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When the cloud rises

Likutei Sichot, a 39-volume set of books, contains scores of deep and distinctive interpretations of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, mostly connected to the weekly Parshas.

There are Sichot (lessons) that delve into deep ideas, and there are those that analyze Torah concepts meticulously. There are seemingly simple explanations, and there are those that require many hours of perusal in order to fully understand them. There is one theme that shines through all of them, though, and that is that each and every one of them contains a message pertinent to our lives. Every Dvar Torah (literally – “word of Torah”) of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, be it a deep Chassidic idea or a fascinating yeshiva-style analysis, will always lead toward such a meaningful message, one that gives the reader a new outlook on the world and about his/her role in it.

We have such a message this week in Parshat Pekudei – at the end of it, which is also the end of the book of Shemot.

After summing up the building of the Mishkan, with all its details, it says: “When the Cloud was raised up from upon the Mishkan, Bnei Yisrael would embark on their journeys” (Shemot 40:36). You would think this verse contains merely technical information, and that’s how the commentators generally relate to it. There is information here for Bnei Yisrael: How will you know when to dismantle the Mishkan and start to travel? Very simple. The cloud of Hashem’s glory rests above the Mishkan, symbolizing the resting of the Divine Presence on the House of G-d – that Mishkan that you have just finished constructing. So look at it and see: If the cloud is still situated above the Mishkan, then stay in your place. But if you see that the cloud has risen and gone away, that is a sign that you should move on as well – “and when the cloud was raised up… Bnei Yisrael would embark on their journeys.”

But, wait a minute: the journey we are talking about consists of traveling towards the Land of Israel. It is actually one long journey of leaving Egypt and going through a desert on the way to the Promised Land. Why does the cloud rise and go away specifically during those difficult moments of having to move on? Isn’t it more fitting that specifically at those times the cloud should have descended and been with them “throughout their journeys”?

And here the Rebbe brings a powerful message, which can influence each and every one of us, each person according to his/her challenges and difficulties.

It is much easier to work and to do things when Hashem’s cloud is resting upon us – viewable, giving light and warmth; but in order to succeed, to move forward and to grow during our journey we must know how to labor on even when it is dark and cold.

Specifically when the cloud rises, then – and only then – Bnei Yisrael are to journey.

A person who travels a long way in a comfortable, air-conditioned car, will not grow or learn from the trip. A trip that makes one grow, that empowers one, is one that takes place with difficulty, in heat and cold, through fields, deserts, mountains and hills. I'm not asking to choose it, just to know it each time when Desert is before me and the cloud is not there.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

Different social statuses

In every society and within every group of people there are people of different social statuses. This is something intrinsic to society, and it has existed since the human race appeared.

All through history, human beings not only failed to minimize this phenomenon, but rather increased it. True, every few decades demonstrations and unrest broke out, to the point of violent uprisings against the discrimination that was the result of the class differences, especially in the past few generations, with the communism that promised that everyone would be ‘comrades’. But in the end, even when the uprising was successful and even when it brought about a revolution, it didn’t take long at all for the revolutionaries themselves to create an elite, leading once again to discrimination and to class differences.

This week’s parashaparashat Vayakhel, relates to this topic and there is even an example of a behavior that would be worthwhile to adopt.

Two artists are mentioned in the Torah as those who were responsible for the building of the Mishkan. One, Betzalel ben Uri ben Chur, and the other, Oholiav ben Achisamach. Betzalel was of the elite par excellence – he belonged to the most important family in the desert, being a great-grandson of Miriam and Calev ben Yefuneh. Besides that, he had a family issue that needed his closure: His grandfather, Chur, was killed when trying to prevent Bnei Yisrael from making the Golden Calf, and the Mishkan that Betzalel was appointed to build was intended to atone for that exact sin. In other words, Betzalel is continuing the campaign that his grandfather died for, and therefore the Torah mentions his grandfather in his lineage. Oholiav ben Achisamach, on the other hand, is from the tribe of Dan, the second son of Bilhah, Rachel’s handmaid. They were called “The children of the handmaids” – and were not regarded very highly. As mentioned, these were natural status differences, though not fair.

The Torah mentions Oholiav together with Betzalel, to teach us that when it comes to Hashem, there are no class differences! And also, perhaps, to make us do something to correct it – to search particularly for someone on the sidelines and bring him to the front of the stage? Maybe.

Here is what Rashi said:

“Oholiav was from the tribe of Dan, from the lesser of the tribes, the children of the handmaids. And Hashem placed him on equal level with Betzalel for the building of the Mishkan, and he is from the greatest of the tribes, to bring about what it says (Iyov 34:19): “nor lets a noble be given recognition over a pauper”.


Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski


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