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Vayakhel 5779

Vayakhel (Exodus 35:1-38:20 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING!  Last week I shared with you four Torah prophecies charting Jewish history: 1) that the Jewish people will be eternal though 2) we will be few in number and 3) scattered to the four corners of the earth and that 4) the host nations were ultimately inhospitable to us. This week, 2 more prophecies!

One would think, if the Jewish people were so reviled to be persecuted and killed, that we would have little impact upon those nations persecuting and killing us. Yet, the Torah prophesies that we will be:


"I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make your name great. You shall become a blessing. And I will bless those who bless you, and curse those who curse you. Through you all the communities of the earth shall be blessed" (Genesis 12:2-3). The prophet Isaiah (42:6) states, "I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness, and will hold your hand and keep you. And I will establish you as a covenant of the people, for a light unto the nations."

Despite our small numbers, the Jewish People seem to occupy a disproportionate place as a focus of world attention. As Mark Twain wrote of the Jew: "He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his commercial importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk. His contributions to the world's list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine, and abstruse learning, are also way out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers."

Despite being the most hated people, few in number and dispersed across the globe, Jews are the most influential people the world has known. Jews are responsible for the idea of ethical monotheism and the absolute moral standard that comes from a belief in one God.

Before the Jews, the ancient world thought that infanticide was morally correct (even Aristotle wrote in favor of it.) Before the Jews came along, the world thought that "might was right."

It was the Jewish people that gave the world the ideas of respect for life, peace, equality, justice, love of neighbor, social responsibility, and holiness of human purpose.

Today, on the wall outside the United Nations, the hope of the world is emblazoned, using the words of the Jewish prophet Isaiah: "And they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks, nations shall not lift up sword against nations. Neither shall they learn war anymore." (Isaiah 2:4)


It has been prophesied in the Torah that the land of Israel was rich and fertile while the Jews were living there: "I have come down to rescue them from Egypt's power. I will bring them out of that land, to a good, spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey..." (Exodus 3:8). And when they were exiled, it would become barren and desolate: "So devastated will I leave the land that your enemies who live there will be astonished... Your land will remain desolate, and your cities in ruins (Leviticus 26:32-33)."

During the two thousand years of Israel's exile from its Land, numerous empires have conquered the Land and countless wars were fought for its possession. And yet, astonishingly, no conqueror ever succeeded in permanently settling the Land or causing the deserts to blossom.

Mark Twain, who visited Israel in 1867, describes the Land of Israel:

"We traversed some miles of desolate country whose soil is rich enough but is given wholly to weeds -- A silent, mournful expanse... A desolation is here that not even imagination can grace with the pomp of life and action. The further we went the hotter the sun got and the more rocky and bare, repulsive and dreary the landscape became" ("The Innocents Abroad" Vol. II).

The "land of milk and honey" turning into a desert, is a phenomenon unique in the annals of history. Now that the Jews are returning to the Land, it once again has begun to bloom!

Next week: The final prophecy -- the Return from Exile ... and what does it all mean?


Torah Portion of the week

Vayakhel, Exodus 35:1 - 38:20

Moshe relays the Almighty's commands to refrain from building the Mishkan (the Tabernacle) on the Shabbat, to contribute items needed to build the Mishkan, to construct the components of the Mishkan and the appurtenances of the Cohanim. The craftsmen are selected, the work begins. The craftsmen report that there are too many donations, and for the first and probably the only time in fundraising history, the Jewish people are told to refrain from bringing additional contributions!

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"Every wise-hearted person amongst you shall come and make everything that the Almighty has commanded." Later the Torah continues "and each person whose heart motivated him came" (Exodus, 35:21).

Why is it necessary for the Torah to tell us that their hearts motivated them?

The Ramban -- Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman, a brilliant 13th century Spanish commentator -- explains that they needed motivation from their hearts because there was no one who had any previous experience with the skills necessary for constructing the Tabernacle. There were no teachers available to train them. But there were people who had the courage to come before Moshe to tell him, "I will do all that you say."

Our lesson: to succeed in life we must have the courage to take initiative. Many people have goals. Only those who take initiative succeed.

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

Moses commanded the Jewish people regarding the materials for the Tabernacle:

"Whoever is of a willing heart, let him bring an offering of the Almighty" (Exodus 35:5).

What lesson do we learn from the command being directed to those who have a "willing heart"?

Rabbi Simcha Zissel of Kelm explains that those who brought the offerings for the Tabernacle should bring their hearts with their offering. It is not sufficient just to give a monetary donation. The Almighty wants our hearts, that is our thoughts and our emotions.

When you just give money to a charity or worthy institution, you help the cause for which you are giving. However, when you give with your heart, you are changing and elevating yourself as a person. Each donation makes you into a more giving person. Whenever you give, reflect before you give and then give with a full heart!


Candle Lighting Times

March 1
(or go to

Jerusalem 5:01
Guatemala 5:52 - Hong Kong 6:09 - Honolulu 6:18
J'Burg 6:21 - London 5:22 - Los Angeles 5:32
Melbourne 7:43 - Mexico City 6:24 - Miami 6:04
New York 7:29 - Singapore 7:02 - Toronto 8:48

Quote of the Week

Do your best ... and let God do the rest



In Memory of My Mother

Carol Gerber

With Love,
Steve and Lisa Gerber

With Special Thanks to

Robert Rabinoff



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