Parsha Halacha

Parshat Pikudei – Shabbat Chazak

Yehoash ben Achazyah

Sheltered in G-d’s Tent
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The Torah portion of Pikudei begins with the verse, “אֵלֶּה פְקוּדֵי הַמִּשְׁכָּן מִשְׁכַּן הָעֵדֻת אֲשֶׁר פֻּקַּד עַל פִּי מֹשֶׁה – These are the numbers of the Mishkan, the Mishkan of the Testimony, which were counted at Moshe’s command…[1]”
The commentaries discuss why it says the counting was done by Moshe’s command rather than saying that Moshe did the actual counting. (In Hebrew the word פֻּקַּד means “was counted [by others],” whereas the word פָּקַּד means “[he] counted.”)
The Midrash[2] explains this by prefacing that the pure intentions of those donating and building the Mishkan were essential to its holiness, as the verse says[3] לַחְשֹׁב מַחֲשָׁבֹת לַעֲשׂוֹת בַּזָּהָב וּבַכֶּסֶף וּבַנְּחֹשֶׁת which can be translated to mean “to think [holy] thoughts when designing the gold, silver, and copper.”
Moshe wanted to make sure that all those who had donated, had done so with a pure heart. Since he was a Tzadik (righteous person), he was able to check on this simply by looking into each and every one of their faces. But he did not want to summon them for this purpose as this would make it seem like he was doubting them.

The Rich Man and His Daughter
This can be compared to a rich man who was looking for the perfect shidduch for his only daughter.  At first, he was not impressed by any of the prospective suitors brought to his attention until finally, one shadchan (matchmaker) brought up a young man who seemed like a perfect match. Preferring not to rely on the shadchan’s word, the father wished to see the young man for himself. But rather than telling the young man that he wanted to check him out, he said, “Why don’t you come meet my daughter to see if you like her?” To which the young man agreed. Thus, while the young man thought that the meeting was arranged for his benefit, in fact it was arranged for the benefit of his future father-in-law.

Seeing into Their Hearts
Similarly, Moshe told the Jewish people that he wanted them to gather so that he could give them an accounting for what he had done with their donations. In fact, his intention was to look at all of them and ensure that they had given their donations with a pure heart. This is why the verse says that it was counted “by Moshe’s command” as the idea of this accounting did not come from the Jewish people. Rather it came from Moshe as a pretext to see them all. (Since Moshe proceeded to put up the Mishkan, he must have found that all of their intentions were pure.)
The rest of this article will discuss king Yehoash, son of Achaziah, the eighth king of Yehudah, who refurbished the Beit HaMikdash and took pains to ensure that the money donated was used in the proper manner.

Yehoash’s Grandfather

The grandfather of Yehoash was Yehoram, son of Yehoshafat. Yehoram killed all of his brothers to strengthen his rule over the Jewish people.[4] Yehoram’s wife was the similarly wicked Ataliah, daughter of Achav, son of Omri, king of Israel. As a punishment for his wicked ways, Yehoram’s kingdom was sacked by the Arabs and Phillistines and all of his sons except his youngest, Achaziah, were taken into captivity. Yehoram died of an intestinal ailment which plagued him for two years until “his bowels dropped out because of his disease, and he died a gruesome death.”[5]

Yehoash’s Father
Although Achaziah was the youngest son of Yehoram, he became the king when his father died since his older brothers had all been taken into captivity. His reign lasted only one year. He participated in a losing battle against the Arameans, with his uncle Yehoram, son of Achav, king of Israel. (Ataliah, mother of Achaziah, was Yehoram’s sister.) Achaziah then went to Yizre’el to visit his uncle who was wounded in that battle. At the time of Achaziah’s visit, Yehu, son of Nimshi, led a successful coup against Yehoram and killed him and his entire family. (Yehu had been appointed by Yonah Hanai to do this and to become the king.) Yehu wounded Achaziah in that battle and Achaziah fled to Megiddo.[6] Although he tried to hide, he was discovered and brought to Yehu who had him executed.[7] Yehu also executed the nephews of Achaziah, the sons of his brother that had been captured, to ensure that they not take revenge on him.[8]

Ataliah, the Wicked
When Ataliah saw that her son Achaziah was killed, she appointed herself the queen of Yehudah. In order to consolidate her rule, she murdered all of the descendants of the Davidic dynasty that she could find (including her own grandchildren), by poisoning them.[9] Some say that she “only” killed the descendants of King Solomon, son of David. But that the descendants of Solomon’s brothers were not targeted.[10] Ataliah had illegitimate children from her illicit affairs whom she did not kill as she was planning for them to reign after her.[11]

Saved by His Aunt
At the time of this massacre, Yehoash (son of Achaziah and grandson of Ataliah) was a baby. He was saved by his aunt Yehosheva, daughter of Yehoram and sister of Achaziah. Yehosheva was married to the righteous high priest Yehoyadah, and with his help she was able to keep Yehoash hidden in the Beit HaMikdash for six years. Some say he was hidden in one of bedrooms of the Beit Hamikdash,[12] while others say he was hidden in the attic above the Holy of Holies.[13] King David prophesized about this time when he said,[14] “He will shelter me in His pavilion on an evil day, He will grant me the protection of His tent, and raise me high upon a rock.” Being protected in G-d’s tent is referring to the time Yehoash, King David’s descendant, was hiding in the Holy of Holies.
When he turned seven, Yehoash’s uncle Yehoyadah, the Kohen, organized a coup against Ataliah and had her killed. Young Yehoash was anointed king in her stead.

Meaning of the Name
Originally, Yehoash/יהואש was called Yoash/יואש which comes from the word יאוש – despair. This indicates that when he was young, the Jewish people had despaired of having another king of the Davidic dynasty, thinking that it was completely wiped out.[15]
It has been suggested that the meaning of the name יהואש is “G-d should save.”[16]

Refurbishing the Beit HaMikdash
During the reign of Ataliah, the state of the Beit HaMikdash had deteriorated badly. In fact, it was intentionally damaged by her (illegitimate) sons, as the verse says, “For Ataliah the wicked, her sons had made breaks in the House of G-d. All the holy things of the House of G-d, too, did they make into (items to worship) Ba’alim.”[17] (These sons must have been illegitimate, as she had killed out all of the descendants of her husband.)
As such, King Yeho’ash took it upon himself to repair the Beit HaMikdash. At first, he asked people to donate to the Kohanim who would use the money at their discretion to fix the Beit HaMikdash. This system turned out not to work well as it was too haphazard.[18]

The First Pushkas
As such, in the 23rd year of his 40 year reign, Yehoash established a new system in which whoever brought money for the Beit HaMikdash would place it in a box (like a pushka – charity box). There were two such boxes. One was placed outside of the entrance to the Beit HaMikdash so that the impure people who were unable to enter the Beit HaMikdash could put their donations in it. The second box was placed near the Altar (Mizbe’ach).[19] Some say that the box outside the entrance was for funds to refurbish the Temple, and the box inside was for sacrificial funds.[20]
When the box was filled (this would happen on a daily basis),[21] the king’s secretary and the Kohen Gadol would empty it, count the money, and place it in bags to be kept in the Temple treasury. Each bag was labeled with the amount of money inside.[22]

No Sinful Funds
The verse says that “Money brought as a guilt offering or as a sin offering was not deposited in the House of G-d; it was given to the Kohanim.”[23]
The traditional interpretation of this verse is that any leftover funds from sin offerings was not used to refurbish the Beit HaMikdash but was instead used to offer burnt offerings (of which the Kohanim would get the skins). Others interpret this verse to mean that any money earned in a sinful manner was not accepted as a donation to refurbish the Beit HaMikdash.[24]

The Fall of Yehoash
After his uncle and mentor Yehoyadah passed away, Yehoash strayed from the proper path. He did not protest when some of his subjects deified him, claiming that he must have Divine powers since he lived in the Holy of Holies for six years.[25] He also allowed the people to worship false gods. When the prophets would admonish the people, the people would ignore them.

