Parashat Ki Tissa

Parashat Ki Tissa
Shemot 30:11 - 34:35



Parashat Summary


Moshe takes a Census of the Benei Yisrael
G-d instructs Moshe to Prepare Anointing Oil and Incense for Ordination of the Kohanim
Skilled Artisans, Betzalel and Oholiav, are Assigned to Make Objects for the Kohanim and the Mishkan
Benei Yisrael are Instructed to keep the Shabbat as a Sign of the Covenant
G-d Gives Moshe the Two Tablets of the Ten Commandments
The Golden Calf is Built. Moshe Implores G-d not to Destroy the People
G-d Punishes the Benei Yisrael by Means of a Plague
Moshe Goes up the Mountain to Get another Set of Tables of the Ten Commandments
Other Laws, Including the Edict to Observe the Pilgrimage Festivals are Revealed
Moshe Comes Down from the Mountain with a Radiant Face


30:11 Vayedaber HASHEM el-Moshe lemor
Then HASHEM spoke to Moshe, saying:
12 Ki tisa et-rosh benei-Yisrael lifkudeihem venatnu ish kofer nafsho l'HASHEM bifkod otam velo-yihyeh vahem negef bifkod otam
When you take the census of the children of Yisrael for their number, then every man shall give a atonement for his soul to HASHEM, when you number them, that there may be no plague among them when you number them.
It is important to understand that these portions, that is, the Portions of Terumah, Tetzaveh, and this section dealing with the shekalim, all of which deal with the Mishkan, are not strictly in chronological order.  G-d did not give the commandment above to Moshe until after the Golden Calf was made.  These things served as atonements for the Gold Calf.  Just as they had given gold for the Golden Calf, now they were to give gold for the Mishkan. (Rashi)

It is true that in the Torah all these commandments come before the chapter which discusses the Golden Calf.  But the commandments actually occurred after the Gold Calf and are written out of chronological order.  This is just one example of what our sages say in many places, "There is no chronological order in the Torah (Ein Mukdam U'M'uchar ba-Torah)."

Now, after the sin of the Golden Calf, G-d commanded Moshe to take a census of the Benei Yisrael.  This can be understood with a parable:

A man had a flock of sheep and disease struck them, causing a number of them to die.  After the disease was cured the shepherd said, "I would like to count my sheep to see how many have survived."
G-d similarly said to Moshe after the Golden Calf, when many Jews died, "I would like you to count Yisrael so you will know how many have survived."

Clearly, nothing is hidden from G-d.  He has no need to count in order to know how many survived.  But G-d wanted to show the love He has for Yisrael.  He commanded Moshe to count them to know how many survived, to show that He again loved them because they had repented and were now behaving properly. (Rashi; Mizrachi. Cf. Zohar, Pekudei)

This was the third time that Benei Yisrael were counted:
  1. The first census was taken when they traveled to Egypt. Yaakov's family then numbered seventy souls.
  2. They were counted a second time when they left Egypt. The Torah relates that they then numbered 600,000 men.
  3. Now, on the day after Yom Kippur in their first year in the wilderness, they were being counted a third time.


The Torah says that when the census is taken, each man shall give an atonement for his soul.  G-d commanded that they should not be counted individually by heads.

This is because when something is counted it can be affected by the evil eye (ayin hara).  Therefore, if they are counted by heads they can be stricken by a plague.  We find that King David counted the Benei Yisrael by heads and they were stricken by a plague where 70,000 people died (2Shmuel 24) (Rashi; Bachya)

This is because the evil eye is very potent.  A person must do everything in his power to keep away from it.  The Talmud says that once Rav went to the cemetery and, with his great wisdom, he looked at the graves and knew what was the cause of each person's death.  He saw that only one out of four hundred people died of natural causes, while the other 399 died as a result of the evil eye. (Bava Metzia, Chapter 9)

We similarly find that when Nevuchadnetzar threw Chanania, Mishael and Azariah into the firey furnace, they were saved from the fire and miraculously remained alive.  Nevertheless, they died as a result of the evil eye. This is why, after they were saved, they are no longer mentioned. (Sanhedrin 93)

The reason why the evil eye affects that which is counted is because when a person counts, he expresses the number with his mouth.  Then when he looks at the great number, it causes harm. (Abarbanel)

There is a rule that blessing cannot be found in something that is counted, in something that is measured, or in something that is weighed; only in something that is hidden from the eye.

It is thus written, "G-d shall command the blessing in your granary" (Devarim 28:8).  The word for granary is asamecha.  This also has the connotation of something hidden.  The Torah is telling us that G-d will send a blessing on something that is hidden and not on something that is revealed to the eye.  The word asamecha comes from the same root as the word soma which means a blind person.  This indicates something that is hidden, where the eye cannot see it; only onto something like this will G-d send a blessing.

For this reason, when a person is about to measure his grain, he must first pray to G-d and ask that G-d grant a blessing on his pile of grain.  If he measures first and then prays, it is a useless prayer.  Once it is measured, a blessing can no longer affect it. (Bava Metzia 42)

This is because G-d does many miracles for man. There is no person for whom G-d does not do miracles at all times, although the person may not be aware of it. (Bachya; Imrei Shefer)

It is thus written, "G-d makes many great wonders by Himself (le-vado)" (Tehillim 136:4).  The phrase "by Himself" (le-vado) seems redundant.  It is obvious that when G-d does things He does them alone, without any help.  The expression "by Himself" (le-vado) teaches us that when G-d does miracles for a person, no one is aware of it. Even the one affected by the miracle is not aware that it has been done.

This is why G-d commanded Moshe not to count the Benei Yisrael by heads.  He did not want the evil eye to have any effect on them and he also wanted them to be blessed. (Yalkut Shimoni, on Tehillim; Zohar, Balak, p. 4)

The Torah says, "Every man shall give an atonement offering for his soul to HaShem."  G-d told Moshe that in order to know the number of the Benei Yisrael, each one should give a ransom for his life.  The amount of money would then be counted and, from this, the number of Benei Yisrael would be determined without counting them by heads.  As a result, there would not be any plague.

30:13 Zeh yitnu kol-ha'over al-hapkudim machatzit hashekel beshekel hakodesh esrim gerah hashekel machatzit hashekel trumah l'HASHEM
This is what everyone among those who are numbered shall give: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (a shekel is twenty gerah). The half-shekel shall be an offering to HASHEM.
 When G-d Told Moshe these words, Moshe was very surprised.  He said, "How can a person give a ransom for his soul?  The soul is something priceless.  Even if a man gave all his wealth for his soul it would not equal its true worth."

G-d replied, "Do not be afraid that I will make them give very much.  All that I require is something very small.  Even the poorest person will be able to give it." (Yalkut Shimoni; Tanchuma)

With this G-d showed Moshe a coin of fire under the Kisei Hakavod (Throne of Glory).  The coin was a half shekel.  G-d said to Moshe, "This is what I want each person to give." G-d literally said, "This is what each person should give."  The word "this" denotes something pointed to with a finger. (Yerushalmi; Targum Yonatan; Tamchuma)

The half shekel that G-d designated for Moshe was the same shekel that was used for all other holy purposes. It was melted down and recast as silver sockets, which were used to support the beams of the Mishkan.

The sockets compirsed the foundation of the Mishkan. The use of the half-shekalim for their fabrication indicated that the people's contributions provided a new basis for Hashem's residence in their midst after their sin. (Alshech)

It was used for endowments (arachin) for hereditary property and similar things (discussed in Parashat BeChukotai).  The half shekel that G-d designated to Moshe was to be taken from a shekel which weighs twenty gerah.  Half of it would then be ten gerot.  The gerah was a coin that existed in the time of Moshe.

The shekel that existed in those times weighed six drams and was made of pure silver.  Therefore, half a shekel consisted of three drams of pure silver.
30:14 Kol ha'over al-hapkudim miben esrim shanah vamalah yiten trumat HASHEM
Everyone included among those who are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering to HASHEM.
15 He'ashir lo-yarbeh vehadal lo yam'it mimachatzit hashakel latet et-trumat HASHEM lechaper al-nafshoteichem
The rich shall not give more and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel, when you give an offering to HASHEM, to make atonement for yourselves.
16 Velakachta et-kesef hakipurim me'et benei Yisrael venatata oto al-avodat Ohel Mo'ed vehayah livnei Yisrael lezikaron lifnei HASHEM lekhaper al-nafshoteichem
And you shall take the atonement money of the children of Yisrael, and shall appoint it for the service of the tabernacle of meeting, that it may be a memorial for the children of Yisrael before HASHEM, to make atonement for yourselves."
The Torah says that each person should give one half shekel.  The people were not allowed to give as they desired, with one giving more and one giving less.  Each one had to give the same amount, that is, a half shekel.  In this respect, rich and poor had to be alike.

Why did Hashem command that half-shekel be donated rather than a complete shekel? To demonstrate that the Benei Yisrael were forgiven for the chet ha'egel (sin of the golden calf). Hashem said, "They sinned after a half a day (in the afternoon), when Moshe did not return. Let them therefore achieve expiation with a half a shekel. Furthermore, half a shekel is equivalent to ten gerah. It will thus atone for their having transgressed the Ten Commandments, which happened when they worshiped the Calf."

This section dealing with the shekalim comes immediately before that dealing with the washstand (kiyor).  This teaches the importance  of women.  They did not want to give their rings for the Golden Calf.  However, when it came to making the washstand, the women came before the men.  The washstand was made of copper donated by the women (Parashat VaYachel) (Tzedah HaDerech)


The Commandment of Shekalim
[Collecting the Half-Shekel (image from Temple Institute)]



The offering for buying sacrifices was a commandment that had to be kept always.  This is one of the positive commandments in the Torah.  As long as the Temple stood, a half shekel had to be given.

This offering had nothing to do with the census. Whether a census was being taken or not, each individual had to give a half shekel.  Even a poor person who lived of charity and did not have anything had to borrow money or sell something to give this half shekel.  The Torah therefore says, "The rich man shall not give more and the poor man shall give less" (30:15).

