Tefillas Moshe (Moshe’ Prayer)
“Hashem passed before him and proclaimed: ‘Hashem, Hashem, G-d, Compassionate and Gracious, Slow to Anger, and Abundance in Kindness and Truth; Preserver of Kindness for thousands of generations, Forgiver of Iniquity, Willful Sin, and Error, and who Cleanses- but does not cleanse completely, recalling the iniquity of parents upon children and grandchildren, to the third and fourth generations.” (Ex. 34:6-34:7)
This week’s Parsha takes a small detour from the Torah’s discussion of the Mishkan. This detour discusses the Cheyt Ha’Eygel Ha’Zahav (Sin of the Golden Calf) and its aftermath. After G-d threatens to kill off the Jews and make a new nation stemming from Moshe, Moshe begins to plead on behalf of his people. Our Sages of Blessed Memory tell us that Moshe used three primary arguments: one based on pity, one based on logic, and the last based on anger. Moshe’s ‘pity argument’ was that how could he, Moshe, face the Patriarchs in Heaven if he was unable to save the Jews from destruction. Therefore, if G-d really loved Moshe, He would forgive them. When that did not work, Moshe tried logic. He asked G-d the following question: “If a chair with three legs cannot stand, how can a chair with only one leg stand?”. This argument was meant to apply to the Jews of the future. If a new people were stemmed from Moshe, they might also sin. If that were the case, they would have only the merit of Moshe (one leg) to appease G-d. Obviously, that would not be sufficient-after all, the merit of the Patriarchs (three legs) were not enough to save the Jews after the Sin of the Golden Calf. When that argument also did not work, Moshe demanded that G-d ‘erase my name from the book which You have written’. Moshe said that if G-d would not be forgiving, even though the Jews really did do something wrong and deserved to be punished (Justice tempered with Mercy), he did not want to be associated with the Torah. Basically, Moshe was saying that the Torah is completely worthless if G-d was not merciful and did not rescind his decree to destroy he Jews. This was the argument that finally won out. G-d forgave the Jewish people and even told Moshe the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy (“Hashem, Hashem, G-d, Compassionate and Gracious, Slow to Anger, and Abundance in Kindness and Truth; Preserver of Kindness for thousands of generations, Forgiver of Iniquity, Willful Sin, and Error, and who Cleanses”). He told Moshe that these were the special words which would ‘remind’ G-d that He is merciful, even when sitting in judgment. This is why the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy are such an integral part of the Yom Kippur service, specifically during Maariv and Neilah.
An obvious question comes to mind from this story: why was only Moshe’s third attempt successful? What was it about the ‘anger response’ that convinced G-d to save the Jewish people? I can understand why the ‘pity response’ would not win so many “brownie points”; after all, it seems like Moshe is more concerned with his own honor and how he will be received in Heaven than with saving the Jews. However, I would think that the ‘logic response’ was much more appropriate; the ‘anger response’ makes Moshe sound like a belligerent and whiny child- the old “if you do not do what I want, I will not love you anymore”…how many parents have heard that?
My friends, I believe that is exactly the point! The Midrash explains that what convinced G-d to give Jews the Torah was not the men and women promising to learn it…it was the promise of the children! When Moshe sounded like a child, he ‘reminded’ G-d of the merit of the children. The innocent and sincere promises of the Jewish children merited us receiving the Torah and their innocence and sincerity saved us after the Sin of the Golden Calf. May it be G-d’s Will that the prayers of our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren continue to pierce the Veil of Heaven and bring down the Divine Blessing upon the entire world.
The Holiness of Shabbos
"Six days you shall do work and the seventh day shall be holy for you; anyone who does work shall be put to death” (Ex. 35:2).
The main focus of the Parsha is the building of the Mishkan, so why does it begin with the commandment of Shabbos? What is the connection between Shabbos and the Mishkan?
