click here for Torah Fax archives

Torah Fax  
Friday - March 20, 2009 - 24 Adar, 5769

Torah Reading:VaYakhel-Pekudei (Exodus 35:1 - 40:38) 
Candle Lighting time: 6:50 PM
Shabbat ends: 7:50 PM

Shabbat HaChodesh - Shabbat Chazzak - Shabbat Mevarchim

Counting On You
This week’s Torah reading combines two Parshiyot, both of which deal with the construction of the Mishkan, the portable Sanctuary in the desert. After discussing the instructions Moses received from G‑d in three of the preceding Torah portions, the Torah recounts how Moses delivered the message to the Jewish people as to what and how they should build this Sanctuary.
More specifically, the first of this week’s “twin” parshas, entitled VaYakhel discusses the actual contributions to and the construction of the Mishkan. The second parsha, entitled Pikkudei, discusses the accounting of the materials used in its construction as well as the making of the priestly garments and the final assembly of the Mishkan.
The name “Pikkudei” means “accounts” and it is taken from the opening verse: “These are the accounts of the Mishkan, the Mishkan of the Testimony, which were counted on Moses’ command…”
There is a Talmudic rule that whenever the Torah employs the restrictive term “these” it is intended to exclude other things that might otherwise have been included. In the context of this week’s parsha the Torah seems to be telling us: “These are the accounts,” as if to say that only with respect to the Mishkan is accounting appropriate.
This understanding of the text, of course, begs the question: Generally speaking, isn’t making an accounting of one’s activities and resources a good and holy endeavor? Why would the Torah want to restrict it to the construction of the Mishkan?
Rabbi Chaim ben Attar—the classic 18th century Sephardic commentator known for synthesizing all four levels of Torah interpretation in his classic commentary Or Hachaim——focuses on the opening word of the parsha: “These” and provides several explanation as to the meaning of this word; the first of which follows below with commentary.
Or HaChaim makes the apparently obscure statement that true counting can only be applied to something of ultimate value – like that material objects which went into the building of the Mishkan. All other worldly items, he states, cannot be counted, since they have no lasting intrinsic value.

On the surface this approach seems difficult to understand. Isn’t counting a process that applies particularly to something material? By way of analogy: One can count coins but one cannot count love or logic. The more abstract something is the less we can apply the concept of counting. Only material things are quantifiable. How do we then explain the premise of the Or HaChaim that counting applies only to something spiritual like the Sanctuary?
To resolve this matter one must understand the significance of counting. When we count something it suggests two things:
First, for something to be counted the thing that we count must possess some real value; it must be authentic. Things that have no value are not counted or even considered.
In addition the idea of counting suggests that there is a link between the items that are counted; there is some element that unites them.
If we reflect on the real definition of counting and apply it to material matters we will discover that the term counting is not precise. First, material matters, no matter how precious, have no intrinsic value.
Consider, for example, gold and diamonds that we regard as having great value. If the streets would be paved with them would they be worth counting? If money would grow on trees, would anyone count his money and place it in a bank for safekeeping? Just as we do not count the grains of sand on the beach we would not count money and other material commodities whose value is predicated on their scarcity.
We can now appreciate why material matters only count when they become instruments of things that have enduring value, such as the building of the Sanctuary.
Similarly, when we use our material resources to construct our own homes and institutions so that they too serve as a “dwelling place” for G‑d, they then acquire value and can be counted.
Moreover, as stated, there must be a link between things that are counted. Physical matters, by nature, are fragmented and are distinct from one another; any union between them is merely temporary and tenuous. By contrast, the spiritual realm is characterized by cohesion and organic unity.
Thus, the Torah teaches us that to be able to truly count all of our material goods and possessions they must be dedicated to the cause of building a world that will be a Sanctuary for G‑d. Once the physical world realizes the purpose for which it was created its intrinsic value surfaces and renders it something eminently “countable.”
With the coming of Moshiach many things will change even as they remain the same. All of the material things we have today will be around in the Messianic Age as well. The difference between material things now and then is that now they cannot be counted because we do not appreciate their true intrinsic value. We only see the ephemeral aspects of the material world but not its inner ethereal nature.
While the physical world will not change in the future Age of Redemption, everything will begin to acquire greater value and really count because then the entire world—including our worldly possessions—will express G‑d’s presence in this world.
All the above goes contrary to conventional wisdom that the Messianic Age will bring an end to the world the way we know it; that we will no longer have the material possessions that we have today. In this mindset, the physical world is viewed as a contradiction and an impediment to the spiritual world and way of life.
In truth, this approach actually minimizes the true accomplishments that we will experience in the future Redemption.
Judaism—as articulated by Maimonides and illuminated by Chassidic thought—believes that all of the physical world will remain the same. What will change is our perception of the physical and the way we relate to it. Instead of viewing the physical world in the narrowest of ways, we will see its full G‑dly power that is no less G‑dly than the spiritual. Instead of viewing the physical as a creation that has only secondary or tertiary value relative to the spiritual domain, in the Messianic age we will see how all of physicality will be endowed with profound meaning and depth. We will also see the unity and cohesiveness within the entire universe.
Everything around us will then begin to truly count.
Spirituality cannot be counted because it is not quantifiable. Material things, as we perceive them, do not count because they possess no intrinsic value. What does count? Physical things, when their true inner dimension is revealed.
In practical terms this means: when we utilize the material possessions for the creation of a Mishkan/Sanctuary for G‑d in our own homes by, for example, affixing a Mezuzah to the doorposts of our homes, having a kosher kitchen, practicing hospitality, observing the Shabbat and Holidays, creating a Jewish atmosphere for our children, and living in peace and harmony —then we can count our blessings. 

Moshiach Matters

Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn, the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, said: "If all Jews would join together, great and small alike, and say, 'Father, enough already. Have mercy on us and send us our Redeemer, then certainly Moshiach would come!" 
Moshiach - It’s a Jewish issue. For more info, visit 
© 2001- 2009 Chabad of the West Side