Nachal novea; makor chochma -
A flowing river; the source of wisdom (Mish. 18:4)

Parshiyos VaYak'hel/P'kudei 5756

(Exodus 35:1-38:20 - Exodus 38:21-40:38)

"Every wise-hearted person among you (the Jews) shall come and make everything that Hashem (G-d) has commanded: the Tabernacle, its Tent, and its cover..." (Exodus 35:10, 11)


The Jews have been quietly involved in a global spiritual conquest throughout their two millennia in exile. After having atoned for the sin of the Golden Calf, the Jews were given the second Tablets of the Torah on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) and, on that very day, were commanded to construct the Tabernacle, the house of prayer. Every Jew was commanded to participate in its construction. The Tabernacle would not be functional for another six months. Certainly there were other commandments which were more immediate, so why was building the Tabernacle given precedence? Furthermore, why was each Jew required to personally participate in its construction? Wouldn't they be distracted from their all-important Torah studies? One of the reasons why the manna miraculously fell from heaven was so that they would not be distracted from their studies. Why couldn't the Tabernacle be built supernaturally as well? In the following paragraphs, based on the teachings of Rabbi Nachman and his student Rav Noson we will discuss these issues.


Before any prayer can ascend to the upper worlds, it must first reach the land of Israel, as the verse says, "And they (the Jews) shall pray to You (Hashem ) in the direction of their land." (1 Kings 8:48) [The verse associates prayer with the land, i.e. the land of Israel, and indicates that all prayers must first travel there in order to be accepted. (Metzudas David)] Transitively then, the spiritual energies contained in the synagogue, the house of prayer, are associated with the spiritual energies of the land of Israel and function to propel our prayers to the Land. Having access to the energies of Israel is a great privilege and a prized treasure. The spiritual essence of the land of Israel gives a person a greater connection to Hashem and His unlimited powers. It is through these spiritual energies that the world can become sanctified, upon which the rectification of the world and the coming of the Messiah are dependent.


In order to bring sanctity to the four corners of the world, we Jews have been scattered throughout the Diaspora for many centuries. Wherever we went, we have always built Torah schools, synagogues, and have practiced the commandments of the Torah within our communities. Through Torah study, personal and synagogal (communal) prayer, and the fulfillment of the commandments, we are able to access the awesome spiritual powers of the land of Israel, even in the Diaspora. Therefore, every Jewish home, community, and institution is able to draw the spiritual energies of the land of Israel to the Diaspora, and thus sanctify it. When, in this way, we have sanctified the entire world, the Messiah will come and we will all return to our land. So we see that the Jews have been quietly involved in a global spiritual conquest throughout their two millennia in exile, through the fulfillment of the commandments, as the verse says, "You shall surely observe the commandments of Hashem, your G-d, and His decrees that he commanded you. You shall do what is fair and good in the eyes of Hashem, so that it will be good for you, and you shall come and possess the good Land [of Israel and its spiritual energies] that Hashem swore to your forefathers, to thrust away all your enemies [worldwide] from before you, as Hashem spoke." (Deut. 6:17-19)

Every nation is in competition with all other nations for the seemingly limited resources of the world. They also compete to advance the rules and norms of their particular culture, by which they desire to live. This causes hatred and friction between nations. Within each country, minorities are often hated because the majority group feels threatened by them, that they compete for the country's limited resources and their cultural values conflict. Minorities are usually tolerated only when the majority does not feel threatened. Throughout our long exile, wherever we Jews have gone, we have always been the minority group and, sooner or later, have always been considered to be a threat to the welfare of the majority. What causes this? The super commentator, Rashi, in is opening remarks to the Bible, raises this question and provides the answer. [Note: The following is not an exact translation of his words, but expresses and elaborates upon his thoughts and ideas, followed to their logical conclusion and implications, as explained by Rabbi Nachman and Rav Noson.]


