1. Today is both Shabbos parshas HaChodesh and Shabbos Mevorchim Nissan. That the reading of parshas HaChodesh is always on Shabbos shows that there is a connection between the two; and consonant with the Baal Shem Tov’s dictum that everything can provide a lesson, this too must provide us with an eternal lesson in service to G-d.
In the idea of Shabbos we find two opposites: Shabbos is an extremely lofty concept, the level of ta’anug (delight), and is sanctified of itself, without man’s service. It is completely holy and separate, totally removed from the idea of toil or work. On the other hand, Shabbos was given specifically to man on this world, and it is connected with the six weekdays — Shabbos follows after the work of the week. Moreover, on Shabbos one’s service must be in the manner of “Who separates between the sacred and profane,” indicating that really there is a connection between Shabbos and weekdays — and therefore there must be a separation. The two opposites in Shabbos then, are: It is sanctified and holy of and by itself; and simultaneously it is connected with the six weekdays.
These two opposites are also found in the concept of Torah: Torah is very lofty, “concealed from the eyes of all living things,” the “plaything.” of G-d Himself; simultaneously, it was given specifically below, to Jews in this physical world — “Torah is not in heaven.” This is the idea of the “Giving of the Torah.” At Mattan Torah, the lower and upper world were joined. This could have been done in two ways: To elevate the Jews (lower) to heaven (upper) and give them the Torah there; or to lower the concepts of “heaven” (upper) to Jews as they are on this world (lower). Mattan Torah was in fact in the latter fashion, as stated “The L-rd descended upon Mt. Sinai.” Our Sages state Torah was given specifically to Jews below, souls in bodies with an evil inclination. It was not for souls in paradise, but for souls in physical bodies in the corporeal world.
The lesson from this in service to G-d: A Jew must know that from the perspective of his essence he is above the world, for his soul is “hewed from under the Throne of Glory” — and even higher. On the other hand, he must realize that his soul has descended “from a high roof to a deep pit” — to this physical world, for the purpose of revealing, through his service, G-dliness also in the “deep pit.” Thus a Jew need not be affected by the concealments and obstacles in the world, for from the perspective of his essence, he transcends the world.
We see then that the two opposite concepts in Shabbos (and Torah) are expressed in man’s service to G-d. While his soul is on the highest level, it has nevertheless descended below and become enclothed in a body — “from a high roof to a deep pit” — to elevate the world to holiness.
The above concept of Shabbos is also found in parshas HaChodesh. Parshas HaChodesh corresponds to service in a new manner (“Chodesh” meaning “new”). This is seen from the fact that on Rosh Chodesh Nissan (about which it is said “this month shall be for you” — which is the reading of parshas HaChodesh) they began to offer the congregational sacrifices from the new donations. That is, not only is one’s service in the manner of “rising in holiness,” but it is a completely new service, infinitely greater than before.
Nevertheless, also this service follows prior service — Shabbos parshas HaChodesh follows Shabbos parshas Parah, the latter being the idea of purification from undesirable things. Before that is Shabbos parshas Zachor, the idea of eliminating Amalek from one’s service to G-d. Prior to that is Shabbos parshas Shekalim, which is the service of giving the “half-shekel,” symbolizing the idea of atonement. And it is only after the prior preparation of the above services that we can attain the service of parshas HaChodesh — completely new service, infinitely greater than before.
This is the connection between parshas HaChodesh and the general concept of Shabbos. In the concept of parshas HaChodesh we also have the two opposites present in Shabbos: Although it is a completely new service, infinitely greater than before, it is still connected to previous service — just as Shabbos is connected to the preceding weekday work.
The above is expressed also in the meaning inherent in the word “new.” The idea of something being “new” implies that there was a previous existence, for if not, we cannot say that this thing is new. For example, when it is stated that “he (Noach) saw a new world,” it implies that there was a world beforehand, and now he is seeing a new world. But when talking of the original creation of the world, we cannot say that it is a “new world,” for beforehand there was no such a thing as a world. Instead, it was created.
So too in man’s service to G-d: When we talk of service in a new fashion, it indicates that there was a prior, lower service — and now it is a new one.
We find the same concept expressed in our Sages saying: “The Torah could have commenced from the verse ‘This month shall be for you.”’ That is, instead of relating the story of creation, the Torah could have started from the first mitzvah (“this month”). As explained above, “this month shall be for you” (the reading for parshas HaChodesh) corresponds to service transcending limitations. The beginning of the Torah — “In the beginning G-d (Elokim) created” — corresponds to service within limitations, connected with the name “Elokim” which conceals the G-dly revelations.
