Pekudei – Doing What is Right

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The conclusion of the Book of Shemos, the Torah portion of Pekudei, concludes the making of the Mishkan. The Haftorah, appropriately talks about the finishing touches in the building of the Beis Hamikdash by King Shlomo. The Haftorah begins, “And all the work that king Shlomo had wrought in the house of the Lord was finished. And Shlomo brought in the things which Dovid his father had dedicated; the silver, and the gold, and the vessels, (and) put them in the treasuries of the house of the Lord” (Melachim Aleph 7:51).

The Ralbag on this pasuk says something quite astonishing! “We learn from this juncture that Shlomo made the Great House solely from his own earnings and all the things his father Dovid sanctified [for the construction of the Beis Hamikdash] he put into the treasure houses of the House of Hashem. It would seem for this reason he did not start the building as soon as he became king, rather he started it in the fourth year of his reign, as was mentioned earlier. He did this in order to build it with his own earnings, and not use from the treasuries of his father, Dovid, which he [Dovid] sanctified to Hashem. This is as if he did exactly what Hashem had intended just as He didn’t want Dovid to build it for he spilled many people’s blood [in wartime], so too He did not agree that it should be built with all the spoils Dovid collected from the non-Jewish nations during the war. However Shlomo who was a man of peace, and all the money he collected was done peacefully, with him did Hashem choose to build it from the money of peace that he collected.” (Click here for Hebrew text.)

G-D forbid we can’t think that King Dovid did anything wrong in fighting the wars. On the contrary the gemara says in Sanhedrin 20b: It has been taught: “R. Yose said: Three commandments were given to Israel when they entered the land; [i] to appoint a king; [ii] to cut off the seed of Amalek; [iii] and to build themselves the chosen house [i.e. the Temple] and I do not know which of them has priority. But, when it is said: The hand upon the throne of the Lord, the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation,  we must infer that they had first to set up a king, for ‘throne’ implies a king, as it is written, Then Shlomo sat on the throne of the Lord as king.  Yet I still do not know which [of the other two] comes first, the building of the chosen Temple or the cutting off of the seed of Amalek. Hence, when it is written, And when He give you rest from all your enemies round about etc., and then [Scripture proceeds], Then it shall come to pass that the place which the Lord your God shall choose, it is to be inferred that the extermination of Amalek is first. And so it is written of Dovid, ‘And it came to pass when the king dwelt in his house, and the Lord had given him rest from his enemies round about, and the passage continues; that the king said unto Nathan the Prophet: See now, I dwell in a house of cedars etc.’”  (Click here for Hebrew text.)

We see from here that one of the prerequisites and mitzvos in order to build the Beis Hamikdash is to fight wars in order to solidify the Jewish acquisition of the land and Kind Dovid accomplished just that!

Furthermore we find that the Beis Hamikdash was in fact attributed to Kind Dovid for all the mesiras nefesh, self-sacrifice he put into building it. The Medrish says, “The Holy One Blessed Be He does not withhold reward from any of his creatures, any time a person works hard and gives of his whole soul towards the matter, The Holy One Blessed Be He does not withhold his reward. You should know this for Shlomo built the Beis Hamikdash as it says, ‘And Shlomo built the house and finished it’ (Melachim Alef 6:14). Yet because Dovid gave his whole soul over the building of the Beis Hamikdash as it says ‘Remember, O Lord, onto Dovid all his affliction etc. That I shall not come into the tent of my house etc. I shall not give sleep to my eyes etc. Until I find a place for the Lord etc.’ (Tehillim 132:1-5). And so The Holy One Blessed Be He did not withhold his reward rather He wrote it in his name ‘A psalm; a song of dedication of the House, of Dovid’ (Tehillim 30:1). It doesn’t write ‘to Shlomo,’ rather ‘to Dovid’” (Medrish Rabba parshas Naso 12:9). 
In order to be allowed to build the Beis Hamikdash a king had to reign over Israel and the defeat of Amalek in war had to happen. King Dovid made sure that happened. Not only that but Dovid poured his whole essence into building the Beis Hamikdash. He put his blood, sweat and tears, and even his money into ensuring it will be built everything short of actually building it, (which Hashem told him he can’t,) to the extent that King Dovid got rewarded with the building being named after him. So why couldn’t his son just use the hard earned money that was sanctified and specifically set aside for the Beis Hamikdash by his father? It was King Dovid’s dream, his prayers, his hard earn spoils; at least allow something to be physically used towards The House of Dovid?