Although they may not have been consciously aware of it, there has always been one major complaint repeatedly raised by the Gentiles against the Jews during our long exile. This complaint has found many different outlets for expression and has always been the root cause of anti-Semitism. This underlying accusation against the Jews, so often expressed as hatred, abuse, discrimination, condemnation, religious persecution, anihilation, etc. is, "Who gives you Jews the right to draw the spiritual energies of the land of Israel to the Diaspora?! Through this act you will bring the sanctity of the land of Israel to the Diaspora. By sanctifying the world in this way, you will eventually be entitled to possess the entire world. The fact that you are accessing the energies of Israel for this purpose is wrong. In effect, it makes you robbers! The world does not belong to you, you are stealing it from us, the other nations, its legal owners!"

Rashi provides the answer to this justified complaint, "Hashem created the world and it belongs to Him. He therefore can give it to whomever He wishes. He first gave it to the nations of the world and now He has decided to give it to us, His people, who observe His commandments, as the verse says, 'The power of His (Hashem's) works [the miracles of nature, which demonstrate that He created the world and indicate that He is its owner and master,] He told to His nation [the Jews. He instructed them to sanctify the world by observing the commandments, in order] to give them an inheritance of the nations [the entire world]." (Psalms 111:6) Rav Noson says that this means that it is Hashem's desire that the Jews involve themselves in the spiritual conquest of the world by drawing the spiritual energies of the land of Israel to whatever place they go. This is one of the reasons Hashem created the world. It is also one of the reasons why, at Hashem's command, the Jews carried the Tabernacle wherever they traveled--from the desert to the land of Israel. By this Hashem wanted to signify that He gave us the power to sanctify and conquer the entire world, from the lowest levels of the earth, i.e. the snake-and-scorpion-infested wastelands of the desert, to the sacred, Holy land and all the lands in between.


The Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law) says, "Upon the conclusion of one's prayers he should go to the study hall to learn Torah. Then he should go about his occupation [to earn a living], because any Torah study that is not accompanied by an occupation is destined to become neglected or abolished and is [a root] cause of sin." (Shulchan Aruch: Orach Chaim 155:1, 156:1) In associating prayer, Torah study, and earning a living, the Shulchan Aruch implies that they have a common denominator. Rav Noson explains: The verse says "So said Hashem, 'If not [for] My covenant of day and night [Our sages say this refers to the Torah, which was given as part of a covenant and which must be studied both day and night, as in "And you shall meditate in it (the Torah) day and night." (Josh. 1:8)], the statutes of heaven and earth I would not place.'" [Said Rabbi Eleazer [based on this verse], "Were it not for the Torah, heaven and earth would not endure." (Talmud: Pesachim 68b)] (Jeremiah 33:25) Th is means that Torah study accesses spiritual energies of life which vivifies the world. It follows that if a person stopped studying the Torah even for a single moment, he should be cut off from his life and expire. This point poses several important questions: What enabled the world to exist before the Torah was given? How do people who never the study the Torah live? Even those who study often cannot study indefinitely without taking a break. So, how do they exist when they are forced to rest from their studies? And how does evil exist if everything derives its vital essence from Torah?

Our sages tell us that Hashem created the Torah before He created the world. He then looked into the Torah and used it as the blueprint for the world. Since the Creation is the unfolding of the Torah blueprint, it means that the spiritual energies and deep mysteries of the Torah are concealed within the Creation itself. This is so because the full intensity of Torah light is too much for the average person to tolerate. Rabbi Nachman says that concealing the Torah within the world was an aspect of Hashem's unconditional kindness, derived from the chamber of unconditional gifts. It was this unconditional kindness which enabled the world to exist for the more than two thousand years prior to the giving of the Torah. The fact that the essence of Torah is embedded in the physical world enables a person to continue to live despite his neglect of or inability to participate in Torah study. Therefore, one can be sustained either through actual Torah study or through mundane involvement in the physical world, such as work. Work accesses the spiritual energies of the Torah hidden within the creation. (2 Lekutai MoHaran 78)