Moreover, this could not be given in installments.  It had to be given all at once. (Yad, Shekalim 1; Sefer Mitzvoth Gadol)  The Torah therefore says the poor man shall not give less than half a shekel.  This teaches that even a poor person cannot pay the half shekel in installments, but must give it all at once. (Kiryath Sefer)

The commandment of giving a half shekel each year did not have to be half of the coin that existed in the time of Moshe.  In each generation, the coin in use at that time could be used.  If it was worth more than the coin that was used in the time of Moshe it would not make any difference.  But a coin worth less could not be used.

It is true that the Torah says, the rich man shall not give more and the poor man shall not give less.  This seems to indicate that more also may not be given.  However, this is only true when one person gives more and another less.  If all decide to give the same amount, they can even give something that equals more than half a shekel.

However, even if all agree to give the same amount, they are not permitted to give less than the original half shekel. (Shekalim, Chapter 2)

Every man is obligated to give a half shekel:  Kohanim, Leviim and the Benei Yisrael.

(The Leviim, who had not sinned in the incident of the Golden Calf, were not required to donate a half-shekel in Moshe's time. They were, however, required to participate in the yearly collection for the Beit Hamikdash - Tosfot on Menachot 21)

*NOTE:  Tosfot - Composed in Middle-Age France. Composed in medieval France, the Tosafot are commentaries on the Talmud. The Tosafists - Rashi’s sons-in-law, grandsons, and others - pointed out and tried to resolve apparent contradictions between different sections of the Talmud, among various Tosefists, or comments of Rashi. The commentary doesn't include comments on all passages of the Talmud, but deals only with the difficult sections.

However, women, slaves and minors do not have to give the half shekel.  If they wish to give it voluntarily it can be accepted from them.  If a person gave once on behalf of his minor child, he cannot stop giving in such a case, he must give the half shekel for him until the child grows up.

This commandment is incumbent upon those who live in Yisrael as well as those who live in other lands.

As soon as the month of Nissan arrives it is no longer permissible to bring a sacrifice from the offering of the previous year.  Rather, they must bring it from the new offering, that is from the shekels which were collected that year.  (This is discussed in Parashat Pinchas among the laws of the sacrifice.)

For this reason, in the month of Adar announcements have to be made about the shekalim.  This was the month before Nissan.  Each person would prepare his half shekel so that he would be ready to give it.

*Why was the month of Adar chosen as the time for collecting shekalim from Klal Yisrael? Hashem foresaw that the wicked Haman would give King Achashvarosh 10,000 kikar of silver, in exchange for permission to exterminate the Jews in Adar. Said Hashem, "Let my sons' donations precede his, so that they may e saved from his hands."

Today, it is customary to read the beginning of Parashat Ki Tissa, which is called "Parashat Shekalim," after the Torah-reading on the Shabbat preceding Rosh Chodesh Adar. Thus, we are reminded of the procedure used in the time of the Beit Hamikdash.

On the fifteenth of Adar collectors would be stationed in all the cities in order to collect the shekalim.  They would go and ask each person for his shekel in a nice manner.  If a person did not want to give, he would not be forced.

On the twenty-fifth of Adar the collectors would be stationed in Yerushalayim in the Holy Temple to collect.  From that time on, the collectors in the other cities would begin to force people to give.  If a person refused and did not want to give, the collectors would enter his house and take his valuables against his will, even his clothing. (Yad, Shekalim 4)

The collectors in other cities would exchange the shekalim they collected for dinars.  They would then send messengers to bring them to Yerushalayim.

All the money would be gathered together and placed in one of the rooms in the Temple.  They would fill three large chests with this money.  Each chest would hold nine se'ah, where each se'ah was six okiot.

The money that they put aside would be called "the offering of the chamber" (terumat ha-lishkah).  The three boxes would be placed in a different office which was sealed with a lock.  The money that remained after these large chests were filled was left in the original room and was called "remainders of the chamber" (sheyarei ha-lishkah). (Ibid. 2)

The money placed in the chests that were filled and called "the offering of the chamber" was used to buy the daily sacrifices.  This consisted of the two sheep that were offered each day, one in the morning and one in the late afternoon, as well as the additional (Mussaf) sacrifices for the Shabbat, for Rosh Chodesh and the festivals.  This money would also be used for other communal offerings.  The money was also used to buy the salt that was used on the sacrifices, and the incense that was burned on the altar.  It was also used to pay the wages of those who made the incense and the show bread, for the omer and the two breads (offered on Shavuot), as well as the Parah Adumah, which often cost a great deal, and the goat that was sent away on Yom Kippur.  All these things were bought with this money.

These funds were also used to buy the priestly vestments, both those of the Kohen Gadol and those of the common priests.

The ones in charge could not go in to withdraw money from these chests any time they desired.  Rather, three times a year someone would go into the office and fill three smaller chests out of the three large chests.  Each small chest would hold three se'ah.

He would enter first in the month of Nissan, second, fifteen days before Shavuot, and third, at the beginning of the month of Tishri, either directly before Rosh Hashanah or right after it. (Ibid. 4)

They would go into the treasury these three times to indicate to the people who lived close by that they were to bring their shekalim on Pesach.  Those who lived further had to bring them on Shavuot, and those who lived in distant cities had to bring them on Sukkot. (Rambam, commentary on Mishnah, Shekalim, Chapter 3) The person who went in to take the money from the treasury was not allowed to go in wearing shoes or any other garment in which it was possible to hide money.  He should not be suspected of misappropriation.  There were guards who stood outside, who spoke to him from the time he entered until the time he left so that he was not able to hide anything in his mouth.

Although all these precautions were taken to make it impossible to steal anything, it was still forbidden for a poor person to go in to take this money.  People should not say, "Since he is poor, how is it possible that he did not take anything for himself?"

A person should thus be very careful that he not do anything that would lead others to suspect him.  It is thus written, "you shall be innocent before G-d and Yisrael" (BaMidbar 32:22).

When a person would go in to take money from the treasury, he would first ask permission, "Shall I take?"  He would ask this three times; each time those outside would reply, "Take, take, take."  This was so people would see that he was considered trustworthy.  Those in charge who were watching him had to say three times, "Take." (See Etz Hachaim, Shekalim, Chapter 3)

When the person collected the money he would have in mind that he was taking from the money that was already collected and placed in the treasury, as well as the money that had not yet come to Yerushalayim but was still on the way, and also the money that had not yet been collected.  This was so that everyone of the Benei Yisrael would have a portion in the sacrifices that were brought with this money.  It would then be counted as if all the Benei Yisrael had already given their shekels and the sacrifices had been bought with all their money.



The Commandment to Make a Kiyor - Laver

[Kiyor - Laver]

30:17 Vayedaber HASHEM el-Moshe lemor
Then HASHEM spoke to Moshe, saying:
18 Ve'asita kiyor nechoshet vechano nechoshet lerachtzah venatata oto bein-Ohel Mo'ed uvein hamizbe'ach venatata shamah mayim
You shall make a copper washstand and its base out of copper for washing. You shall put it between the Tent of Meeting and the Altar. And you shall place water there,
G-d commanded Moshe to warn the kohanim that they not enter the Mishkan nor approach the outside Altar for service without first washing their hands and feet.  It is not fitting to enter the king's palace to serve him and touch his food without washing the hands.  G-d therefore commanded to make a washstand and a base for washing. It was to be filled with water every morning so that the Kohanim could pour water over their hands and feet (netilat yadayim - pouring water) before commencing with their avodah (service). These were made out of copper.  Their function was to allow the kohanim to wash their hands and feet. (Ramban; Abarbanel)

The washstand was made in the form of a large pot.  Around it there were spigots from which the kohanim could wash their hands and feet. (Rashi)

In time of the Second Temple, the washstand was made with twelve spigots all around.  These served the twelve kohanim who were engaged in the daily service.  All of them were able to wash at once, they did not have to wait for one another. (Yoma 37)

The Torah says that this washstand should be placed between "the Tent of Meeting and the Altar."  The Mizbe'ach (Altar) was outside the Mishkan to the east, in front of the entrance and directly opposite the Holy of Holies discussed in Parashat Tetzaveh.  Now G-d commanded Moshe to place the washstand on the side of the Mishkan which is "between the Tent of Meeting and the Altar."

When G-d said that it should be placed "between the Tent of Meeting and the Altar," He did not literally mean that it should be placed between the two and that it should separate the Tent of Meeting from the Altar.  The Torah explicitly said elsewhere that there must be nothing coming between the Mishkan and the Altar.  It is thus written, "Place the sacrificial altar at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting" (40:6).  This indicates that the sacrificial altar must be directly in front of the Tent of Meeting entrance with nothing intervening.

However, when the Torah says that the washstand should be placed "between the Tent of Meeting and the Altar" it means that it should stand next to the Altar and should be in that space which is between the Altar and Mishkan. (Zevachim 59.  Cf. Abarbanel)

G-d commanded taht the washstand be put in this place so that it would be close to the ramp leading up to the Altar.  Therefore, as soon as the kohanim completed their services on the Altar, they could wash their hands and feet.

