| Parshah |

Parshas Vayakhel: Remotely Related

The suffering we have historically endured preserves our identity as Yidden


“And he made the Menorah of pure gold….” (Shemos 37:17)


he Midrash says that Moshe had difficulty making the Menorah. So Hashem told him to throw the gold into a fire, and the Menorah emerged fully formed. The Chofetz Chaim questions Moshe’s inability to make the Menorah, considering that he created all the other keilim of the Mishkan in full detail.
He answers that Moshe Rabbeinu was certainly able to create the physical aspects of the Menorah. However, each of the keilim of the Mishkan also had a spiritual influence on Klal Yisrael. The Aron brought wisdom; the Shulchan, gashmiyus; and the Mizbeiach, closeness to Hashem. And the Menorah channeled the influence of nitzchiyus, eternity, as represented by the Neir Tamid, the eternal flame that’s never extinguished. The fact that Klal Yisrael will never cease to exist was established through the Menorah (Rabbi Moshe Norman, Chicago Community Kollel Parsha Encounters).

“So how was it?” I settled into the booth for a long-awaited coffee date with my friend Tammy and picked up my cup. She’d just come back from a whirlwind two-week buying trip to the Far East for her business, and I was curious to hear about her trip.

“So I saw places I never knew existed, and met a zillion people, some of whom maybe I’d rather not have met….” Tammy grinned at me.

“But the craziest thing was the Shabbos I spent there. Months ago, when I was planning my itinerary, I realized I would be out in the boondocks on Friday, on an island with a name you can’t even pronounce! There was only one ferry a day to get there… that’s how isolated it was.

“Basically, I didn’t think there was anything else around besides the factory I’d be visiting. I planned to stock up on kosher food before I got there and resigned myself to spending a lonely Shabbos on my own.”

When Moshe Rabbeinu came to make the Menorah, he foresaw with ruach hakodesh all the suffering the Yidden will endure; throughout the generations, other nations will try to wipe out Klal Yisrael. Therefore, he couldn’t understand how he could make a menorah to bring nitzchiyus to Klal Yisrael. How would it be possible for Klal Yisrael to remain a nation forever and survive all the destruction?
Hashem then told Moshe to throw the gold into a fire, and the Menorah emerged. The Chofetz Chaim explains that the meaning was that not only would it be possible, but the fires of destruction themselves would actually guarantee Klal Yisrael’s survival. The suffering we have historically endured preserves our identity as Yidden and allows us to remain a nation forever.

“But you’ll never guess what happened!” Tammy has a way of telling a story. I was caught up in her tale.

“Two weeks before my trip, I’m finalizing everything, and I find out that a Chabad house opened on the island just a month ago, I couldn’t believe it. Who on earth would be going to Chabad in this country of temples, statues, and shrines?”

This lesson is a major theme of the upcoming Yamim Tovim of Purim and Pesach. Chazal say that Haman’s and Pharaoh’s decrees were issued precisely when the Yidden of those eras started to mix with the other nations. The purpose of the terrible decrees was to protect the Yidden from getting lost among the other nations. The suffering served to separate them and preserve them as Klal Yisrael, the chosen nation.
Our generation, too, suffers from anti-Semitism; so many nations seek our destruction. The more we strengthen and separate ourselves from the other nations, the less the need for their relentless persecution.

“Would you believe that there were thirty people who showed up Friday night?” she asked, scooping up some whipped cream. “Most were Israelis, many of whom weren’t frum, but they all wanted to be somewhere Jewish for Shabbat. I spent the most incredible Shabbos with “relatives” on a remote island in the Orient, schmoozing, discussing Shabbos menus, and most of all, just being together. I left on such a high!

“Look,” she gestured with her spoon, “we’re living in a world where anti-Semitism is viral, and you and I are living in a war zone. But fly across the globe and you find other Yidden on a deserted island, strangers with whom you feel right at home. We may have been in the Far East, but it was clear that for everyone there, libi b’Mizrach.”


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 884)

Oops! We could not locate your form.