"Rabban Gamliel the son of Rebbe Yehudah HaNassi says, 'Torah study is good together with an occupation, for the exertion of them both makes sin forgotten.'" (Talmud: Avoth 2:2) Rav Noson explains that this means that Torah study and work combined have an important role in one's spiritual growth. When we go out to earn a living or are involved in some other necessary physical activity, we access the spiritual energies of Hashem's unconditional kindness. Through these very same channels, we access the spiritual energies of the land of Israel which enables us to physically conquer the holy land. The explanation is as follows:


In order to prevent the Jews from accomplishing their aforementioned goal of global sanctification, by drawing to the Diaspora the spiritual energies of the land of Israel, the forces of evil have created many barriers and obstacles. Rabbi Nachman says that the main antidote against evil's efforts against us is Hashem's unconditional kindness. Rav Noson explains why Hashem's unconditional kindness is able to deter the forces of evil. Hashem first gave the holy land of Israel to the Canaanites, one of the most immoral and corrupt peoples the world has ever known. The Canaanites desecrated the land's awesome sanctity, as the verse says, "Do not perform the practices of [the Canaanites who dwell in] the land of Canaan to which I (Hashem) bring you [for they contaminate the land through their abonable behavior](" (Lev. 18:3) "For the inhabitants (the Canaanites) of the land [of Israel], who were before you (the Jews), committed all these abominations [acts of immorality], and the Land be came contaminated [through their degenerate behavior]." (Lev. 18:27) Despite being truly unworthy and undeserving people, the Canaanites were permitted to dwell in the holiest place on earth for several centuries before the rightful inhabitants, the Jews were permitted to dislodge them. Since the Cannanites were strongly connected to the forces of evil, their desecration of the land's sanctity for so many centuries pleased the evil forces greatly. However, it was only through Hashem's unconditional kindness that the Canaanites were able to dwell in the land. Therefore, when we Jews access the spiritual energies of the land of Israel through Hashem's unconditional kindness, the forces of evil want to claim that we have no right. We're not earning the land through merit, but rather, through Hashem's gift. But since the Canaanites also possessed the land via that channel and there was no complaint then, the forces of evil now can have no legitimate complaint against us. So we see that, it is precisely because Hashem allowed the lowly Canaanites to dwell in Israel that we Jews can enter the land through the power of Hashem's unconditional kindness.


Now we can better understand the above mentioned Talmudic teaching, "Torah study is good together with an occupation, for the exertion of them both makes sin forgotten." As mentioned above, the spiritual energies of Hashem's unconditional kindness are also activated by work. The workplace, because of the high level of physicality there, has a strong connection to evil. The forces of evil must be nourished by the light of Torah. However, they can only receive this nourishment indirectly, gleaning it from the Jews when we are spiritually inactive (i.e., not involved with Torah and mitzvos). Therefore, any attempt to perform an act of holiness instigates attacks by the forces of evil, because our involvement with holy matters deprives them of the vital nourishment they need to survive. When we deprive the forces of evil of their spiritual nourishment by our performance of the commandments, they are forced to expose our sins to the heavenly court so that they can be granted permission to attack us. These attacks are their attempt to force us put aside Torah study, prayer and mitzvah observance which enables them to obtain their spiritual nourishment. Because no human is perfect and without sin, it is very difficult to avoid these deadly assaults. The only way to protect ourselves is through work. Work disconnects us from holiness enough to deflect the light of Hashem's unconditional kindness to nourish the forces of evil, as explained above, while still being productive in the world. From this, we understand that uninterrupted study invites the most severe attacks from the forces of evil.


