SALT - Thursday, 23 Adar 5780 - March 19, 2020

  • Rav David Silverberg
            The Torah tells in Parashat Vayakhel that Benei Yisrael donated more materials for the Mishkan than were needed, prompting Moshe to make an announcement that no more donations should be brought.  At that point, the Torah relates, “Va-yikalei ha-am mei-havi” – the people stopped bringing materials (36:6).
            Ba’al Ha-turim observes that the word “va-yikalei” appears in only one other instance in the Torah – in the story of the flood, where we read that when the time came for God to end the flood, “va-yikalei ha-geshem min ha-shamayim” – “the rain from the heavens was stopped” (Bereishit 8:2).  Seeking a connection between these two contexts, Ba’al Ha-turim notes the famous Midrashic tradition (Yalkut Shimoni, 411) that the precious stones needed for the kohein gadol’s garments were provided miraculously by God, together with the manna.  During the period when materials were collected, when the manna fell from the heavens in the morning, it was accompanied with these jewels.  And thus the same word used in reference to the cessation of rainfall after the flood is used also in reference to Benei Yisrael’s stopping their donations, as the stones stopped falling from sky just as the rainwaters in Noach’s time stopped falling from the sky.
            We might suggest a different explanation for the connection between these two instances of the word “va-yikalei.”  In both contexts, something which is, generally, beneficial and valuable needed to be discontinued.  Rainwater brings the world great blessing, but in excess can be destructive, as in the time of the flood, and so God stops the rain, for the world’s benefit.  Likewise, generous donations for a worthwhile project such as the Mishkan are to be encouraged and welcomed – but even this precious act can be inappropriate when done under the wrong circumstances.  By using the word “va-yikalei” in regard to the discontinuation of donations for the Mishkan, just as it had in reference to the end of the flood, the Torah perhaps seeks to draw a comparison between noble mitzva acts and rain.  Every mitzva act is precious – unless it is done at the wrong time, in which case it becomes “destructive” like excessive rainfall.  Just as the vital blessing of rain can be damaging, so can intrinsically valuable actions be detrimental if they are performed under the wrong circumstances.
            Interestingly, the root of the word “va-yikalei” – k.l.a. – appears also in Sefer Bamidbar (11:28), in reference to another instance where something inherently valuable was deemed inappropriate under the circumstances.  God had commanded Moshe to select seventy elders who would serve as leaders underneath him, and to have them assemble with him outside the camp, where they would receive prophecy.  Two of the chosen elders – Eldad and Meidad – chose to remain inside the camp, but nevertheless began speaking prophecy.  When word got to Yehoshua, Moshe’s disciple, that Eldad and Meidad were prophesying, Yehoshua proclaimed, “Kela’eim” – urging Moshe to “restrain” them.  Prophecy, of course, is something valuable, but in Yehoshua’s mind, Eldad and Meidad prophesied under the wrong circumstances, and so he demanded that they be restrained.  Once again, the root k.l.a. is used in reference to something which is generally noble, but sometimes, when the circumstances dictate, needs to be “restrained” and discontinued.