Numbers in [square brackets] are the Mitzva-count of Sefer HaChinuch AND Rambamís Sefer HaMitzvot. A=ASEI (positive mitzva); L=LAV (prohibition). X:Y is the perek and pasuk from which the mitzva comes.
[P> X:Y (Z)] and [S> X:Y (Z)] indicate start of a parsha pítucha or sítuma respectively. X:Y is Perek:Pasuk of the beginning of the parsha; (Z) is the number of p'sukim in the parsha.
[P> 30:11 (6)] The first 6 p'sukim of the sedra are the portion of the Mitzva of the Half-Shekel [105,A171 31:13], which we will read again as the Maftir for Parshat Shkalim, two weeks from now.
The half-shekel was used to count the People and to create the fund for the purchase of communal offerings throughout the year, as well as other spiritual needs of the community. The half-shekel was required of males from age 20 and up. It was optional for women. (Since the half-shekels were used to count the standing army, it was necessary to keep separate records of a woman's optional contribution. Nonetheless, women could participate in this mitzva.) Although Kohanim were also required to give a half-shekel, they were not forced by the courts in the way that non- kohanim were, as a courtesy to their standing and function in society.
Sh'kalim were NOT accepted from non-Jews. (There were funds in the Beit HaMikdash to which a non-Jew may contribute, but NOT the half- shekel. It is sort of like membership dues in Klal Yisrael - for members only.) Collection took place in Adar, so that the fund would be ready for Nissan, the beginning of the "Beit HaMikdash year". The mitzva applies during the time of the Beit HaMikdash, at which time even Jews living abroad were required to contribute.
Without the Beit HaMikdash, we do not perform the mitzva, but we have commemorative practices, namely the reading of Parshat Sh'kalim and the giving Zeicher L'Machatzit HaShekel before Megila reading. Remember: Today we don't give Machatzit HaShekel, we just commemorate it. This is an important distinction.
We can say that participation in the mitzva of the Half-Shekel indicated that a person wanted to be part of Klal Yisrael, thereby including the individual in the atonement of the People.
[P> 30:17 (5)] The next portion deals with the Laver (KIYOR) and its stand (V'KANO), for the Kohanim to wash their hands and feet before their sacred work [106,A204 30:19]. A kohen who does not wash (sanctify) his hands and feet before doing "service" in the Beit HaMikdash is liable to "death from Heaven" and the korban he has brought is invalid.
What might this say to us? Our Sages have commanded us to wash our hands before eating a bread-meal. (This "Rabbinic Mitzva" is attributed to Shlomo HaMelech and his Sanhedrin.) There are several p'sukim in the Torah that are considered to be the inspiration for the mitzva to wash our hands. This is one of them, based on the famous concept that our (dining) table is like the Altar. We are challenged to elevate the mundane act of eating and invest it with a spirituality which is the hallmark of Judaism and a Torah way of life.
Before we approach our "Altar" to serve G-d, we too wash our hands. Just like the Kohen. Not with the same penalty for not washing properly, (thank G-d). Could you imagine a Heavenly death penalty for not washing for HaMotzi? No. But the comparison SHOULD prompt some serious reflection on our part, and hopefully, an improvement of the way we relate to this everyday mitzva.
Concerning our Netilat Yadayim, First, are you careful about washing for HaMotzi? You should be. You are? Good. Are you careful to dry your hands BEFORE washing, so that the water has its intended purpose of removing ritual impurity in the best way. It might seem like a small matter, but there are opinions that washing wet hands does not fulfill the mitzva properly. And do you properly dry your hands after washing? And do you complete the bracha before your hands are completely dry? That too is important. Are you careful not to interrupt between washing and HaMotzi? Of course.
Good. You don't talk until after HaMotzi (until after the first swallow of the HaMotzi). But silence is also an interruption (less severe) and one should try to minimize the gap between washing and HaMotzi. It's not always practical, but it can be done. The point is, to THINK about what we do and why we do it, and HOW we do it. Washing for HaMotzi is an example of a mitzva that is easy to take for granted, to go on "automatic pilot". But if we do, we'll be missing so much. Let's wash better, bench better, daven better, do mitzvot better, treat each other better. Let's be thinking and feeling Torah Jews all across the board.
