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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Vayakhel-Pekudei Special Edition

Parshat Vayakhel-Pekudei Special Edition

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Vayakhel-Pekudei
25th of Adar, 5780 | March 21, 2020

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Paysach Krohn
Vaccine for the Virus

At this time in our lives, all of us are quite concerned and everyone is looking for answers. Of course, this refers to the Coronavirus, which has affected literally the entire world. We, as Jews, are looking for a way to respond, for as we know, this is really what Hashem demands of us. When something occurs in the world, we are meant to determine what we can do in response.

I would like to share with you three thoughts.

Firstly, the Gemara (Menachos 43b) tells us that it is an obligation for us to recite one hundred berachos (blessings) a day. Where does that come from? The Daas Zekeinim (Devarim 10:12), authored by the Baalei HaTosfos, relates that during the times of Dovid Hamelech, one hundred people were dying each day. Nobody knew that to do about it, and nobody was able to contain it. They approached Dovid Hamelech, who with his Ruach Hakodesh (Divine Inspiration) said the Jewish people must recite one hundred blessings every single day. As a result, the plague ended, and people stopped dying.

Dovid Hamelech saw that the plague was occurring because the Jews were not being grateful for what they had. As a result, he enacted that more blessings be recited, wherein we thank and acknowledge Hashem. When we make a beracha, we are enjoined to thank Hashem, and so is true when we recite Modim.
Secondly, the Pasuk tells us that during the times of Pinchas, there was also a plague. In Tehillim (106:30), Dovid Hamelech states, “Va’yaamod Pinchas va’yefalel – And Pinchas stood up and prayed.” The word Va’yefalel is rendered by the Targum as stemming from the word, Tefillah, prayer. The plague ceased after Pinchas acted as such.

We can learn two lessons from the above. For one, reciting one hundred blessings a day is something we ought to strive to be more careful about, as that is something which stopped the plague. Prayer as well is something which stops an epidemic.

The Mesillas Yesharim (Ch.19) tells us, “One should pray on behalf of his generation, seeking atonement for those who need atonement, urging repentance for those who need it, and promoting defense of the entire generation… Hashem loves only those who love the Jewish people, and to the extent that one increases his love for the Jewish nation, Hashem increases His love for that person… This can be compared to a father who loves no one more than the person who has shown genuine love towards the father’s son. Human nature attests to this.” As per these words of the Mesillas Yesharim, we are to take upon ourselves an increased focus on our prayers and attend to the needs of each other around the world. We must appreciate that our tefillos can have a real effect on the world.

Allow me to share with you something that I personally daven about. In the tefillah of Atah Chonen in Shemonah Esrei, wherein we ask Hashem to grant us wisdom, I daven that Hashem grant the scientists the wisdom to find the vaccine which will cure this. All of us in our way should endeavor to daven in such ways that speak to the needs of our current situation.

Lastly, the Torah in Parshas Korach (17:11), relates that Moshe Rabbeinu directed Aharon to offer Ketores, which stopped the plague which was occurring at that time of the rebellion of Korach. The Zohar and Midrash moreover tell us that reciting the passages relating to the Ketores holds a special power of protection, given that it lists all the eleven spices which constituted the Ketores. One of the spices was known as Chelbanah, which had an unpleasant smell, and represents the Jew who does not adhere to a Torah life. Nonetheless, he joins all the other spices and makes us the Ketores. This underscores the unity and inclusion that comprise the Jewish people.
The commentaries additionally note that reciting the passage of the Ketores contains the capability of protecting one and staving off danger.

Let us therefore be more careful about three areas:

▪ Reciting 100 berachos a day, many of which are part of our daily davening and blessings.*
▪ Praying for the cessation of this virus, and protection of all of the Jewish nation and the world.
▪ Reciting the passage of the Ketores, as well as enhancing our unity as a nation.


In the merit of our undertaking these steps, may we gather the merit to bring an end to all the travails which the world is experiencing today.

