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D'var Torah by Dr. Kalman Stein, Interim Head of School

Dr. Kalman Stein, Head of School

Dear Hebrew Academy Community:

Throughout Vayakhel and Pekudai, the two Parshiyot which describe the construction of the Mishkan we are told again, and again, and again that each piece was constructed “as Hashem commanded” or “exactly as Hashem commanded Moshe.” In fact, the Yerushalmi in Brachot points out that these phrases appear a total of eighteen times in Vayakhel, thus representing a basis for our having (the original) eighteen Brachot in the weekday Shmoneh Esrei. Why do we need to be told repeatedly that in fashioning every aspect of the Mishkan the artisans of Bnai Yisrael did exactly as God had commanded? Would we have suspected that they had not?

The idea that one needs not live a life of Torah and Mitzvot to please God is not a new one. Critics of traditional Orthodoxy have for centuries argued that creating new rituals to replace those which they find outmoded or unfashionable is an authentic mode of Jewish practice. Needless to say, those who remain loyal to the Mesorah understand, as Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi wrote in the Kuzari, that “one should approach God only with the Mitzvot because only God knows all of their details and the significance of those details which when performed perfectly lead to … cleaving to the word of God, as was seen in the construction of the Mishkan about each aspect of which the Torah tells us that it was done as God commanded Moshe, that is, with neither enhancement or detraction.”

The construction of the Mishkan followed immediately after Hashem’s decision to forgive the People of Israel for the Sin of the Golden Calf. The Mishkan was testimony to God’s continuing presence amongst them. The two pillars, the foundation, for having God’s presence in our midst are God’s giving the Torah to the Jewish People and their complete and heartfelt acceptance of the Torah. The care which our ancestors took to create the Mishkan precisely according to God’s command was the Tikkun, the repair, of the damage their sin had created. Now they understood that authentic service to God must be based on God’s command not on human beings’ limited — when compared to that of the Divine —intelligence and imagination. 

Dr. Kalman Stein
Head of School

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