We learn from here, and this the Ralbag said Hashem acquiesced with Shlomo, that no matter how much love and devotion, well-meaning and holy, proper intent one has, if it is inappropriate to be included it is inappropriate and there are no exceptions.

King Dovid’s whole life was dedicated towards building the Beis Hamikdash but Hashem didn’t allow him because he had blood on his hands, albeit mitzvah blood, yet a resting place of Hashem’s Presence, the holiest place on Earth, would not be befitting to be built by blood stained hands so his son King Shlomo, a man of peace, even etched in his name, was given the right to build it. Not even King Dovid’s fortune that he earned from war which he made holy and donated to the building was allowed to be used, because what is right is right and no exceptions are made, no matter how dedicated and self-sacrificing one is, even if he did nothing wrong as we see he was rewarded for his efforts by the Beis Hamikdash being called in his name, Beis Dovid, yet he could not physically be involved in the actual building in any way shape or form.

Haftorah for Parshas Mishpatim- Hashem Never Gives Up On Our Leaders

Chaza”l in their deep wisdom formulated this week’s haftorah in a backwards way but there is a profound lesson they intended to teach. The haftorah starts with an obvious connection to the beginning of our Torah portion in Mishpatim which discusses owning Jewish slaves. In perek 34 of Yirmiyahu the haftorah begins with the way the Jews treated their fellow slaves in the days of King Tzidkiyahu. For many years they had kept their Jewish slaves, even beyond the 7 years the Torah allows one to keep a Jewish slave involuntarily. Yirmiyahu, warning about the coming doom of the first Beis Hamikdash aroused King Tzidkiyahu to set all the Jewish slaves free and they made a great ceremony commemorating their freedom and a recovenant with Hashem and his Torah after straying from His ways. However this didn’t last long and they took back their Jewish slaves for long periods of time and strayed farther and farther from Hashem until the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash became inevitable.

However the Haftorah concludes with the last two pesukim of the previous perek: “So said the Lord: If not My covenant with the day and the night, that the statutes of heaven and earth I did not place. Also will I reject the seed of Jacob and David, My servant, not to take from his seed rulers over the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, when I bring back their captivity and have mercy upon them” (Yirmiyahu 33:25, 26). (Click here for an interesting halachic discussion on how we are allowed to go backwards when reading the Haftorah.)

The Mahar”I Kara explains the last two pesukim, “Hashem is saying, If I will not fulfill the covenant I made of guaranteeing that day and night would never stop as it is written, ‘There is still all the days of the land, planting, harvesting, cold, heat, summer, winter, day and night, they never rest.’ If they would rest then it would be as if the laws of heaven and earth would never have existed (meaning the world would cease to exist.)   And as long as the covenant between day and night is fulfilled I will not hold back from the Jewish people the ability to acquire leaders from their own people. (Click here for Hebrew text.)

Just as Hashem guarantees there will always be the cycle of nature and time in the world, the four seasons, day and night and the cycles of vegetation, though sometimes there are massive destructive forces of nature in the world like hurricanes, tsunamis, blizzards, earthquakes, and tornados that disrupt life so to Hashem promised the Jewish people that no matter how corrupt their leaders become He will never exchange them with non-Jewish leaders to lead His people. No matter how far off they might have strayed from Torah ideals, a Jewish leader will always be the preferred choice for the Jewish people. If this one doesn’t work out hopefully the next one will be better but it is without a doubt that even the most righteous gentile will not be a favorable fit to lead the Jews.

This is the message Chaza”l is teaching us in this haftorah when we first read perek 34 of Yirmiyahu and end with the last two pesukim of perek 33, that as big of a mistake the leaders of the Jews made prior to the destruction of the first Beis Hamikdash, Hashem still guarantees the Jewish people that the best leaders come from their own people.

Throughout Jewish History and especially throughout our exile, there have always been leaders who keep the Jewish people together. The Gedolei Hador, the leading rabbis in each generation are our guidance and give us hope.