* In fact, the Chofetz Chaim in his classic Mishna Berura (46:14) writes, “Each day we recite more than 100 blessings. How is this so? At night, when a person goes to sleep, he recites the blessing of HaMapil. In the morning, upon washing his hands, he recites Al Netillas Yadayim; upon using the restroom, he recites Asher Yatzar; another 16 blessings are recited as part of the Morning Blessings; three blessings from Birchas HaTorah, the Blessings over learning Torah. This equals 22. The blessings over Tzitzis and Tefillin, which equal another three (according to those who make two separate blessings over Tefillin). This equals 25. In addition, Baruch She’amar and Yishtabach, and the Blessings of Shema (of both the morning and evening), and the final blessing of the Evening Shema. This equals 35. An additional 57 blessings are to be added from the three prayers of Shemonah Esrei. This equals 92 blessings. From the two meals which a person eats a day, another 16 blessings are added (2 from Netillas Yadayim and Hamotzi plus 4 from Bentching, and two blessings, one before and one after, for the recitation over the cup of wine accompanying Bentching). This all adds up to 108 blessings each day…”

Rabbi Daniel Glatstein
Stop the Coronavirus – Learning about the Ketores in Depth

Following the recommendation of R’ Akiva Eiger (Igros Sofrim, Siman 29), one of the advised practices to especially take upon oneself during the time of a plague is the recital of the Torah portion which speaks about the Ketores (Incense). Even more powerful than reciting it, however, is learning through the Parsha of the Ketores, for as the Gemara (Menachos 110a) tells us, “Anyone who learns [about the offering of the sacrifices] is as if he brought them.” In the merit of our learning, it should serve as a protection for all of Klal Yisrael, our families and our communities. Hashem should watch over us and protect us, and send healing to all those in need.

In last week’s Parsha, Ki Tisa, Hashem tells Moshe, “Take for yourself spices – Nataf (stacte), Shecheiles (onycha), and Chelbanah (galbanum), spices and Levonah (pure frankincense); they should all be of equal measure” (Shemos 30:35). Even though Chazal (Kerisos 6a) tell us that there are eleven ingredients of the Ketores, only four of them are mentioned here in the Torah by name. The Vilna Gaon and R’ Tzvi Hirsch of Zidichov both note that these four ingredients of the Ketores mentioned in the Torah spell out the word Shulchan (Shin from Shecheiles, Lamed from Levonah, Ches from Chelbanah and Nun from Nataf), which indicates that our table upon which we eat is likened to the Mizbeah (Altar), upon which the Ketores was offered. This is alluded to in the statement of Chazal, “A person’s table is like a Mizbeach” (Chagiga 27a).

Notably, in the Beis Hamikdash, there were two Altars. One stood in the Azarah (Courtyard) and was the site upon which sacrifices were offered, and was called the Mizbeach Ha’Olah or Mizbeach HaChitzon, or Outer Altar. The second stood in the Heichel, the area right before the Kodesh HaKodashim, the Holy of Holies, and was called the Mizbeach Ha’Zahav (the Golden Altar) or Mizbeach Ha’Penimi (the Inner Altar). It was upon this Altar that the Ketores was offered, thus giving it the additional appellation, Mizbeach HaKetores.

According to the interpretation of the Vilna Gaon, it would appear that our table is likened to the Mizbeach Ha’Ketores, as spelled out from the beginning letters from the four spices explicitly enumerated in the Torah.

However, this appears to contradict the words of the Rama (Orach Chaim, 167:5) who writes that we place salt on our table at every meal we eat, as our table is likened to the Mizbeach, of which the Torah states, “Upon every sacrifice, you shall place salt” (Vayikra 2:13). The salt which is spoken of here was placed upon the sacrificial meat, which was offered on the Outer Mizbeach, or the Mizbeach Ha’Olah. As such, it would appear that our tables upon which we eat are likened not to the Mizbeach upon which the Ketores was offered – the inner Altar – but rather the Mizbeach upon which Korbanos were offered, or the Outer Altar?