The ramp leading up to the altar was to the south.  Although the washstand was to the east, at the entrance of the Tent of Meetting, it was somewhat toward the south so that it would be near the ramp leading up to the Altar. (Ralbag)

G-d said, "You shall place water there."  It was not necessary that the water placed in the washstand be spring water or rain water.  Any water could be used in the washstand.  The only condition was that it not have changed color.  Once the water changes color it is no longer has the status of water.  The Torah therefore says, "You shall place water there." This indicates that the liquid placed in the washstand should have the full status of water. (Ibid.; Yosef Lekach)

The reason that G-d commanded that the kohanim also wash their feet was because they had to perform the service barefoot.  They were forbidden to wear any shoes on their feet while serving.  Therefore, G-d commanded that they also wash their feet.  Feet may become dirty and it was not fitting that they perform the Divine service if their feet were not perfectly clean. (Ramban; Ralbag; Abarbanel)

30:19 Verachatzu Aharon uvanav mimenu et-yedeihem ve'et-ragleihem
for Aharon and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet in water from it.
20 Bevo'am el-Ohel Mo'ed yirchatzu-mayim velo yamutu o vegishtam el-hamizbe'ach lesharet lehaktir isheh l'HASHEM
When they go into the Tabernacle of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister, to burn an offering made by fire to HASHEM, they shall wash with water, lest they die.
21 Verachatzu yedeihem veragleihem velo yamutu vehayetah lahem chok-olam lo ulezar'o ledorotam
So they shall wash their hands and their feet, lest they die. And it shall be a statute forever to them--to him and his descendants throughout their generations."
The kohanim had to wash their hands and feet when they entered the Tent of Meeting, that is, the Mishkan, to do any type of service that was performed there.  This included the incense that was offered in the morning and afternoon, the sprinkling of blood on the Golden Altar (Rashi), or even lighting the Menorah.  They also had to wash when they came to the outer altar to offer sacrifices. (Ralbag)

The Torah says, "they must wash so that they they not die." If they perform any service without washing their hands and feet they are worthy of death by the hand of G-d.  In addition, their service is invalid. (Yad, Biyat HaMikdash 5; Ralbag)

When the kohanim washed their hands and feet from the washstand, they could not wash first their hands alone and then their feet alone.  Rather, they had to wash their hands and feet all at once.  This is what the Torah means when it says, "Aharon and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet" (30:19).

This is the way they did it.  The kohen would place his right hand directly over his right foot and his left hand directly over his left foot.  He would then wash his hands and feet together. (Zevachim 19).

Furthermore, the kohen was not permitted to wash his hands while sitting; it had to be done while standing.  All the services in the Temple had to be done while standing and this washing was part of the Divine service. Therefore the kohen would have to stand up virtually touching his feet with his hands and then he would wash. (Ralbag; Ya, Biyat HaMikdash 5)

From here our sages learn that a person must wash his hands before each of the three daily services, morning, afternoon and evening.  In the morning, of course, one wants to wash his hands as soon as he gets up.  If he delays the morning service and does not pay attention to his hands, when he goes to pray he must wash his hands again, because it is possible that he touched an unclean place on his body. (Ramban; Abarbanel)  Similarly, before a person recites the afternoon prayer (Minchah) he must wash his hands. This is true even though he does not know for sure that his hands have become unclean. (Orach Chayim 92).

Even though a person might be getting up from Torah study, he must wash his hands before reciting the afternoon (Minchah) service.  He must also wash his hands before the evening (Aravit) service. (Orach Chayim 233)

Before the Kohanim recite the Priestly Blessing, they must also wash their hands. (Ibid., in Hagah; Sheyarei Kenesset HaGedolah, Orach Chayim 92)  This is true even though they washed their hands in the morning and were careful not to touch any unclean place on the body.  Still, they must wash their hands again before the Priestly Blessing. (Orach Chayim 128; Beit Yosef, quoting Rashi.  Cf. Bet Chadash ibid.)

When the kohanim wash their hands at this time it must be a washing of the whole hand, just as we wash our hands before a meal.  That is, one must wash the hand up to the wrist. (Orach Chayim, loc. cit.)  At this time, the kohen's hand should be washed by the Levi. Before the Levi pours water over the kohen's hands he must wash his own hands. (Beit Yosef, quoting Zohar)

If there is no Levi in the synagogue, the washing of the kohen's hands should be done by a person who is first-born son. (Beit Chadash; Magen Avraham; Turei Zahav)  If there is no first-born son in the congregation, the kohen should wash his own hands.  They cannot be washed by a common Yisraeli. (Magen Avraham ibid; Zohar, Nasso)

There are a number of reasons why the section dealing with the washstand comes immediately after the dealing with the shekalim.

It teaches us that the benefit that comes from the washstand is very much like that of giving tzedakah (charity).  From the merit of keeping the commandments associated with the washstand, rain is increased and plenty comes to the world.  Similar, as a result of giving tzedakah, there is adequate rain and food.  Rain is withheld only because people pledge charity publicly and they do not fulfill their pledges.  It is thus written, "There are clouds and wind and no rain; a man shows off with a false gift" (Mishlei 25:14).

Some give another reason that the portion dealing with the washstand immediately follows that of the shekalim.  The shekels were designated for the silver bases to atone for the sin of the Golden Calf.  The washstand was also meant to atone for the sin of the Golden Calf.  The washstand was made of the offerings that the women brought to the Mishkan.  Since the women refused to donate anything toward the Gold Calf, and they donated to the Mishkan, the kiyor (washstand) is fit to have this advantage.

The Torah therefore says, "You shall make a copper washstand and its base out of copper for washing." The Torah could have said, "to wash their hands and feet," as it says below. It would not have been necessary for the Torah to mention later what they must wash from this stand. But here the Torah teaches that, besides the hands and feet, the washstand was destined to wash something else.  It was destined to wash away this ritual filth brought about by the Gold Calf. (Sifetei Kohen)


The Commandment to Prepare the Shemen Hamishchah - Anointing Oil & Ketoret - Incense
30:22 Vayedaber HASHEM el-Moshe lemor
Moreover HASHEM spoke to Moshe, saying:
23 Ve'atah kach-lecha besamim rosh mor-deror chamesh me'ot vekinmon-besem machtzito chamishim umatayim ukneh-vosem chamishim umatayim
"Also take for yourself the finest fragrances, five hundred [shekels] of distilled myrrh, [two] half portions, each consisting of 250 [shekels] of fragrant cinnamon and 250 [shekels of fragrant cane.
In this parsha, the Torah tells us how the anointing oil (shemen ha-mish'chah) was made.

These are the fragrances that were taken:

Mor deror - the first of the incense spices is a musk which is derived from an animal that lives in India.  This animal has a pouch in its neck where blood gathers.  The blood dries and becomes the musk. (Ibn Ezra; Bachya, quoting the Geonim; Aruch s.v. Mor.)

This musk has to be distilled so that it will not have any impurities or anything artificial.  It is therefore called "distilled," deror in Hebrew.  The meaning of the word deror is "free," as it is written, "you shall proclaim liberty (deror) in the land for all its inhabitants" (VaYikra 25:10).  The verse therefore tells us that this musk must be free of all impurities or extra ingredients.

The word deror also teaches us that the musk must be extracted when the animal is free, and not when it is captive.  When the animal is free, the musk comes out pure and refined, since the animal pastures in the open fields. (Yad, Klei HaMikdash 1; Tur, Orach Chayim 216; Abarbanel)

Some authorities maintain that it is forbidden to eat musk because it comes under the prohibition of blood. (Ramban)  However, most authorities maintain that it is permitted to eat musk.  They hold that the blood has become so dry that it is just like dust; therefore the prohibition against blood does not pertain to it.

It is also not forbidden because of "things that come out of an unclean animal" (yotze min ha-tame'). (Tur, Orach Chayim, quoting Ramah and Rosh)

It goes without saying that it is permitted to smell the fragrance of this musk.  It is not considered smelling something that is forbidden, again, since it is like dust.  When one takes it and smells it, he should recite the blessing (Tur, Orach Chayim, quoting Rabenu Yonah; Shiltei Gibborim, Avodah Zarah, Chapter 5; Turei Zahav 216):
"Baruch atah HaShem, Elokeinu, Melech HaOlam, borei minei besamim"  
Blessed are you, HaShem our G-d, King of the Universe, Who created various types of fragrances). 
The general custom is to place this musk in various types of confections for its fragrance. (Yad, Bereachot 9; Orach Chayim 216)

There is, however, a similar fragrance known as civet, which is made of a substance secreted by a certain type of cat.  It is forbidden to eat this and it is similarly forbidden to place it near a confection to provide fragrance, because it is derived from a non-kosher animal.  It is not the same musk, which is permitted as food.  This is because musk is completely dried whereas civet still retains some moisture.  It is likewise forbidden to smell the fragrance of civet or to recite a blessing over it.  Anything that is forbidden as food may not be smelled and no blessing may be recited over it. (Kenesset HaGedolah, Orach Chayim 216)

Kinman Besem - The second type of incense perfume used was an aloe wood, od agachi in Turkish. We know it in Arabic as od indi. (Radak; Yad, Klei HaMikdash 1, 2; Ramban on Mishnah, Keritot, Chapter 1)

Some say that kinman besem is a type of red straw with a very fine fragrance. In French it is know as Mecca straw. (Ramban)

According to another opinion, it is a type of fragrant grass.  Other sources, however, identify kinman with cinnamon, which is cognate to the Hebrew word.

The amount of the second fragrance was such that half of it would be 250; that is, the entire amount was five hundred shekels, exactly the same as the mor.  However, when this was taken it could not be weighed all at once so that there would be 500 shekels, the way the mor was weighed. Rather, it had to be weighed in two parts.

This is expressed when the Torah says, "There shall be kinman besem, one half of it being 250 shekels."  It does not say 500 shekels of kinman besem as it says concerning the mor deror, even though the same amount of both was taken.  The Torah teaches us that this kinman cannot be weighed as the other fragrances were weighed.  Rather it has to be weighed in two parts.The Torah therefore says that the kinman besem has to be an amount of which half is 250 shekel, and only two portions of this must be taken. (Shiltei HaGibborim 85)

Keneh Bosem - the third type of fragrance identified as cinnamon. (Radak; Ramban; Shiltei HaGibborim)

250 skekels of this fragrance was to be taken.  This is 1500 drams.  We do not assume that the word "half" also applies to the cinnamon described here.  Then the total amount would have been 500 shekels.  If the Torah's intent was that there be 500 pieces of cinnamon, it should have said, kinman besem and keneh bosem, half of each being 250.

Kidah - the fourth fragrance that was used.  This was taken from the root of a certain plant known as costus, called in the Talmud ketziah.

Some say that kidah is cassia or ginger (inbar). (Radak, Sherashim)

The amount that was taken was five hundred shekels according to the sanctuary standard.  This is the same amount as the mor deror and the kinman.

All this had to be taken according to the sanctuary standard (shekel hakodesh). This means that all the weights had to be according to the sanctuary standard.

