Torah Fax

Friday, March 24, 2006 - 24 Adar, 5766

Torah Reading: VaYakhel-Pekudei (Exodus 35:1 - 40:38)
Candle Lighting Time:  5:54 PM
Shabbat Ends: 6:55 PM
Shabbat Chazak
Shabbat HaChodesh
We Bless the New Month of Nissan
Accessory To A Mitzvah
In this week's double-parshah of VaYakhel-Pekudei, the Torah repeats the details of the construction of the Mishkan and the making of the priestly garments.
Even the way the Torah divided the discussion of the Mishkan and the priestly garments into two parshiyot-Terumah and Teztaveh respectively-is repeated in this week's double parsha. In parshat Vayakhel the Torah describes the manner in which the Mishkan and its vessels were to be constructed; whereas parshat Pikudei focuses on the making of the priestly garments.
Why are these two themes separated into two sections? Why couldn't the Torah discuss the priestly garments together with the construction of the Mishkan and its vessels in one parshah?
One scholarly answer given is based on the way Maimonides classified the 613 commandments. While he lists the building of the Mishkan and its vessels as a Biblical commandment, he does not consider making the priestly garments a Biblical commandment. Rather, the priestly garments were considered accessories to the service performed by the Kohain-Priest in the Temple. To be sure, if the Kohain were to have performed the service without the priestly garments, the service would be invalid, so the Torah does want the Kohain to wear the priestly garments. But according to Maimonides, there is no independent Mitzvah to make the priestly garments, merely a requirement to don them during services in the Holy Temple. By contrast, there is a Mitzvah to build the Mishkan and it vessels.
This answer, however, invites three other questions:
(a) What difference does it really make if a certain action is deemed to have intrinsic value or if it is merely an accessory to another Mitzvah?
(b) Why is the construction of the Mishkan viewed as an intrinsic Mitzvah, whereas the making of the garments is considered to be more of an embellishment to another Mitzvah-the Mitzvah of performing the service in the Temple?
(c) Since every detail of Torah knowledge must be applied to our own lives, we must understand the message that this distinction between the Mishkan and the garments conveys to us.
Building a Mishkan represents the way we are required to create a G‑dly environment. It does not suffice for one to do G‑dly things; one must also build a family, home, community and nation-and ultimately a world-that is hospitable to G‑d. Sure, by building the home etc. we are then capable of offering services to G‑d. But, there is something to be said about our building of a G‑dly environment, in and of itself.
A garment, by contrast, is tailor made for one individual. A Priest who would wear a garment that was too long or too short not only did not qualify to do the service in the Temple, but was moreover disgracing and invalidating the service. There is no intrinsic value in making a garment. If it is not used by the individual for whom it was intended it has no value. However, when the garment is worn properly it adds dignity and honor to the one who performs the service.
In other words: Judaism possesses two components: There are actions that possess objective positive value regardless of how they resonate with a particular individual. This is analogous to the building of the Mishkan, a structure that was not limited to one individual. Judaism also possesses subjective "garments" that enhance the objective actions that we do. These "garments" make the Mitzvah that we do more appealing and fulfilling. A garment helps us express our own individuality, taste and dignity.
But, while creating objective structures is inherently positive, focusing on our subjective tastes and preferences in our Judaism has no value unless it actually accompanies concrete and objective action. Self-expression might be a human need, but it does not take the place of building a Sanctuary for G‑d in ways that conform to His instructions.   
Frequently we endeavor to express our soul's yearning to be closer to G‑d in our own subjective way. And while G‑d must certainly appreciate the good intentions involved, these same "garments," or means of self-expression that accompany objective performances of Mitzvot carry an infinitely higher form of spirituality than the making of the garments themselves.
Since we received the Torah at Mount Sinai, we have been engaged in the process of making this entire world a "dwelling place for G‑d." Every Mitzvah that we perform is like a brick that we lay that will become  part of the magnificent palace for G‑d in the Messianic Age. Every Mitzvah thus possesses intrinsic and enduring value.
To be sure, it is important that we wear the right garments while we do the Mitzvah. We should definitely add class, beauty and dignity to the Mitzvah. The manner in which we do the Mitzvah may certainly help us express our soul's yearnings and aspirations and need for self-expression. And these garments will certainly help us look more presentable as we welcome Moshiach into our homes - but they can never take the place of the Mitzvah itself.
Moshiach Matters
The yearning for Moshiach alone is enough to bring about his revelation, as it says in the Midrash: “A generation that searches for my sovereignty will be immediately redeemed.” (Yalkut Shimoni)

Moshiach - It’s a Jewish issue. For more info, visit
© 2001- 2006 Chabad of the West Side