Past Weekly Shabbat Message
Rabbi Dovid Saks
(Torah Portion Pekudai) Knock! Knock!
For many years, after the daily morning prayers, the unforgettable Rabbi Yitzchok (Jack) Werbin o.b.m. would share an insight into the weekly Parsha with the congregants. Once in a while he would pepper his remarks with a memory of his experiences from pre-World War II Europe.
I recall him relating that there were Jewish communists who tried to persuade other Jews not to believe in G-d, rather, they should shift their allegiance to the Communist atheist belief and turn their loyalty to mother Russia.
Their line was, “If you don’t know the reason behind the commandments of the Torah, you don’t have to observe them.”
When Russia and Germany signed the Stalin – Hitler pact, Rabbi Werbin asked one of the Jewish communists why Stalin made such a strange treaty with the archenemy?
He answered, “I don’t know why and can’t understand it, but if they signed the treaty, there must be a good reason behind it.”
Rabbi Werbin looked at the person and said, “And if G-d tells you to do something, even though you don’t know the reason, don’t you think G-d has good reasons why you should listen to Him?”
An example of this can be found in this week’s Parsha. When Moshe erected the Temple in the desert for the first time, the Torah relates that the glory of G-d descended with a cloud which filled the Temple, and Moshe could not enter the Temple because of the cloud. Only after the cloud moved over to the area of the Holy of Holies, where the ark of testimony stood, did Moshe enter upon G-d’s instructions. Yet, when G-d descended through a cloud at the Revelation at Mount Sinai, Moshe was not restricted from entering into the cloud. Many commentators wonder at the difference.
Rabbi Moshe Feinstein o.b.m. explains that Moshe was restrained from entering the Temple not because he was not as spiritually worthy as he was at the time of the Revelation; rather, it was for another reason that G-d did not divulge.
The same people present at the Revelation, were also present at the inauguration of the Temple (which took place less than a year later), and they noticed the stark difference between Moshe’s entry into the cloud at Mount Sinai and his inability to enter the cloud at the Temple. Whether they understood it or not, they accepted it because they recognized that it was G-d’s will.
There are however many of areas of the Torah where we are given the opportunity to gain insight, reason, explanation and clarity of the laws, situations and happenings. An example can be found in this week’s portion:
One of the eight special vestments that the Kohain Godol - High Priest wore when he performed the service in the Temple was called the Me’il – a blue, four cornered, woven robe. Across the bottom edge of the Me’il were a series of seventy-two golden bells and pomegranates formed from woven threads.
Our Sages tell us that the Me’il served to atone the Jews from the sin of Lashon Harah – ill speech spoken about others. “Let the garment of the High Priest that makes sounds atone for the sin of Lashon Harah that comes through sound.” The Torah tells us that the noise of the bells of the Me’il announced that the High Priest was appearing in the Temple. The Torah is teaching us that even in G-d’s Temple where His all knowing presence was evident, the High Priest must announce his entry through the sound of the bells out of respect.
Our Sages derive a lesson from this: before one enters his own home, let alone another’s home or domain, he is to notify the occupants by the means of a knock or an announcement of his arrival lest they be startled by his sudden appearance. The Chofetz Chaim uses the design of the Me’il to instruct us the best way to ensure the effectiveness of our prayers.
The Me’il had sound making bells, as well as woven pomegranates that were silent. The resonating bells represent the sounds of positive energy - prayer, Torah study and permitted constructive speech. The silent pomegranates represent the silence of one who harnesses his urge to speak something derogatory of another. Says the Chofetz Chaim, when one follows this protocol, the Torah immediately says, “His voice will be heard when he enters the Holies.” When one utilizes his gift of speech correctly, his sounds of prayers will be heard and accepted when he encounters and beseeches the Holy One!”
Wishing you a most restful, uplifting, peaceful
and inspirational Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks