Archive for the 'Sefer Shemot' Category

Parents as Creators

February 8th, 2007 by Yaakov Ellis

כבד את-אביך, ואת-אמך–למען, יארכון ימיך, על האדמה, אשר-יהוה אלהיך נתן לך

Honor your father and your mother, in order to lengthen your days on this Land that the Lord your God has given to you (Shemot 20:11)

In this, the fifth of the “Ten Commandments”, we are commanded to honor our parents. Why is this commandment located precisely at this point?

Ramban explains: Up to this point, we had been commanded on things that are בין אדם למקום – relating solely to God (Belief in God, no idols, do not swear falsely, remember the Shabbat). After this, the commandments are all relating to issues that are solely בין אדם לחבירו – between man and his fellow (No murder, adultery, theft, false witnes or coveting). The commandment to honor one’s parents is an appropriate segue between these two sections of commandments because one’s relationship with one’s parents has both of these aspects within it.

One the one hand, parents are called a “partner with God” in creating their children. Ramban understands Devarim 5:15 (the second time that the Commandments are given, in which the words
כבד את-אביך ואת-אמך, כאשר צוך יהוה אלהיך
are added to this commandment) to mean that just as God has commanded you to observe his honor, so to your are commanded honor the onw who “joined me in your being formed”. On the other hand, this mitzvah is towards another person, and is carried out in this world. So it embodies both aspects: towards God and towards man, and is thus appropriately placed in between the first set of commandments and the last.

10 Amot Tall

February 5th, 2007 by Yaakov Ellis

Rav Ally wrote about the Netziv’s explanation for why Moshe had to sit down in order that Aharon and Chur hold his arms (since we would have thought that Moshe would have remained standing). The answer given is that since according to Chazal, Moshe was 10 amot tall, he had to sit down in order for Aharon and Chur (who were presumably of a more regular height) to be able to reach up high enough to support his arms.

I decided to take a closer look into the exact measurements involved in this scenario. Continue reading ‘10 Amot Tall’

The Mighty and the Weak

March 20th, 2006 by Yaakov Ellis

ויאמר משה אל-בני ישראל ראו קרא ה’ בשם, בצלאל בן-אורי בן-חור, למטה יהודה…ולהורת נתן בלבו: הוא, ואהליאב בן-אחיסמך למטה-דן

And Moshe said to Bnei Yisrael, see God has called by name Betzalel son of Uri son of Chur of the tribe of Yehuda…And he put in his heart that he be able to teach, him and Ohaliav son of Achisamach of the tribe of Dan

Shemot 35: 30, 34

Over the last several weeks, the Torah has made it quite clear who is the main architect of the mishkan: Betzalel. He has the know-how, he has the lineage. He is the man.

Among all of the other craftsmen who are mentioned in connection with building the mishkan, only one other is mentioned by name: Ohaliav. The obvious question: what is so special about Ohaliav that he is receives such a distinction?

Rashi comments on the passuk above (35:34): Ohaliav is of the tribe of Dan, which is one of the lowest of the tribes (in stature) as Dan was the son of Bilha, hand-maiden to Rachel. Despite the fact that he did not have the pedigree of Betzalel, God has made him on equal standing with Betzalel, who comes from the mightiest of tribes (Yehuda; he is also a descendent of Levi through his grandmother Miriam).

The message: when it comes to doing the work of the mishkan, building a place for people to feel God’s presence more acutely in this world, one’s kavana (intentions) are what matter, not ones yichus (pedigree).

(It is also interesting to note that when Shlomo was building the first temple, he also chose a master craftsman, Hiram of Tzur, who was from the tribe of Naftali – brother of Dan, son of Bilha – Malachim 1, 7:13-14).