[P> 30:22 (12)] Next follows the command to take specific quantities of various spices, mix them with olive oil, and prepare the special "anointing oil". The Kohen Gadol and kings of Israel are to be anointed with this oil [107,A35 30:31], as were the sacred vessels of the Mikdash. It is forbidden to use this oil for personal use [108, L84 30:32], or even to dare dishonor the Mikdash by compounding the special mixture privately [109,L83 30:32].
[S> 30:34 (5)] We are next commanded to compound the K'toret, the incense offered twice daily in the Mikdash. The mitzva of K'toret is presented and counted in T'tzaveh; here we have the prohibition of compounding the same formula for personal use [110,L85 30:37].
[S> 31:1 (11)] G-d tells Moshe that
B'tzalel shall be in charge of the actual construction and
fashioning of the Mishkan and its contents. His assistant shall be
Aholiav of Dan, and a team of skilled artisans shall join in the
work. All the objects in and of the Mishkan are enumerated, as the
task list of B'tzalel and Co.
SDT Shabbat and Mikdash "rub elbows" several times in the Torah. They complement each other, in that Mikdash represents the Sanctity of Place, and Shabbat represents the Sanctity of Time. One may not build the Mikdash on Shabbat, but the functioning in the Mikdash "pushes aside" Shabbat. And we learn many rules and details for Shabbat from the construction of the Mishkan. There is an equation of sorts, certainly a link established, with the pasuk - My Shabbats you shall preserve, and my Mikdash you shall revere.
SDT We know that Shabbat steps aside for Piku'ach Nefesh (life-threatening situations) and for Communal Offerings in the Beit HaMikdash (and for testifying for Kidush HaChodesh). That these things are able to be done on Shabbat, we learn from specific sources in the text of the Torah. That Shabbat steps aside for ANYTHING is learned from the passage here - ACH ET SHABTOTAI TISHMORU.
The word ACH - but, however - is generally considered to be limiting. My Shabbats you shall keep, would mean, with no exceptions. ACH - indicates that there are situations when that which is usually forbidden on Shabbat can be done. Again, what the specific things are, are learned from other p'sukim. The ACH here teaches us the general state of affairs - Shabbat can be "violated", under specific circumstances.
[Note too. It is not the word ACH that teaches us its meaning; tt is our Oral Law that teaches us the meaning of the ACH, when it applies and when it doesn't.]
[S> 31:18 (7)] The Torah now returns to telling us of Matan Torah, which was "interrupted" (so to speak) by the parshiyot of the Mishkan. G-d gives Moshe the Tablets of stone... When the People saw (or thought) that Moshe was delayed in returning from Sinai, they feared that they would be leaderless, and they appealed to Aharon to do something. Exactly what he did is the subject of speculation, but his delaying tactic resulted in the emergence of the Golden Calf. Most of the people were confused and did nothing (that was part of the problem), but 3000 men arose and reveled in the Calf.
[P> 32:7 (8)] G-d told Moshe to see what the People were doing in his absence. G-d indicates to Moshe that the People are deserving of destruction.
The first part of Moshe's reaction is PRAYER. (This isn't always first on his list, but it is here. Part of the greatness of Moshe Rabeinu is his knowing when to pray long, when short, and when to take action immediately and leave prayer for later. This is something that we try to learn from him). His petition before G-d starts with the practical argument, "what will Egypt say?". Then Moshe mentions the Avot and asks G-d to forgive the people because of them. and the promises G-d had made to them. The combination of these two points seem to succeed, because Moshe is "rewarded" with G-d's expression of regret (so to speak) for what He had said He would do to the people.
[P> 32:15 (21)] Next, Moshe turns and descends the mountain with the Luchot in his hands. When he sees the Calf, the Tablets either slip from his hands and break or he intentionally smashes them (opinions differ). He seizes the Calf, destroys it, spreads its ashes over the water, and prepares a potion for the people to drink. He asks Aharon what happened.
He calls to those "who are on G-d's side"; the Leviyim rally to his call and kill those who dared "worship" the Calf.
On the following day (the exact sequence of events is debated by commentators), Moshe castigates the people, tells them of the enormity of their sin. Then he tells them that he is returning to G-d (so to speak) up the mountain, to continue pleading Israel's case before G-d. G-d promises to punish those at fault.
