Parshah Halacha – Parshat Pikudei/Shabbat Chazak
Why Moshe Composed some of the Yishtabach Blessing
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The beginning of the Torah portion of Pikudei recounts how Moshe gave an accounting for the precious metals used in the building of the Mishkan. The first verse reads, “And these are the numbers for the Mishkan, the Mishkan of testimony.” The commentaries offer many explanations as to the seeming redundancy of the word “Mishkan.” The Da’at Zekeinim recounts the following Midrash to explain:
When Moshe was giving an accounting for the silver, he forgot what he did with 15 Shekalim of the silver. (See below as to which these were.) So he asked the Mishkan to testify on his behalf. When the people counted the silver in the Mishkan, they realized the extra silver had been used for the hooks which held up the curtains of the courtyard. To thank G-d that his name had been cleared, Moshe uttered the 15 expressions of praise that we say every day in the blessing of Yishtabach. These are “שִׁיר וּשְׁבָחָה הַלֵּל וְזִמְרָה עז וּמֶמְשָׁלָה נֶצַח גְּדֻלָּה וּגְבוּרָה תְּהִלָּה וְתִפְאֶרֶת קְדֻשָּׁה וּמַלְכוּת: בְּרָכות וְהודָאות – Song and praise, hymn and psalm, power and dominion, victory, greatness and might, renown and glory, holiness and kingship, blessings and thanks.” The verse emphasizes that the Mishkan was the Mishkan of testimony since the Mishkan itself offered testimony for Moshe’s sake.
These 15 extra shekalim are alluded to in the verse, “והמלאכה היתה דים – And the work was sufficient (and there was extra).” The first letters of these words have the numerical value of 15 (vav, 6, hei, 5, and daled 4). This means that besides the silver that was given as the half shekel, there were 15 extra shekalim given as a donation which were not really needed for the any of the vessels or the building of the Mishkan. When Moshe could not recall what he did with these coins, there were some “scoffers” who immediately whispered to each other that Moshe had pocketed them. It was only when the precious metals used in the Mishkan were counted that the people realized that the silver had been used for some of the hooks. (The Ohr HaChaim explains that even though extra materials were donated, G-d miraculously ensured that all of the donated materials “fit” into the Mishkan so that no Jew’s donation should be excluded from the Mishkan.)
Some say that Moshe forgot what he had done with the silver of 1775 shekalim. There were 100 talents of silver (which came from the half shekels of 600,000 Jews) that were used for the for the sockets of the Mishkan.But the total number of Jewish men at the time was 603,550, which left 1775 shekalim, the purpose of which was not explained. Moshe reviewed all of the materials and their uses in his mind, and then G-d “brightened his eyes,” and Moshe lifted his gaze and noticed the hooks. He then announced in a loud voice that “the 1775 were used for the hooks…” This explains why the verse has two extra “hei”s (“ואת האלף ושבע המאות – And the one thousand and the seven hundred and seventy five…”) when it could have said “ואת אלף ושבע מאות – The 17775…” The extra two “hei”s indicate that these are the (specific) number of coins that were in question.
A Divine Voice
Some say that a Heavenly voice announced that these coins had been used to fashion the hooks for the curtains and the decorative silver for the poles that held up the curtains (i.e., verse 28 – ואת האלף ושבע המאות …). In fact, the Kli Yakar says that after the Jewish people heard G-d testifying on Moshe’s behalf, they trusted him and didn’t ask for an accounting of how the gold was used. This explains why the use of the gold is not accounted for in the text while that of the silver is.
A Miraculous Vav
Others say that a letter “Vav” appeared miraculously in front of Moshe at that time, reminding him that the silver had been used for the hooks (which resembled – and were therefore called – vavim) [Vavim is plural for vav, which is a letter that is looks like a hook].
Why Did Moshe Forget?
The question has been asked, why would Moshe forget the use of a significant amount of silver? After all, the hooks and silver ornamentation of the pillars were visible for all to see. In addition, why did he need Divine assistance to recall this matter when Betzalel, Itamar and the other people involved in the building could have reminded him?
To understand this, Rabbi Dovid Kwiat first quotes the following teaching:
Jews with No Letter in the Sefer Torah
The Chatam Sofer explains that, according to our sages, there are 600,000 letters in the Torah. The 600,000 Jews alive at the time of the giving of the Torah were the root souls of all the Jewish people for all times, and each of them is connected to one letter in the Sefer Torah. But there were another 3,550 Jews who did not have a corresponding letter in the Torah. This is because their souls originated from Klipat Nogah (a level of impurity which can be elevated to holiness) rather than from pure holiness.
