By Rabbi Avraham
Fischer. A publication of the Orthodox Union in cooperation with the Seymour
J. Abrams Orthodox Union Jerusalem World Center
February 6, 2004
Hashem causes the Sea of Reeds to split, rescuing the Children
of Israel from the oncoming Egyptians. At this magnificent manifestation of
Then Moshe and the Children of Israel undertook to sing this song to Hashem.
They said as follows:
I will sing to Hashem, for He is greatly exalted;
Horse and rider He cast down in the sea.
Hashem is my strength and my praise, and He has become my salvation; This is
my G-d and I will house Him (V’ANVEHU);
the G-d of my father, and I will exalt Him. (Shemot 15:1-2).
The word V’ANVEHU presents a translation problem: It is clearly a verb, but
what is its root? The Midrash (Mechilta Shira, Ch. 3) includes a number of
opinions, many of which are adopted by the commentaries. One view relates
V’ANVEHU to NOI, “beauty”; accordingly, says Rashi in his second translation,
“I will tell of His beauty and praise to the people of the world.”
Alternatively, says R. Yishmael in the Mechilta (loc. cit.),
“I will beautify myself with mitzvot: I will make a beautiful lulav, a
beautiful sukkah, beautiful tzitzit, and beautiful tefillin.”
Our translation, however,
and I will house Him,
follows the view of R. Yosi ben-Dormaskit in the Mechilta, as well as Targum
Onkelos (the translation of the Torah into Aramaic) and is Rashi’s first
“And I will build Him a Sanctuary.”
from the word , home.
The anthology Yalkut Lekach Tov quotes R. Eliyahu Mishkovsky, who derives a
fundamental principle in serving Hashem from this: When one experiences an
uplifting of the spirit, one must strengthen that awakening with a commitment to
concrete action. Otherwise, the inspiration might dissipate.
Still, we might ask, why this commitment? Why does
This is my G-d
necessarily lead to
V’ANVEHU - And I will build Him a Sanctuary -?
The Israelites experience unsurpassed, nationwide Divine revelation, as Rashi
“This is my G-d: In His Glory He was revealed to them and they pointed to Him.
At the sea, a maidservant saw what [even] the prophets did not see.”
In response to this vision they commit themselves to building a Sanctuary to
Malbim explains further that the purpose of the Sanctuary will be to understand
Hashem’s constant connection to the universe:
“This is my G-d: He is my G-d Whom I have apprehended through the senses and
recognized through the miracles He did for us. I saw with my eyes, like one who
points out that this is He. Consequently, and I will house Him: He will reside
in our midst – the Holy One in His holy abode – and His Presence will be within
us until all shall know Him and perceive His Guidance and Providence.”
And Sforno adds that we maintain this connection with Hashem through our
“I will make an abode to cause Him to reside in our midst, and I will pray in it
to Him alone, and I will worship appropriately to He who bestows good or bad,
for the intent of service and prayer is to find favor.”
The theme of building the Sanctuary is further developed in the Song at the Sea:
You, in Your kindness, led the nation which You redeemed;
You, in Your strength, guided [them] to Your holy abode (NEVEI).
May You bring them and implant them on the mountain of Your inheritance; the
foundation of Your dwelling which You have made, Hashem; the Sanctuary, my L-rd,
that Your hands established (verse 13,17).
The desire to build a Sanctuary is most immediately fulfilled by constructing
the Mishkan, described in fine detail in the latter part of the Book of Shemot
(chapters 25-31, 35-40). This explains why the Book of Shemot includes the
Mishkan and concludes with Hashem’s Glory filling the Mishkan.
The impetus to build a house dedicated to Hashem comes from man, in response to
feeling Hashem’s closeness and protection:
. . . When He will give you rest from all your enemies all around, and you will
dwell securely. It shall be that the place where Hashem, your G-d, shall choose
to make His name reside there . . . (Devarim 12:10-11).
Our Sages teach (Sanhedrin 20b; Rambam, Hilchot Melachim 1:1,2), therefore, that
the mitzvah to build a permanent sanctuary follows that of establishing a king
and of eradicating Amalek.
David felt this impulse:
And it was, when the king dwelled in his house, and Hashem had given him rest
all around from all his enemies, that the king said to Natan the prophet, “See
now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of G-d dwells within the curtains”
(Shmuel II 7:1-2).