Many commentaries explain that the commandments about keeping Shabbos were stated by Moshe when he gave the people instructions of how to build the Mishkan. This was done to ensure that all the people would remember that construction of the Mishkan could not be done on Shabbos. They further explain that such a mistake could occur, since there were certain acts permitted in the Mishkan are technically forbidden on Shabbos. For example, the Torah commands the Kohannim to add wood to the fire every morning (Lev. 6:5). Our Rabbis explain that this was meant literally; wood was added every single morning (even Shabbos), even though such an act is prohibited on Shabbos
While this seems a very simplistic issue on its face, it really cuts very deeply. What is the Torah really trying to tell us? If it is merely a reminder to keep Shabbos, even during the construction of the Mishkan, it really is not necessary; after all, the Torah already made this point in last week’s Parsha..after finishing the final commandment, to tell Betzalel to build the Mishkan, G-d tells Moshe to remind the people to keep Shabbos (Ex. Ch 31:12-31:18). Obviously, there is an additional message we are supposed to learn here, but what is it?
I believe that the Torah is really teaching us about the power of Shabbos. Keeping Shabbos is not about "you cannot do"; rather, it is the most precious gift that G-d gave to us. Shabbos is not about limitation...it is about having a chance to take a break from the stresses of the physical day-to-day grind and relax! It is a chance to reconnect with our families and our God! It is a chance to recharge our spiritual batteries so that we can get through another week of working our fingers to the bone to support ourselves and our children! It is a day where we can put down the worries we carried around all week on our backs and take a breather! This is the ultimate gift from G-d! As important as the Mishkan was to Judaism, it did not have the power that Shabbos has to rejuvenate and restore us. May it be G-d’s Will that the power of Shabbos continue to rain down its blessing on all of us.
A Heavenly Blueprint
“And Betzahlehl the son of Uri the son of Chur from the Tribe of Yehudah made [the Mishkan] all that G-d commanded Moshe” (Ex. 38:22).
In this week's Parsha, there is a curious phrase which shows up several times. The phrase is “as G-d commanded Moses”, which is nearly identical to the phrase in our verse. As a matter of fact, this phrase shows up nearly twenty times! What is the meaning of this phrase and why does the Torah find it necessary to repeat it over and over?
In the literal sense, this phrase is telling us that everything Betzalel and Ahaliav (the two master craftsmen in charge) made was done exactly the way G-d said it should be…no changes were made. Even though there might have been an easier or less expensive way of doing things, or even a way that might make the Mishkan nicer, Betzalel and Ahaliav stuck to the ‘blueprint’ that G-d gave to Moshe.
However, I believe there is a deeper meaning hidden within this story. Though there were specific directions regarding the Mishkan, not every single aspect of its creation was dictated by G-d. For example, the type of stitching used to make the clothing of the Kohannim and the specific warp and woof of the tapestries which covered the Ohel are not commanded by G-d-these things were left up to the craftsmen creating those items. Within the framework of the Divine Command there was room for Human input.
The same concept applies to Jewish law-within the framework of the Halacha there is space for our Rabbis to make certain takkanot (decrees). We see a perfect example of this situation right now. During the recent Pandemic, Rabbis the world over have kept the “blueprint” created by G-d, but have made certain decrees intended to keep us safe and healthy. May it be G-d’s Will that our Rabbis follow the example of Betzalel and Ahaliav, keeping the “blueprint” of the Divine decree and adding the input which makes it a truly magnificent structure.
Dear Beth Jacob Congregants –
With cautious optimism and anticipation, the Board of Directors at Beth Jacob Congregation has decided to reopen for Shabbat services on Saturday, June 20, 2020. Although this is the “until further notice” update we have all eagerly awaited, please know that it comes with many well thought-out considerations. These considerations are to ensure you, our beloved congregants, can come to Shul and prayer, secure in the knowledge that all has been done to ensure your safety, health, and comfort during the ongoing COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic. As diligently as the Board has worked to develop the below guidelines, is the same level of diligence the Board requests and insists upon for congregant adherence to them. Please note the following, and your complete cooperation is appreciated and expected:
By following the above religiously, we will all be upholding one of the greatest religious beliefs of Judaism, that of the preservation of life . . . so, l’chaim!
Beth Jacob Congregation Board of Directors
Your are invited to enjoy Jewish services with a small, hamish congregation.
We offer Shabbos, and Yom Tovim services following orthodox halacha, using Artscroll prayer books, all in a Traditional, non-mechitza setting.
Our weekly Shabbat service is held on Saturday mornings at 9:30 AM.
We would love to meet you with you.
Please feel free to join us.
Copyright © 2021 Beth Jacob Congregation - All Rights Reserved.