Mishkan and Microchips

Moshe assembled the entire congregation of Israel to give the second set of tablets. He proceeded to recount in detail what G!d wanted of them which includes keeping the Sabbath holy and a detailed review of the construction of the Mishkan. Why does God spend so much time on the details of the Mishkan, and why does the Torah repeat them? And what does this have to do with bringing everyone together?

Our sages teach us that the intricacies of the Mishkan were such that without everything in place, it would not work. Think of the Mishkan like an advanced computer chip. If everything isn’t lined up and in place, the chip will not function. It can be 99.9 percent perfectly aligned – but if just a fraction of the chip isn’t properly fashioned, it doesn’t process anything. Without every details in place the Mishkan too would not function.

The Jewish people are like the Mishkan. Each person has

a unique purpose and all of our efforts are required to fulfill the spiritual mission of the Jewish people. Everyone is integral part. We can’t assign the work to only the righteous, the rich or the rabbis, because each one of us in endowed with special talents and an intrinsic value that others do not have.

The Jewish people’s true light to the world cannot shine brightly without all of us.

Shabbat Shalom


God’s Business Advice to Moshe

This shall they give…a half Shekel. (Parsha Ki Tisa: Ex. 30:13)

God showed Moshe a coin made from fire, teaches the Midrash, showing him the amount that everyone must give towards the mishkan, tabernacle. Based on this Midrash, the great Polish hassidic Master, Rabbi Elimelech of Leżajsk, also known as the Noam Elimelch, explains that money is very much like fire. If fire is misused it can destroy, but it can also be used to prepare food and warmth. Money too can be used for a good purpose. If used for charity or kindness, it can be a conduit for great blessing. But if a person uses his money foolishly or wrongly, it can cause great destruction.

My friend Rabbi Yaakov Menken directed me to a wonderful question by the late sage, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein zt”l, whose thirtieth Yahrtzeit is 13th of Adar II. Rabbi Feinstein asked, ‘Why did G-d have to show Moshe a coin at all? Why was it so difficult for Moshe to understand the size of a half-shekel? The verse states that a shekel was 20 geirah, a known amount, so it should have been easy to determine a half-shekel.’

We can answer, said Rabbi Feinstein, that Hashem showed Moshe the coin in order to help him understand a critical life lesson. Moshe was anticipating that people living in a materialistic world would have a hard time involving themselves with spiritual pursuits. The reason that God showed him a half-shekel was to teach him how to do “business” in the world.

A person must divide their time between the material and the spiritual. Too much emphasis on material pursuit and acquisition of wealth and his spiritual life will decay. Too much time spent in purely spiritual pursuits, and his materials needs will become ignored. Therefor a person needs a life balanced between their spiritual and material pursuits. We cannot ignore one for the other.

How much more so today, must we be cognizant to not ignore the our spiritual pursuit and growth, and to ensure that the money we do make is used for good and holy purposes.

Shabbat Shalom!


Rabbi Yonah is Co-founder and Rabbi of Pico Shul, a new community in Los Angeles dedicated to spiritual growth, living mindfully, and helping others.


What Does it Mean to be a Jew? Yehuda, Yosef and God’s Hidden Plan

“Vayigash eilav Yehudah, Then Yehudah approached him…” (Breishit 44:18)

One of the names that the Jewish people are known by is “Yehudim”. Our sages teach us that the word “Yehudim” comes from the word hoda’a, which means simultaneously an “admission, acknowledgment, declaration”. If we are known as the people of hoda’a, what is it that the Jewish people go through time acknowledging or declaring?

That everything both small and large, both good and difficult, comes from God.

The Sfas Emes continues with this message and teaches that this is helpful knowledge, especially during every challenging and dark time.

Claiming, that even in the dark times, when it seems that God is hidden from us, there is Godly energy there too.

Yehuda and his brothers were begging for their lives in front of the most powerful person in the world — who secretly was their brother Yosef, who they had sold into slavery. Yehuda recounts all the trials and tribulations that got them to this situation.

What is he doing? Why is the Torah spending valuable space recounting things that we already know?

Yehuda is acknowledging that amidst this terrible set of circumstances — and he knows that the brothers were being punished for what they did to Yosef decades earlier — God’s plan is being revealed and God is still with them.

At that moment when Yehuda declares that this situation too, as painful as it is to endure, is from God, Yosef cannot contain himself anymore and has to reveal his true identity to his brothers.

This bittersweet reunion, and what Yosef tells his brothers, makes them, and all their generations of offspring realize, that God did not abandon them. Rather God was with Yosef the whole time after he had been sold, and that this drought and famine were part of God’s larger plan.

Our subsequent life in Egypt, enslavement, and redemption, form a significant part of the core-identity system of the Jewish people, and subsequently for all downtrodden peoples throughout time.

Yosef had to go to Egypt, be falsely accused, rot in jail, translate dreams, become a ruler, and trick his brothers into bringing Binyamin down to Egypt — it was all part of God’s plan from the start.

So too, in our lives, we experience sets of circumstances and challenges that can truly test our strength, faith, and hope.

Whatever you are going through right now, God is waiting to reveal the reasons, but we have to do our job of being Yehudim, acknowledging and declaring that God is truly engaged in every aspect of our lives and the world, for us to begin to see the reasons.

Good Shabbos and Shabbat Shalom

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A Twitter Yizkor: Memorial for Israeli Victims of Terror Launched on Twitter

The double murder of Rabbi Yaakov (44) and Natanel Litman (18) on Friday, November 13th, was quickly overshadowed by the immense and horrific massacres across Paris later that night.

But even without the massacre, the names and stories of Israelis murdered in the past few months get lost behind the next group of names of victims.

Four more Israelis were killed in terror attacks today.

Inspired by the @ParisVictims Twitter account, created by Mashable to publicize the lives of each one of the 129 people killed in the horrific attacks on November 13th, 2015, we have launched @israelivictims to memorialize Israelis killed in terror attacks.

The @parisvictims account has quickly amassed more than 44,000 followers.

If you would like to help with this effort, just contact rabbi @ picoshul.org.

We pray to God that we don’t have to add any more names, and for a quick recovery of all the victims.

May God comfort all the mourners, and Hashem yikom damam.


Rabbi Yaakov (44) a gifted teacher and Natanel Litman (18) a volunteer paramedic HY”D were murdered on Friday, November 13, 2015.

The Litmans were driving to pre-wedding Shabbat celebration for one of their daughters, Sarah Tihyeh. The family car was ambushed by Shadi Ahmed Matawa of Islamic Jihad, and maybe others, near Otniel in the hills south of Hebron.

Five other members of the Litman family were lightly wounded in the shooting, including Noa, three daughters aged 5, 9, and 11, and a 16-year-old son. On Saturday, Noa said an ambulance from the Palestinian Red Crescent Society stopped at the scene of the attack before Magen David Adom paramedics arrived, but left without offering assistance. Dvir, the 16-year-old son, called MDA and also said the Red Crescent ambulance left the scene.