Thursday, February 15, 2018



Yerushalayim. June 1967.
Moshe Amirav, a paratrooper, describes his first moments arriving at the Kosel, shortly after Har Habayis was conquered from the Jordanians, during the Six-Day War:
“We ran there, a group of panting soldiers, lost on the plaza of the Temple Mount, searching for a giant stone wall. We did not stop to look at the Mosque of Omar even though this was the first time we had seen it close up. Forward! Forward! Hurriedly, we pushed our way through the Magreb Gate and, suddenly, we stopped, thunderstruck.
“There it was before our eyes!
“Gray and massive, silent and restrained.
“The Western Wall!
“Slowly, slowly I began to approach the Wall in fear and trembling like a pious cantor going to the lectern to lead the prayers. I approached it as the messenger of my father and my grandfather, of my great-grandfather and of all the generations in all the exiles who had never merited seeing it - and so they had sent me to represent them. Somebody recited the festive blessing: "Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe who has kept us alive, and maintained us and brought us to this time."
“But I could not answer "Amen." I put my hand on the stones and the tears that started to flow were not my tears. They were the tears of all Israel, tears of hope and prayer, tears of Chasidic tunes, tears of Jewish dances, tears which scorched and burned the heavy gray stone.”

Abraham Duvdevani, a soldier, describes his first encounter at the Kosel:
"Narrow alleys, filthy passageways, garbage at the entrances of shuttered shops, the stench of dead legionnaires - but we paid no attention. Our eyes were fixed on the golden dome which could be seen from a distance. There, more or less, it had to be! We marched faster to keep up with the beating of our hearts. We were almost running.
“We met a soldier from one of the forward units and asked him the way and hurried on. We went through a gate and down some steps. I looked to the right and stopped dead. There was the Wall in all its grandeur and glory! I had never seen it before, but it was an old friend, impossible to mistake. Then I thought that I should not be there because the Wall belongs in the world of dreams and legends and I am real.
“Reality and legend, dream and deed, all unite here. I went down and approached the Wall and stretched out my hand towards the huge, hewn stones. But my hand was afraid to touch and, of itself, returned to me. I closed my eyes, took a small, hesitant step forward, and brought my lips to the Wall. The touch of my lips opened the gates of my emotions and the tears burst forth.
“A Jewish soldier in the State of Israel is kissing history with his lips.
“Past, present and future all in one kiss. There will be no more destruction and the Wall will never again be deserted. It was taken with young Jewish blood and the worth of that blood is eternity. The body is coupled to the rows of stones, the face is pushed into the spaces between them and the hands try to reach its heart. A soldier near me mumbles in disbelief, 'We are at the Wall, at the Wall...’” [2]

The joy of connection. We can hardly imagine how much greater will be our emotional excitement when the completed Bais Hamikdash is rebuilt.
Ramban explains that, although the purpose of the exodus was for Klal Yisroel to receive the Torah on Har Sinai, when that occurred the redemption was not yet complete. The exodus had not achieved its purpose until the great spiritual heights that the nation attained at the time of Kabbolas HaTorah, became a permanent part of their existence. That was accomplished with the construction of the Mishkan.
The purpose of the Mishkan was to be a permanent symbolic microcosm of the Sinai experience.[3]
It is for this reason that Sefer Shemos, the book primarily devoted to the exodus, does not conclude until the verse “For the cloud of Hashem would be on the Mishkan by day, and fire would be on it at night, before the eyes of all of the House of Israel throughout their journeys.”[4]  When the Divine Presence had a permanent place set aside for it, in midst of the Jewish camp, then the redemption from Egypt was complete, and the book of Shemos concludes.
When Moshe made the original proclamation to the nation about donating materials for the imminent construction of the Mishkan, there were 13 materials that could be offered. Of those materials, as much or as little could be donated. The only exception was the silver.
There was a total of three separate portions of silver donated. The first was the mandatory half-shekel given by every Jew, which was used to create the silver sockets that supported the massive beams which surrounded the Mishkan. The second was the annual mandatory half-shekel given by every Jew which was used to purchase the communal offerings brought in the Mishkan.[5] The third portion was optional donations of silver which were used to create the various silver vessels used in the Mishkan.[6]
It’s understandable why the communal offerings should come from a fund of donations contributed equally by every Jew. But why was it necessary for the sockets to be constructed from donations contributed equally by every Jew? Why was it different than the other silver vessels which were constructed from silver donated at will by anyone who wanted, like all of the other materials used for the construction of the Mishkan?

