Thursday, March 15, 2007

"Their Silent Consent" - A Comment By The Ohr HaChaim On Parshas Pekudei

(Image courtesy of the Temple Institute)

"…and the children of Israel did…" (Shemos 39:32)

The Torah teaches that a person's delegate is accounted as like the person who has delegated him. The Torah here credits all of the Jewish people with having constructed the Mishkan although it was only Betzalel and his helpers who had actually performed all the work. While it is true that Betzalel had received his instructions from Hashem and not from the Jewish people, the fact that the Jewish people had given their silent consent to Betzalel's appointment meant that he acted as their delegate.

It appears that the Torah teaches us a general rule about the way Torah can be observed successfully by showing how the Jewish people conferred merits one upon the other. The Torah in its entirety is only capable of fulfillment by means of the entire Jewish nation. Every individual Jew is charged with the duty to perform those mitzvos which he is capable to fulfill, keeping in mind his individual status. This is the true meaning of Vayikra 19:18, "You shall love your fellow Jew as he is part of yourself." Without the fellow Jew, no individual Jew would be able to function as a total Jew. Each Jew has a task to help another Jew become a whole Jew by means of his fulfilling mitzvos which the second Jew is unable to fulfill either at that moment or ever. As a result, the fellow Jew is not "someone else", but is part of "oneself".

This is the only way in which we can reconcile ourselves to Hashem's commanding us to fulfill 613 mitzvos without which our body and soul are not really truly healthy. The Torah has actually denied us a chance to fulfill a substantial part of all these 613 mitzvos. Are we to be permanent physical and spiritual cripples? Clearly, the Torah and its observance then is not only a project for the individual but for the community. The Torah drove home this point by legislating halachos which can be performed only by women, only by Levi'im, only by Kohanim, and, in some instances, only by sinners who are anxious to rehabilitate themselves. Our verse describing the whole nation as performing what Hashem had commanded Moshe that they do, teaches this lesson. The reason that this was an appropriate time to teach us this lesson is that the 13 basic raw materials needed for the Mishkan were as interdependent one upon the other as Jews are dependent upon each other in order to achieve the harmonious personality Hashem desires for each Jew to develop by means of his mitzva performance. It makes sense therefore, that the Torah considers every Jew as having contributed all 13 kinds of raw materials needed for the Mishkan.

Translation by Rabbi Eliyahu Munk


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