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BOWIN' IN THE WIND

by Rabbi Alexander Heppenheimer    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

Vayakhel is one of those Torah portions that we often tend to ignore. After all, the detailed instructions for constructing the Mishkan, the portable sanctuary, were already given in the portions of Terumah and Tetzaveh a couple of weeks ago.

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Vayakhel is one of those Torah portions that we often tend to ignore. After all, the detailed instructions for constructing the Mishkan, the portable sanctuary, were already given in the portions of Terumah and Tetzaveh a couple of weeks ago. Vayakhel and next week's portion of Pekudei seem like a simple review of how the Jewish people fulfilled all of Hashem's instructions to the letter of the law. And we are seemingly reinforced in this attitude by the fact that Rashi, the foremost commentator on the Torah, leaves much of the description in this portion without comment. Still, if we dig a little deeper into the words of the Torah and of Rashi, we can find some very interesting and inspiring ideas.

The last part of the Mishkan structure itself is first described in Parshat Terumah as follows: "All of its pegs (yetedot) and all the pegs of the courtyard were made of copper" (Exodus 27:19). The function of these yetedot, pegs, was to keep the curtains of the courtyard from blowing in the wind, so the pegs were tied to ropes attached to the curtains. Rashi wonders in his commentary on that verse in Parshat Terumah, whether the pegs were designed to be fixed in the ground (like tent pins), or just large weights that lay on the ground, which would keep the curtains in place just by their weight. Rashi concludes, "I believe that they were in fact fixed into the ground," and goes on to show that the Hebrew word yetedot refers specifically to tent pins.

In this week's Torah portion, Moses begins with a list of all the items which had to be manufactured by "all the wise-hearted people among you" (ibid. 35:10), and then goes on to list most of the components of the Mishkan, including, again, the yetedot. Rashi repeats his explanation that they were pegs, tied to ropes attached to the curtains, and fixed in the ground. The only thing missing here is Rashi's question-and-answer format, which is natural enough considering that the question has already been satisfactorily answered three weeks ago. But then, why does Rashi find it necessary to repeat the definition of yetedot? For that matter, what kind of special "wise-heartedness" goes into manufacturing pegs?

The second question really answers the first. Moses needed "wise-hearted people" to weave the curtains themselves. Since the yetedot were a necessary sub-component of the curtains to keep them from blowing about, Moses expected that the artisans who made the curtains would also make the yetedot. In other words, the "wise-heartedness" involved was to realize that curtains by themselves are insufficient and that they need anchors to hold them in place. Given this, Rashi can assume (without question) that these had to be an integral part of the structure itself - pegs fixed into the ground, rather than unattached weights that were tacked on afterwards.

There is a lesson in this for us. Each of us has, or can have, a positive influence on some other person or people: children, business associates, maybe even actual students. In other words, each of us is a "wise-hearted person" who serves as someone else's role model. Our basic responsibility, then, is to inspire that "someone else" with the basics of Torah observance (comparable to weaving the hangings of the Mishkan, an essential part of the construction). But the true measure of "wise-heartedness" is to look after every aspect of one's "pupil's" development, down to the seemingly non-essential "yetedot". Thoughts like "It is beneath my dignity to bother with this," or "Anyone could do it, so why should I bother?" cannot be a part of the "wise-hearted" teacher's vocabulary.

In turn, this careful attention even to the "yetedot" makes them into "pegs" which keep the student's internal "Mishkan" from being shaken by the "winds" (and the "hot air"!) that try to blow away our Judaism and our devotion to Torah and mitzvot. And so, when you see a person whose commitment to Judaism remains firm no matter what kind of pressures and temptations he faces, you can be sure that this person had a teacher who constructed the "pegs" as well as the "curtains" of his personality. Give that teacher credit for being wise-hearted - and try to do the same for someone else.

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Rabbi Alexander Heppenheimer is a graduate of Yeshivas Tomchei T'mimim of New York and the current baal korei (Torah reader) at the Yeshiva Minyan of Atlanta.

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