After that, one hin (approximately one gallon) of olive oil was to be taken.  This was twelve librot, paralleling the twelve tribes. (Targum Yonatan)

30:25 Ve'asita oto shemen miskhat-kodesh rokach mirkachat ma'aseh roke'ach shemen mishchat-kodesh yihyeh
And you shall make from these a sacred anointing oil.  It shall be a blended compound as made by a skilled perfumer, for the sacred anointing oil.
It was called sacred anointing oi, because it was used to anoint sacred articles.

It was also made by a skilled perfumer; that is, it had to be made by an expert who knew how to mix together fragrance well, so that the oil would absorb the fragrance of the perfumes. (Abarbanel)

The Torah did not have to explain how the anointing oil was made.  It says specifically that it had to be made by a skilled perfumer, and such perfumers usually made their compounds a certain way.  In those days, the perfumer's art was known and it was fairly standardized.  Therefore the Torah did not need to explain it explicitly. (Ramban; Abarbanel)

The anointing oil was made in the following manner.  The four fragrances mentioned: the mor deror, the kinman, the keneh bosem and the kidah, were taken.  Each one was ground by itself. After the grinding they were mixed together very well.  They were then placed in a large jar of pure fresh water.  They were allowed to soak there until all the essence of these fragrances would be absorbed by the water.  After that the twelve logim of olive oil were placed in the water and the mixture was cooked over fire. (Yad, Klei HaMikdash 1; Sefer Mitzvot Gadol)  The fire could not be too hot. (Abarbanel)

As it was cooked, the water would become redder and redder and, meanwhile, the oil would absorb the entire fragrance of the water and the spices. The process was continued until all the water was evaporated, but before the oil began to evaporate.  It was then taken from the fire and the oil was strained to remove all the herbs.  The substance was then placed in a special flask where it was used as the anointing oil.

30:26 Umashachta-vo et-Ohel Mo'ed ve'et Aron ha'Edut
With it you shall anoint the Tabernacle of Meeting and the Ark of the Testimony;
27 Ve'et-hashulchan ve'et-kol-kelav ve'et-hamenorah ve'et-keleha ve'et mizbach haktoret
the Table and all its utensils, the Lampstand and its utensils, and the Altar of Incense;
28 Ve'et-mizbach ha'olah ve'et-kol-kelav ve'et-hakiyor ve'et-kano
the Altar of burnt offering with all its utensils, and the Laver and its base.
This anointing oil was to be used to anoint the Tent of Meeting (Ohel Mo'ed), that is, the Mishkan itself; the Aron containing the two Tablets; and the Table and all its utensils as described in Parashat Terumah.  Also to be anointed where the Menorah and all its utensils; the inside Altar, which is the Incense Altar; the outer Altar, which is the sacrificial Altar; all the Altar's utensils; and also the washstand and its base.

30:29 Vekidashta otam vehayu kodesh kodashim kol-hanogea bahem yikdash
You shall sanctify them, making them holy of holies; whatever touches them will become be sanctified.
As a result of this anointing, the Mishkan and all its furniture gained the status of very high sanctity.

This sanctity implied that if anything that could be used as a service vessel (keli sharet) was brought into the Mishkan after it was anointed, it could not be taken out again for mundane use.  Its sanctity could not even be removed by redemption.  This, however, only applied to something that could actually be used in the Mishkan.  If something could be used in the Mishkan, it could not become sanctified by being brought into the Mishkan.

 30:30 Ve'et-Aharon ve'et-banav timshach vekidashta otam lechahen li
And you shall anoint Aharon and his sons and sanctify them as kohanim to Me.
The anointing of Aharon did not mean that he would have oil poured on him form head to foot.  Rather, a bit of oil was placed on his head and above his eyebrows and they were then joined together with a finger to make the shape of the letter Kaf (כ). (Rashi.  Keritot 5)

This was a sign of priesthood.  The first letter of the Hebrew word for priest (kohen) is the letter kaf.

All the vessels used in the Mishkan and the Aron (Ark) were also anointed in this manner.  The oil was placed on each vessel and it was made into the shape of the letter Kaf. (Abarbanel)

Any object in the Mishkan, once it was used for Divine service, even if it was not anointed, became holy.  G-d now commanded that the objects be anointed because Yisrael did not yet know how holy the Mishkan was.  Therefore, just as the Kohen Gadol was anointed because he was sanctified and separated more than everybody else, the Mishkan and its vessels were anointed to show how great their sanctity was.  However, once this sanctity was known, the Holy Temple and its furniture did not have to be anointed with this special anointing oil.

The same was true regarding the anointing of kohanim. The only kohanim who were anointed in this manner were Aharon's sons, who were the first kohanim.  Later on, common kohanim would not be anointed with this special oil.  The holiness of the fathers would be inherited by their sons.

This was only true of common kohanim.  In each generation the Kohen Gadol had to be anointed with this special oil to be able to serve in this capacity.  If he was not anointed, he could not serve as Kohen Gadol.  In such a case, the special status of the father was not inherited by his son. (Keritot 5)

The High Priesthood was not passed down from father to son; it depended upon the qualities of the kohen himself.  He had to have certain characteristics.  If he had the proper qualities for a Kohen Gadol, he could be anointed for this position, even though his father may not have been Kohen Gadol. (Abarbanel)

30:31 Ve'el-bnei Yisrael tedaber lemor shemen mishchat-kodesh yihyeh zeh li ledoroteichem
And you shall speak to the children of Yisrael, saying: 'This shall be a sacred anointing oil to Me throughout your generations.
32 Al-besar adam lo yisakh uvematkunto lo ta'asu kamohu kodesh hu kodesh yihyeh lachem
It shall not be poured on man's flesh; nor shall you make any other like it, according to its composition. It is holy, and it shall be holy to you.
33 Ish asher yirkach kamohu va'asher yiten mimenu al-zar venichrat me'amav
Whoever compounds any like it, or whoever puts any of it on an outsider, shall be cut off from his people.
G-d told Moshe to tell the Benei Yisrael that this oil was not only meant to be used to anoint kohanim, but also to anoint the kings who would be appointed over Yisrael.  A king also had to be anointed with this special oil.

The Torah therefore says, "This shall be a sacred anointing oil to Me throughout your generations." The wording is somewhat difficult to understand.  If it were only meant for the kohanim, the Torah would have said, "This anointing oil shall be holy for Aharon and his sons for all generations."  This would indicate that the oil was only to be used by the kohanim.  What does the Torah mean when it says it shall be "anointing oil to Me"?

The Torah teaches that this oil was also destined to be used to anoint kings.  G-d therefore said that it should be "sacred anointing oil to Me."  That is, it should be for those who are anointed for My purpose.  This includes both kohanim and kings.  Both are considered to be anointed to G-d, dedicated to G-d through their anointing. (Ramban)


Anointing of Kings

Although a person might have been chosen by the people to be king, he did not have the actual status until he was formally anointed.

A king was not anointed with the form of a (kaf) as was a kohen.  Rather, the oil was placed all around his head like a crown. (Keritot 4; Horayot 12; Abarbanel)

There was also another difference between the anointing of a Kohen Gadol (High Priest) and the anointing of a king.  In the case of the Kohen Gadol, a little bit of oil was poured on his head and on his eyebrows and then he was anointed in that special shape (kaf).  It was not enough merely to anoint him.  This is because G-d told Moshe explicitly, "You shall take the anointing oil and pour it on his head and anoint him" (29:7).

A king, however, did not have to have the oil poured; the king was merely anointed.  It is written here, "This shall be sacred anointing oil to Me."  This oil that G-d commanded to be used for kings was only to be used for anointing.

The only kings who were anointed with this oil were those who were descendants of King David.  Other kings were not anointed with this oil.

The prophet Elisha anointed Yehu even though he was not from the house of David (2Melakhim 9:6) because this was a special case.  The oil that he used was not this special anointing oil but a very fine balsam oil.

If a king is the son of a king, he inherits his position and does not require anointing, because the throne is automatically passed down from father to son.  It is thus written, "So that he reign long on his kingdom, he and his sons in the midst of Yisrael" (Devarim 17:20). Thus the anointing of the father also applies to the son.

It is true that King Shlomo was anointed even though he was the son of a king as we see in 1Melachim 1:39.  This was because of the dispute of Adoniyah who tried to be king over Yisrael.  It is thus written, "so that he and his sons reign long on their kingdom in the midst of Yisrael."  The throne is only inherited automatically when there is peace.  In such cases no anointing is needed.  But when there is a question, this anointing oil can be used in order to prevent dispute.

We thus find that Yo'ash the son of Achazia was also anointed even though he was the son of a king.  This was because of the dispute involving Atalia (2Melachim 11:12).

Yehoachaz was also anointed even though he was the son of a king, because his brother Yehoyakim wanted to be king since he was two years older than his brother. (Kiryat Sefer)


Miracles Involving the Anointing Oil

There were a number of miracles involved with the anointing oil.

First of all, this oil was only made once.  It was made by Moshe with his own hands. (Yad, Klei HaMikdash 1)

The Torah therefore says, "You shall take the finest fragrances."  G-d used the word "you" in the case of the anointing oil.  In the case of the incense, He just said, "take for yourself" and not "you" (atah).  G-d used the word "you" to teach that Moshe alone was allowed to make the anointing oil; no one else could do so - ever. (Abarbanel)

This teaches how great the miracle of the oil was.  The oil made by Moshe was enough for many things.

First of all, it only consisted of twelve logim of oil (approximately 1 gallon).  Quite a bit of this oil was evaporated when it was cooked and more was absorbed by the herbs.  After that, it was used to anoint Aharon and his sons each day of the seven days of installation.  It was also used to anoint the entire Mishkan and its furnishings and the washstand and its base.  It was also used to anoint every Kohen Gadol who was appointed after Aharon until the time that the first Temple was destroyed. (Keritot 5; Horayot 12)  Each Kohen Gadol was anointed for seven consecutive days. (Yad, Klei HaMikdash 4) This oil was also used to anoint all the kings.

