Torah Weekly

For the week ending 2 March 2019 / 25 Adar I 5779

Parshat Vayakhel

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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Moshe Rabbeinu exhorts Bnei Yisrael to keep Shabbat, and requests donations for the materials for making the Mishkan. He collects gold, silver, precious stones, skins and yarn, as well as incense and olive oil for the menorah and for anointing. The princes of each tribe bring the precious stones for the Kohen Gadol's breastplate and ephod. G-d appoints Betzalel and Oholiav as the master craftsmen. Bnei Yisrael contribute so much that Moshe begins to refuse donations. Special curtains with two different covers were designed for the Mishkan's roof and door. Gold-covered boards in silver bases were connected, forming the Mishkan'swalls. Betzalel made the Holy Ark (which contained the Tablets) from wood covered with gold. On the Ark's cover were two figures facing each other. The menorah and the table with the showbreads were also of gold. Two altars were made: a small incense altar of wood overlaid with gold, and a larger altar for sacrifices made of wood covered with copper.


With the Help of the Maestro

“Every man whose heart inspired him.” (35:21)

Apart from being Poland’s president, Ignacy Jan Paderewski (1860-1941) is one of the greatest pianists of the last two hundred years. A large part of his success comes from his tremendous stage presence and charisma. In 1891 the pianist sets out on a tour of the United States, which brings him great acclaim. His name at once becomes synonymous with the highest level of piano virtuosity. But not everyone is equally impressed. After hearing Paderewski for the first time, Franz Liszt’s premier pupil Moriz Rosenthal comments with characteristic sarcasm: "Yes, he plays well, I suppose, but he's no Paderewski". America becomes the place Paderewski tours most often (over 30 times in 50 years) and his second home.

At one of his performances at the Metropolitan in New York City, there sits a lady named Sally Goldstein, together with her five-year-old son, Joey, neatly decked out in his tuxedo. Sally wanted Joey to be a pianist, so she thought it worth the high price of a ticket in the stalls for Joey to hear the master. Sally catches sight of an old friend in the row behind them and starts to talk to her. Joey becomes a little impatient and so he gets up from his seat and wanders towards the front of the theater toward a door marked NO ENTRY. Unable to read, Joey blithely saunters through the doorway. At that moment the lights started to dim. An expectant hush grips the audience. And out into the spotlights walks… Joey Goldstein! The crowd starts to murmur, but Joey, seeing the beautiful large Steinway in the middle of the stage, toddles over to it. He hikes himself up on to the piano stool, gives a casual flip of the tails to his tux, and with tremendous aplomb begins his favorite piece, “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” “Plink plonk plink plonk, plink plonk plonk.” The crowd becomes agitated — where is Paderewski? Just then the master comes on stage, goes straight to the piano, and, placing his two relatively enormous hands on either side of Joey’s, he says quietly to the boy, “Young man, you’re doing fine. Just keep going!” And with this, Paderewski begins to interweave the most sublime harmonies and counterpoint into Joey’s plinks and plonks. They play on together. The piece rises to a crescendo, and as they strike the final chord the audience rises to a standing ovation. Paderewski leads Joey down to the front of the stage where they both bow deeply to the ecstatic applause of the audience.

“Every man whose heart inspired him.”

From where could slaves who had spent hundreds of years in crushing captivity find the artisanal skills to construct something as fine and sophisticated as the Mishkan?

When a person tries to serve G-d, even though his efforts are about as sophisticated as a nursery rhyme, G-d says, “You’re doing great! Just keep going!”

Out of our feeble attempts He builds the sublime. As long as we are sincere and humble the Maestro will elevate our paltry efforts into something we never dreamed possible.

§ Sources: based on the Ramban and a story heard from Rabbi Yirmyahu Abramov

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