Hallowed Hooks

Naaleh_logo Shiur provided courtesy of Naaleh.com

Adapted by Channie Koplowitz Stein

Over the last few Parshiot, Hashem has given detailed instructions for building the Mishkan, its utensils, and the clothing of the Kohain Gadol. Now, in Parshat Pekudei, the Torah repeats the details of the work and validates that each item was completed exactly as Hashem had instructed Moshe.

While the Torah relates how the gold was used, it does not specify how much gold was used for each part of the project. However, in regard to the silver, the Torah gives a clear accounting of how much was collected through the half shekels of the census and exactly how much silver was used for the sockets that supported the boards and the remaining 1,775 talents of silver that were used to make the hooks for the curtains.

Why does the Torah spend time giving us these specific details? First, it is with these half shekels that we can have an exact calculation of how much was collected. Rabbi Wolfson explains that although Moshe Rabbenu was disinterested in wealth, having busied himself with securing Yosef's coffin when all of Bnei Yisroel was collecting gold and silver from their Egyptian neighbors, there was always the possibility of scoffers who could question anyone's motives. After all, Moshe was indeed rich, wealth he attained when Hashem commanded him to chisel "for himself" the two new tablets/luchot, and to keep for himself the chiseled away pieces of that precious stone. Nevertheless, Moshe wanted his actions to be completely transparent and above any hint of suspicion in this enterprise.

The medrash here fills in a missing part of the narrative. Moshe had accounted for most of the silver as being used for the wall sockets, but he couldn't account for the additional silver until he remembered that he had indeed used it for the hooks.

In an interesting aside, the medrash notes that it was the neshamah of Rabbi Akiva who came to Moshe to remind him of the silver used for the hooks.

Why was it necessary for Moshe to initially forget what the silver was used for? Rabbi Zecharyahu in Emek Haparshah explains that the Torah is teaching us how careful we must be with community funds, to not rely on our memory, but to keep a detailed ledger of all incoming funds and outgoing expenditures. Questions, even without scoffers, may be valid, so it is important to keep a witness to verify the accounting, as Moshe kept Itamar with him to verify his calculations as he reported to the nation.

Th Kli Yakar notes a subtle distinction. For the sockets, the Torah states, "One hundred talents of silver... A hundred sockets for a hundred talents." Then the Torah continues: "And the one thousand and the seven hundred seventy five he made hooks..." The Kli Yakar suggests that when some in Bnei Yisroel were beginning to question Moshe's integrity in regard to these 1,775 talents of silver, a heavenly voice was heard validating the precise use of these questioned talents of silver, referring to them with the definite article, the, not just any silver. Following this heavenly validation, Moshe was no longer required to declare how he had used the donated gold and other materials.

We must be sensitive not only to how we use community funds, but also how we use our own money, for Hashem has given us that money for safekeeping, writes Rabbi Wolbe zt”l. Rabbi Feinstein zt"l, adds that we will need to give an accounting of how we used all the gifts Hashem has given us, our talents and our time in addition to our money. Have we actualized the potential of it all?

Being careful of the possessions of others is a theme that runs from the beginning of Sefer Shemot, when Moshe takes Yitro's sheep to graze away from private property, to this last parshah, when Moshe accounts for every penny of the funds donated for the construction of the Mishkan.

Rabbi Zecharyahu notes that theft does not always involve money. One can be loud and steal someone's sleep; one can disturb the prayer concentration of his fellow congregant; one can come to a wedding, enjoy the food, but make no actual effort to gladden the bride and groom by his presence. Very common is pushing ahead of a line, taking the place of another where others are already waiting patiently.

While Moshe may have encountered scoffers questioning his honesty, Rabbi Kram suggests that even without scoffers, Moshe himself understood the need for full transparency before Hashem and before the eyes of others. He understood that only with a full and open, public accounting could he prevent a desecration of God's name by even the slightest suspicion and appearance of impropriety. As Jews, we are required always to remember that we are in Hashem's army, and required to be totally guilt free both before Him and before Bnei Yisroel.