Ultimately, Shlomo fulfills his father’s desire:
I have surely built a habitation for You, a foundation of Your dwelling forever
(Melachim I 8:13).
But, the origin of this impetus derives from our Patriarch Yaakov:
And Yaakov awoke from his sleep and he said, “Indeed, there is Hashem in this
place, but I did not know”. And he feared and said, “How awesome is this place!
This is nothing but the house (BEIT) of G-d, and this is the gate of heaven.”
And Yaakov arose early in the morning and he took the stone that he had placed
at his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on its top. And he called
the name of the place Beit-El . . . And Yaakov took an oath, saying . “. . .
this stone which I have set up as a pillar shall be a house of G-d . . .” (Bereishit
Although Avraham thought of the place of encounter with Hashem as “mountain,”
and Yitzchak called it “field,” Yaakov uniquely called it “house” (Pesachim
88a). Yaakov feels Hashem’s Presence and, rather than dedicate a part of nature
to His service, desires to construct an abode, like his own home, where G-d and
man can co-exist.
This becomes a model for his descendants, for when the Children of Israel say
This is my G-d V’ANVEHU - And I will build Him a Sanctuary
they are reiterating their Patriarch’s oath.
Torah K'Torat Eretz Yisrael!"- Torah from Aloh Na'aleh*
Amalek came and went to war with Israel in Refidim (Shemot 17:8).” It is
in this week's parshah that Amalek makes his debut onto the world scene,
and as the antithesis of the Jewish people. In fact, his attitude and
attack are so eternally offensive that God Himself took an oath to be at
war with Amalek until Amalek’s demise at the end of days.
Although this was a war in the desert, outside and away from Eretz
Yisrael, it was a war ABOUT Eretz Yisrael. The Gaon from Vilna explained
why. He describes how Bnai Yisrael’s ongoing war against Amalek includes
the fight against the spirit of Amalek - the adversary of Israel. The Gaon
explains this Kabbalistically to be the adversarial angel Samael and his
hosts, whose main power, strength and rulership is in the gates of
Jerusalem, but only when there is destruction and desolation near the
gates and in the unwalled areas of Jerusalem. Such desolation delays the
connection between the Jerusalem of below and Jerusalem of above. The war
against the desolation is waged not only by setting up Jewish dwelling
places in Israel, but also by planting the land and by
fulfilling the commandments dependent on it (Kol HaTor, Chapter 7).
Thus, Amalek uprooted himself to wage war against the Jewish people in
the desert in order to keep them there; that is, to prevent them from
coming to Eretz Yisrael, settling the land, and developing it. The
unification of the Jewish people with the land promised to their ancestors
has the direct effect of increasing holiness in the world, and eliminating
evil. In order to survive, Amalek had to stop that process in its tracks;
he has continued to do so over the generations until this very day.
According to the Shem M'Shmuel (parshat Balak), Balak and Bilaam, when
they tried to curse the Jewish people, had attempted the same goal as
Amalek, for the same reason. This explains the significance of the fact
that according to the Zohar, the combination of their two names produces
two words: Amalek, and Bavel (Babylonia in English - the location of the
first Jewish exile from Eretz Yisrael). Like Amalek their spiritual
ancestor, Balak and Bilaam had understood that the Jewish people moving
into Eretz Yisrael had the power to bring history and evil to their
respective ends. Thus, for them, as for Amalek, their survival depended
upon keeping the Jewish people in exile.
Today, as we witness the re-building and re-populating of the land of
Tanach after thousands of years of exile during which Eretz Yisrael had
remained desolate and almost uninhabitable, we have to ask the question,
who's keeping us out now? To return home to Eretz Yisrael and to end her
desolation - physical and spiritual - is to win the war against Amalek. To
fulfill the mitzvot dependent upon the Land is to push the spirit of
impurity from her borders, and eventually, from the world itself. The war
against Amalek first began in the desert in Moshe Rabbeinu's time. Let it
end, once and for all, in ours.
Rabbi Pinchas Winston
*D’var Torah from Aloh Na'aleh:
an initiative of former North American Rabbis and laymen who successfully
made Aliyah, aimed at highlighting the centrality of Israel and promoting
Aliyah. They send emissaries – Rabbis, academicians, and others – on
speaking-tours throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Tel: 972-2-566-1181 ext. 320