Parshas Vayakheil/Pekudei - Square One

By Rabbi Zvi Teichman

Posted on 03/11/21

Parshas HaShavua Divrei Torah sponsored by
Dr. Shapsy Tajerstein, DPM - Podiatry Care.
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Many have already pointed out that it was exactly a year ago that Shuls were closed due to the burgeoning pandemic. 

We were broken and devastated. No davening, leining or shiurim together over Pesach or Shavuos. Bar Mitzvahs and Aufrufs were cancelled, with Brisim celebrated privately in homes. No communal gatherings, with weddings taking place in backyards.  

We pined to return, and it was not for several months until we partially returned, with greatly reduced attendance and bereft of any semblance of normalcy. 

For the most part, life at Shul is now slowly returning to its former glory.  

We will be reading this week the very first of many portions we missed out on last year. 

Ironically, VaYakhel begins with a description of how Moshe assembled the entire assembly of the Children of Israel, the day after Yom Kippur after finally achieving atonement for the sin of the Golden Calf, first commanding them to heed the Shabbos, then instructing them to donate the materials for the construction of the Mishkan. 

This is one of only three places in Torah, where G-d directs Moshe to speak to the ‘entire assembly of Israel.’ 

The Yalkut sees in this emphasis on assembling the entire assembly, as a directive to gather large groups of people each Shabbos and teaching them its laws.  

The nation responded with great enthusiasm, and in three days donated more than was necessary for the completion of the Mishkan.   

In three months', time the Mishkan’s walls, curtains and all its vessels were ready to be assembled and put into function. Yet, G-d instructed Moshe to wait for its initiation until the month of Nissan, the month that Yitzchak — the ‘unblemished elevation-offering’, was born in. 

In another interesting irony, we not only herald in Birchas HaChodesh this Shabbos, the coming of the month of Nissan, but it is also Parshas HaChodesh, where we read about the very first command we were given as a nation — the Sanctification of Months and the maintaining of a lunar calendar, which began with Nissan. 

It was on the year following the exodus, that on the first of Nissan the Mishkan was dedicated. 

Evidently, our ancestors found themselves in a similar predicament, equally frustrated in their efforts to bring the Divine Presence into their midst, having to patiently wait nearly three months before they could bring their efforts to fruition. 

Why the torment? Was the aligning of the legacy of Yitzchak with the dedication of the Mishkan so significant it warranted dousing their fires of exuberance? 

The great Baal Mussar, Rav Chaim Zeitchek teaches that the true test whether our enthusiasm is genuine, is indicated but how long it lasts even in the face of disappointment.  

Of course, the people were excited and thrilled after being forgiven for the terrible sin of the Golden Calf. They jumped at the opportunity to build the Mishkan, the symbol of their return to His embrace. 

G-d wanted to see how deep that drive for closeness became second nature to them. How would they react if they suddenly found out they would have to wait a full three months plus, before seeing their hard-earned efforts validated with the establishing of the G-d’s residence in their midst? 

Rav Zeitchik taught Torah in Russia at great risk. The authorities discovered his clandestine efforts and dispatched him promptly to a labor camp deep in Siberia. He chose the more tortuous task of transporting well water from a distant village several kilometers away rather than work on the assembly line of tanks. Despite the freezing trek with heavy pales laden with water, he chose it because he held out hope that maybe there was one Jewish family who possessed a Gemara, who would provide him the sustenance he needed to survive. 

He was a short man weakened by the terrible conditions yet ran quickly ahead so as not to raise any suspicion by delaying his return, so he could look for a home with a mezuzah. He eventually found one and knocked on the door. The dismayed wife seeing a poor fellow Jew offered him a loaf of bread, but he refused. He begged though for a Gemara. She summoned her husband who said that he has but one tractate, the only vestige of his connection to Torah. Rav Zeitchik asked to let him hold it. He hugged it and noticed it had two tractates within one volume, Nedarim and Nazir. He pleaded to gift him the pages of Nedarim, and he kindly acceded.   

After making his way back and delivering the water, he ran to his quarters and with tears of joy restored his spirit.   

Rosh Hashana approached but there was no Shofar. Sukkos, without a Sukkah. But, on Simchas Torah, Rav Zeitchik danced with a renewed and unparalleled joy. 

We are back at ‘square one’. How will our Pesach this year look? We will be in Shul. We will likely have guests or be with our children and parents. Will we reveal a thirst and hunger equal to the disappointment we felt last year in its absence? 

Hashem is anxiously awaiting to see our genuine excitement.  

Perhaps if we discover it anew, He will grant us the ultimate joy of celebrating this Pesach, in His home, in Yerushalayim Ir HaKodesh! Speedily in our days! 


צבי יהודה טייכמאן