In fact, Rabbi Kram notes that we derive many laws from this narrative. We are taught how a gabbai is to make change in a tzedakah collection, or how the chairman of a fundraising dinner or food pantry should preferably sell the leftover food to a third party rather to himself and use the money for further tzedakah. All to prevent a semblance of impropriety and to assure others of our complete honesty.

Isn't it ironic, notes Rabbi Chanan in Toras Chesed, that when so much gold was donated for the golden calf, no one questioned where all the gold went, even though the idol was rather small. Yet when it comes to sacred matters, everything comes into question. Therefore, we must be extra vigilant.

Every male from age twenty contributed a half shekel toward the Mishkan. Although the round number of the census is 600,000, there were additional men above this count in the nation. Rabbi Rothberg explains that the half shekels of the 600,000 represent the righteous among Bnei Yisroel, those worthy of being the foundation, forming the sockets for the walls of the Mishkan. But even those who were distant were not totally forgotten, made a contribution to the whole, and helped bring the shechinah down to the Mishkan.

The artisans of the Mishkan were given special insight into how to use the gold and silver donated to the Mishkan. Those who donated with purest of hearts, with a constant sense of Hashem's presence, had their donations used for the holiest utensils, and their half shekels for the support of the Mishkan. But there were those, particularly from the Tribe of Dan, who were outside the camp, for they carried with them Micah's idol, writes Rabbi Wolfson in Feasts of Faith. Since they forgot Hashem, their donations were also "forgotten." Nevertheless, their donations became part of the loops that protruded outside the walls of the Mishkan, for these Jews would be reconnected to God's presence. And the catalyst for their return would be Rabbi Akiva.

Rabbi Wolfson relates a medrash of Moshe's experience on Mount Sinai. He was shown Rabbi Akiva who was expounding on the crowns that appear on some letters of the Torah scroll. Among the letters bearing these crowns are the letters that spell out שטן עז/the strength of Satan. These represent the souls Satan has snatched away from the Jewish people, and we don't feel their absence. That is why Moshe forgot them.

But Rabbi Akiva, himself the descendant of converts, understood that although they may not be included in the collective body of Bnei Yisroel, in the letters of the Torah, they are even higher than the letters—they are the crowns that contain even deeper secrets of sanctity. Like the hooks that extend outside the sanctuary but are still connected, so too are these Jews still connected to the collective and encampment of Jewish souls.

Giving this idea even greater depth, Rabbi Brazile notes that the very word צבר/collective congregation, is an acronym for the three different Jewish persona, the צדיק/completely righteous person, the בינוני/average person, and the רשע/sinner. Although these sinners may not be within the sanctity of the encampment and of the Mishkan, they are nevertheless connected and hooked into the collective nation.

Rabbi Brazile emphasizes this point by noting that the ketores, the incense offering, was a combination of mostly sweet smelling spices, yet among its ingredients was חלבנה/galbanum, an herb with an intense earthy and bitter smell. In spite of this foul smell, if this herb is omitted from the ketores, the entire mixture is invalid.

Rabbi Brazile then uses חלבנה as an acronym to describe the specialness of every Jew: "חייב לאמר בשבילי נברא העולם", Every Jew is required to say, "For me was the world created." Haman/המן, whose numerical equivalent of 95 is equal to that of חלבנה, tried to erase the specialness of the Jew. We believe that every Jew is special. In fact, the Torah records how Bnei Yisroel went to war with the Canaanite king of Arad because he had captured one single Jewish maidservant. Even she was important. Rashi identifies this king as Amalek whose descendant, Haman, also argued that Jews were irrelevant. Every Jew is part of ישראל/Israel, and each desires to sing praises to Hashem,שיר א_ל.

Each individual is unique and offers an additional dimension and color to the community of Knesset Yisroel. Each is important. With the absence or death of any individual, a vacuum is created in the collective, writes Rabbi Soloveitchick zt”l.

We are that generation, distant from Hashem, writes Rabbi Wolfson. In the month of Adar, Hashem's presence is cloaked, hidden from us, in an אדרת/cloak. We are like the hooks made from the silver of those outside the camp. Yet Hashem knows the secret value within each of us and desires again that deep connection He had with the generation of the exodus. Although by outer appearance, we may seem to be rejected, Hashem awaits with anticipation our return, the placement of crowns upon our heads as we become the generation of Moshiach.