Print This Post Print This Post

Parashas Vayakhel/Pekudei – The Three Deadly Attributes of Sin

Written by Daniel Sandground

This week we have a double sedra Vayakhel and Pekudei so that means a very long Torah reading indeed, over two hundred possukim! The sedras continue and conclude the theme of the building of the Mishkan which has flowed throughout the latter sedras of Shemos. Much of the text present in these two sedras appears to be a virtual repetition of the directions in the previous sedras of Terumah, Tetzaveh and Ki Sisa. So that saves me some time this week… just re-read them!Only joking, there is plenty of insight to be had… so lets get cracking.

Whereas the previous sedras were describing Hashem’s instructions to Moshe regarding the construction of the Mishkan, this weeks sedras are a description of Moshe giving over those directives to the Jewish people. What becomes quite clear in Vayakhel and Pekudei (after dealing with the previous threeparashot as well) is that there is a lot of text dedicated to the building of the Mishkan, almost half the book of Shemos, and from this we can gain some insight into the importance and great significance of the Tabernacle. In fact it is taught that Israel’s ability to create a setting for G-d’s presence is a measure of it’s greatness and indeed a primary reason for it’s very existence. Everyday we prayer for the rebuilding of the temple and that ‘G-d return us to Jerusalem and the Temple’ and that it ‘may be rebuilt speedily in our days’. According to the Or HaChaim, this apparent repetition of the parts of the Mishkan and mention of the nation’s role in it’s construction indicates G-d’s love for the Jewish people and his regard for it’s activities to serve him. We see this throughout Torah… where repetition or increased attention indicates a unique significance, for example in Parashas Chayei Sarah when Eliezer is searching for a wife for Yitzhak, we see a repetition of what is said to Eliezer when he converses with the family of Rivkah, this similarly indicates G-d’s respect for the loyalty shown by Eliezer.

Parashas Vayakhel begins with Moshe ‘assembling’ the people of Israel and addressing them concerning the building of the Mishkan, as it says… “Moshe assembled the entire assembly of the Children of Israel and said to them…” [35:1]. An important question to ask is, why all of a sudden is the Torah using the word ‘ויקהל’/’assembled or gathered’ when this term hasn’t been used before when Moshe has addressed the nation… the Torah usually simply states ‘ויאמר משה/Moshe Said’, sometimes adding ‘to the Children of Israel’ afterwards, so why does the Torah now make an effort to point out this ‘gathering’ process? There is an incredible depth to this one word and in order to answer why it is used we are going on a journey…

In Pirkei Avos [Chapter 4: 28], Rabbi Elazar HaKappar says… “Jealousy, lust and honour remove a person from the world”. Our commentators tell us that these base instincts and appetites prevent a person from enjoying life but on a deeper level they remove us because they are seen as disgusting personality traits by Hashem. If we go all the way back to the original sin with Adam and Eve and the temptation of the serpent, in Parashas Bereishis [3:1-12], we see these three elements at play…
Honour- the ultimate aim of eating the fruit was because Eve was told by the serpent that she could be ‘like G-d, knowing good and bad’ [3:5]. Every human wants to be in control, be like G-d… so this is a clear cut sign of the temptation of כבוד/Honour.
Lust- this is clearly spelt out when the Torah states that… ‘the woman perceived that the tree was good for eating and that it was desirable to the eyes’ [3:6]. The Torah even uses the word תאוה/Lust here when describing how the fruit was desirable to her eyes.
Jealousy- We need Rashi to help us out with this one but the general idea was that Eve was worried that she would die and Adam would live which would result in Adam having another wife. Therefore like all good women do, she gets him involved and gets him in trouble too, an action of קנאה/Jealousy. We are also told that the reason the serpent tempted Eve was because he was Jealous of Adam when he saw them being intimate in the Garden of Eden.

So clearly from the start of creation we see these three ingredients are at play in the original sin. It now becomes are role as mankind to rectify these three sins. We fail however with three clear opportunities to fix this…
Jealousy- The first opportunity came with Cain and Able, but this was failed miserably with Cain killing Able as a result of Jealousy, which was in fact the first murder in history.
Lust- The next opportunity was with the generation of the flood and they failed too, with their main sin being תאוה/Lust or immorality.
Honour- Then the last chance mankind as a whole had was with the Tower of Babel which saw mankind build a structure to try and show that they are better than Hashem, a clear symbol of Honour.

Mankind therefore failed quite badly in trying to rectify the sin of Adam and Eve so instead of mankind as a whole having the job of this rectification, Hashem gave it over to individuals… and guess who they were… the Jews! … and who were the three pillars of the Jewish nation… our patriarchs; Avraham, Yitzhak and Yaakov…. let’s see how they rectified these three ingredients of sin…
Jealousy- Avraham was the epitome of kindness and was known for his חסד/chesed which is the complete opposite of jealousy. Jealousy is the resentment of what someone else has, חסד/chesed is the sharing of what you have, which Avraham performed in the form of his great hospitality.
Honour- Yitzhak represented עבודה/serving Hashem which he did to the point of his willingness to be sacrificed in the Akeidah. This is a fixing of Honour as it shows complete submission to G-d… Honour on the other hand refuses to be subservient to anyone else.
Lust- Yaakov was the representation of תורה/Torah, he spent his life learning Torah which is the opposite of תאוה (Tai’va)/Lust. A person is out of control with his drives and desires, Torah gets you under control.

