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Shabbos Mevarchim Chodesh Nisan.

Rosh Chodesh will be Wednesday and Thursday.

The Case of the Missing Yud

In our parashah, we are told of the list of materials donated by the tribal leaders – the “Nesiim” – toward the construction of the Mishkan. That list included the precious stones that would be used for the Kohen Gadol’s clothing, as well as spices and oil needed for the anointment and daily functioning of the Mishkan. When the Torah introduces this list, it begins by stating: וְהַנְּשִׂאִם הֵבִיאוּ, the leaders brought [the shoham stones, the setting stones, etc.]. The word, נְּשִׂאִם, leaders, in this verse is written differently than it would typically be written. Normally, the word is written with an additional letter yud or two as נְּשִׂיאִים (see Bamidbar 10:4, et al.). Why then is the word written here in the diminutive form?

Our Sages explain that the Nesiim here made an error. At the start of the campaign to amass materials for the Mishkan, they declared, “Let the community donate what they will donate, and whatever is left to be donated, we will complete.” But in the end, the alacrity and generosity of the Jewish People was so great, that the collection was almost finished. The Mishkan project was about to move forward without the Nesiim’s participation altogether! Anxiously, they looked for what they could still contribute, and all that was left for them to bring were the stones, oil, and spice. Since they lacked alacrity in participating in this mitzvah on the front end, the letter yud is taken from their title, and their title is spelled in the diminutive form, as a admonishment of sort to each of them (Rashi, citing Bamidbar Rabbah 12:16).

Some suggest that their mistake lay in the fact that they believed that the collection of funds toward the construction of the Mishkan was technical in nature. It was, in their mind, about the money. And in what seemed like a generous offer, they declared their intention to make sure that the campaign would succeed. But what they failed to realize is that the purpose of the campaign ran much deeper. It was, at its core, an opportunity. It was an opportunity to be a part of this special undertaking, to be a part of the unique mitzvah of building a Mishkan for Hashem’s Presence. In short, it was about connection to Hashem. And so, the letter yud – which is the fist letter in the Ineffable Name of Hashem – was removed from their title. They almost lost this opportunity to connect to Him, due to their lack of alacrity, due to their sitting back and letting the masses lead this charge, and that is reflected in the lackluster spelling of their title (Taam V’Daas, R’ Moshe Sternbuch).

The Nesiim, though, learned their lesson. And months later when it was time to inaugurate the newly constructed Mishkan, they were first in line! As the Torah discusses in Parashas Nasso, this time the Nesiim did not sit back. But rather, as a unified group, without one-upmanship, they came together to give their offerings for the inauguration of the Mishkan.  The Chafetz Chaim explains that as a rule, Hashem’s predisposition to reward is exponentially greater than His trait of strict justice (מדה טובה מרובה). Accordingly, although in our parashah they lost a single letter from their title, in Parashas Nasso they got it back and then some! Although they arrived together to give their inaugural offerings as a group, Hashem wanted to highlight each one individually. Hashem wanted His eternal Torah to repeat paragraph after paragraph the identical offering offered by each of the twelve tribal leaders, to show how precious each one was. Yes, they made a mistake, and lost a letter and a bit of luster. But in the end, they learned the importance of leading the charge to connect to Hashem. And with that they were repaid with a massive spotlight upon their holy spiritual strivings!

Wishing you all a Shabbat Shalom / Good Shabbos

Rabbi Moskovitz


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“The Children of Israel Shall Observe the Sabbath”

There are pesukim in this week’s parashah with which we are very familiar as they are part of our Shabbos morning amidah and kiddush. They begin with the words: וְשָׁמְרוּ בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶת הַשַּׁבָּת לַעֲשׂוֹת אֶת הַשַּׁבָּת לְדֹרֹתָם בְּרִית עוֹלָם, The Children of Israel shall observe the Sabbath, to make the Sabbath an eternal covenant for their generations (Shemos 31:16 ff). With these words, the Torah exhorts us to “keep Shabbos.”

The commentators, however, note that the previous verses already stated this requirement explicitly, as they say: However, you must observe My Sabbaths, for it is a sign between Me and you… You shall observe the Sabbath, for it is holy to you… (ibid. v.14-15). What then is added by our verse of וְשָׁמְרוּ, The Children of Israel shall observe the Sabbath… that was not already stated? Also, what is meant by the end of the verse, “to make the Sabbath…for their generations”? How does one “make” the Sabbath, and do so for “generations”?

There are a number of different approaches to understanding some of the depth which these pesukim are imparting. We will touch on three such approaches.

Some suggest that the verses here are teaching us an attitude of how we should approach Shabbos. The word וְשָׁמְרוּ, can also mean to “anticipate excitedly,” as it does in the verse, וְאָבִיו שָׁמַר אֶת הַדָּבָר, and his father looked forward to [the fulfillment of] the matter (Bereishis 37:11). Based on that, out verse is understood as stating, The Children of Israel shall look forward to Shabbos, as a highlight of the week. Not simply because it provides for a needed break from a busy week, but rather with the intention of לַעֲשׂוֹת אֶת הַשַּׁבָּת, to make the Sabbath – i.e., to make it real, for its intended spiritual purpose as “an eternal covenant” (Or HaChaim ad loc.).

Others suggest that our verse here is teaching us the power of a properly observed Sabbath. According to them, the verse is teaching us that if we observe the Sabbath as it is meant to properly be observed, then it will infuse the coming week with a spirituality that will then in turn allow us to enter the coming Shabbos with greater spiritual sensitivity, making the proper observance of that Shabbos even easier. That, in turn, will infuse the following week with greater spirituality, creating a positive cycle of Sabbaths that lead to better Sabbaths to come. Accordingly, the verse reads as follows: [If] the Children of Israel observe the Sabbath [properly, then they will] make the Sabbath [i.e., create a different Shabbat experience the following week, and so on] for their generations [ i.e., as an ongoing upward moving spiritual cycle] (Kedushas Levi).

Finally, others suggest that our verse is teaching us of the affect Shabbat observance has upon one’s ultimate future. Our Sages note that the mitzvah of Shabbos observance is so weighty that it is on some level equivalent to all the other mitzvos combined (זוה''ק ח''ב פח.)! Additionally, our Sages refer to the World to Come as יום שכולו שבת, a day that is completely Shabbat (Rosh Hashanah 31a). Our verse, then, can be read as follows: The Children of Israel shall observe the Sabbath [in this world], to make the Sabbath – i.e., to create for themselves the eternal Sabbath of the World to Come. Hence it will be for them, “an eternal covenant for their generations” i.e., for their existence which will not be bound by time, but rather which will be for all time, and for all generations (Seforno; Or HaChaim ad loc.).

Putting that all together, our pesukim teach us that Shabbos is a gift to look forward to, never a burden to be begrudgingly observed. Properly observed, Shabbos will infuse us with a spiritual sensitivity that changes our upcoming week, which in turn will change our upcoming Shabbos in an upward moving spiritual cycle. And with that, we will have created for ourselves not just a more meaningful and full life in this world, but for a World yet to Come, one that itself is “completely Shabbos”!

Wishing you all a very good Shabbos / Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Moskovit

Mon, March 20 2023 27 Adar 5783