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Vayakhel Pekudei 5767

By: Shprintzee Rappaport

This week's e-mail shiur is dedicated to the soul of Esther Shlisser, who was an integral part of Midreshet Harova's Seminar Yerushalayim, as well as a close and respected friend of the Midrasha. Esther left this world this past Sunday. All of us on the staff of Midreshet Harova, and the hundreds of our students who met her through our programming, will truly miss her.

(Note: Since this e-mail contains "eulogy-type" sentiments, and since we do

not eulogize someone on Shabbos, please read this before Shabbos so that you may

then read it on Shabbos without any problems.)

This e-mail is dedicated to one of the holiest and most sensitive souls that I

have ever met--Chaya Esther Malka Bas Yehuda, known in this world as

Esther Shlisser. If you were lucky, you had the opportunity to take a tour

with Esther Shlisser and be overwhelmingly impressed with her encyclopedic

knowledge regarding everything to do with the Beit HaMikdash, and at the same

time, be emotionally awakened at her genuine tears regarding its destruction.

If you were really lucky, you caught the almost-imperceptible, gleam in her eye

that told you that even when she sometimes seemed to speak harshly in her

fiery/passionate way, that she was really just playing with you and seeing how

far you would let her go. But if you were really, really, lucky, you had an

incredibly special soul like hers davening for you at the holiest places in the

world. Rebbetzin Feige Kahana summed it up best, in one of the most profound

understatements I have ever heard, when she said "We lost a good one".

This week, we read three parshiot: two of them--Vayakhel and Pekudei--as part

of the weekly order of parshiot, and a third as another special parsha

for Maftir, called Parshat HaChodesh (Shemot 12:1-20). Parshiot Vayakhel and

Pekudei put the commands regarding the building of the Mishkan (which we

read about in Parshiot Terumah and Tetzaveh) into effect. The Torah

sums it all up by saying (38:21) "These are the accountings of the Mishkan, the

Mishkan of testimony". Rashi quotes the Midrash Tanchuma which says that we

can read the word "Mishkan" with slightly different vowels as "Mashkon--

collateral". Based on this, the Midrash says that the Beit HaMikdash (Temple)

acts as collateral for the debt of the Jewish people. As to what the debt is,

the Midrash says that it is our sins which create a debt that can only be

repaid via Teshuvah (repentance). Hashem gives us the Beit HaMikdash as

collateral that we will pay our debt, and if we don't pay off the debt, He

takes the Beit HaMikdash away.

But the commentary "Toldos Adam" notes that in Parshat Mishpatim (Shemot -

27) the laws of lending money state that one may not take as collateral

something which is crucial to the debtor's ability to repay his debt. For

example, one may not take a blacksmith's hammer as collateral since he needs it

to earn money to repay his debt. Based on this, the Toldos Adam asks "how

could Hashem take the Beit Hamikdash as collateral for our sins, when we need

it to repay our debt, via the sacrifices we bring there for atonement?" The

Toldos Adam answers his own question by quoting the rest of the pasuk in

Mishpatim which says "When he calls out to Me, I will listen because I give

freely". In other words, if the debtor cries out to Hashem because he needs

whatever was taken as collateral, Hashem will have mercy on him and give

him back the collateral. Says the Toldos Adam "Hashem would do the same

for the Jewish nation--i.e. He would give back to us the Temple which He took

as collateral--if only we would cry out for it. The problem is, we are not

crying out enough for the Temple's return, and so Hashem does not feel that He

has to give it back to us".

Esther Shlisser probably cried more genuine, heartfelt tears for the return of

the Beit HaMikdash than any other individual Jew in our history.

Interestingly, the commentaries say about Moshe, that after the 515th time he

davened to enter Eretz Yisrael, Hashem told him to stop because had he davened

once more, Hashem's Midat HaRachamim (Attribute of Mercy) would have been

forced to let him. Perhaps Hashem took Esther from us because had she cried

once more in her heartfelt way, Hashem would have surely had to bring the

Temple to us, at a time that perhaps we were not yet worthy of it. Instead, as

Hashem usually does, He took the soul of a righteous person from us to make us

feel the loss that we should otherwise feel for the Beit HaMikdash. In fact,

the commentary Pardes Yosef notes that the word in the first pasuk of Parshat

Pekudei "Ayleh--these" has a numerical value of 36, which represents the 36

hidden Tzaddikim in the world. According to the Pardes Yosef, when there is no

Beit HaMikdash (as in our time), the 36 Tzaddikim act as collateral for our

debt and may be taken as payment if we do not do Teshuvah.

Parshat HaChodesh talks about the laws of Rosh Chodesh. The Sages say that

women observe Rosh Chodesh with greater stringency than men and should only do

work which is absolutely necessary. According to Pirkei D'Rabi Eliezer (chap

45), this is because the women refused to contribute their jewelry to making

the Golden Calf. Yet, when it came to contributing gold for the building of

the Mishkan, it says (Vayakhel 35:22) "the men came in addition to the

women" which, according to the commentaries, means that the women contributed

first, in a selfless, wholehearted, giving to Hashem. It can be of no doubt to

anyone who knew her, that had Esther been alive during that period in the

desert, she would have led the procession of women contributing to the building

of the Mishkan, because she made selfless-giving an Art.

I was incredibly fortunate to know and work closely with Esther Shlisser every

year for a seminar on Yerushalayim that I organized. In fact, Esther WAS the

seminar as she did all the tours, since no one could portray Yerushalayim like

she could. One year, I had forgotten to book Esther for one of my time slots

and realized only that day (or perhaps the day before). I called Esther in a

panic, asking her if she could do the tour, but she explained that I had

already booked her for two other tours that day and she had yet another tour

booked with another group. (Her limit was three tours a day, based on the

amount of stamina she had.) This made me panic all the more as I had no

alternative and could never explain to the boss why I had simply forgotten to

fill the spot. I pleaded with Esther to help me out of this predicament and in

the end, she agreed. For me, that sums up who Esther was--always giving of

herself, even when she had no more to give.

As part of his eulogy for Esther, her brother, Mayer, noted that Esther's soul

left this world at the moment that those at her bedside said the word "Echad--

One" in the Shema Yisrael tefilla. The only other person about whom we are

told that his soul left on the word "Echad" was R. Akiva (Gemarra Brachos,

61b), upon which a voice from Heaven came out and said "Praiseworthy are you R.

Akiva that your soul departed on the word 'Echad'. You are invited into Gan

Eden". The Maharsha (R. Shmuel Eidels) notes that the fact that R. Akiva's

soul departed on the word Echad, is evidence that he accepted "Ol Malchut

Shamayim--the "Yoke of Heaven" completely. This is the same R. Akiva who, when

he saw foxes walking on Temple Mount, took it as a sign that the Temple would

be rebuilt. Esther's love of teaching about the Beit HaMikdash is certainly

evidence of how she completely accepted Ol Malchut Shamayim, which no doubt has

brought the rebuilding of the Temple closer to fruition.

Though we usually use the phrase "Chazak Chazak V'nitchazayk--Be strong, Be

strong and strengthen yourselves" merely to signify the fact that we have

finished a book of the Torah, this week, with the passing of such a holy soul,

this phrase takes on new meaning for all those who knew and loved Esther. May

the soul of Chaya Esther Malka Bas Yehuda, like the soul of R. Akiva, be

invited into the highest sphere of Gan Eden and may she bask in the glory of

the Beit HaMikdash Shel Maala (the Heavenly Beit HaMikdash) where she no doubt

feels like she is finally at home.

Good Shabbos and Shabbat Shalom,

Shprintza Rappaport


Midreshet HaRova

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