The Torah says, "This shall be the sacred anointing oil to Me for all generations."  That is, this oil is to be used for all generations, no other oil. (Ralbag)

Furthermore, the Hebrew word for this is zeh which has a numerical value of twelve.  This indicates that the twelve librot of oil that were made remained complete; no matter how much it was used, the amount was never diminished. (Keritot, Horayot, loc. cit.)

In the second Temple, however, the anointing oil was no longer in existence.  During this period, Kohen Gadolim were installed in the following manner:

They would take the person who was appointed Kohen Gadol and have him put on the seven vestments of the Kohen Gadol (discussed in Parashat Tetzaveh).  On the first day, he would put on these vestments and take them off. He would do the same thing on the second day and on all seven days on his installation; that is, for seven consecutive days.  This was done in place of anointment with the anointing oil.  The Torah therefore says, "The Kohen Gadol among his brothers, who had the anointing oil poured on his head and who was installed to wear the vestments" (VaYikra 21:10).  This teaches us that just as a Kohen Gadol can be installed by being anointed, he can also be installed by wearing the vestments. (Yad, Klei HaMikdash 1, 4)  The bottle of anointing oil will remain hidden in a concealed place until the Mashiach comes.  It shall once again be revealed along with all the other things that were hidden. It will be used to anoint the Kohen Gadolim in the Messianic age. (Abarbanel)

G-d said, "Do not pour it on the skin of any person."  G-d commanded Moshe that this oil was only to be used for High Priests and kings and was not to be poured on any other person.  Even a king or High Priest could not anoint himself with this oil after he was anointed according to law. |11|

The Torah says, "Do not pour it on the skin of any person."  This alludes to every person, even a king or Kohen Gadol.  It is for this reason that the Torah does not say explicitly, "Do not pour it on the flesh of an unauthorized person (zar)," as it says later, that whoever places it on an unauthorized person (zar) shall be cut off from his people. (Kiryat Sefer)

If a person is not a Kohen Gadol or a king, and he anoints himself with this oil or rubs it on someone else deliberately, he incurs the penalty of excision (karet) [which denotes being spiritually cut off].  If he does it unknowingly he must bring a sin-offering, (korban chatat).  He also incurs the penalty of excision if he anoints a king or a High Priest who has already been anointed according to law.  Similarly, if a Kohen Gadol takes some of the oil which was poured on his head and rubs it on other parts of his body, he incurs the penalty of excision.  This is implied when the Torah says, "On the flesh of any person do not anoint it."

This, however, is only true if he places an amount equal to an olive on his body.  If he uses less than this amount he does not incur the penalty. (Yad, loc. cit.)

One may raise a question.  In verse 32 the Torah says, "On the flesh of a person, do not pour" (lo yisach).  In verse 33 it says, "Whoever places it, (yiten) on an unauthorized person, shall be cut off."  Why does one verse use the expression "pour" and the other use the expression "place"?

The Torah teaches us that a person does not incur the penalty merely by rubbing it on his body unless he does it in the manner of anointing; that is, he must take the oil and anoint his body with it.  However, if he does not rub it on his body, but only places it on his body, he does not incur the penalty.

This is true only of a king or a Kohen Gadol.  In the case of another person, he incurs the penalty even if he only places it on his body.

The first verse therefore uses the expression, "anoint."  Here it is speaking of a Kohen Gadol or a king.  It teaches us that they only incur a penalty if they anoint themselves with it.  Later, when the Torah is speaking of any person, it says, "who places."  A completely unauthorized person incurs the penalty even if he does not anoint himself with the oil but only places it on his body. (Yad, loc. cit.; Ralbag; Kiryat Sefer)

If a person rubs the anointing oil on vessels or garments, animals, a gentile, or a dead person, he does not incur the penalty.  The Torah says, "On the flesh of a person do not pour it."  The verse excludes vessels and animals.  It also excludes gentiles, since it is written, "You are my sheep that I tend, you are man (adam)" (Yechezkel 34:31).  From this we see that the word adam is used only to denote the Benei Yisrael and not gentiles.  Since the Torah says, "Do not pour any on the flesh of adam," it excludes gentiles.  Similarly, once a person is dead, he is not referred to as an adam, but a corpse, (met).  Therefore one does not incur the penalty. (Keritot 6)

The Torah says, "Do not duplicate its formula."  The Torah warns us against duplicating the formula of the anointing oil made by Moshe with the same percentage of ingredients.  It is forbidden for any person to make it, whether for himself or even for the Holy Temple, or to anoint kings or Kohen Gadolim. (Ralbag)

When the Torah says, "Do not duplicate its formula," it means that it is forbidden for any person to use the same ingredients or formula no matter what the purpose.  From this we learn that even if this oil is needed for the Holy Temple it is forbidden to make anything like it.

If the Torah were only referring to making it for mundane purposes and not for the Temple (as it is permitted to make new incense for the Holy Temple) it would have said, as it says in the case of the incense, "Do not duplicate its formula for yourselves" (30:37).  Instead, the Torah teaches that even for the Holy Temple it is forbidden to duplicate the formula of the oil. (Abarbanel)  If a person duplicates the formula of the anointing oil by using the same ingredients as Moshe, not adding or subtracting anything from the formula on purpose, he incurs the penalty of excision.  If he does it unknowingly he must bring a sin-offering.

However, if he does not make it exactly as Moshe made it, but makes half as much, or more, or less, even though the ingredients are in the same ratio, he does not incur the penalty of excision.  The Torah says, "Do not duplicate this formula just like it."  The only time it is forbidden to duplicate the formula is if it is made "just like it," the same amount that was made by Moshe.  If a person makes more or less, this law does not apply. (Yad, Klei HaMikdash 1)

The phrase, "like it, (kamohu) also teaches us that one incurs the penalty only if he makes the oil in order to anoint with it as Moshe did.  Only then does he incur the penalty, since the oil was then made for the same purpose as Moshe's. (Kiryat Sefer)  However, if one makes it only to learn how to make such a perfume, not in order to use it, he does not incur the penalty. (Keritot 5)

If a person makes oil like that made by Moshe and anoints another person with it, the person anointed does not incur the penalty.  The Torah specifies that the penalty is, "for the person who places it on an unauthorized person; he shall be cut off from his people."

Moreover, a person only incurs the penalty if he anoints himself with the oil made by Moshe.  If one anoints himself with oil other than that made by Moshe, even though there is a penalty for making it, the person anointed with it does not incur the penalty. (Yad, loc. cit.; Ralbag)

G-d commanded not to duplicate the formula of this anointing oil even for the Holy Temple because many great miracles occurred when this oil was made.  As mentioned earlier, it was used to anoint all the kings and High Priests in each generation.

A similar miracle was not done with the incense and other things because G-d wanted the two leaders of each generation, the king and the Kohen Gadol, to be anointed with the oil made by Moshe.  This was so that they would emulate him.  All the kings who were appointed should learn from Moshe, who was the first king of Yisrael, as it is written, "There was a king in Yeshurun" (Devarim 33:5).  Similarly, all Kohen Gadolim should learn from Moshe, who served as the Kohen Gadol in the Mishkan during the seven days of installation as discussed in Parashat Tetzaveh.  It is for this reason that all of them were to be anointed with the oil made by Moshe.  Through this it would be considered as if they were anointed by Moshe himself.  This would bring the fear of G-d into their hearts so they would lead the people with uprightness according to the commandments of the Torah. (Abarbanel)

It was because the Kohen Gadolim in the first Temple were anointed with this oil that they were all G-d-fearing and lived a long time.  During the entire 410 years that the first Temple stood there were only 18 Kohen Gadolim.  In the second Temple, however, the anointing oil was no longer in existence, as we mentioned earlier.  There the Kohen Gadolim were not G-d-fearing and they did not last long in their position.  During the 420 years that the second Temple stood, there were more than 300 Kohen Gadolim.  Most of them did not live out their lives.

It therefore comes out that whoever is anointed with the oil made by Moshe gained great benefits from it.  G-d made a great miracle with this oil and caused it to last a long time, so that all the kings and Kohen Gadolim would be anointed with it. |23|

We will not discuss another great miracle that happened with this oil when it was used to anoint a High Priest or a king.

When a priest was about to be anointed, other priests would sit alongside him and the flask of oil would then be placed in the middle.  The oil would run and pour itself on the head of the High Priest and it would be the exact amount needed for the anointing.

A similar thing happened when King David was anointed.  G-d told the prophet Shmuel to go and anoint as King one of the sons of Yishai, but He did not say which son.  When Shmuel came to Yishai he asked him to bring all his sons.  Yishai brought his first son, whose name was Eliyav.  Shmuel saw that he was tall and good-looking and said, "This is certainly the one whom G-d wants to be king."  However, when he came to anoint him the oil ran away, repelled by him.  When Shmuel saw this he said, "Obviously G-d wants a different son to be king."  Yishai then brought his other sons but the oil behaved in exactly the same manner.  However, when David, the youngest son, was brought, the oil ran and automatically poured itself on David's head.  (Yalkut Shimoni on Shmuel 124)




30:34 Vayomer HASHEM el-Moshe kach-lecha samim nataf ushchelet vechelbenah samim ulevonah zakah bad bevad yihyeh
And HASHEMsaid to Moshe: "Take sweet spices, stacte and onycha and galbanum, and pure frankincense with these sweet spices; there shall be equal amounts of each.
Among all the sacrifices that were offered in the Holy Temple, none was as precious before G-d as the incense.

The reason that this incense was more important than the other sacrifices was because all the sacrifices - the sin offering, the burnt offering, the guilt offer, the peace offering and the meal offering were brought for some sin.  The incense was not brought for any sin, but to express joy. It is thus written, "Oil and incense make the heart rejoice" (Mishlei 27:9).  This teaches that the oil used in the Menorah and the ketoret was primarily to make the heart rejoice.  They were made to bring joy.

This why the two were bound together; at the time the Menorah was lit, the incense was burned.  It is thus written, "When Aharon lights the lamps between the evenings, he shall burn them." (30:8)  It was therefore very important before G-d. (Tanchuma, loc. cit.)