[S> 33:1 (11)] As a result of the Golden Calf, G-d distances Himself from the People. He does, however, reiterate His promise to give them (us) the Land. And, He tells Moshe to have the people continue towards Eretz Yisrael, but without G-d in their midst. The People are distraught by G-d's words. Moshe too removes himself and his tent from the midst of the camp. Moshe remains in direct contact with G-d... and Yehoshua was constantly in the Tent.
[P> 33:12 (5)] Moshe argues that G-d must remain in the midst of the People in order to demonstrate that He truly chose us. One senses the unique relationship between G-d and Moshe that permits Moshe to speak to Him the way he does. At the same time that our relationship with G-d was changing because of the Golden Calf, Moshe was asking G-d for a more intimate under- standing of the Divine Essence.
Here's a thought... Is it not strange that specifically when Bnei Yisrael is in the midst of a very rough time that Moshe asks G-d to reveal Himself to Moshe more than He already has? Perhaps Moshe had a bit of a "spiritual panic" in that G-d, Who had been so close to the people at Sinai was about to distance Himself from us. And Moshe feared that he too would lose out. Mixed with his efforts on behalf of the people, Moshe wants to safeguard and enhance the relationship that he has with HaShem. This will also help in his pleading for and leading of the people.
Chamishi - Fifth Aliya - 9 p'sukim -
G-d next tells Moshe to cut new stones to replaced the ones he had broken. Moshe again ascends Sinai to receive the Luchot, the Attributes, and Divine Forgiveness. This 40 day period - Elul through Yom Kippur, became days of special approach between G-d and the People.
Specifically, we are forbidden to eat or drink of idolatrous offerings [111, not on Rambam's list here - it is very rare that the Chinuch deviates from Rambam's count 34:15]. All this to avoid falling to their temptations and to avoid intermarriage. We must destroy their idols.
We are commanded to keep Pesach in the Spring. In a direct link to the Exodus, we have three types of B'CHOR mitzvot - human, kosher farm animals, and donkey.
In the case of cow, goat, and sheep, it is forbidden to redeem the firstborn. It must be given as a gift to a kohen, and he must bring it (if it is fit) as a korban. Attempted redemption is forbidden, and results in both the original B'chor and the attempted exchange-animal (T'MURA) being holy.
The firstborn of a donkey SHOULD be redeemed (exchanged for a sheep or its value). If the owner refuses to redeem the firstborn donkey, it must be destroyed. This destruction (with no one benefiting from the carcass) is also a mitzva (though less desirable than redemption).
Pidyon HaBen applies today, as we well know. So does Pidyon Peter Chamor (donkey). Technically, it is an easy mitzva to avoid, but it should not be bypassed.
Kiddush B'chor (of cow, goat, sheep) also applies today, but our Sages insisted that we avoid this mitzva by bringing in a non-Jewish partner in token ownership of the pregnant animal, so that its firstborn will NOT be sacred). They commanded this because without the Mikdash, the mitzva cannot be brought to its proper conclusion, without a Mikdash.
Shavuot and Sukkot complete the cycle of the Pilgrimage Festivals; males are required to appear at the Beit HaMikdash (and not empty-handed). This mitzva (and others) guarantees our hold of the Land. Shabbat and the Land's Shabbat, Shmita [112,A135 34:21], are mentioned.
Korban Pesach may not be offered while its owner has Chametz, nor may we leave K.P. over to the morning.
Bikurim are to be brought to the Mikdash and meat-milk mixtures (that are cooked together) may not be eaten [113,L187 34:26]. Rabbinic law for- bids eating mixtures of milk and meat even if they have not been cooked.
When Moshe came down from the Mountain, he was unaware of the spiritual radiance that glowed on his face. Aharon and the People were afraid to approach. Moshe called to Aharon and the Leaders of the People, and spoke to them words of Torah and their explanation. Then all the people came to Moshe to be taught what G-d had spoken to him at Sinai.
When Moshe finished speaking to the people, he covered his face with a hood (or mask or veil), which he removed whenever he spoke to G-d. He would then transmit those words to the people.
This would be repeated over and over again. Moshe would cover his face until the time he communicated with G-d.
The final three písukim are reread for the Maftir.