We are thus left with the question: To which of the Mizbeach is our table likened to?

The Ben Ish Chai explains that our table is akin to both Mizbachot. In this respect, the Ben Ish Chai says that we should recite the Parsha of the Ketores at our table, as its recital shows our table to be representative of the Mizbeach HaKetores, and we should learn Torah. Additionally, we are to invite poor guests to our table, as much as possible, and feed them, which serves in lieu of the Mizbeach Ha’Olah, upon which sacrifices were offered.

Another noteworthy point is a comment made by the Rabbeinu Bachye (Parshas Terumah 25:23), who writes that in France, it was the custom of people to be buried with the boards from the table of their home. In the Rabbeinu Bachye’s own words, “It is the custom of those who are pious in France that they make of their table a coffin for their burial, to demonstrate that a person will not take with him to the Next World anything except the charity which he did in his life and the goodness which he performed at his table. It is for this reason that our Sages teach, ‘One who extends his time at his table [availing himself to provide food and service to poor people], his life is lengthened’ (Berachos 55a).” People realized that all that can be taken with them after they pass away are the Torah, mitzvos and good deeds they performed at their table, as mentioned.

The Rabbeinu Bachye (ibid. 27:1) in fact says that the Shulchan (Table, upon which the Lechem HaPanim, or Showbread, was placed in the Beis Hamikdash) was constructed of Atzei Shitim (Shittim Wood), and the letters comprising the word Shittim (Shin, Tes, Yud, Mem) stand for Shalom (peace), Tovah (goodness), Yeshuah (redemption) and Mechillah (forgiveness). Similarly, the letters comprising the word Mizbeach (Mem, Zayin, Beis, Ches) stand for Mechillah (forgiveness), Zechus (merit), Beracha (blessing) and Chaim (life). These two items – Shulchan and Mizbeach – serve as sources of tremendous goodness in our lives.

The Eleven Spices of the Ketores

Delving into the exact enumeration of the spices, Rashi (Shemos 30:34-38) details the ingredients of the Ketores as follows:
Take for yourself spices – Nataf (stacte), Shecheiles (onycha), and Chelbanah (galbanum), spices and Levonah (pure frankincense); they should all be of equal measure” (V. 34).
Rashi explains that Nataf (Stacte) is called Tzri, or sap, in the Mishnah (Kerisos 6b), as this ingredient is the sap which drips from balsam trees, and is nothing more than a ‘dripping,’ which is the literal translation of nataf.

Shecheiles (Onycha) is an aromatic root which is smooth and shiny like a fingernail, or tziporen, (which in fact is the term used in the Mishnah, Kerisos 6a, and by Targum Onkeles here on the Pasuk itself).

Chelbanah is a spice whose smell is foul. The Torah counts it among the ingredients of the Incense as it teaches us that when we gather together for the purposes of fasting and praying, we should not only include the righteous individuals, but as well include those who are sinners. The Gemara’s exact wording is, “Any fast in which the sinners of the Jewish people do not participate is not a fast, for the Chelbanah has a foul smell, and yet the Torah lists it among the ingredients of the Ketores” (Kerisos 6b). [Parenthetically, the Gematria (numerical value) of Chelbanah is 95, the same as Haman, who was known to be wicked, or figurately ‘foul-smelling’].

The word Tzibbur (congregation) in fact comprises three letters – Tzadi, Beis, Reish – and refers to Tzaddikim (righteous individuals), Beinonim (those ‘in the middle,’ neither righteous nor wicked) and Reshaim (wicked). A congregation includes everyone, from every spectrum of the Jewish people.

The reason why everyone must be included is that with the sinners, or wicked individuals, the gathering takes on the full gamut of the Jewish people, which comprise a comprehensive, all-encompassing entity of an entire community. It is this entity of the Jewish nation, as a whole with all its constituents, which is guaranteed to never be forsaken by Hashem (see Berachos 32b). They carry a promise of eternality which transcends all else, and it is to this end that we gather together as a tzibbur. As individuals, we are never considered beyond reproach, yet it all changes when we come together as a tzibbur.

