By Rabbi Y. Dov Krakowski
In this week’s first Sedra, Moshe Rabeinu recounts to Klal-Yisroel all that Hashem had commanded him regarding the construction of the Mishkan/Tabernacle. However, as Moshe begins to do so he seems to start with a redundant statement. Moshe says to Klal-Yisroel “this is the matter upon which Hashem commanded; saying: take from yourselves donations for God, all those of generous hearts should bring the donations of Hashem etc.” (35, 4-5). Aside from being redundant the second half of this statement appears to be phrased oddly. Instead of saying “donations of Hashem” it would seem more appropriate to have said ‘donations for God’ just as it was phrased in the first half of the statement. Why this seeming redundancy? Why this peculiar phraseology?
The Seridei-Aish Ztz”l (חידושים על הש”ס מהדורא קמא ס’ לד’) explains: all objects, even non movable objects, and even real-estate properties, belong to Hashem. Hashem however, so as to allow society to function, allowed mankind ‘rights of ownership’. In other words, mankind (or, more specifically, any given person) in essence owns nothing because everything entirely belongs to Hashem; that we ‘own’ things is merely a conceptual ownership that Hashem granted us. The Seridei-Aish further explains that what gives us this right of ownership is one of two things: either that a given object is contained within our physical boundaries or that psychologically we think it ours. Thus the Seridei-Aish maintains that for someone to relinquish ownership of something he has to let it out of his personal boundaries both in the physical sphere and as well in the mental sphere. (See Birchas-Shmuel Kessubos, essay 41).
Adopting the aforementioned lomdus-Talmudic logic from the Seridei-Aish, perhaps we can now understand the peculiar structure of Moshe Rabeinu’s instruction to Klal-Yisroel. If indeed nothing belongs to mankind, but rather all we have is in essence Hashem’s, so then how on Earth can we give anything to Hashem? It’s already His! Moshe Rabeinu is emphasizing just this idea. Superficially Man can think that since a given object is ‘his’, it should stand to reason that he can give it to Hashem. Comes Moshe Rabeinu and tells us no! A person can’t really give to Hashem for everything in essence is Hashem’s, but what one can do is to remove his mental ownership on a particular item instantly causing it to be fully Hashem’s. However there is still a problem with doing so: the concept of Hephker (ownerless) that allows for anybody to come and claim ownership over the given object. Thus it remains crucial that when one relinquishes mental ownership over a given object he doesn’t merely remove it causing it to be ownerless, but rather that he ‘gives/donates’ it to Hashem.
Essentially when we give to Hashem it’s not so much that we are giving, but rather that we are not taking. Perhaps it is for this reason that we can take something physical and thus allow it to become a resting place for Hashem’s Divine Presence. Since we didn’t take that given object from Hashem but rather allowed it to remain purely His, to the exclusion of anyone else’s claiming it, it remains Hashem’s, allowing the Divine Presence to rest upon it. What we did is to cause something not to be able ever to become mundane, but rather to stay holy forever. This capability of creating a status in which we relinquish our ownership while at the same time not allowing anyone else to claim ownership for himself is only because it’s still ‘ours’, it’s just for Hashem.
This week’s second Sedra marks the end of Sefer Shemos. At the end of this week’s Sedra and thus at the end of Sefer Shemos the Torah ends off with a very subtle idea. After informing us as to how Moshe put together the Mishkan it tells us that there was a “cloud” that covered the Mishkan during the day symbolizing Hashem’s Glory in the Mishkan, and that a “fire” took the cloud’s place at night. The Psukim continue and tell us that when the cloud would lift and begin to move Klal-Yisroel would begin to travel by following it. The Torah tells us that held true for all their travels. The Torah reiterates that that the cloud would be present בכל מסעיהם – with each of their travels. This last point is a bit oddly stated. What does traveling mean? It can’t possibly mean while they were traveling.
Rashi is bothered by this difficulty and explains that the word ‘travels’ includes their stops/ encampments. Rashi further explains that this is the case since each stopping led to the next traveling. While Rashi explains to us what the Passuk means, we are still left with the question of why we don’t refer to the stops as stops. What does the next journey have to do with each camp stop?
In the beginning of Sefer Vayikra (in the beginning of next week’s Sedra) Rashi explains the reason for the breaks (the tab marks) in the Torah between every “Parsha” – paragraph in the Torah. Rashi explains that after Hashem told Moshe something Moshe Rabeinu took a break – a pause of a sort in order to reflect upon what Hashem had just instructed him – so that he could fully comprehend Hashem’s Words. From this Rashi we see the significance of breaks- stops. Every time we rest or stop between things we are really providing an opportunity for our actions and intellect to take advantage of what has most recently transpired.
Perhaps this is the idea Rashi at the end of this week’s Sedra is trying to impart to us. Rashi is telling us that stops in of themselves aren’t anything special. The stop is merely an opportunity for reflection of the journey to the stop and the journey from the stop. Klal-Yisroel at each stop reflected upon the trials and tribulations of their latest leg of their journey. Klal-Yisroel at every stop prepared for their next leg of their journey onward. It is very possible that Rashi drew this great insight from the fact that the Torah uses the plural מסעיהם (their journeys) – that is, the past journey, and the next journey.
The Torah is hinting at a new definition of what it means to be a ‘wandering Jew’. We must constantly take a step back to reflect on the lessons we have had until our current positions, and we must always prepare ourselves for the lessons life has in store.
Rabbi Y.Dov Krakowski