The incense also had another great advantage. It was an enlightened remedy to purify people from sin.  (Zohar Chadash, loc. cit.; Zohar, VaYachel) Whoever smelled the fragrance of the incense when it was being burned on the altar would have thoughts of repentance.  His heart would be purified of all evil thoughts from the defilement of the Evil Inclination.

In this respect, it was very much like the Tzitz (forehead plate) worn by the Kohen Gadol, upon which G-d's Name was written.  Whoever looked at it would experience great awe in his heart and would repent completely.  The same was true of anyone who smelled the fragrance of the incense when it was being burned.  This would break the power of the Other Side so that it could not speak evil against Yisrael.

This is why the incense altar was referred to as an altar, (mizbe'ach).  The incense altar was called a mizbe'ach even though no sacrifice was slaughtered on it, because the incense had the power to break and subjugate the power of the Other Side.  This place was called a mizbe'ach because it was a place where the Other Side was slaughtered. (Zohar, VaYachel)

Since the incense is so important, a person should be careful to read this chapter every day, in the morning and in the evening.  He should not consider it difficult even though it might take a few moments, since it brings great joy to G-d.

Incense is greater than prayer.  As is well know, the prayers were meant to be in place of the sacrifices, but the incense was more important and greater than all the sacrifices.  Therefore it is obvious that the incense was great than all the prayers.  Moreover, it was a great remedy to purify a person of all sin. (Zohar Chadash, loc. cit.; Zohar, VaYachel)

In the Zohar Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai says:  If people knew how great it is when they say the section Pitum HaKetoret before G-d, they would take each and every word of the section and place it on their heads like a golden crown.  Whoever says Pitum HaKetoret each day in the morning and evening, slowly, without skipping even a single word, and understands what he is saying, is protected against all evil occurrences and evil thoughts and from an evil death.  He can rest assured that all day he will not be harmed in any way.  He will also be protected from the punishments of purgatory and will have a portion in the World to Come.

In the time of a plague there is no remedy better than the ketoret.  This was a gift that the Angel of Death gave Moshe when he went on High to receive the Torah.  The Angel of Death became his close friend and revealed to him the mystery of the incense and how it could be used to stop a plague.  Merely reciting the section dealing with the incense also has the power to stop a plague. (Shabbat, Chapter 9)

The incense was made new each year.  It is one of the positive commandments of the Torah to make the incense correctly. (Yad, Klei HaMidash 2)

There was one family that was known as the House of Avtinos which was in charge of making the incense. (Shekalim, Chapter 4)

This required extremely skilled work.  They had to know exactly how to purify each ingredient before it was ground. The grinding also took great skill since each ingredient had to be ground to the same degree of fineness; one could not be thick and the other thin.  There was also a certain expertise in knowing the precise species used in the incense.  For example there was a herb known as ma'aleh ashan; other than this family no one knew its identity. (Shiltei HaGibborim)


30:37 Vehaktoret asher ta'aseh bematkuntah lo ta'asu lachem kodesh tihyeh lecha l'HASHEM
But as for the incense which you shall make, you shall not make any for yourselves, according to its composition. It shall be to you holy for HASHEM.
38 Ish asher-ya'aseh Chamoha lehariach bah venichrat me'amav
Whoever makes any like it, to smell it, he shall be cut off from his people.
Here, G-d tells Moshe that the incense that He commanded to make should only be burned in the Holy Temple.  It is forbidden for any person to duplicate its formula for his own enjoyment to smell its fragrance   The formula must remain completely holy and sacred to G-d.

Whoever duplicates the formula of the incense even if he does not intend to enjoy its fragrance incurs the penalty of excision (karet).


Betzalel is Designated as the Builder of the Mishkan and Ahaliav as His Assistant

31:1 Vayedaber HASHEM el-Moshe lemor
G-d spoke to Moshe saying,
Re'eh karati veshem Betzal'el ben-Uri ven-Chur lemateh Yehudah
"I have selected Betzalel son of Uri son of Chur, of the Tribe of Yehudah, by name.

When Moshe, during his stay in Heaven, was told about the future building of the Mishkan, he was under the impression that he was bidden to construct it with his own hands. As he was about to leave the Heavenly Camp, Hashem revealed to him, 
"Although I displayed to you the diagram of the Mishkan and the structure of all its components, you are not the artisan who will construct it. your task is to be a leader and not a craftsman!
"Who then will be the builder of the Mishkan?" inquired Moshe. 
"Betzalel ben Uri ben Chur was assigned that task," Hashem informed him.

Betzalel was the son of Chur who had been slain during the incident involving the Golden Calf. The construction of the Mishkan through Chur's son atoned for the guilt of Chur's death. Betzalel was the great-grandson of Moshe's sister Miriam. She was rewarded with a wise and understanding descendant who knew how to build the Mishkan as a reward for her fear of Hashem which prompted her to disobey Paro's order to murder the Jewish newborn in Egypt.

At that time, Betzalel was only thirteen years old. Moshe therefore wondered how someone so young in years could be given the immense task of erecting a Mishkan.

Hashem, however, showed Moshe that same book which He had also shown to the first man. Adam. In it were recorded the names of all the Jewish kings, leaders and prophets until the time of Mashiach. The name "Betzalel" was recoreded as the builder of the Mishkan.

"He was destined for the task since Creation." Hashem revealed to Moshe.

No leader is ever given charge of a community unless he was previously designated by Heaven.

Betzalel was inspired by Hashem with Divine wisdom and comprehension to be able to succeed in his mission. He knew the Divine code by which heaven and earth had been created. He was thus able to create the Mishkan, a task which was equivalent to the creation of the universe.

Just as Moshe was shown a vision of the detailed structure of each vessel of the Mishkan, so was Betzalel granted a Heavenly vision of the shape and design of every object.

Betzalel was a faithful artisan who exerted himself to the utmost to fulfill Hashem's instructions. The Torah therefore rewards him by attaching his name to every single object in the Mishkan throughout this parsha.

Hashem commanded Moshe to appoint as Betzalel's assistant Ahaliav from the Tribe of Dan. Ahaliav did no independent work but he helped Betzalel with each phase of the building. Hashem joined as artisans Betzalel, a member of the Tribe of Yehudah, and Ahaliav, of the Tribe of Dan. Yehudah was the most exalted of Tribes and Dan the lowliest. By joining them, Hashem taught Benei Yisrael not to despise the Tribe of Dan because in Hashem's eyes the great and the small are equal.

A lesser person who serves Hashem with all his capabilities ranks equal with a more gifted one, for Hashem judges a man according to the intentions of his heart. (Meforshim)

Forty Days in Heaven - Moshe Receives Two Sapphire Luchot (Tablets) 

The Oral Law





34:27 Vayomer HASHEM el-Moshe ktov-lecha et-hadevarim ha'eleh ki al-pi hadevarim ha'eleh karati itcha brit ve'et-Yisrael
Then HASHEM said to Moshe, "Write these words down for yourself, because it is through these words that I have made a covenant with you and Yisrael."

After Matan Torah Moshe stayed in Heaven for forty days, learning the Torah directly from Hashem.

Hashem taught Moshe the rules of Torah (exegesis) so that he could derive the entire body of halachah from the words and letters of the Torah. Although Moshe studied diligently, his mind did not retain any of the principles which he had heard from Hashem. After forty days of intensive study, his mind was still blank. Subsequently, Hashem granted him, as a Divine gift, the power to retian his learning.


Moshe's inability to recall his studies was due to the fact that he had not yet transformed himself from a physical to a spiritual being. His forty days in Heaven were a spiritual renaissance, paralleling the forty-day period when the embryo is formed in the mother's womb. Only at the end of that period did Moshe achieve the required spiritual ability to retain Torah.
 Moshe's perseverance serves as a lesson for those who use poor memory as an excuse for not exerting themselves in Torah-study. They should learn from Moshe, who persisted in his studies despite the failure of memory. He was therefore rewarded with the ability to retain all his Torah knowledge.

At the end of the forty days, Hashem handed Moshe two sapphire Luchot (Tablets) of idential shape and size. On them, He had engraved the Ten Commandments.

Why were the Benei Yisrael given Ten Commandments inscribed on luchot, rather than a Divine Scroll containing the entire Torah?

When a young child begins school, his teacher introduces the Alef-Bet to him by writing the letters on the blackboard. Only later, when he is familiar with the Alef-Bet, will he be given books to study.

Hashem, so to speak, introduced Benei Yisrael to Torah by first acquainting them with the Ten Commandments (which contain the basic Torah concepts), and only later did He give them an entire Torah scroll.

Hashem chose to inscribe the Ten Commandments on a hard mineral (sapphire) to teach Benei Yisrael that failure to observe Hashem's mitzvot would result in the punishment of stoning (s'kila) by Beit Din.

Rather than inscribing all Ten Commandments on a single tablet, Hashem wrote them on two separate luchot, to symbolize:

  • heaven and earth - to teach us that heaven and earth were created only for the sake of Torah study and its fulfillment.
  • chassan and kalla - the first tablet contains the commandments involving man and his Creator, who is termed Klal Yisrael's Chassan. The second tablet represents the kalla, Klal Yisrael, since it deals with the commandments governing man's relationship with his fellow man.
  • two shusvinim (ushers) - the two Luchot symbolize the two ushers who introduced the Jewish people to Torah: Moshe, who excelled in the commandments between man and his Creator; and the kind and peace-loving Aharon, who perfectly fulfilled the commandments between man and his fellow.
  • olam hazeh and olam haba - the one who fulfills what is inscribed on both Luchot acquires both worlds.
The letters were not superficially engraved on the Luchot, but were carved through the entire thickness of the stone. Thus, they could be read on both sides. The letters Mem and Samech form a complete square and circle, respectively. Since their inner sections were totally unsupported, they should have fallen out. However, they were held in place miraculously.


Now G-d said to Moshe, "With the giving of the first Tablets you wrote a book of the covenant. This book contained the entire account from creation until the giving of the Torah. It was read so that all the people could hear it. The people responded to it, 'We will do and we will listen.' (Shemot 24:7)  Do the same thing with these second Tablets, repeating everything that you did." This is the meaning of G-d's commandment, "Make for yourself these words."