Levonah Zakah (Pure Frankincense). Rashi elaborates that from this listing of the Spices, our Sages derived that there were eleven spices which comprised the Ketores. As noted above, the Torah states, “Take for yourself spices – Nataf (stacte), Shecheiles (onycha), and Chelbanah (galbanum), spices and Levonah (pure frankincense); they should all be of equal measure.” The first use of the word Spices, as it contains the plural “s”, alludes that there were two spices in addition to the several ones listed thereafter. Next comes Nataf, Shecheiles and Chelbanah. This brings the count up to five (two spices plus three). The Torah then states again Spices, which alludes to an equal amount to the heretofore enumerated spices (i.e. five), and thereby adds another five spices. This then brings the total up to ten. Lastly, Levonah, pure frankincense, makes the total eleven.
The exact spices are the following: Tzri (Stacte), Tziporen (Onycha), Chelbanah (Galbanum), Levonah (Frankincense), Mor (Myrrh), K’tzia (Cassia), Shibolet Nard (Spikenard) and Karkom (Crocus).

This totals eight, as Shibolet Nard refers to one spice, since ‘spike” and “nard” are similar spices.

Next is Kosht (Costus), Kilufah (aromatic bark) and Kinamon (Cinnamon). This brings the total to eleven.

Now, the Gemara (Kerisos, 6a) mentions Boris Karshinah as one of the ingredients of the Incense. How does that not bring the total number of spices to twelve? Rashi here explains that this Karshinah soap was not burned on the Altar with the other eleven spices, and is therefore not counted as one of them. Boris Karshinah (literally meaning ‘Soap of Karshinah,’ with Karshinah either referring to a place or an herb; Rashi, Kerisos 6a) was rather used to rub the Tziporen, or Onycha (whose natural color is black), which would whiten it, and make it appear more presentable and pleasing.

They should be “equal to one another.” The four ingredients mentioned here in the Pasuk, explains Rashi, should be of equal weight (as mentioned in the Mishnah, ibid. each seventy maneh in weight).

The next Pasuk (v. 35) states, “You shall make it into incense, the work of a spice-blender, thoroughly mixed (memulach), pure and holy.”

Rashi explains that the mixing of the spices should be done very well, which is what the Torah means to underscore when it states Memulach. The word Memulach stems from the word Malach, or sailors (as seen from Yonah 1:5), as they are those who stir up the water with their oars to move the ship, similar to a person who turns over eggs with a spoon to mix them with water.
The next Pasuk (v. 36) says, “You shall grind some of it finely and place some of it before the Testimony in the Tent of Meeting, where I will establish a meeting time for you; it shall be holy of holies to you.”

This refers to the Ketores, which is offered each day on the inner Mizbeach, which is in the Tent of Meeting.

V. 37 says, “The incense that you shall make – in its measure you shall not make for yourself; it shall be holy to you for Hashem.”

Unlike the Anointing Oil, the prohibition of recreating the Incense applies even to duplicating the proportions of the ingredients, even if the quantities are different than the Torah delineates. In other words, it is still prohibited to recreate the Incense, even if one adds more of one ingredient and less of another, so long as the proportions of all the spices remain the same as indicated by the Torah.

When the Torah says, “It shall be holy to you for Hashem,” it means that the Ketores must be made for the sake of no one but Hashem, i.e. Lishmah.

V. 38 says, “Anyone who makes anything like it to smell it, shall be cut off from his people” (i.e. kares, spiritual excision).
The Torah prohibits an individual from duplicating the Ketores if one’s purpose is to smell it (even if he doesn’t actually go through with smelling it; so long as his intent when making it was to smell it). However, one can make the Ketores in order to give it over to the public to be used as Ketores in the Beis Hamikdash.

May our learning of the Ketores be considered before Hashem as if we brought before Him the actual Ketores. May Hashem use the merit of our learning to bring an end to the virus we are experiencing, to protect us, and bring us to life and peace.

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