Rabbi Nachman says that the higher one's spiritual level, the more of Hashem's unconditional kindness he is able to access. The Tzaddik HaEmes (the leading saint of the generation) is able to draw forth so much of those spiritual energies, he can sustain the entire world, including wicked people, Gentiles, animals, vegetation, and the rest of Creation. When the Tzaddik HaEmes studies Torah, those who have no share in the Torah do not receive their life-sustaining nourishment. They only have access to this sustenance when the Tzaddik refracts the light into the physical world through tending to his physical needs. Thus, the existence of the world is dependent upon the intermittent breaks that the Tzaddik HaEmes takes from his studies to tend to his physical needs.


The holy Zohar stresses a point, consistent with our teaching, "One must give the forces of evil a share in every act of holiness in order not to arouse their anger. This was Iyov's (Job's) mistake as the verse says, "Iyov offered burnt offerings("[This implies that he acted as an isolated individual, only for himself, taking all the spiritual nourishment elicited by his sacrifies for himself and not giving the forces of evil their share.] Immediately after this incident, the verse mentions that the Sahtan (the prosecuting angel) brought accusations against him, which resulted in the many calamities that befell him, despite his complete righteousness. His mistake was that he did not give the forces of evil their share of sustanance from holiness. (Job 1:5) On Yom Kippur (the day of Atonement), it would have been all to easy for the Sahtan to accuse the Jews, for on this day, all of Israel atoned by confessing their sins, which at the end of the process, resulted in all of their sins being erased. At this most critical time, the Sahtan had to be silenced. Therefore, he was given a goat to mollify him (se'ir l'azazel). In every commandment we do, some aspect of that commandment is designed to give evil its share. [Rav Noson gives many examples of this. However, due to space considerations, we are unable to elaberate on this interesting topic.]


Torah study together with an occupation nourishes the entire world, fostering peace, ultimately enabling the Jews to return to the land of Israel and bring the Messiah.

As mentioned above, not only do the forces of evil derive their existence from the refracted light of holiness, but the Gentiles do as well. This is reason for offering seventy bulls in the Temple, which corresponds to the seventy nations of the world. Each one of the seventy bulls provided essential spiritual nourishment to its respective nation, in order that the guardian angels assigned to each one of the seventy nations should not come to accuse the Jews, as explained above. [Note: One should not misconstrue the similarity of the spiritual nourishment of evil and the spiritual nourishement of Gentiles as suggesting that Gentiles are necessarily connected to evil.]

Rav Noson explains the following verse as consistent with our teaching, "Of Zevulun he (Moshe) said, 'Rejoice, O Zevulun, in your excursions [going out from the study hall to conduct business, dedicating a portion of your earnings to support the Torah scholars of Issachar], and Issachar in your tents [the Torah scholars engrossed in their Torah study, receiving financial support from Zevulun i.e. the businessman]." (Deut. 33:18) The very next verse says, "The nations will assemble at the mount, there they will slaughter offerings of righteousness, for by the riches of the sea they will be nourished and by the treasures concealed in the sand." (Deut. 33:19) This verse can be understood as follows, "[As a result of Zevulun's involvement in an occupation] The nations [of the world] will assemble at the [Temple] mount [and many of the Gentiles will become so impressed with the pious ways of the Torah that they will be inspired to convert to Judaism (Rashi) and therefore], there they will slaughter offerings of righteousness [i.e. they will convert]. [What brings this about?] For by the riches of the sea they will be nourished, [The sea refers to Torah, as the verse says, "The land shall be full of knowledge of Hashem [this refers to Torah knowledge] as water covers the sea." (Isaiah 11:9) Thus Zevulun's commercial activities provide the Gentiles with spiritual nourishment from Hashem's kindness concealed in the creation i.e. the sea. The spiritual nourishment derived from the energies of kindness eventually influence the Gentiles to convert.](and by the treasures concealed in the sand [also refers to Zevulun's commercial activities enabling the Gentiles to be nourished from the Torah "concealed in the sand", i.e. concealed within the creation, which inspires them to come close to Hashem.]" These verses teach that Torah study together with an occupation nourishes the entire world, fostering peace, ultimately enabling the Jews to return to the land of Israel and bring the Messiah. However, Rav Noson warns that Torah study and the pursuit of spirituality should be one's main focus. One should nourish the forces of evil just barely enough to sustain them. Giving them too much is also very destructive. This is why "Rabbah bar Chana said in the name of Rebbe Yochanan, reporting to Rebbe Yehuda ben Ila'i, 'See what a difference there is between the eariler and later generations. The earlier generations made the study of the Torah their primary concern and their mundane work secondary to it, and both [endevors] prospered in their hands. The later generations made their mundane work their primary concern and their study of the Torah secondary to it, and neither [endevors] prospered in their hands.'" (Talmud: Berachot 35b) (Lekutai Halachot: Orach Chaim: Hilchot Bais Ha'Knesset 5:1-2, 8-11)