Killing the Prophet Zechariah
Zechariah, the prophet, was the son of Yehoyadah, the Kohen Gadol, making him the grandson of King Yehoram. (His mother, Yehosheva was Yehoram’s daughter.) He was also the son-in-law of King Yehoash. One Yom Kippur (which coincided with Shabbat[26]), Zechariah stood on a platform in the Temple courtyard and rebuked the people, saying, “Thus said G-d, ‘Why do you transgress the commandments of the L-rd when you cannot succeed?
Since you have forsaken the L-rd, He has forsaken you.’”[27] Not wanting to hear this kind of rebuke, King Yehoash instructed the people to stone him to death, which they did promptly. This was a particularly heinous act as Zechariah was the son of the person who had saved his life and installed him as the king. As he lay dying, Zechariah said, “May the L-rd see this and seek vengeance.”[28]

Indeed, punishment for this grievous sin was not long in coming. Less than a year later a small portion of the Aramean army conquered Jerusalem, wiped out its officers and sent all the booty to their king. They inflicted punishments on King Yehoash and sodomized him.[29] Soon after that, his own servants conspired against him and murdered him in his bed. He was buried in the city of David but not in the burial grounds of the kings.[30] In addition, several generations later at the time of the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash, the Babylonian general Nevuzaraden slaughtered thousands of Jews to “appease the (boiling) blood of Zechariah.”[31]

How Could He Have Fallen So Greatly?
The commentaries wonder how King Yehoash could have fallen so far from the righteous behavior of his youth. They offer several interpretations:
  •  Improper Teaching Methods
The Malbim points out[32] to the verse that says “All his days, Yehoash did what was pleasing to the L-rd, as the priest Yehoyadah instructed (הוֹרָ֔הוּ) him.” This indicates that Yehoyadah would instruct Yehoash as to what to do and Yehoash would obey. The usual term for teaching is לימוד which refers to teaching the underlying concepts and not just giving instruction. Since Yehoash was never taught the meaning behind the laws, he lost his inspiration when his teacher passed away and ended up straying from the good path.
  • Never Learned This
Rabbi Yonatan Eibeshitz says[33] that Yehoyadah certainly taught Yehoash to not serve idols and Yehoash obeyed him. But it never occurred to Yehoyadah to teach Yehoash that he should not believe that he is a deity himself as this was completely unexpected. So, when confronted with the idea that he might have godly powers and not having learned to deny this, nor having a teacher to ask, Yehoash accepted this belief. This, in turn led to his general spiritual descent.
  • Insincere Behavior
Rabbeinu Bachye ibn Pakuda writes that Yehoash never served G-d with sincerity and that even when Yehoyadah was alive he only did so in order to please his teacher. As such, when his teacher passed away, he was left with no reason to continue this service.[34]
  • Excused Himself
Some say that Yehoash had a (small) excuse for the murder of Zechayah, as Zecharyah was speaking in a (somewhat) arrogant manner (the verse says that “He stood above the people”[35]).  Yehoash thus suspected that he would try to lead a rebellion against him as a member of the royal family who was also a Kohen and a prophet.[36]

May Hashem bless us to appreciate the good that others do for us and to serve Him sincerely!
[2] Quoted in Mishlei Chachomim on Kings II 12:17
[4] Chronicles II 21:4
[8] Ibid as explained by Ralbag
[9] See Sanhedrin 95b that this massacre was a punishment to King David for having caused the murder of Nov the city of the Kohanim. See also Metzudot David on ibid, 10
[10] Yad David on Sanhedrin 95b, quoted in the Biurim of the Metivta Shas
[12] Kings II 11:2
[13] Rashi on ibid
[14] Psalms 27:5 as explained by Rashi
[15] Rimizei HaHaftorot by the Roke’ach on Parshat Shekalim
[16] Nid’chei Yisrael by Yitzchak Ben Tzvi
[18] See ibid 5-6 and Kings II 12:6-7
[19] Talmud Yerushalmy Shekalim 6:4 based on the apparent contradiction between Kings II 12:10 and Chronicles II 24:8
[22] Chronicles II 24:11 and Kings II 12:11 with Rashi and Abarbanel
[24] Mishlei Chachamim, ibid
[33] In Ahavat Yonatan on the Haftorah of Shekalim

Wishing you a Chodesh Tov and a Shabbat Shalom UMevorach!

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