<I>Vayak'hel-Pekudei</I>: Triumph Over the Dark Side

Shabbat and Mishkan as an arsenal against evil.

Rabbi Dr. Aryeh Hirsch,

Aryeh Hirsch
Aryeh Hirsch
"As Moshe began to assemble the Mishkan, the entire structure of the Dark Side began to totter." (Zohar vol. II, 238b)

Thus begins Rabbi Matis Weinberg his discussion of these parshiot, and he focuses on the mirrors that were brought by the Israelite women as donations to the Mishkan. These mirrors, used in Egypt to bring their slave-husbands to sexual desire, were tools of the love that caused the massive reproduction of the children of Israel while in Egypt, and powered the redemption. This was a mass, national tikkun, repair, of what could have been pure yetzer hara, sex for its own, carnal sake; it was instead a blow to the "Dark Side," and deserved to be enshrin
The Lubavitcher Rebbe comments that the names for these parshiot are opposites.
ed forever in the copper wash-basin (Shmot 38:8) of the Mishkan and the Temple.

I am no expert in Zohar, and Kabbalah-groupies like Madonna may know more about the Dark Side than I do, but it is worthwhile to see how rabbis of different periods viewed this tikkun of the Dark Side.

The first Kli Yakar commentary on Vayak'hel discusses why Moshe Rabbeinu had to gather "all the people." He says that it would be impossible to build a Mishkan without national unity; the Temple is "a home in which we all live, all Jews together, together with God." That is why construction began on the day after the First Yom Kippur in the desert: the Dark Side had won its temporary victory, in the form of the Golden Calf. On Yom Kippur, the Jews had been reunited with the Almighty, receiving atonement and a new covenant of Torah. But for all Jews to live together in peace and harmony, renewed relations "bein adam lachavero" ( between men ) required that on the next day, Moshe sit all day and adjudicate any monetary and other issues and quarrels between them. Thus it was when Yitro arrived, that very day, and found Moshe Rabbeinu in over his head in court cases; he then gave his famous advice for delegation of authority (Shmot 18,13; according to Sifri).

Also, good relations with God required that no one give a donation from stolen goods, and so it was necessary for Moshe Rabbeinu to decide all monetary disputes, and justly allocate to whom the monies truly belonged, before donations were made to build the Mishkan. Rabbi Matis Weinberg (Frameworks, page 331) again quotes the Zohar in its play on the Hebrew word root a'm'n regarding the audit of the Mishkan materials (Shmot 38:22-31). The faithfulness (emunah) of the craftsmen (omanim) was so unimpeachable that "the Dark Side was unwillingly forced to be present" to witness the audit. "Faithfulness thus emerging from the wholeness of a world-view of excruciating integrity and honesty" (Frameworks) was the basis on which the Mishkan was built.

The Aznayim L'Torah comments on the Hak'hel (gathering together) of parshat Vayak'hel and why it is observed (Shmot, 35:2), followed by a discussion of the laws of Shabbat. Remember, all this occurred just after the episode of the Golden Calf. Aznayim L'Torah says that both the Mishkan and Shabbat have a national ("klal Yisraeli") character. Shabbat is meant to be kept by a nation; hence, the Talmud's comment that "were all of Israel to uphold only two Sabbaths, they would immediately be redeemed" in the ultimate victory over the Dark Side.

Shabbat is meant to be a national proclamation of belief in the God of Israel as Creator of the world (as opposed to Golden Calves and other idolatry). Desecration of the Sabbath by members of the tribe is a national blemish. Hence, the vociferous protests by Chareidim over Sabbath desecration. Similarly, Mishkan and Temple showed this klal Yisraeli a
Who knows whether the ultimate weapon really sits buried under the site of our ancient Beit HaMikdash?
spect. The Temple is the national institution, as three times a year the nation congregates at the Temple to proclaim its unity with the Lord of Unity. And all members of the nation contributed to the Mishkan-Temple building, and gave yearly for upkeep and sacrifices (Trumat HaLishka, as described in an entire volume of the Talmud, Shekalim, and commemorated yearly in the Shabbat of Shabbat Shekalim).

Note that if one didn't contribute his half-shekel, he was forced to give by the national authorities (in a play on words, they could "m'mashkein oto," force his contribution to the Mishkan).

Finally, the Lubavitcher Rebbe comments that the names for these parshiot are opposites that are complementary. Vayak'hel stresses the nation (national gathering); Pekudei stresses the individual, who is counted, and particulars (items for the Mishkan), which are audited. "The Torah is giving the spiritual potential to harmonize these two opposing qualities." The national gathering of the first parsha gives the nation a qualitative edge, spiritually and physically, that no individual or subgroup could achieve on its own; also, no matter how lowly any certain Jew may be, he is still attached to the whole, including the elite. And Pekudei teaches the importance and uniqueness of every single individual. Together, these parshiot imbue the Jewish people with the ability to live together with God in our national house, the Mishkan-Temple, and to bring victory over the Dark Side.

It is obvious that I love using Hollywood symbols. It's notable that even Steven Spielberg noted the dual spiritual/physical "power" of the Mishkan in a movie in which he portrayed Nazis (yimach shmam) in a wild pursuit of the "Lost Ark," in order to misuse its power to the advantage of the Dark Side. And today, we see Arab anti-Semites, who were allies of Nazis in World War II, using every ploy that they can to separate us from the Temple Mount and its Jewish meaning and treasures. Who knows, as we try to fight a battle against a nuclear Iran, whether the ultimate weapon really sits buried under our very noses, under the site of our ancient Beit HaMikdash (see "The Lost Ark?" Feb. 23,2007)? But one thing is certain: the ultimate triumph of the Jews over the Dark Side is assured, once we too recognize the national importance of Temple and the Temple Mount.

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