At the first giving of the Torah, the Jews reached such spiritual heights that they completely deprived the forces of evil of their nourishment, inciting them to fiercely attack. This influenced the Jews to commit the sin the Golden Calf. When the Torah was given for the second time, in order not to repeat this mistake, the Jews were immediately commanded to abandon their studies and start the work of building the Tabernacle, which provided the forces of evil with the proper nourishment, as the verse says, "If your enemy [the forces of evil] is hungry, feed him bread, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink [so he will be content and not attempt to harm you]." (Proverbs 25:21) Thus the second time, the Jews did not experience any adverse consequences.

A prayer's answer is dependent upon Hashem's kindness. Therefore the Tabernacle, the house of prayer, had to be infused with the spiritual energies of kindness, which as mentioned above, is accessed through work. So work makes one's prayers more effective. Now we can understand why the Jews were commanded to physically construct the Tabernacle instead of having it built miraculously why the commandment was issued immediately after the second giving of the Torah. [Note:Even the manna had to be gathered, which entailed some physical effort and also nourished the forces of evil keeping them at bay.


We mentioned that the forces of evil are nourished through mundane activity, especially through earning a living ...There was once a poor Jew who lived in the city of Oohel. He had children of marriageable age as well as young children. He couldn't bear the pressure of his poverty any longer and he decided to go to a certain place where the forces of evil resided. He stood there and said, "I give myself over to you in exchange for you providing me with all the money I need support my house and family." The forces of evil accepted his proposal and he became very wealthy. Because of his newfound wealth, he was easily able to marry off his sons to women from prominent families. [As part of the bargain,] every day a messenger from the forces of evil would come and bring him to them for several hours, [to do some work] and then he would return to his house. This practice went on for many years.

When he became old, the man became very depressed. He thought to himself, "What have I done? What will become of me after I die?" He decided to return to the evil forces and, as he had done many years before, stood there and said, "I am too old and weak and therefore I do not have the strength to work for you any longer. Therefore, I request that you release me from our deal." A voice rang out and said, "We are prepared to release you, provided that you return all of the money that we have ever given you throughout these many years." The man responded, "I have already spent all the money in marrying off my sons and for other things. How could you ever expect me to raise such a huge sum of money?"