The way that these Jews can be elevated to a higher level is by supporting Torah scholars. This is represented by the fact that the silver they donated wasn’t used as pillars for the actual sanctuary of the Mishkan (as the silver of the 600,000 was used) but rather for the hooks and silver ornaments on the pillars in the courtyard of the Mishkan. The hooks are objects that support something else. This is similar to the spiritual calling of these Jews who must support the Torah scholars. When it says that Moshe forgot what was done with this silver, it means that he couldn’t figure out how to incorporate the silver into the Mishkan since they weren’t worthy of that level. G-d therefore inspired him with the idea of including them by making that silver into hooks.
Those who Suspected Caused the Suspicion
Based on this, Rabbi Kwiat suggests the following: We now understand that the 3,550 Jews whose half shekels were used for the hooks were of a low spiritual stature. It stands to reason therefore that their donation to the Mishkan was not wholehearted, and so their donation was an inferior one which did not really belong in the Mishkan. It was for this very reason – that their donation was deficient – that Moshe (and indeed all those involved in the building of the Mishkan) forgot what was done with these half-shekalim as it wasn’t clear if that silver belonged in the Mishkan. Rabbi Kwiat further suggests that it was these very people whom the Midrash is referring to when it said that the “scoffers” suspected Moshe of keeping the money for himself since they, too, wondered if their donations deserved to become part of the Mishkan. They thus considered the possibility that perhaps Moshe had kept them for himself. It emerges from this discussion that the people who suspected Moshe of stealing were the very ones who caused this suspicion to arise in the first place as it was their inferior intentions while donating that caused Moshe to forget what happened to that silver.
15 Praises in Baruch She’amar, Yishtabach and Emet veYatziv
The commentaries say that the above-mentioned 15 praises uttered by Moshe when he remembered the use of the missing silver are also mirrored in the blessings of Baruch She’amar and in the blessing after the morning Shema – Emet VeYatziv.
The 15 praises in Baruch She’amar are 1)שאמר והיה העולם 2)עושה בהאשית 3)אומר ועושה 4)גוזר ומקיים 5)מרחם על הארץ 6)מרחם על הבריות 7)משלם שכר טוב 8)חי לעד וקיים לנצח 9)פודה ומציל 10)הא-ל 11)האב 12)הרחמן 13)המהולל 14)משובח 15)מפואר
In English they are 1) He who spoke, and the world came into being; 2) He who created the universe. 3) He who says and performs. 4) He who decrees and fulfills. 5) He who has mercy on the world. 6) He who has mercy on all creatures. 7) He who grants a fair reward to those who revere Him. 8) He who lives forever and exists eternally. 9) He who redeems and saves; 10) O, G-d, 11) merciful 12) Father 13) who are praised by the mouth of Your people, 14) lauded 15) and glorified by the tongue of Your faithful servants.
The 15 praises in the blessing of Emet Veyatziv are וְיַצִּיב וְנָכוֹן וְקַיָּם וְיָשָׁר וְנֶאֱמָן וְאָהוּב וְחָבִיב וְנֶחְמָד וְנָעִים וְנוֹרָא וְאַדִּיר וּמְתֻקָּן וּמְקֻבָּל וְטוֹב וְיָפֶה –
It is noteworthy that all the praises in Emet VeYatziv begin with the letter vav. This alludes to the 15 missing shekalim (mentioned earlier) which were used for the hooks which are called vavim. In thanksgiving for this event, Moshe also composed these 15 expressions, using the vavim to commemorate this occurrence.
The Crown at Yishtabach
The Zohar says, “When a person reaches the Yishtabach blessing (in his prayers), G-d places the crown of the Jewish people in front of Him (in order to see its beauty). As a result of this, the Jewish people (Knesset Yisrael) can beautify themselves in preparation to unite with the Supernal King (Ze’er Anpin). One should then include (the Jewish people) in the 13 Attributes of Divine mercy by reciting the praises in Yishtabach that correspond to them (from shir until malchut). [This is referring to a mystical meditation which the Kabbalists do.] While doing this, one should not speak or interrupt at all. If one does interrupt, a flame (i.e., a punishing angel) will come out of the Keruvim (the angels of Matat and Sandal) and cry out strongly, saying, ‘So and so who interrupted the praise of G-d should have his life interrupted so that he not see the greatness of G-d in the future era.’”
In One Breath
Based on this Zohar, the Shela writes that one should say these praises in one breath. (He recommends that one do the same when saying amen yehei shemei rabbah,,, yitbarech.) The Magen Avraham adds that one should say the fifteen praises in Yishtabach in one breath (including brachot vehoda’ot). Others say that it is only 13 praises that are relevant in this matter (i.e. from “shir” until “umalchut” but not including brachot vehoda’ot).
13 or 15
The Sha’ar HaKolel (by Rabbi Avrohom David Lavut) writes that there is no contradiction between the opinions that there are 13 or 15 expressions of praise as there is significance to both numbers since each one represents different concepts (as explained above). Specifically, the 13 praises relate to the praises we recite in Pesueki DeZimrah and the blessings of Kriat Shema. While the final two expressions (brachot vehoda’ot) relate to the praises we recite in the beginning of the Amidah and the Modim blessing. As such, although the Zohar only mentions to not interrupt during the 13 expressions of praise, now that we say all 15 it is proper to not interrupt during all of them.