Now, one may posit that a service transcending limits (“this month”) should have no association with service within limits (“In the beginning G-d created”) — and therefore “The Torah could have started from ‘This month shall be for you.’“ Nevertheless, we see that the Torah does start from “In the beginning,” showing that even service transcending limitations must be connected with the previous service — service within limits, “In the beginning.” For service in a completely new fashion (“this month”) specifically follows the preparations of the previous service.
An example of this is man’s general service to G-d. First there is a pre-Bar/Bas Mitzvah period, when one is not obligated to fulfill mitzvahs, but does so only as a preparation to after Bar/Bas Mitzvah.
2. But all is not clear: Since a person is now in a state of service transcending limits, a completely new state, why need it be connected with past service. What good will it do to remember that previously his service was on a lower level (within limits). It will only make a person depressed.
However, when a person is challenged by a test he has encountered previously, when his service was on a lower level, the reminder of his prior service helps to again withstand this test. If he successfully met the challenge on a lower level of service, he can certainly do so on his present higher level.
Moreover, service in a new fashion is not just for now and the future, but also affects past service — and therefore they are connected. Even when a Jew rises to an infinitely higher level of service, he cannot forget about the deeds, speech and thoughts in the past, but must elevate them so that they too can be in a completely new fashion. This is similar to the idea of teshuvah, when “sins become merits.” Although a person becomes a new man after teshuvah, to the extent that he is now not the same person who sinned — and therefore might think he need not worry about rectifying past sins (for they are not his sins anymore), nevertheless, true teshuvah is when “sins become as merits”: one must rectify and elevate the past. Since these past deeds were committed by him, the sparks of holiness within them (and everything contains a spark of holiness) are connected to him. Therefore he cannot ignore them and think only of himself — that now he is on a lofty level. He must also elevate these sparks — “sins become as merits.”
This is the purpose of a soul’s descent into this world: Not for the soul’s sake, but to elevate the sparks of holiness found in his sphere of influence. Thus he cannot remain content with being on a lofty level, but must elevate the sparks of holiness in all his matters — even those of the past.
We find this concept in the exile and exodus from Egypt. Its purpose was not that the Jews themselves should leave Egypt (for if so, there was no need to go into exile in Egypt in the first place), but that Jews should elevate the sparks of holiness that were in Egypt. As Scripture states: “After that they shall go out with great wealth,” meaning they will take with them all those matters associated with their past service — the sparks of holiness found in Egypt. Therefore the exodus from Egypt was not just “with our youth and our elders, our sons and our daughters,” but with “great wealth.”
They asked the Egyptians for gold and silver vessels and clothing” — and “they emptied Egypt,” proceeding to the ultimate goal of using the gold and silver of Egypt to build the sanctuary for G-d.
So too in the future redemption from this exile: Not only will Jews leave the exile, but they will take “their silver and gold with them” — Jews elevate, on their redemption, all the sparks of holiness in the world, through making “vessels” for G-dliness out of worldly matters.
This then is the lesson from parshas HaChodesh. Even when a Jew’s service is in a new manner — “redemption” compared to previous service, he must also ensure that it affects his past service. This is found also in the offering of the sacrifices: Although on Rosh Chodesh Nissan they began to bring sacrifices from the new donations, this new donation was given before Rosh Chodesh Nissan (beginning from Rosh Chodesh Adar).
The lesson from all the above in simple terms: The mitzvah campaigns must be done in a completely new manner, infinitely better than before. This must also be in regard to efforts in the past, meaning that one must work twice as hard to rectify and complete past service.
3. In addition to the above lesson from parshas HaChodesh, there is a lesson to be derived from the circumstance that we read parshas HaChodesh specifically on Shabbos parshas Vayakhel-Pekudei. While the reading of parshas HaChodesh is a separate concept from the reading of parshas Vayakhel-Pekudei, nevertheless, since parshas HaChodesh follows as the conclusion and Maftir of parshas Vayakhel-Pekudei, there must be a connection between them. And although sometimes parshas HaChodesh falls out on a Shabbos whose parshah is not Vayakhel-Pekudei — seemingly indicating that there is no intrinsic connection between parshas HaChodesh and Vayakhel-Pekudei, there is nevertheless a connection when it does fall out on the same Shabbos (as this year). Since all matters of Torah are interrelated, connections between them exist although not always evident.
The lesson from parshas Vayakhel-Pekudei then is as follows: Vayakhel is a separate parshah, and Pekudei is a separate parshah, and on some years are read on separate Shabbosim. This year they are joined together, read on the same Shabbos: Vayakhel-Pekudei.
