The Torah assigns the exact Mishkan-related tasks to be performed by the families of Gershon, Kehat, and Merari, the sons of Levi. A census reveals that over 8,000 men are ready for such service. All those ritually impure are to be sent out of the encampments. If a person, after having sworn in court to the contrary, confesses that he wrongfully retained his neighbors property, he has to pay an additional fifth of the base-price of the object and bring a guilt offering as atonement. If the claimant has already passed away without heirs, the payments are made to a kohen. In certain circumstances, a husband who suspects that his wife had been unfaithful brings her to the Temple. A kohen prepares a drink of water mixed with dust from the Temple floor and a special ink that was used for inscribing G-ds Name on a piece of parchment. If she is innocent, the potion does not harm her; rather it brings a blessing of children. If she is guilty, she suffers a supernatural death. A nazir is one who vows to dedicate himself to G-d for a specific period of time. He must abstain from all grape products, grow his hair and avoid contact with corpses. At the end of this period he shaves his head and brings special offerings. The kohanim are commanded to bless the people. The Mishkan is completed and dedicated on the first day of Nisan in the second year after the Exodus. The prince of each tribe makes a communal gift to help transport the Mishkan, as well as donating identical individual gifts of gold, silver, animal and meal offerings.
Wit and the Unwitting
“The one who brought his offering on the first day was Nachshon the son of Aminadav…” (7:12)
Late one night there was a knock on the door of Rabbi Isser Zalman Meltzer, one of the great Rabbis of the previous generation. Accustomed as he was that people would come to ask questions throughout the day and evening, someone coming so late at night was unusual.
A young man entered and asked to speak to the Rabbi. Rabbi Isser Zalman arose from studying with his pupil, Rabbi Dovid Finkel, and, with his usual graciousness, ushered the young man into the inner room despite the lateness of the hour.
After some minutes Rabbi Isser Zalman emerged from the room in a state of turmoil; he walked to and fro speaking to himself all the while, “How there can something be like this? How can I be lenient in such a case?” Paying no attention whatsoever to his pupil and his wife, he paced up and down, up and down. Then he went into a different room for a long while.
The Rebbetzin began to be concerned for her husband, who was the pillar of the Torah of his generation. Rabbi Isser Zalman could be heard banging the table and saying in a loud voice to himself, “It must not be! A Jewish girl’s blood cannot be spilled!”
Rabbi Isser Zalman suddenly emerged from the room and re-entered the inner room to give his answer.
After a few moments, both the Rabbi and the man emerged, “…well if the Rav says so…”
“Yes! Yes! Without a doubt. Mazal Tov! And, B’ezrat Hashem, this time next year, you’ll invite me to the brit!”
The man left and the room fell silent.
The Rabbi began to explain, “This fellow is engaged to be married. A medical test just revealed that there is strong possibility that she will not be able to bear children. He came to ask me if, under the circumstances, he is permitted to go through with the marriage. I replied that when there is a doubt concerning a Torah law, the rule is to be stringent, and thus he should not marry this girl. However, I asked him if I could think it over. I went into the other room and examined the details over and over again: Should he not go through with the marriage it would cause the girl untold suffering and embarrassment. The Torah considers embarrassing someone tantamount to spilling blood. If he were to cancel their engagement, it is certain she would ‘die’ from embarrassment and pain. That she cannot have children, however, is not certain. Thus we have a certain violation of Torah law compared with a possible violation. I thus decided he should continue the engagement.
At the beginning of this week’s Torah portion the Torah repeats the identical description of the gifts brought for the Tabernacle by the princes of the Tribes of Yisrael. This seemingly superfluous word-by-word repetition is to teach us how careful we must be with the feelings of others. For even though brevity may be the spice of wit, it very often can cause great hurt by the unwitting.
Necessarily when the same action is to be performed sequentially, one person will have to go before the other. From that there is no escape. However, the Torah minimizes any aspect of ‘star billing’ by repeating identically the offerings brought by each and every tribe. In this way, the Torah teaches us to be very careful with the feelings of others. We should never assume that so-and-so won’t mind.
Oh, and by the way, Rabbi Isser Zalman’s words came true; he was the sandek at the brit of a beautiful baby boy just one year after that late night visit.
- Sources: Ramban; Lekach Tov