The Mishnah Berurah quotes several sources that one should not interrupt while reciting these praises but that it’s not necessary to recite them in one breath. In fact, some say that one should say them slowly and with great concentration, and it is therefore inappropriate (and difficult) to say them in one breath.
If One Interrupted
If one is in middle of reciting these 13 (or 15) expressions of praise and he hears Kadish or Kedusha, he should respond to these prayers appropriately. Some say he should not respond so as not to create an interruption at that point. If he did respond, he should go back to the beginning of these praises (shir ushvacha) and repeat them without interruption.
Not Found in the Shulchan Aruch HaRav
The Shulchan Aruch HaRav does not quote the law of not interrupting or taking a second breath while saying the 13 (or 15) expressions of praise in Yishtabach. The Derech Chayim (by Rabbi Avrohom Dovid Lavut) suggests that the Alter Rebbe doesn’t understand the Zohar to mean that these should be said in one breath. (See above that many acahronim follow this view as well.) As such, there is not really a practical application of this Zohar since it is forbidden to interrupt in the middle of Yishtabach in any case.
The Rebbe Rashab wrote on the margin of his siddur that the reason there is a dot (i.e. a period) before the word “shir” in Yishtabach and another dot after the word “umalchut” is to indicate that these should be said without interruption and according to some, with one breath.
May we all merit to praise G-d appropriately and be adorned with a Divine crown!
 The gold in verse 24, the silver in verses 25 – 28 and the copper in verse 29
 Exodus 38:28
 Ibid 36:7
 It is possible that the meaning of the Da’at Zekeinim is that Moshe forgot what he did with 15 hundred shekalim and that this is referring to the 1775 shekalim as explained below. But it is difficult to understand why 1775 would be rounded down to 1500.
 Tanchumah Yashan, cited in Torah Shleimah
 On ibid
 Midrash Tanchuma on this Parsha, siman 7
 Exodus 38:27
 Numbers 1:46
 Kli Yakar on Exodus 38:21
 Rabbeinu Bachaye on verse 25
 On verse 21
 A Yemenite Midrash in manuscript. Quoted in Torah Shleima 38 note 53
 In his Sukkat David on the Parsha
 Orot Chatam Sofer on the Parsha
 Pirush Hatefillah by Rabbi Eliezer Roke’ach. See Sefer HaManhig, Siman 39
 Vol. 2, Parshat Terumah pg. 132a as explained by the Matok Midvash
 Shenei Luchot HaBrit, Masechet Tamid, Ner Mitzvah 34
 But see Shulchan Aruch HaRav (56:3) who writes that this isn’t necessary.
 Beginning of O.C. Siman 54. The Elyah Rabbah (54:1) and the Aruch HaShulchan (53:1) also quote this Shela. The Aruch HaShulchan adds “if he is able to do this” (i.e. say all of these words properly – in one breath).
 Ba’er Hetev, 53:1 in the name of the Yad Aharon. He also quotes the Sha’ar HaKavanot by Rabbi Chayim Vital (end of Sha’ar HaZemirot) who only mentions the 13 praises (although it isn’t in the context of not interrupting while saying them.) Indeed, the Zohar quoted above mentions specifically that there are 13 expressions of praise which correspond to the 13 attributes of Divine mercy. In defense of the Magen Avraham, see the sources quoted above that Moshe composed 15 expressions of praise.
 The Gr”a, the Chayei Adam and the Sidur Rav Yaakov Emden based on the wording of the Zohar
 Kaf HaChayim, 53:2 in the name of the Chida
 Ben Ish Chai, cited in Piskei Teshuvot 53 note 3
 Likutei Maharich, cited in ibid
 Leket HaKemach HaChadash, 53:2 by Rabbi Yakov Katz and the Yalkut Yosef 54:1
 As far as the fact that one should not even interrupt by responding to Kaddish etc, since this is not mentioned explicitly in the Poskim the Alter Rebbe may have left it out as it is not the usual “way” of the Alter Rebbe to quote halachot that were not expressly stated by his predecessors.
 Quoted in the Siddur Admur HaZakein Im Ha’arot VeTzyunim by Dayan Raskin of London
 It has been pointed out (Sefer Baruch She’amar pg 91 cited in Piskei Teshuvot note 7) that those that for those who do not take a breath during all of these 15 expressions, it isn’t proper for the Chazzan to start from “Brachot vehoda’ot” (as is the common custom) since this will, inevitably, lead to him taking a breath at that point.
Wishing you a Chodesh Tov and a Shabbat Shalom UMevorach!