The concepts of “Vayakhel” and Pekudei” seem to be contradictory. Vayakhel means “He assembled,” the concept of one general entity (the assembly of many individuals into one gathering). Pekudei means “the accounts of,” referring to the counting of individual details of the Mishkan. This year we read Vayakhel-Pekudei together, although they are seemingly opposites: Vayakhel — general entity; Pekudei — individual details.
This difference between Vayakhel and Pekudei exists in man’s service to G-d, the difference between Torah and mitzvos. Although Torah contains myriads of concepts, it is still “one Torah;” and therefore the blessing made over the Torah applies equally to the study of all its matters — “Blessed ..: Who gives the Torah.” This is similar to the idea of Vayakhel. The mitzvos on the other hand, are divided into particulars, each having its own separate blessing — the idea of Pekudei.
However, although the mitzvos are divided into particular details, there is an aspect in which all mitzvos are equal. Every mitzvah has its individual kavannah (meaning of the mitzvah), and also a general kavannah in which all mitzvos are equal. The individual kavannah is applicable only to that particular mitzvah. For example, the kavannah for the mitzvah of tefillin is different than that of tzitzis. The general kavannah behind all mitzvos is that they are G-d’s commandments. Thus, although the conclusion of the blessing of a particular mitzvah is consonant with that mitzvah, the beginning and middle of the blessing is the same for all mitzvos — “Who has sanctified us with His mitzvos and commanded us.” It is the idea of acceptance of the yoke of heaven.
In man’s service to G-d, there are times when service is associated primarily with the general kavannah of the mitzvos — acceptance of the yoke of heaven (when Vayakhel is read by itself); and times when service is associated primarily with the individual meaning of the mitzvah (Pekudei read by itself). Each person knows in his soul when each type of service is necessary (depending on the time of day, etc.). In general, the order of service is first service associated with the general kavannah of mitzvos, followed by the service associated with the individual kavannah of mitzvos. Therefore we always read, in all years, Vayakhel before Pekudei (whether on separate Shabbosim or on the same Shabbos). This is seen in the blessings for the mitzvos. The first part is “Who has sanctified us with His mitzvos and commanded us,” which is the same for all mitzvos (the general kavannah — Vayakhel); only afterwards, at the conclusion of the blessing, do we mention the particular mitzvah (the individual kavannah — Pekudei).
Some years we read Vayakhel-Pekudei together, meaning that then there is special strength given to a Jew to be able to perform the service of Vayakhel and Pekudei together. That is, not only are there times when one’s principal service is either in the general kavannah or the individual kavannah, but there are times when one’s service is in both these areas simultaneously.
In addition, there is a special lesson to be derived from this year, when the reading of Vayakhel-Pekudei (together) is with the reading of parshas HaChodesh. That is, the service of Vayakhel-Pekudei must be in a new manner. When a Jew works on himself (i.e. his G-dly soul works to elevate his animal soul; his intellect works to refine his emotions, etc.), this service must be in a new manner, infinitely higher than previously (as explained above, the lesson from parshas HaChodesh). Moreover, this newness must be in regard to all matters of the service of Vayakhel-Pekudei together, as learned from this year when Vayakhel and Pekudei are read together. A Jew may think it is enough to introduce this element of newness only into the general kavannah of mitzvos (Vayakhel), or only into the individual kavannah (Pekudei); for if he tries to do it in both of them he may end up succeeding in neither. This year, when parshas HaChodesh is read together with “Vayakhel-Pekudei,” we are taught that the idea of newness must be in both aspects. And a Jew has the ability to do so from the strength given for this year.
Just as in the service of every Jew there are two concepts of Vayakhel and Pekudei, so too in Jewry in general. Vayakhel corresponds to the unity of Jews into one entity; Pekudei corresponds to the individual service and mission of each Jew. The lesson from this year is that the idea of newness (service transcending limitations) must be in both aspects.
The idea of Vayakhel-Pekudei in regard to Jewry in general is expressed in the campaign to register all Jews in the general Sifrei Torah. The unity of Jews into one entity, just as the Sefer Torah Sefer Torah is “one Torah,” is similar to the idea of Vayakhel. And, just as in the Sefer Torah there are 600,000 individual letters, each written separately, so too each Jew is an individual entity (within the general entity of Jewry) — similar to the idea of Pekudei. That we read parshas HaChodesh this year together with Vayakhel-Pekudei teaches us that involvement in this campaign to unify all Jews through the general Sefer Torahs must be in a new manner — infinitely better than before.