Some say that after the Benei Yisrael made the Golden Calf and violated the original covenant that G-d had made with them, they were required to make a new covenant. Moshe had to write a sort of receipt for the new conditions and obligations, indicating that they had been forgiven for their wrong-doings. They were forgiven on condition that from now on they would be obligated to keep all G-d's commandments and laws.

G-d thus said, "Write for yourself these things for it is through these words that I have made a covenant with you and Yisrael." G-d commanded Moshe to write a contract stating a condition that the Benei Yisrael would keep all these words.

G-d said, "I forgave them for the past and made a new covenant with them only because of your merit. For their own sake I would never have forgiven them at all." G-d therefore told Moshe, "I have made a covenant with you and with Yisrael." When G-d said, "with you," He meant, "through your merit."

Another thing we learn from this verse is that "Things that are written in the Torah may not be recited orally, and things that are meant to be transmitted orally may not be written."

The Torah consists of two parts, the Written Torah, (Torah she-biktav) and the Oral Law, (Torah She-ba'al peh). This verse teaches us that the Written Torah may not be recited orally, and the Oral Torah may not be written, but must be transmitted by mouth from person to person.

When G-d taught Moshe the Written Torah and the Oral Torah He told him, "Teach these to the Benei Yisrael."

"Master of the universe," said Moshe, "Should I write down the Oral Torah and teach it to the Benei Yisrael from a script?"

G-d said to him, "You may not do this. Write down these words, but it is by their oral tradition that I am making a covenant with the Benei Yisrael. The words that I am teaching you orally may not be written; rather you must teach them to the people orally."

The reason that it is forbidden to write down the Oral Torah, that it must be taught orally, is because G-d knew that the Benei Yisrael were destined to be exiled and to be under the power of other nations. If the Oral Torah were written, the gentiles would translate it and include it in their religion, saying that G-d had chosen them in place of Yisrael and had given them the Torah. They would then be able to draw others to follow their false religion.

However, since the Oral Torah may not be written, there is no reason to fear this. The only thing in writing is the Written Torah through which they cannot influence other people. The Written Torah cannot be fully understood or interpreted without the oral tradition.

Some say that the Written Torah may not be transmitted orally because in the Torah many things are learned from extra or missing letters. Sometimes a word has a missing letter; in other cases an extra letter is added to a word. There are also places where tradition dictates that the word be read in a different manner than it is written. These things teach us lessons.

If the Written Torah were taught orally, all these concepts would be lost.

Similarly, the Oral Torah must be transmitted only orally and may not be written. Then each person learns it from his master and if he has any questions he can ask and no doubts will remain in his mind. However, if it were written down, a word might be ambiguous and the student would not have any way to interpret it. The ambiguity would therefore remain.

This situation remained until the time of the Great Assembly (Kenesset HaGedolah). The Oral Torah was transmitted by word of mouth and not written at all. However, after the time of the Great Assembly, the sages saw that the situation was deteriorating and they were concerned that the Torah would be forgotten. They therefore permitted parts of the Oral Torah to be written.

However they only permitted the Oral Torah to be written. The prohibition against reciting the Written Torah aloud from memory still remains in force.

It is forbidden to recite any portion of the Written Torah from memory. Therefore a person should be careful not to recite any part of the Written Torah without actually reading it.

If one recites part of the Written Torah orally he is violating G-d's command, "Write down these words," as we explained earlier. He is also not rewarded for what he has learned. Although he is not involved in trivial matters, he is still working for nothing. The portion regarding the daily sacrifice (tamid) is recited every day as part of the Morning Service (Shacharit). Many people recite this orally. They also recite the priestly blessing, the morning psalms and the Shema'. Most people know these portions by heart. We are therefore permitted to recite them orally, by heart.

However, portions that most people do not know by heart may not be recited from memory. This is true even though an individual might have memorized them.

Some say that if the reader (chazan) wants to fulfill the obligations of others, even though he knows the Shema' or the like by heart, he should read it from a Siddur. If there is no prayer book available or if he is an old man who cannot concentrate on the prayer book, he should say the Shema' silently and have the congregation read it aloud. In such a case it is not considered as if he is saying it for the sake of the people. Since he is saying it quietly, it is permissible for him to recite it from memory.

Some people have the custom of reciting the Torah portion aloud along with the reader without looking in a text. This is not proper. Rather, one should take a text and read along out of the book. If he cannot do this, he should listen and remain silent.

It is permissible for a blind person to recite portions of the Torah by heart even though they are portions that are not usually memorized. This is not forbidden because he has no choice.

The Written Torah was given in the merit of Yaakov while the Oral Torah was given in the merit of Avraham.

Just as we have an obligation to believe in the Written Torah and to keep it, we also have an obligation to believe in the Oral Torah. The Oral Torah includes all the words of our sages in the Midrash and Talmud. If these teachings are sometimes surprising, it is only because of our own limited understanding.

We see that the Oral Torah is more beloved to G-d than even the Written Torah. G-d therefore told Moshe that by the oral tradition of these words, "I am making a covenant with you and with Yisrael. I am only making this covenant because of the Oral Torah. I have made a covenant with you to be your G-d, to watch over you and that you not be under an angel like the other nations. All of this was only done because of the Oral Law."

If a person laughs at the words of our sages or any other commandment legislated by them, his sin is very great. He is worthy of death, and in the next world he will be punished with boiling excrement.

The Talmud relates that Rabbi Yochanan taught his academy that in the Messianic Age G-d would bring precious stones and jewels. Each jewel would be thirty cubits (45 feet) square. He would carve out of the stones pieces twenty cubits by ten cubits, like the gates of Yerushalayim, and stand them up at the entrance of Yerushalayim.

One of the students heard Rabbi Yochanan's words and began to laugh to himself. "How can there be such large precious stones?" he asked. "Today one cannot find a precious stone even as large as a dove's egg. Where will there be precious stones that are thirty square?"

Some time passed and this student was traveling by ship. He came to a far-off island where he saw the people quarrying precious stones that were thirty cubits square. The people were engraving them and trimming them down to ten by twenty cubits.

"What is the purpose of these stones?" asked the student.

They replied to him, "G-d will stand them up in the gates of Yerushalayim."

When the student returned to the city he found Rabbi Yochanan and told him, "What you have taught is true. With my own eyes I saw what you described."

"You foolish man!" said Rabbi Yochanan. "If you had not seen it with your eyes, you would not have believed!"

All the prophets and sages in every generation received their portions on Mount Sinai. Moshe thus said to the Benei Yisrael that he was making the covenant "with those who are standing here with us today and with those who are not here with us today." (Devarim 29:14) All the generations that would exist until the end of the world were standing at the revelation at Sinai. Every soul received its portion. Each prophet received the prophecy that he would declare in his generation; each sage received the mysteries of the Torah that he would teach to the people of his era.

Moshe thus told the Benei Yisrael, "G-d spoke these words to your entire congregation. It was a Great Voice that did not end." (Devarim 5:19) Moshe was saying that the voice on Mount Sinai would be heard by the souls of all the prophets and sages. After this G-d would not have to speak to each person individually; each person would have the portion that he received on Mount Sinai. It is therefore called a "Great Voice." From this voice, each one received his portion in the Torah, according to his level.

There is no Jew who did not receive his portion on Mount Sinai. Some received a little and some more, each one according to the level of his soul. Even the lowliest Jew received at least one verse of the Torah and its explanation.

When an infant is in its mother's womb, G-d gives it intelligence so that it can understand the portion it received on Mount Sinai. The individual is therefore not prevented from understanding it because of a lack of intelligence. The portion that he received must be revealed to the world by him and not by any other rabbi.

However, the portion that each person received on Mount Sinai is not given to him so easily. He must be G-d-fearing and attach himself to G-d. He must work very hard to study Torah in order to understand his portion. Through his work, he purifies his physical being and then is able to reveal the portion that his soul received.

If any one of these conditions is not met, the person is not able to realize the portion he received on Sinai. As a result of this, a person does not have any excuse on the great day of judgment when he is asked, "Why did you not study Torah? Why did you not at least understand the portion that you received at Mount Sinai? You might have worked hard, but you did not have enough fear of G-d; or you might have studied in order to win arguments with your friends or to show off your knowledge."

The person will not be able to say, "I worked and this is all I could understand." If he were truly G-d-fearing he would know the portion that he received on Mount Sinai.

If the person was G-d-fearing but did not work hard and only studied a little when he was in the mood, here too, he cannot excuse himself and say, "I was G-d-fearing but I studied and could not find anything."

G-d will then tell him, "If you had worked hard enough you would have found the portion that you received on Mount Sinai."

This is the meaning of the verse, "If you seek it like silver and like hidden treasures, you will understand the fear of G-d and you will find knowledge of HaShem. For G-d gives wisdom from His Mouth, knowledge and understanding." (Mishlei 2:4-6) The verse is saying, "If you were to seek the portion of the Torah that you received on Mount Sinai as you would run after or as you would search out a treasure about which you were told, you would find it. If you knew about a treasure you would make every effort to seek it out. Similarly, if you work hard on the Torah you can know G-d's knowledge. This is the portion that G-d gave you on Mount Sinai. But you must have fear of G-d; only then can you understand it. If any one of these conditions is lacking you will not be able to achieve anything. This is because 'G-d gives wisdom from His Mouth, knowledge and understanding.' The only thing that G-d does for you is to grant intelligence when you are in your mother's womb so that you can gain the portion that your soul received on Sinai. After this, G-d is no longer responsible. It is your choice whether to use this knowledge and intellect for the Torah or for worldly matters."


Moshe Requests to Understand Hashem's Ways

When Hashem accepted Moshe's tefillah (prayer), he realized that it was a time of Heavenly benevolence. He therefore took the opportunity to present an additional request to Hashem.

"Please demonstrate to me the plan by which You manipulate the affairs of the world," he prayed. "Why are there tzaddikim (righteous ones) who lead a life of suffering" and why are there reshaim (wicked ones) whose lives are tranquil? Show me the future reward that is in store for the tzaddikim!"