The man then gathered his thoughts and decided to visit the Tzaddik, Rebbe Moshe Teitelbaum, the Rabbi of Oohel. The man told the Rebbe the entire story from beginning to end. He told the Rebbe that he regretted ever having made such a deal with the forces of evil and began to cry profusely. The Rebbe told the despondent man not to worry for he would protect him. The Rebbe said, "Wait in my house and do not venture out until you hear from me. The Rebbe then called for his attendant and said to him, "Take my staff and go to the place of where the forces of evil reside. Stand there and say the following words, 'The Rabbi of Oohel summons you to judgment on this [particular] day.'" The attendant did as he was told. On the appointed day, the Rabbi and two other judges sat at a table and ordered the man to present his case, which he did. After the man was finished, the Rabbi then ordered the forces of evil to present their case, which they did. When both sides had concluded their arguments, the Rabbi stood up and said the following, "The Torah was given to Moshe, and all subsequent rabbis are like Moshe in that they were given the final say in all disputes. Therefore, my verdict is binding both in this world and the upper worlds. My verdict is that this man must sell all of his remaining possessions and give that money to the forces of evil. However, the forces of evil have no claim over the remainder of the money that he is unable to obtain. If he does this, the man will be completely absolved of all his debts and the forces of evil will have no further claim over him for the remainder of his life and even after his demise." The verdict was signed and sealed and was given to the man to hold as his proof. The forces of evil then said, "Here on earth you rule over us, but later we will take care of this man." The Rabbi then decreed, "Just as my verdict is binding on earth so it will be binding in heaven and I decree the forces of evil are not permitted to harm him while he is alive or even after his demise!" The Rabbi than reassured the frightened man that he would never be harmed by them and instructed him on how to repent. The man did a complete repentance. (Sippurim Me'Olam HaEmes pp. 271-272)

HITHBODEDUTH (secluding oneself)

Rabbi Nachman taught that as well as reciting the mandatory daily prayers contained in the prayer book, we should also speak to Hashem, just as we would confide in our best friend: in seclusion, in the language and style with which we feel most comfortable. This is based on the advice of our sages, just to mention two sources: "Rebbe Yitzchak said: 'Why were our forefathers barren? Because Hashem desires the prayers of the righteous."' (Talmud: Yevamoth 64a) "Hashem seeks nothing other than to hear the prayers of Israel." (Medrash Tehillim 116:1)

The following is an example of such a session: Help us to observe the holy holiday of Passover, the anniversary of our redemption, with great holiness and joy. Help us to fulfill all of the commandments of Passover with great joy and sanctity [as well]. Protect us that there should not be found within our possession even the slightest particle of leaven throughout all the days of Passover. For it is revealed and known before You that it is truly impossible for a person of flesh and blood to [totally] avoid this without Your assistance, [although we try as hard as we are humanly able]. [By celebrating Passover] help us go from bondage to freedom, from depression to joy, from mourning to festivity, and from darkness to light. (2 Lekutai Tefilos 37)


Based on the advice of our sages (Talmud: Megilah 28b), Rabbi Nachman stressed that everyone should study at least one law from the Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law) [or its equivalent, other books which are based on the Shulchan Aruch] everyday without fail. (Sichoth HaRan 29) [It is strictly prohibited for one to possess or eat any leaven or products that contain leaven on Passover. In addition, included in this law is that on Passover it is only permitted to use utensils that have not been used with leaven products, i.e. which have not absorbed the taste of leaven. Warming up food in utensils that has been used for leaven contaminates it, and makes it is as if the food is leaven itself. Therefore, to avoid this problem many people use new or special utensils that are used only for Passover. Another option is before Passover, one can remove the taste of leaven from certain types of utensils and this makes them fit for Passover use. There are many types of utensils which came in contact with leaven that cannot be made fit for Passover use, such as earthenware vessels. One must make one's kitchen fit for Passover by removing the absorbed taste of leaven from one's stove, oven, sink, countertops, etc. There is a rule that the method through which a vessel becomes unfit is the way through which it can be made fit again. Therefore, those vessels used directly over fire without liquids, such as a spit, can only be made fit for Passover through placing it into a fire until it becomes glowing hot. Pots that are used for cooking liquids are made fit through boiling, similar to the way they are normally used. [Note: Do to space considerations we have only provided a slight overview. There are many details and laws associated with making utensils fit for Passover, in addition to the many laws concerning which vessels can and cannot be made fit for Passover use. We are also unable to explain how one is to perform the glowing and boiling processes, mentioned above, therefore one should consult with one's Rabbi as to how to proceed.] (Shulchan Aruch: Orach Chaim: 451)

Volume 4, Issue 22