As explained above, the strength for service in the manner of Vayakhel-Pekudei to be in a new fashion comes from this year, when parshas HaChodesh is read on the same Shabbos as Vayakhel-Pekudei. Since such strength is given, it is certain that a Jew, when devoting the proper attention to it, will succeed in this service. Indeed, the very knowledge of this strength lends help and encouragement in one’s service. Since one is sure of success, this service is performed with joy — which in turn gives extra help in the service.
May it be G-d’s will that through the above service with joy we speedily merit the true joy of the future redemption, when the idea of Vayakhel-Pekudei come to their full perfection: Vayakhel meaning the assembling of and integrating of all Jews; and Pekudei, the “accounts of the Mishkan,” meaning the building of the third, eternal Bais HaMikdash.
4. In the beginning of the parshah, Vayakhel-Pekudei, it states (35:5): “Take from among yourselves an offering to the L-rd, all whose hearts prompt them shall bring it, the L-rd’s offering.” An obvious question. This verse tells us that Moshe Rabbeinu related G-d’s command to the Jews to give of their wealth to the building of the Mishkan. Why then does it say “Take ... from yourselves an offering to the L-rd” and not “Give ... an offering to the L-rd?”
We find a similar usage in the beginning of parshas Terumah (25:2): “Speak to the children of Israel, that they shall take for Me an offering from every man whose heart prompts him.” But in this case, the word “take” rather than “give” is understood, for it means that the offering should be taken from “every man whose heart prompts him.” But in our case, the words “all those whose hearts prompt them” do not refer to the prior words “take for yourselves” but to the following words “shall bring it” — “all whose hearts prompt them shall bring it.” Thus the word “take” in the phrase “Take ... an offering to the L-rd” is not appropriate. It should be “Give ... an offering to the L-rd.”
Another problem: The command to take an offering to the L-rd is prefaced by the verse “Moshe spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel saying: This is the thing which the L-rd commanded saying: Take ... “ That is, Moshe is telling the Jews what G-d commanded. This command from G-d to Moshe is recorded in the beginning of parshas Terumah (as mentioned above) — but with a difference. It states (25:2): “The L-rd spoke to Moshe saying: Speak to the children of Israel, that they shall take for Me a offering.” The difference between the two is that in parshas Terumah G-d commanded Moshe to speak to the “children of Israel,” whereas in our parshah it is recorded that Moshe spoke “to all the congregation of the children of Israel.” Why the difference?
The difference between the two is that “all the congregation of the children of Israel” includes a segment of Jewry not included in just “children of Israel.” “Children of Israel” by itself can mean, for example, men and not women; or only adults and not children. “All the congregation of the children of Israel” means every single Jew, men and women, adults and children.
Thus we must say that in parshas Terumah, the command from G-d to “take for Me an offering from every man whose heart prompts him” is addressed to a specific segment of the children of Israel — the collectors of the donations. G-d is telling Moshe to instruct the collectors to go and take the offerings from the Jews.
In our parshah however, the command is given to “all the congregation of the children of Israel.” This includes two aspects:
1) “Take from among yourselves an offering to the L-rd” — the command to the collectors to take an offering from the Jews;
2) “all whose hearts prompt them shall bring it” — the command to all Jews, that he whose heart moves him should himself bring his offering to G-d (“shall bring it”), and not wait until the collectors come to him to get the offering.
Therefore in our parshah it states “Moshe spoke to all the congregation
of the children of Israel,” for it is referring also
to the command to all Jews to give of their own accord before the collectors come to get it. This command was said to all Jews, including women, as stated (35:22): “The men came with the women.”
Moreover, the women came before
the men, as Rashi explains, that the men came “together with the women and closely after
Now we understand why the expression “Take from among yourselves an offering to G-d” is used and not “give,” for these words were addressed to the collectors of the offerings — that they should take the offerings from the Jews. The second part of the verse however, which is addressed to all the Jews (and not just the collectors), states “all those whose heart moves them should bring it.”
But all is not clear. G-d’s command to Moshe in parshas Terumah was to “speak to the children of Israel, that they shall take an offering for Me,” which, we explained, refers to the collectors — that they should take the offerings from the Jews. Why then did Moshe add to G-d’s command when transmitting the message that they shall give offerings, and spoke to “all the congregation of the children of Israel” — the extra command (not found in parshas Terumah) that “all whose hearts prompt them shall bring it.”
However, it is certain that whenever Moshe commanded the Jews to do something, he heard the command from G-d. This applies even when we do not find it explicitly recorded in the Torah that G-d commanded Moshe about it. The very fact that Moshe Rabbeinu said it to Jews indicates that it was said to him by G-d. Indeed, we find many commands given from Moshe to the Jews without it being recorded that Moshe was commanded to do so from G-d.