Golden Inside and Out
Trumah (Exodus 25:1-27:19 )
The Talmud (Yoma 72b) teaches that just as the Holy Ark was covered with the same gold coverings on the inside and on the outside (Exodus 25:11), so too a Torah scholar must be genuine, with his interior matching his exterior. The Talmud (Berachos 28a) records that Rabban Gamliel decreed that only a person who was the same on the inside as on the outside was permitted to enter the study hall. By what litmus test was the sentry at the door able to discern whether a prospective student was indeed genuine?
The Sadigerer Rebbe (Mayanah Shel Torah) suggests that no human guard was able to make this determination. Instead, they simply locked the doors of the study hall, which discouraged most prospective students, yet a student who had a tremendous desire to learn would resort to any means possible to find a means of entering, and in doing so, he demonstrated his authentic interior and was permitted to study there.
Alternatively, the Mishmeres Ariel notes that the Talmud continues to say that Rebbi Elozar ben Azariah subsequently abolished this requirement and allowed anybody to come and study, and on that day, hundreds of benches had to be added to the study hall for all of the new students. Why did the Talmud discuss the number of new benches instead of the number of new students?
The new benches weren't required due to the new quantity of students, but because of the new type of students. Until this rule change, there was no need for any benches because the students had such a tremendous desire to learn that they didn't mind the adverse physical conditions, but now that the study hall was opened to the masses, an "upgrade" to sitting on benches was required. Until now, no guard was needed, as the mere lack of comfortable conditions ensured that only those who were sincere would be interested in learning there.
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CRAFTING THE MENORAH
Rashi writes (Exodus 25:40) that because Moshe had difficulty understanding the appearance of the Menorah, God showed him a fiery illustration of how it should look. However, Rashi writes (Ex. 25:31) that even so, Moshe had difficulty making the Menorah. Ultimately, God told him to throw a block of gold into fire, and the Menorah miraculously "made itself" and emerged complete.
If God knew that in the end Moshe would be unable to make it, why did He initially need to show him the fiery image and teach him all of the intricate laws regarding its appearance?
The S'fas Emes and Rabbi Shmaryahu Arieli explain that in order for Moshe to merit God's miraculous assistance in actually making the menorah, he first needed to try his utmost and demonstrate his total and complete desire to see the project to successful completion. Therefore, he first needed to be shown a picture of how it should look so that he could invest all of his energy and desire into creating it. Only after he had done all that he was capable of did he merit God's aid in completing the project.
Rabbi Arieli adds that this concept also applies to Torah study, which is symbolized by the menorah. Properly understanding the depths of the Torah is a gift from God which only comes after a person has exerted himself to the limits of his ability. The S'fas Emes suggests that this principle isn't limited to Torah study, but it applies to all mitzvot.
Alternatively, the Brisker Rav answers that even though the menorah was produced in a miraculous fashion, Moshe was unwilling to rely on this alone as proof that it was made properly. He insisted on examining it to ensure that it complied with the legal specifications, and in order to do so, he needed to have a visual image against which to compare it.
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THE MINIATURE SANCTUARY
One of the blessings commonly given to a newly-engaged couple is that the match should "oleh yafeh." While it may be customary to rapidly rattle off the words, an examination of the English translation - the match should "go up well" - reveals that the wording is awkward and the deeper meaning is difficult to grasp. What is the underlying intention behind this curiously-worded blessing?
The Satmar Rebbe Rav Yoel Teitelbaum brilliantly explains that the word "oleh" is often used to connote the numerical value of a phrase. If so, we may re-interpret the blessing as stating that the new match should have the numerical value of the word "yafeh," which comes to 95 (yud, fey, hey).
But what is the significance of this seemingly arbitrary number?
The Sefer HaChinuch discusses the laws and reasons for the 613 mitzvos, listing them in the order of their mention in the Torah. He counts the 95th mitzvah as the commandment "and they shall make for Me a Sanctuary, and I shall dwell amongst them." This is a most appropriate blessing to give a new couple embarking on the establishment of their own personal miniature Sanctuary.