Parshat Vayakhel 5779: Why Does Torah Repeat Hashem’s Instructions on Construction of the Mishkan?

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua, Parshat Vayakhel is being sponsored by Aryeh and Lisa Koenigsberg and family of Ramat Beit Shemesh dedicated lilui nishmas for Aryeh’s grandparents: Chaya Perel bas Arieh and Yissachar Dov ben Yisrael. To the Koenigsberg family, many thanks for your sponsorship and for your continued kindnesses.

You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.

Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3

Parshat Vayakhel 5779: Why Does Torah Repeat Hashem’s Instructions on Construction of the Mishkan?

by Moshe Burt

The word Vayakhel — Assembling together of Kol B’nai Yisrael, introduces the building of the Mishkan (Tent of Meeting), the forerunner of the Beit HaMikdash, which would serve as a kappara (atonement) for the Eigel Zahav (Golden Calf).

The parsha begins by stating that “Moshe assembled the entire congregation of B’nai Yisrael…” (Sefer Shemos, Perek 35, Posuk 1).

The entire posuk reads:

“And Moshe assembled the entire congregation of B’nai Yisrael and said to them: ‘These are the things that Hashem commanded, to do them:'” (Sefer Shemos, Perek 35, Posuk 1 As rendered to English in “The Sapirstein Edition, The Torah with Rashi Commentary)

Aharon Yaakov Greenberg, in his sefer, “Torah Gems”, volume two, page 226 provides these citings explaining this posuk:

…The second Beit Hamikdash was destroyed because of senseless hatred. Division and disputes always serve to undermine the foundations of social order. Therefore, before erecting the Mishkan, Moshe gathered together all of the B’nei Yisrael. The completion of the Mishkan depends upon the unity of the people. (Or Penei Moshe)

“Moshe assembled…” On the day after Yom Kippur (citing Rashi). Moshe wanted to hint to the Bnei Yisrael that not only on Yom Kippur must people be filled with remorse and contrition, brotherly love and friendship, but that on the day after Yom Kippur one must continue in the same fashion. (R’ Moshe of Kobrin)

People differ in their understanding and appreciation of different commandments. But when it comes to performing them, there is no difference — all have to perform them in the same way. Thus, we see, “Moshe assembled the entire congregation… to do them.” When it came to performing the Commandments, Moshe was able to gather everyone together. ( R’ David of Chortkow)

Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, in his sefer “Unlocking the Torah Text” (Sefer Shemos, Parshat Vayakhel, pages 309-311) writes:

Almost all of Parshat Vayakhel and much of Parshat Pekudei consist of information already recorded in full in Parshiyot Terumah, Tetzaveh and Ki Tisa, when Hashem first issues detailed instructions to Moshe concerning the Mishkan.

Why does Torah engage in such seemingly unnecessary repetition? As the Ralbag notes, the entire construction of the Mishkan could have been simply summed up with the statement “And Betzalel the son of Uri the son of Chur carried out the work of the Mishkan as Hashem had Commanded Moshe, and with him worked Oholiav son of Achisamach…” (Rav Goldin citing Ralbag — Rabbi Levi ben Gershon, page 343 on Sefer Shemos, Perakim 35-39)

Rabbi Shmuel Goldin continues (ibid, page 310):

Many commentaries, including Rashi, are silent concerning the obvious repetition surrounding the construction of the Mishkan.

Others, however, directly address the issue through a range of approaches.

The Ralbag launch[es] a much broader question: is there a global pattern to all cases of repetition in an otherwise terse Torah text? …The Ralbag… offers a bold suggestion. Perhaps, he says, recapitulation in the Torah is reflective of the writing style of the day.”

“It is possible that it was the practice of the people at the time of the giving of the Torah to tell their stories in this [repetitive] fashion; and a prophet inevitably speaks according to the customs of the day. (Rav Goldin citing Ralbag on Sefer Shemos, Perakim 35-39)

The Ralbag’s approach, however, fails to explain the inconsistency in Torah concerning the phenomenon of repetition. Why, at times, such as in the Parshiyot of Vayakhel and Pekudei, does the Torah repeat itself at length, while at other times it avoids such recapitulation entirely? The Ralbag himself apparently recognizes the insufficiency of his suggestion… (Rav Goldin citing Ralbag on Sefer Shemos, Perakim 35-39)

….The Ramban states: “….In general, all of this [repetition] is a reflection of the love and esteem [with which the construction of the Mishkan is viewed by Hashem]… and the numerous recapitulations are designed to increase the reward for those involved in this labor. (Rav Goldin citing Ramban on Sefer Shemos, Perek 36, posuk 8)

According to the Ramban and those who follow his lead, recapitulation is a tool used by the Torah text to indicate the preciousness to Hashem of the topic or event under discussion. As proof of their position, these scholars cite the following Midrashic pronouncement:

The conversation of the patriarchs’ servants is more precious to The Holy One Blessed Be He than the Torah of their descendants — for, behold, the story of Eliezer covers two to three pages of text as the events occur and are repeated, [while critical aspects of the law are only derived obliquely from the Torah. (Rav Goldin citing Midrash Rabbah, Breish’t, Perek 60, posuk 8)

Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch offers an original explanation for the repetition of these details… He suggests that an item designed to serve as a sanctified symbol must be created with specific intent towards its symbolic role…. Through reiteration of the details of the Mishkan’s construction, says Rav Hirsch, the Torah conveys that the making, delivering, assembling and erecting of every feature of the Mishkan and its utensils was done with vivid awareness of and conscious intent to fulfill the mitzvah involved. (Rav Goldin citing Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch on Sefer Shemos, Perek 36, posuk 8)

In searching through various s’forim several years ago while preparing a vort on Parshiyot Vayakhel/Pekudei, this author stumbled upon an old National Council of Young Israel D’var Torah from over two decades ago by, of all people. our own Rabbi Harry Greenspan of Ramat Beit Shemesh, who was then Rav of Young Israel of Long Beach, California.

Within his Drash, Rav Greenspan expresses an understanding of the Mishkan, and indeed, why the repetition of the details of its construction:

….The lesson of the Mishkan is…. if we sincerely desire to reach spiritual heights, to become true servants of The Holy One, we need to pray and perform all Mitzvot precisely according to the details recorded in the Shulchan Aruch. If we act in such a fashion, we can hope to receive (in our Shuls and homes) that which our ancestors experienced upon completion of the Mishkan: Hashem’s glorious presence [which] filled the Mishkan and thus was infused into Klal Yisrael.

May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them and that the twice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. May our dear brother Jonathan Pollard be liberated and truly free — only upon his return home to Israel, and that the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of four plus years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.