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Parshas Pekudei - Connecting to the Past for the Future                     30 Adar I 5782

03/01/2022 07:15:32 PM


I would like to share two personal highlights experienced on my recent trip to Israel - the first while visiting Yeshiva Neveh Zion, and the second was a visit with Rabbi Wein. I had to meet someone at Yeshiva Neveh Zion, and while there  the Mashgiach asked me if I would speak to the boys and share some words of encouragement and inspiration. I agreed. The next day I spoke to the boys and told them that I had attended Neveh Zion forty years ago. I explained that although I am three times their age and in a very different life situation, we nevertheless share a common bond of being Neveh brothers!  Each of us, across the generations, share in the history of Neveh:  I contributed to the Neveh story in its sixth year of existence and now, forty years later each of them is now continuing that same legacy. Some of us laid the foundation, the first floor, of this beautiful yeshiva, and now these bright, enthusiastic yeshiva bochrim continue to build, adding on the skyscraper. In truth, I received more chizuk/strengthening from my visit speaking with them than they did listening to me. I re-connected to the Mash Rabbi Blumenfeld who was a talmid/student of Rav Wolbe. I connected to my past to build for my future. Having a Rebbi is so critical not only for the Torah he teaches today, but for the connection and continuous link he provides to the mesorah of previous generations.

My visit with Rabbi Wein is always special and dear. Here, again, is a someone who always emphasized his connection to the Europe of Torah giants through his Rabbeim who arrived prior to the Holocaust. Rabbi Wein always remarks that when he saw his Rebbi, he was not only seeing and hearing the man in front of him, he was also seeing and hearing his Rebbi’s Rebbi and beyond. Rabbi Wein’s passion for Jewish history is his contribution to bringing the Jewish people back together. The adage of “history repeats itself” is nothing new to us, but unfortunately, we still don’t seem able to learn the lessons of history. There are few individuals whose words written today still  prove to be relevant tomorrow. How rare it is that words written over one hundred fifty years ago remain profoundly relevant today. The writings of the great Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch fall into this rare place of relevance and brilliance If I can be so bold, I would say the writings of a Rav Hirsch in our day and age could be seen in the writings of Rabbi Berel Wein. I will share an important, timeless message from Rabbi Wein. Although this message was written almost thirty years ago, it is profoundly important and meaningful today. I will preface his words with a backdrop from the Parsha.

This week’s Parshas Pekudei concludes sefer Shmos and the erection of the Mishkan. The last five parshios of Shemos dealt with the building of the Mishkan, the fashioning of the utensils needed in the service, and the vestments of the Kohanim who would perform the Avoda in the Mishkan/Tabernacle/sanctuary. All the laws of Shabbos are derived from the process of the building and operating of the Mishkan. The Jewish people followed the work ethic of Hashem and worked six days, but when it came to Shabbos, they wanted to continue building God’s house. The response was an absolute ”No”, and hence any melacha/work associated with the Mishkan became forbidden as the 39 laws of Shabbos. Pekudei is a continuation of Vayakhel where Moshe gathers the Jewish people to teach a law of Shabbos. Why was it necessary to gather all the people? Moshe’s voice could have reached everyone while still in their own tents. Why force everyone to come together? The following is Rabbi Wein’s clear and searing message in connecting the gathering and Shabbos:   

“There is a public expression of religion and a private one. There are many times when one is compelled to participate in a public expression of religious faith – synagogue prayer services, for example – when one would rather find a more private and discreet fashion to serve the Creator. It must be admitted that it is much more difficult to feel spiritual when surrounded by the many then when alone with one’s own self. Many great Jews, even rabbis, have spent time in their lives purposely isolated from the world in order to search for themselves, pavingtheir unique path to their Creator. But Judaism is, overall, not a monastic faith and does not allow Jews to easily substitute any form of private practice for public duties and practice. In today’s Torah reading Moshe calls together the entire Jewish people – Vayakhel Moshe – in order to remind them of the importance of the observance of the Sabbath. Moshe’s public statements are meant also to reinforce the public nature of Jewish practice and to make clear that Sabbath is not only a private matter but a public Jewish expression of faith and national identity as well.

 In matters of the Sabbath, the halacha itself differentiates between private behavior and public behavior. The position of Jewish tradition against Chilul Shabbos B’Farhesya, the public desecration of the Sabbath, is far more critical than its judgments against private failings in this matter. Public desecration of the Sabbath is the road to Jewish disaster. This has been proven over and over in our history. The tragedy of American Jewry did not begin with intermarriage and non-Jewish grandchildren. Its roots lie in the early public destruction of the Sabbath already in the late nineteenth century.  And it was not only the desecration itself, it was also the acceptance of the public desecration of the Sabbath by the Jewish “establishment” of this country that paved the way for today’s terrible and heartbreaking problems. Jewish community centers openly violating the Sabbath, Jewish organizations holding meetings, conventions and other public gatherings that almost do not allow Sabbath observance and attempting to “protect” Judaism by permitting Sabbath desecration have brought us to the intermarriage crisis. Even though the tactics over the struggle to prevent automobile traffic in religious neighborhoods in Jerusalem leave much to be desired, there is no doubt that the goal of a more public observance of the Sabbath in the Jewish state is a worthy and necessary one.

The public aspect of Jewish observance, unfulfilling as it may sometimes be, colors and shapes our attitudes towards our private faith as well. Where there is no public Judaism there will eventually, and rather sooner than later, be no private Judaism either. The Haskalah preached: “Be a Jew in your home and a person of the world in public.” A great slogan, but a recipe for Jewish disaster. The “person of the world in public” lost the ability to “be a Jew in your home”. Such is the hard lesson of Jewish history, especially in this century”.

Shabbos is the key to Jewish survival as a people, as families, and as an individual. We need to step up our Shabbos game to ensure our families’ Jewish survival. There are two aspects to Shabbos: Zachor and Shamor. Sure, we may be fulfilling the Shamor by not violating the actual law, but are we fulfilling the spirit of the laws of Shmiras Shabbos? Are we just getting by with the basic concept of Zachor Shabbos? We need to go out of our way to strengthen both Zachor and Shamor - both in the public view and internally in the home. Through this effort we will ensure that our future will connect to our past and carry us on into the future generations of a strong, united Klal Yisroel. Every one of us should commit to stronger observances. Collectively we will be stronger and through this strength we will say IN SHUL TOGETHER LOUD AND CLEAR, “CHAZAK CHAZAK V’NISCHAZEIK!”     

Ah Gutten Shabbos,

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Tue, October 3 2023 18 Tishrei 5784