The Jewish people therefore successfully undertook the role to rectify the mistakes of Adam and Eve, and at Mount Sinai we got to a point where to a great extent we had successfully brought mankind to it’s ultimate rectification. At Mount Sinai we got to the level of Adam before the sin, and this is even more evident in the three limitations which were on the Jewish people at the time…
Lust- For three days before Sinai, they had to separate from their wives… an obvious limitation on תאוה/Lust.
Honour- We are told that they were not allowed past a certain point (on or near the mountain), an obvious limitation on כבוד/Honour… no one likes to be told what to do afterall.
Jealousy- We learnt in Parashas Yisro that when the Torah describes how the nation arrived at Sinai it says… ‘And Israel encamped there’, which is written in the Torah in the singular which Rashi teaches us implies that they encamped like a single person, with a single desire… a united nation. Which was in opposition to the sin of Jealous where people are not united.

So the Jewish nation at Sinai were on such a level that they had effectively rectified the sins of the previous nations and Adam and Eve. The great commentator, Recanati, explains that the spiritual level of the nation was so high after the revelation of the Ten Commandments that if Moshe had come down bearing the Tablets, the goal of Creation would have been fulfilled and there would have been no more death or temptation to do evil, as we know it. The world would have reverted back to the stage of perfection that existed at the beginning of Creation. Could you imagine? No more pain or death, no more chavs, no more Arsenal!! Would have been amazing! But we blew it with the Sin of the Golden Calf…!! And guess what three main sins were at play during this incident… YEP!
Jealousy- They killed חור/Hor… it is taught that majority of murder is related to the sin of קנאה/Jealousy.
Honour- They worshipped the Golden Calf as a substitute to Hashem. A statement of ‘we are going to worship what we want’… clear signs of כבוד/Honour.
Lust- There was ‘לצחק/revelry’ [32:6] which implies תאוה/Lust in the form of immorality and general naughtiness.

So now we begin to understand the severity of this sin of the Golden Calf, it really did mess things up and we were right back to where we were with the sin of Adam and Eve. So how did we re-rectify the situation following the sin of the Golden Calf? We have to once again rectify these three attributes of error…
Honour- Hashem tells us that we are going to build a Mishkan, a resting place for Hashem. This is in opposition to כבוד/Honour as they would need to subdue this trait in order to serve Hashem by building this Tabernacle.
Lust- According to the mefarshim, Moshe came down from Mount Sinai the second time on Yom Kippur… the day of restriction and absolute abstinence. This was the ultimate day of self control and it therefore sorted out our problems of תאוה/Lust.
And following our pattern what is the last ingredient which needs to be taken care of? קנאה/Jealousy… How is this taken care of? Well it’s in the first word of the Parasha, ‘ויקהל משה את כל עדת בני ישראל’… Moshe gathered/assembled the entire nation of the Children of Israel… this was the final piece in the puzzle in order to once again subdue the final ingredient of our three attributes of sin,קנאה/Jealousy… Moshe needed to once again unite the people and this is why the Torah specifically uses the word ויקהל/gathers. I warned you that there was a lot of depth to that one word!

The first instructions given over by Moshe to the people are… “On six days, work may be done, but the seventh day shall be holy for you, a day of complete rest for Hashem…” [35:2]. This is of course another Shabbat reminder which once again gives over the importance of keeping Shabbat, it comes before even the construction of the Mishkan and we therefore need to observe this commandment very carefully. In the verse preceding this reminder the Torah states… “These are the things that Hashem commanded” [35:1], which refers to the categories of labour that were needed to build the Tabernacle. It is derived that there were thirty-nine categories of labour to be done to build the Mishkan and from the juxtaposition of the work of the Mishkan to the next two verses that deal with Shabbat, the sages derive that the thirty-nine categories of the Tabernacle’s labour are the ones that are forbidden to do on Shabbat (Gemare Shabbos, 97b). If we look at the Hebrew word used for the work to be done… לעשת… we can break this down into a ל which equals 30 and then we are left with עשת which can be rearranged to spell תשע/taysha which happens to be the word for 9. So add the 30 to the 9 and we have the thirty-nine categories of labour. We also find that the word לעשת is actually usually spelt לעשות with an extra ‘ו’ compared to how it is spelt here… this letter, ‘ו’ has the gamatria of 6 which alludes to the six days of the week in which you can do this labour, which is of course missing here because the Torah is about to describe that… “six days, work may be done, but the seventh day shall be holy for you” [35:2]. Not convinced yet?… Count thirty-nine words from the first word of the Parasha, ויקהל and guess what word you are going to hit? Yep you guessed it… שבת/Shabbat! But it is all coincidence of course ;-)!

So we didn’t really get into Parashas Pekudei, didn’t really get past the first three lines of Vayakhel actually but next year please G-d we shall, and on we have finished the book of Shemos! I hope that everyone can successfully avoid the evil character traits of Jealousy, Lust and Honour… the main components in every sin and we can see that these are our ultimate downfall as mankind in general. I hope every one has a Good Shabbos and week ahead!!

Daniel Sandground, (student at Ohr Somayach Yeshiva, Jerusalem)

Leave a Comment