COURT IS NOW IN SESSION
Rabbi Shlomo Freundlich
Our Torah portion opens with Moses calling a national assembly to inform the Children of Israel of the major project upon which they, as a community, will soon embark: the funding and construction of the Mishkan (Tabernacle).
Our Torah portion opens with Moses calling a national assembly to inform the Children of Israel of the major project upon which they, as a community, will soon embark: the funding and construction of the Mishkan (Tabernacle). The Mishkan was to serve as the "earthly" home for the shechina (Divine presence) which will now be more keenly perceived within the Jewish community. Rashi, the fundamental commentator on the Torah, informs us that this historic convocation occurred the day after Yom Kippur. This was the day following Moses' descent from Mt. Sinai, when he brought to the Jewish people both a new set of tablets and the news that their temporarily fractured relationship with Hashem as a result of the sin of the golden calf had now been repaired.
In Parshat Yitro (18:33) the Torah records how Moses presided in judgment over the Jewish people, rendering rulings that resolved the issues brought before him by disputants, seeking his halachic view. Interestingly, Rashi comments that this, too, took place on the day following Yom Kippur. It would seem that the calling together of the Jewish community to discuss the erecting of the holy Mishkan, and throngs of Jews streaming to Moses' courtroom made for one hectic day for Moses. Did Moses really have to call court into order the very first day after descending Mt. Sinai? Couldn't he wait another day instead of crowding his calendar? After all, he did have the important meeting with the Jewish people about the building campaign for the Mishkan already scheduled for that day.
The Kli Yakar, a classic 17th century commentator, in poignant fashion teaches us that Moses felt compelled to call court to order on this day. If the Jewish people are to construct an edifice that will be worthy of hosting the Divine presence, an edifice that serves as the focal point of Jewish spirituality, then such an edifice must be borne out of "kosher" money. It is precisely for this reason that Moses could not postpone his court proceedings. Moses' opening his court room doors on the very same day that he unveils the plans for a Mishkan sends a powerful message to the Jewish people - resolve who rightfully owns which property so that contributions earmarked for the Mishkan will be untainted. We cannot expect Hashem to grace our efforts, as noble as they may be, if they are generated with funds not properly and halachically attained. Indeed, Hashem's words to the prophet Isaiah, "For I am Hashem, who loves justice and hates a burnt-offering [bought] with robbery" (Isaiah 61:8), clearly indicates G-d's total abhorrence of tainted gifts brought to further the upkeep of His holy places.
Wholesome methods and untainted gifts are not only the key to building a physical sanctuary. It relates equally so to the inner sanctuary we seek to build within ourselves. If we are to advance ourselves spiritually, we must be sure our methods for personal growth are without blemish.
What can be a more noble pursuit than the study of Torah? But borrowing a Torah book from a library and not returning it on time robs others who need the book of the chance to likewise study. Can such Torah study at the expense of others be pleasing to Hashem? Leading the prayers on the anniversary of a yahrtzeit is an important and devoted service a son performs for a deceased parent. But if the son runs through the service at an unreasonably quick pace because he has an important appointment, he robs the other congregants of the opportunity to pray with properly focused thoughts. Is this really a wholesome way to honor the memory of a parent? Cleaning the house fastidiously for Shabbat is a great mitzvah. But if our children and spouse have to suffer the rage we show when things don't go our way, we can be assured that we are not fulfilling the mitzvah of honoring Shabbat.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if the terms kosher and glatt kosher were not only descriptions of what we place in our pantries and refrigerators, but were applied equally as well to our bank accounts and interpersonal relationships.
Rabbi Shlomo Freundlich has been teaching at the Yeshiva High School of Atlanta for the past 13 years.
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