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Terumah 5773

By: Rav Avigdor Meyerowitz

The Power of Free Choice in Sefer Shmot – Rav Avigdor Meyerowitz Starting with this week's Parsha until the end of Sefer Shmot, the Torah discusses exclusively the topic of the Mishkan, its vessels and the clothing of the Kohanim, with the exception of the incident of chet ha'egel, the sin of the golden calf in Parshat Ki-Tissa. There is a well-known argument between the commentators as to the chronological order of events in these parshiyot. According to the Ramban and others the commandment to build the Mishkan was given to Moshe during his first ascent to Har Sinai. After that, Bnei Yisrael sinned with the golden calf, Moshe davened for their forgiveness and after Hashem forgave them Moshe informed them of the Mitzvah to build the Mishkan which he had previously received. In other words, the order of events is exactly how they appear in the Chumash. Rashi and others disagree, however, and claim that the Mitzvah of the building of the Mishkan, even though it appears in this week's parsha, was in fact only given after the sin of the golden calf. Therefore these Parshiyot are not written in chronological order. Though it is unclear according to Rashi whether or not the commandment to build the Mishkan was a result of the sin, since perhaps it was supposed to be given in any event, according to the Sforno it seems clear that the concept of the Mishkan was a direct result of the sin of the golden calf. The Sforno comments at the end of Parshat Yitro that the original intention of the Torah was that all of Bnei Yisrael would be Cohanim, there would not be a need to build glorious buildings in order to attract the Shekhina to dwell amongst us, and the presence of Hashem could be found anywhere.[1] The result of Bnei Yisrael's choice was a change in the original Divine plan, and created the reality of the Mishkan. The tension between G-d's will and the ability of man to have and express free will is a well-known issue in religions in general and specifically in Judaism. Yet it seems that Sefer Shmot presents quite a clear position on this issue. Besides the abovementioned case of how Bnei Yisrael "force the hand of Hashem" by sinning and cause the reality of the Mishkan, there are many other incidents in Sefer Shmot which carry the same message. Let's look at just a few. 1. The exile in Mitzrayim was preordained by Hashem and foretold to Avraham in Brit-Bein-Ha'betarim. One of the famous questions regarding this is: How could Hashem punish Mitzrayim for enslaving Bnei Yisrael if He Himself decreed it? Among the many answers given to this question is that of the Ramban who states that though Hashem decreed that Bnei Yisrael would be enslaved, Mitzrayim were punished for inflicting much more pain and suffering than Hashem had decreed.[2] Hashem decreed a certain amount, and man decided, through his free choice, to do beyond that decree. 2. Why did the redemption from Mitzrayim start when it did? The most common answer to that question is: The time for redemption had come; the 400 years of servitude were up. The Ramban however states that in fact the time of bondage decreed upon them was already completed, however they were not worthy of redemption. Despite Hashem's decree, their free choice had led them on a path with no redemption. Only after Bnei Yisrael cried out, did Hashem in His mercy accept their prayer and start the Geulah. 3. Hashem chooses Moshe Rabbeinu to be the redeemer of Bnei Yisrael. Yet Moshe would like to decline the position. Although Moshe ultimately accepts the task, due to his insistence, Aharon his brother is sent to be his partner and spokesman for the mission. This decision of Moshe, according to the Netziv is not inconsequential; in fact it has a deep effect on the whole process of the Geulah and changes it from what Hashem had intended originally had Moshe gone alone.[3] 4. For how long did the revelation at Har Sinai in front of Bnei Yisrael continue and why did it stop? It seems from the peshat of the pesukim that it stopped because Bnei Yisrael wanted it to stop. "And all the people saw the voices and the torches, the sound of the shofar, and the smoking mountain, and the people saw and trembled; so they stood from afar. They said to Moses, "You speak with us, and we will hear, but let God not speak with us lest we die." But Moses said to the people, "Fear not, for God has come in order to exalt you, and in order that His awe shall be upon your faces, so that you shall not sin." The people remained far off, but Moses drew near to the opaque darkness, where God was."[4] 5. Finally to what might be the most striking observation in Sefer Shemot regarding G-d’s desire and man's free choice. When Hashem sends Moshe to free Bnei Yisrael from Mitzrayim, His message to them is that He will take them out of exile and bring them to the Land of Canaan, the land of their forefathers, the land flowing with milk and honey. Hashem wants to go through the full redemption with them culminating with their entry and settling in Eretz Yisrael. Yet despite the "desire" of Hashem, Bnei Yisrael, through their own choice, sin with the spies and fail to live up to the Ratzon of Hashem, and Hashem's promise to them is not fulfilled. As Torah observing Jews we often talk about Hashgacha and the path of our destiny that Hashem has set out for us, both as individuals and as a nation. What we can learn from the above is that a lot of that destiny is the product of our own decisions and free will, both for the good and for the less good. In conclusion I would like to end off with a question to you (the readers) based on what's been discussed in this shiur. What is the Peshat in the pasuk in Mishlei: "Rabot machshavot belev ish, Va'atzat Hashem, hi takum" "There are many thoughts in a man's heart, but God's plan-that shall stand."[5]? Shabbat Shalom Rav Avigdor


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