Hashem was unwilling to grant this revelation to Moshe, rebuking him, "When I appeared to you in the thornbush and wanted to reveal My Glory to you, you refused. Now that you wish to see it, I dod not want to show it.  Know that no human eye, not even that of the greatest prophet, can behold the ultimate reward in the Olam Haba (World to Come). I will, however, demonstrate to you a faint reflection of the spiritual pleasures of the seudah (meal) in Gan Eden. I will also indicate to you as much as you are able to grasp of the punishment of the reshaim. While My Glory passes, I will shield you with My Cloud. You will see a fraction of My Glory, but you cannot see My full Glory while you are alive."

Moshe was given a vision of the different treasures prepared for the tzaddikim in Gan Eden. They passed in front of Moshe's eyes. Pointing at them, Hashem explained to him, "This is the treasure reserved for those who give tzedakah; this is for those who raise orphans, and so on. Finally, Hashem showed Moshe a vast treasure.

"Whose is this?" asked Moshe.

"This is the treasure of those who lack merits but upon whom I bestow My favor, since I am merciful.

That treasure was immense because most people are not deserving of the reward which Hashem will bestow upon them.

Hashem explained to Moshe the general rules which govern His conduct in the affairs of the world:


  • Some people enjoy a good life in the present world because they are perfect tzaddikim. They are rewarded in both worlds, in olam hazeh and olam haba.
  • There may be a tzaddik who undergoes suffering in this world. He lacks perfection and is punished for his sins in olam hazeh in order to be able to enjoy his full reward later in olam haba
  • There may be reshaim whose lives are tranquil because they are not totally wicked. They are rewarded in the present world in order that they may be deprived of a portion in olam haba.
  • Sometimes a rasha suffers in this world. He is totally wicked and therefore is punished in both worlds

Yud Gimmel Middot shel Rachamim - Thirteen Divine Attributes of Mercy


At the time when Moshe asked Hashem to reveal to him His Glory, Hashem taught him how the Jewish people should pray in order to achieve forgiveness for their sins. Hashem said to Moshe, "Had you not mentioned the merit of their forefathers after the chet ha'egel, I would have comsumed them. I will therefore teach You My Thirteen Attributes of Mercy. Whenever the Benei Yisrael appeal to Me by these, their tefillot shall find a response.

Hashem, as it were, wrapped Himself in a tallit, functioning as a chazan (cantor), and taught Moshe His Thirteen Attributes of Mercy:

  1. Hashem, G-d of Mercy - before a person sinned
  2. Hashem, G-d of Mercy - even after the person sinned. He is the same compassionate G-d before the person committed the sin and after he sinned and did teshuvah.
  3. Kel - Omnipotent, G-d of Mercy. The third Attribute of Mercy is G-d's Omnipotence. The Name Kel always denotes omnipotence. If a person does not sin, or sins and does teshuvah, G-d has mercy on him with this Attribute. G-d performs a great miracle, even changing the laws of nature in times of trouble, to save him.
  4. Rachum, Compassionate, Merciful. If a person sins and has not yet repented, G-d still has mercy on him with this Attribute and protects him, not allowing him to be destroyed. It is thus written, "G-d is a merciful (rachum) G-d. He will not abandon you and will not destory you" (Devarim 4:31). Through the Attribute of "Merciful" G-d protects us and will not destory us even though we may deserve it because we have not yet repented for our sins. The Attribute of "Merciful" is not as strong as that of Kel (or Omnipotent). The Attribute of "Omnipotent" is very great. G-d uses it for a person when He does miracles that change the laws of nature. G-d has mercy on a person with His Attribute of "Merciful" and does not allow him to be destroyed. But if the person is in trouble, G-d does not use that Attribute to do miracles that oppose the laws of nature, since the person had not yet repented.
  5. Vechanun (chanun), and gracious, kind. The word chanun (kind) denotes a free gift. This pertains to the righteous, who do not wish to have any enjoyment of this world through their good deeds, because this would reduce their principal in the Olam Haba. The righteous consider themselves like nothing, as Yaakov said, "I am too small for all the mercies and all the truth that You have done for me" (Bereishit 32:11). To such people G-d does good as a free gift. This comes about through the Attribute of "Kind." The goodness that He gives them does not reduce their reward in the Olam Haba because it is given as a free gift.
  6. Erech Apayim, Long-suffering, slow to anger - Hashem not only delays the punishment of tzaddikim but even that of reshaim. He hopes and waits for even the rasha to do teshuvah. The word apayim denotes anger. However, some interpret the word apayim as meaning "much," as it is written, "One great (apayim) measure" (1Shmuel 1:5) This an Attribute of "waiting a very long time." G-d has tremendous patience with the wicked and gives them much time to repent. This Attribute is therefore called apayim, indicating that G-d's patience is extremely great. Some say that the word apayim means a face. This indicates that G-d is "at length" with His Face. G-d turns His Kind Face at length toward the righteous to give them a reward and His Angry Face toward the wicked to punish them. The word apayim is plural, because it relates to both the righteous and the wicked. G-d works "at length" with both the righteous and the wicked. For the righteous, G-d delays their reward for their good deeds and gies it to them only in the Olam Haba. He gives them suffering in order to ccleanse them of the few sins they have so that they will be worthy of the Olam Haba. Similarly, G-d delays the punishment for the wicked into the Olam Haba. This is also good. G-d does this to give them time to repent. If they awaken from their spiritual slumber and repent, this is to their benefit. However, if they do not repent, they are punished all the more for their wickedness.
  7. V'rav Chesed, and abundant in mercy, tremendous love. This attribute is directed at the people who do not have much merit. G-d acts toward them with love and has mercy on them. The great mercy that G-d shows them is that He tilts the balance on the side of love and mercy. If G-d sees that a person's good deeds and his bad deeds are exactly balanced, He performs this tremendous act of love. He tilts the scale toward the side of merit so that it will be heavier then the person's sins. The person is then considered to have more merits than liabilities and he is worthy of the Olam Haba. Some say that the mercy that G-d does with His act of love is that He removes sins, one by one. The first and second sins that a person has done are not counted; they are made to pass away before G-d. We thus say in the prayer Kel Melech Yoshev: He forgives the sins of His people, pushing them away first by first. The concept of "first by first" denotes two sins, the first and the second. G-d pushes them aside and does not take them into account. The second sin is also called "the first." Since the first sin has been pushed aside the second is now the first. However, when we say that G-d removes the sins one by one, this does not mean that they vanish completely at that time, rather, G-d puts them aside. When a person dies, if it turns out that he did other sins besides these two and his sins and good deeds are equally divided, these two sins are put back on the scale. If they cause the side of liability to outweigh that of merit, the person is punished for them all. But, if after these two sins are removed, the person's merits are greater than his sins, he is forgiven for all of them and it is as if these two sins never existed.
  8. V'emet, and truth. G-d makes His Word come true. If He promises a person something He can be trusted; he does not change His Mind. G-d is also faithful, giving a good reward to those who do His Will.
  9. Notzer Chesed La'alafim - Guarding mercy for thousands, He remembers love for thousands. If a person does an act of love through a good deed, G-d puts aside this love for two thousand generations. All this person's descendants benefit from this act of love.
  10. Noseh avon - Bearing with willful transgressions, forgiving sin. If a person sins deliberately, knowing that something is wrong but doing it, nevertheless, because of desire, he can still repent. Through this Attribute, G-d accepts his repentance and forgives his sin even though it was done on purpose. The Hebrew word "avon" always denotes a sin that a person does deliberately, knowing full well that it is wrong but does it out of desire. The Hebrew word "pesha" refers to a sin that is done as an act of rebellion, for spite. It is a sin that a person does without any desire but to spite G-d. The word "chet" is a sin that is done inadvertently, when one does not know that it is a sin.
  11. Vafesha - rebellion. Although a person may sin to spite G-d, if he repents, G-d will forgive him through this Attribute.
  12. Vechata'a - and unintentional sins. If a person sins inadvertently, G-d forgives him when he repents. One may raise an objection here. Rebellion is the worst sin, because it is done out of spite. Simple, purposeful sin (avon) is not as bad because a person acts out of desire. The smallest sin of all is chet which is done inadvertently. Why does the Torah say that G-d "forgives sin, rebellion and error" in that order? If G-d forgives sin and rebellion, which are done purposely and spitefully, He would certainly forgive error, which is inadvertent sin. The Torah should have said that G-d "forgives error, sin and rebellion." This is why, in the cofession that is part of the worship service, we say "I have erred, I have sinned, I have rebelled (chata-ti, avi-ti, pasha-ti). We say it in this order and not the reverse. One should mention the least severe sin first and then the more severe. However, Moshe prayed to G-d, "Master of the universe, when the Benei Yisrael sin and repent, the sins and acts of rebellion that they do on purpose should be counted beforew You as if they were inadvertent sins." G-d therefore said, "He forgives sins, rebellion and error." This means that G-d counts the sin and rebellion as if they were only errors that a person did inadvertently.
  13. Ve'nakeh lo y'nakeh - and not holding the wicked guiltless, cleanses. G-d punishes a person little by little for his sins and does not overlook anything. This literally says, "G-d cleanses, does not cleanse." G-d cleanses those who repent but does not cleanse those who do not repent. Some say that the word "and cleanses" refers to sins that a person does in a hidden place. It is thus written "he cleanses me from hidden sins" (Tehillim 19:13). If a person repents, G-d also forgives him for the sins that he did in a stealthy manner.
Hashem punishes the children for their father's iniquities if the children persist in their fathers' wicked ways (but not if the children do teshuvah).

It is apparent from the Torah that Hashem's reward greatly exceeds the measure of His punishment. As we see here, He visists the sins of the fathers onto the children no further than four generations. On the other hand, if a person performs mitzvot, the Torah states that his descendants are rewarded until at least 2000 generations later. Hashem's reward, then, is at least five hundred times greater than His punishment.

Baruch Hashem!


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MeAm Lo'ez, Bachya, Rashi, Ramban, Midrash

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