesset and are not busy with their weekday work, so the evil inclination finds an opportunity precisely on this holy day to incite people to have disagreements and arguments. And that is why the Torah says "You shall not light fire...on the day of Shabbat".
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."
"...as 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.
THE TORAH PORTION OF PARA
The reason for the reading of the Torah Portion of Para (the Red Heifer) is that at the time when the Temple existed and they could sacrifice the Passover offering, someone who was impure because of contact with a dead person was not able to bring the offering unless he became purified beforehand by means of the ashes of the red heifer. It was necessary to remind and announce to everyone who had become impure from contact with a dead person to purify himself from that impurity, so that he could bring the Passover offering at the right time.
Therefore they began early to encourage people about it before the month of Nissan, so that those who lived far away from Jerusalem would already start to leave their cities on Rosh Chodesh Nissan in order to go up to Jerusalem, and while the people were still at home in their cities, they would remind them that if someone had become impure from contact with a dead person, he first needed to purify himself. And even though, in our many sins, the Temple has been destroyed and we don't have the bringing of the Passover offering and don't have impurity from a dead person which we need to be purified from beforehand, in any event we learn about these commandments and laws and pray before Hashem, may His name be blessed, that also upon us will be cast the purifying waters, in the near future. And by means of learning these laws may it be considered as if we have purified ourselves from our impurity.
There are those that say that also the reading of the Torah Portion of Para is a Mitzvah D'Oraita (a commandment from the Torah), but the opinion of most of the Halachic authorities is that this reading is a Mitzvah D'Rabanan (a commandment from the Rabbis). In the Sefer Aruch HaShulchan, and in the Sefer Dovev Meisharim, there are sources brought about this. And it is written in the Mishna Brura (Section 685, small section 15) that even for a Mitzvah D'Rabanan (a commandment from the Rabbis), it is also necessary to have intention to fulfill the Mitzvah.
"...And they shall take to you..." (Bamidbar 19:2)
The Holy One Blessed Be He said to Moshe that only "to you" I am revealing the reason for the Para Adumah (Red Heifer), and not to anyone else. And even Shlomo HaMelech that Scriptures says about him that he was wiser than all the people, and he was expert in all kinds of wisdom, did not grasp the secret of the Para Adumah, and that is why he said: "I said that I would become wise, but it is distant from me" (Kohelet Chapter 7). That is to say, I though in my heart that I would become wise and succeed to understand the secret of the Para Adumah, and behold, it is distant from me. The words "it is distant" in Hebrew have the same Gematria (numerical value) as "Para Adumah".
The Torah Portion of "Vayakheil" has 122 verses. It has one negative commandment.The Torah Portion of "Pekudei" has 92 verses. There are 4 positive commandments and 5 negative commandments.Two Torah Scrolls are taken out: 1) for the weekly Torah portion and 2) for the Torah portion of Para, from the beginning of the Torah Portion of Chukat until the words "ad haerev" (in English: until the evening).The Haftorah is "Vayehi Devar Hashem" (Yechezkel 36)
We say Borchi Nafshi
May you have a light-filled and happy Shabbat.