Friday, August 12, 2022

The crowning of the title “rabbi” on a group of 150 young men at Yeshiva University this past Sunday was not only a celebration of individual achievement and accomplishment. It was more than families rejoicing in what might be the greatest joy a Jewish parent can experience—the conferring of the title “rabbi” on a son. It was a celebration of the entire community of the continuation of our great and vibrant mesorah (tradition) to the next generation. Congregation Shaarei Orah, the Sephardic Congregation of Teaneck, joined with other local congregations hosting one of the musmachim and hearing their divrei Torah. Below is the address presented by Rav Yosef Gottesman, whom I had the pleasure of many wonderful interactions in the past years.

Parshat Ki Tisa opens with what appear to be a very big mistake. Parshat Teruma discussed the keilim of the Mishkan, and Parshat Tetzaveh discussed the begadim (clothing) of the kohanim. And yet, the beginning of Parshat Ki Tisa teaches us about the kiyor, the giant basin used by the kohanim to wash their hands and feet before participating in the avoda. Additionally, at the end of Parshat Tetzaveh, we learn about the mizbe’ach haketoret. Many ask why are these two keilim not taught with the rest of the keilim in Parshat Teruma.

The Sforno explains that the kiyor and mizbe’ach haketoret are fundamentally different from the keilim in Parshat Teruma. The majority of the keilim were part of the avoda, whose purpose was to bring Hakadosh Baruch Hu into the Mishkan. The purpose of the kiyor and mizbe’ach haketoret was to make the avodah more refined and dignified; they were not part of the avoda per se, but came to complement it.

We see clearly that the Torah is dividing between the main keilim of the Mishkan, and those that were subordinate. The Torah is highlighting that we must recognize what is most important, and distinguish it from that which comes to complement it.

This same lesson is taught a third time. The Gemara (Berachot 55a) relates a seemingly strange story: when Hakadosh Baruch Hu told Moshe to build the Mishkan, He told him to first build the structure and then the keilim. However, when Moshe relayed the command to Betzalel, he reversed the order. Betzalel asked how can that be—where would the keilim go if there is no completed structure awaiting them? Moshe responded that indeed Hakadosh Baruch Hu had commanded the reverse, first the structure and then the keilim.

Rav Kook explained that Moshe’s perspective was one of vision and primacy, while Betzalel’s was one of pragmatism. Indeed, Hakadosh Baruch Hu had mandated the pragmatic approach—there needs to be a structure ready for the keilim; however, Moshe was relating that the goal, the focus, still has to be on the keilim.

We see again from the Mishkan that we must distinguish between what is important and what is subordinate. However, we also see that this lesson is true even when we need to be pragmatic and practical; even when we engage in a subordinate activity first, we must recognize that it is for the purpose of that which it comes to complement. When one builds a foundation, the focus and goal needs to remain on the structure that will be built on top of it. Investing too little will result in disaster, while investing too much leads to wasted energy and resources; one must remain cognizant and focused on the goal throughout the entire process.

The Ibn Ezra says that the Mishkan is a miniature world, and that man is a miniature Mishkan.

V’asu li Mikdash vishachanti bitocham”—Hakadosh Baruch Hu says, “Make Me a Mikdash and I will dwell in you,” because we are a Mikdash.

Bilvavi Mishkan evneh—each of us builds a Mishkan in our souls to serve Hakadosh Baruch Hu.

Be’ezrat HaShem, as we each build our own Mishkan, may we do so with these lessons of the Mishkan—always being mindful of what is most important; and even when we are rightfully involved in other complementary activates, always focused on and driven toward what is primary.

By Rabbi Haim Jachter

 Rabbi Haim Jachter is the spiritual leader of Congregation Shaarei Orah, the Sephardic Congregation of Teaneck. He also serves as a rebbe at Torah Academy of Bergen County and a dayan on the Beth Din of Elizabeth.


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