The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rav Menachem Mendel Schneerson zt’l, explained that there are two facets of a person’s Avodas Hashem: There are the physical actions that we take in the actual performance of mitzvos, and there are the foundational components of our faith, which every Jew is obligated to believe.
Our physical performance of mitzvos is predicated on our personal level. Some perform mitzvos out of rote and listlessly, while others feel a greater connection and are more passionate about their mitzva observance. However, our obligation to believe in Hashem is universal and applies equally to every Jew.
The sockets which were the foundation for the entire structure surrounding the Mishkan, represents the foundations of our faith, which include loving and fearing Hashem, and developing one’s complete faith in Him. Therefore, those sockets had to be donated from funds equally donated by every Jew.[7]

There is an additional explanation based on a thought from Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik zt’l[8]:
Rabbi Soloveitchik notes that being a Jew means to be holy, and to pursue holiness. Therefore, we need to understand how does one become holy? What is the first step one must take to attain holiness?
The answer is that he must set boundaries that allow for the development of holiness. In other words, he must make place for holiness.
When a couple get married, they do so through the process of kiddushin, which literally mean holiness. By pledging herself to he husband, to the exclusion of anyone else, they enable the holiness of the matrimonial union to rest upon their home. By creating the exclusive ‘space’ for their marriage, they enable it to take effect. 
Prior to the giving of the Torah, the nation was warned more than once not to traverse the delineated boundaries upon Har Sinai. They were warned that if they crossed the line they would immediately die. The underlying message was the kedusha takes effect when boundaries and restrictions are honored. It’s not enough to act and perform mitzvos for the honor of Hashem, one must also inhibit and restrain himself according to the restrictions the Torah has set forth. 
The goal is for a person to respect those boundaries out of a sense of love and awe for Hashem. If one maintains boundaries out of fear of sanctions, that does not necessarily engender holiness. Holiness results when one seeks moral elevation through maintaining those laws and restrictions. When one overcomes his own desires in order to honor the Will of Hashem, that creates holiness.
Holiness permeates where we prepare for it and welcome it. When we construct a shul or bais medrash, and act accordingly inside of it, then it becomes a holy place. However, when we fail to honor the place, then the holiness is disgraced, and the Divine Presence does not remain. 
The sockets which supported the beams that surrounded the Mishkan, marked the area which was then sanctified by the Mishkan inside of it. That same area, which a day prior had been mundane desert land, was now sanctified by virtue of the fact that it was marked off and dedicated for holiness.
To create a place of ‘national holiness’, requires equal contribution by every single member of the nation. In contributing equally to the creation of the silver sockets, they jointly sanctified the area where the Mishkan would be erected.

Greatness results when one sets aside space – in place and in time, to attain it. It begins with faith in G-d, and in ourselves, that we can be the holy people we aspire to become. Then we have to dedicate and give of ourselves to foster that holiness.
When we do our part, G-d will surely do His, and rest His Divine Presence among us.  

“Forty silver sockets under the twenty planks…”[9]
“For the cloud of Hashem would be on the Mishkan by day”

Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW
Rabbi, Kehillat New Hempstead
Rebbe/Guidance Counselor – Heichal HaTorah
Principal – Ohr Naftoli- New Windsor

[1] Based on the lecture given at Kehillat New Hempstead, Shabbos Kodesh parshas Terumah 5777.
[2] From "The Western Wall": published by the Israeli Ministry of Defense
[3] Ramban, Shemos 25:1
[4] Shemos 40:38
[5] This refers to the mandatory half-shekel atonement-tax which is mentioned at the beginning of Parshas Ki Sisa, and is read about as Parshas Shekalim, the Shabbos before Rosh Chodesh Adar.
[6] Rashi, Shemos 25:3
[7] Quoted in Peninei Menachem
[8] Quoted in The Rav Thinking Aloud – Sefer Shemos
[9] Shemos 26:19


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