Pekudei – Precision

 This week’s Torah portion of Pekudei is the conclusion of the Book of Shemos. It continues the discussion from last week of putting together the Mishkan. One of the vessels used in the Mishkan before doing the service in the morning was a water basin, or laver. The Torah stated, “He emplaced the laver between the Tent of Meeting and the Altar, and there he put water for washing. Moshe, Aharon and his sons washed their hands and feet from it. When they came to the Tent of Meeting and when they approached the altar they would wash, as Hashem had commanded them” (Shemos 40:30-32).

The Moshav Zekeinim asks a question on this practice. “Rabbeinu Yeshaya asked a quandary, what was the need for washing the feet, they weren’t used to perform the service as much as the hands were? But one can answer, for it writes, ‘Guard your foot when you go to the House of G-D’” (Koheles 4:17). (Click here for Hebrew text.)
 It’s interesting to note that when the Moshav Zekeinim asked his question he wasn’t wondering why the feet should be washed because they are not involved at all in The Service, just as any other body parts don’t have any involvement. The Kohanim didn’t wash any other part of the body upon entering the Mishkan to do The Service. Rather he assumed there was some use during The Service but the feet weren’t as useful as the hands.

It is also interesting to note that the Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 106) mentions that there was a mitzva upon the kohen “to wash his hands and feet whenever he entered the heichal (sanctuary) and to come to do The Service, and this is called the mitzva of sanctifying his hands and feet… The root of the mitzva, the foundation set that has been discussed, is that it’s in order to give greatness to the honor of The House and all the jobs done there. Therefore, it’s befitting to clean his hands, which are doing the job, whenever the kohanim come to do matters in The House.” He mentions nothing about why the feet are cleansed too. (Click here for Hebrew text.)

Rabbeinu Bachye says the reason for washing hands was because any servant of a king would first wash his hands before serving the king at his table because hands are always busy and it is a matter of basic sanitation to first wash them before serving food. He then suggests the feet are cleaned because the kohanim walk around barefoot in the Mishkan. (Click here for Hebrew text.)But this doesn’t really answer the Moshav Zekeinim’s question, because according to the Moshav Zekeinim (and really everyone else agrees) the hands were the ones that did the critical service in the Mishkan. Therefore out of proper respect hands should be washed before working; but just because the kohanim take off their shoes and walk barefoot in the Mishkan, why is that a reason to specifically wash them? And if you want to say their feet are the second most useful part of their body during The Service, because they get them from place to place, then why isn’t that enough of a reason to wash the feet or at least stringently wash the feet as opposed to any other body part besides the hands? Why is the Moshav Zekeinim so puzzled about why the feet should be washed, and only after stumbling upon a pasuk in Koheles is satisfied with an answer?

The answer must be that Hashem would not require just anything to be done stringently when setting up the rules of His Palace; on the contrary, to conduct oneself with doubt but in a stringent manner is not as respectful as knowing the halacha – what exactly Hashem wants from you and applying it properly, with precision. Therefore, the Moshav Zekeinim couldn’t understand why the feet met the proper criteria needed to be washed more than any other part of the body beside the hands in order to perform the Service in the Mishkan, until he understood this verse to be teaching this very law.

Parenthetically, it is not so simple to apply this pasuk to these circumstances because all the commentaries on the pasuk say it refers to outside people bringing sacrifices to the Temple, not the kohanim. For example, the medrish Yalkut Shimone on this pasuk in Koheles says, “‘Guard your legs when you walk to the House of G-D,’” Rav Shmuel bar Nachmani said in the name of Rebbe Yochanan, it’s better to Guard your legs from going to sin then to sin and bring an offering [as atonement.] It was only because the Moshav Zekeinim, one of the Baalei Tosfos’, had a sharp mind that can realize this profundity that the pasuk could also be applied to the very service of the Kohanim in the Mikdash, was he able to arrive at such a conclusion. (Click here for Hebrew text.)

That takes in-depth precision to figure out!

Pekudei –

Difference Between Work and Service
In the conclusion of the Book of Shemos, the Torah portion of Pekudei, it records in Perek 39:

42. In accordance with all that the Lord had commanded Moses, so did the children of Israel do all the work. מבכְּכֹ֛ל אֲשֶׁר־צִוָּ֥ה יְהֹוָ֖ה אֶת־משֶׁ֑ה כֵּ֤ן עָשׂוּ֙ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל אֵ֖ת כָּל־הָֽעֲבֹדָֽה:
43Moses saw the entire work, and lo! they had done it-as the Lord had commanded, so had they done. So Moses blessed them. מגוַיַּ֨רְא משֶׁ֜ה אֶת־כָּל־הַמְּלָאכָ֗ה וְהִנֵּה֙ עָשׂ֣וּ אֹתָ֔הּ כַּֽאֲשֶׁ֛ר צִוָּ֥ה יְהֹוָ֖ה כֵּ֣ן עָשׂ֑וּ וַיְבָ֥רֶךְ אֹתָ֖ם משֶֽׁה:

Rabbeinu Bachye observes in pasuk 42 that it should have said כל המלאכה, all the work, but instead the Torah calls the work of the mishkan an עבודה, which is better translated as a service. Meaning, that they did the service of Hashem, just as it writes in Shemos (23:25), “And you shall serve Hashem your G-D,” and also in Devarim perek (13:5), “And Him shall you serve.” (Click here for Hebrew text.)
In the very next pasuk we see that it says Moshe ‘saw the entire work,’ so it makes sense that the previous pasuk refers to the same thing; however the term used is ‘service,’ not ‘work.’ The reason for this is to teach us that the Jews weren’t just treating the building of the Mishkan like any other building, but they had the attitude that they were serving Hashem through its building.

But what if they hadn’t had this attitude; wouldn’t they still be building Hashem’s palace, the resting place of the Shechina, Hashem’s Holy Presence, in this world? So either way they would be doing Hashem’s handiwork.

It would seem from here that without the proper intentions, even if you are doing the most holy of jobs, it is simply a job. But if your motivation is that I am working to serve Hashem, then it is transformed into serving Hashem.

Attitudes have such a transformative effect!

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.