HAMMER IT OUT

“He made two cherubs of gold. He made them hammered, at the two ends of the ark cover.” (Shmot 37:7)

“He made the menorah of pure gold; hammered he made the menorah, its base and its shaft, its cups, its knobs, and its flowers were from it.” (Ibid verse 17)

“The Lord spoke to Moshe, saying: Craft for you two silver trumpets; hammered you shall craft them, they shall be for you for summoning the congregation, and for causing the camps to travel.” (Bamidbar 10:1-2)

Rabbi Aharon Levin (known as the Reisha Rav, Poland, 1879-1941) points out in his book Hederash V’haiyun (Ma’amar #80) that there were three utensils associated with the Tabernacle and the Jewish camp that were constructed by hammering out a solid piece of metal. These were the cherubs on the lid of the ark; the menorah and the silver trumpets. The other utensils, such as the table and altars, could be fashioned by casting or joining separate pieces but these three items had to be hammered (miksha) from a single block.  This was an exceptionally difficult and painstaking method of construction. Why were these utensils different from all the others? Rabbi Levin explains that these three items represent three “professions” or “callings” in which one requires enormous strength of character, fortitude, conviction and an ability to hold one’s ground and not be swayed this way or that. This is hinted to by the word miksha, hammered out, whose root is kasheh, meaning “difficult” or “hard.”

The first profession is the study of Torah and the quest to know its ways and its wisdom. One who wishes to plumb the depths of Torah and swim in the ocean of the Talmud requires dedication, commitment and toil.  The Sages (Brachot 63b) said, “The words of Torah only endure in one who is prepared to kill himself for them.” The desires of the material world will attempt to lure the Torah scholar away from his holy endeavours and he will need great fortitude and resolve to remain steadfast in his pursuit of God’s wisdom.  He will most likely live a very simple life with minimal pleasure or luxuries, as the Mishna (Avot 6:4) states, “This is the way of Torah: eat bread with salt, drink water by measure, and sleep on the ground, live a life of hardship, but toil in the Torah! If you do so, “You will be happy and it will be well with you”: “You will be happy” in this world, “and it shall be well with you” in the World to Come.” This calling is represented by the menorah, whose light radiates and shines within the sanctuary. Similarly, one who desires that the light of the Torah will illuminate his way, must construct himself “of hammered gold”, of sincere commitment and lifelong dedication.

The second profession is that of communal leadership. A leader must be fair but firm. He must have strong convictions, noble ideals and upright values. A leader cannot be someone who is shaped by the whim of the people or who is swayed by public opinion when such opinion is immoral and contrary to the values of Torah. Regarding a leader who teaches Torah, the Sages (Moed Katan 17a) cited the verse (Malachi 2:7), “For the lips of the cohen will guard knowledge and they will seek instruction from his mouth for he is an angel of the Lord of Hosts.” This verse implies that only when the teacher is like an “angel of the Lord of Hosts” should you seek wisdom from his mouth. Knowledge of facts alone is insufficient. A Torah leader must be a person of sterling character. This profession is represented by the trumpets that were used by Moshe to summon the people and to break camp. They were the tools of leadership and they were solid silver, tough and unbendable.

The third profession is the raising and educating of children, represented by the cherubs that adorned the lid of the ark. The Talmud (Sukkah 5b) notes that the word cherub (k’ruv) means “like a child”. Indeed, one cherub had the face of a little boy and the other, the face of a little girl. Rabbi Levin writes that, by nature, parents feel an intense bond with their children to the extent that they will sacrifice everything for them.  They want only the best for their children, be it education, material possessions, health or happiness. At times, a parent will do without so that his child will have. However, “it is not correct that parents relate to their children only with softness of the heart. If they indulge them too much and allow them to do whatever their hearts desire without boundaries, then the natural love that the parent bequests to the child will produce thorns, in that the child will go about in an unrestrained manner without Torah or wisdom, without etiquette or derech eretz.” The result will be offspring that no one can bear and instead of bringing honour to their parents, they bring only shame. Hence, parents must be firm and hard at times – just as the cherubs were hammered out from a solid piece of gold.

Lee, Chani Merryl and Naomi join me in wishing you Shabbat Shalom!   

Rabbi Liebenberg

Link to Rabbi’s YouTube message for the parsha: https://youtu.be/S8yrB9s5pOM?si=w067foZVT5s9ek3k

*Parshat Shekalim

At this time of the year, there are four Shabbatot on which we read selected passages from a second Sefer Torah as the maftir (final aliyah). Each portion has its own special haphtarah. These passages are known as the arbah parashiyot. The first is Parshat Shekalim. It details the obligation of each Jewish male to give an annual half-shekel tax. The funds were used to purchase communal offerings and necessities for the Tabernacle and later, the Temple. The Temple officials collected this tax in Nissan but a public announcement would be made on the first of Adar, the month preceding Nissan. In the absence of the Temple, as a remembrance of this mitzvah, we read this section from the Torah on the Shabbat immediately before or coinciding with Rosh Chodesh Adar or Adar II in a leap year.

**Sunday 10 & Monday 11 March – Rosh Chodesh Adar II

Adar II contains the joyous festival of Purim which is celebrated in most places on the 14th (Sunday 24 March) and in Jerusalem and other ancient walled cities, on the 15th (Shushan Purim, Monday 25 March). Purim is preceded by the Fast of Esther (21 March). The Molad (appearance of the new moon) for Adar II is on Sunday 10 March at 10h13 and 6 chalakim (a chelek, literally a “portion”, is a Talmudic measure of time equal to one-eighteenth of a minute, or 3 and 1/3 seconds).  

 

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