“And Moshe and Aharon went into the Tent of Meeting. Then they came out and blessed the people, and the glory of Hashem appeared to all the people” (Vayikra 9:23).
Rashi explains that all the sacrifices had been brought and all the services had been performed, yet the Divine Presence had not descended. Aharon was deeply pained, and he said, “I know that Hashem is angry with me, and because of me the Shechinah has not descended.” So he said to Moshe, “My brother, you did this to me, that I have entered and been put to shame.” Immediately, Moshe Rabbeinu entered the Ohel Mo’ed together with Aharon, and they both entreated Hashem for Divine mercy. Then the Shechinah descended.
Then they came out and blessed the people: “May the graciousness of Hashem be upon us. May it be it His will that the Divine Presence rest in the work of your hands.” This blessing was in acknowledgment of the pain of the Jewish people, since throughout the seven days of the consecration ceremony when Moshe put up the Mishkan and performed the services, the Divine Presence had not rested there. They said to Moshe, “All our efforts were in order that the Shechinah should dwell among us, so that we should know that we have been forgiven for the Sin of the Golden Calf.” Therefore, Moshe answered (9:6), “This is what Hashem commanded; do it and His glory will appear to you.” Moshe told them that Aharon was more worthy than he, and it would be through his offerings and service that the Shechinah would dwell among them again.
HaGaon R’ Moshe Soloveichik observes how instructional this Rashi is concerning the importance of taking responsibility for others. The Jewish nation had been commanded to build the Mishkan to atone for their egregious sin, and although they had fulfilled every detail of its construction and dedication, they had not merited hashra’as haShechinah (the Divine Presence). The pain and humiliation were too much for them to bear. Moshe and Aharon each took the initiative of taking responsibility for the absence of the Shechinah. The Jewish people, likewise, did their own soul-searching to seek an explanation for the lack of the Shechinah’s appearance.
Why, indeed, did every person take responsibility for this calamity? R’ Soloveichik notes that the Torah’s perspective (Shavuos 39a) is kol Yisroel areivim zeh bazeh – all Jews are responsible for one another, and this is true even if the individual has attained the lofty level of Moshe and Aharon. We are part of a larger community that shares a common destiny, and we have an obligation to care for one another. The more we do so, the greater is our merit.
An especially heartbreaking incident was recently brought to my attention by a rebbi who teaches in a local yeshiva.
The boys in yeshiva, related the rebbi, all eat their lunch in the yeshiva dining room, while the rebbeim are nearby to maintain a semblance of decorum. When lunchtime is over, the rebbeim proceed to their respective groups to lead the boys in Birchas HaMazon. Prizes are distributed on a monthly basis as an incentive to advance the boys’ motivation to participate enthusiastically in the bentching.
On this particular day, the rebbi noticed that Shloimy was not bentching; he just kept looking down at the table. The rebbi tried to get the boy’s attention, and when he finally caught his eye, he nudged him, “Nu, bentch.” The boy looked bewildered, as though he didn’t understand what the rebbi wanted.
When the rebbi looked at Shloimy again, he was still not bentching. The rebbi pointed to the bentcher, and motioned for him to begin bentching. Again, Shloimy looked befuddled.
As the boys left the dining room, the rebbi told Shloimy, “Please see me after class.”
When class was over later in the afternoon, Shloimy hoped that the rebbi had forgotten about the matter, but the rebbi called out to him, “Shloimy?”
“I asked you twice to join the Birchas HaMazon today at lunch and you didn’t listen. I noticed that you did not say one word of bentching. Can you explain?”
“I didn’t eat lunch today. I didn’t wash,” Shloimy said in a soft voice.
Perplexed, the rebbi asked, “Why didn’t you eat?”
“When I asked father for money for the personal Haggadah that the class is getting, my father took out the two dollars from his wallet, and I noticed that he didn’t have any more bills there. My mother told us that my father is going through difficult times, and we should not bother him, and especially not to ask for money. So I couldn’t ask him for more money for the school lunch.”
The rebbi felt terrible that there was a child sitting in his class who was not eating lunch, and had to be different from the other boys in the class. How embarrassing that must be for the child. Although he had no idea what exactly he would do, the rebbi assured Shloimy that he would make sure that his circumstances were improved.
After the rebbi’s call, I contacted the school administration and reached out to Shloimy’s parents. They were committed to their child’s yeshiva education, but their story was a very sad one. It was difficult to imagine how they were surviving at all on the little that they had. I immediately collected some funds to tide them over, and arranged for ongoing support to ensure that there was food on the table and the utility bills were paid. That Pesach was the first in a long time that the family had a dignified and respectable Seder table in the spirit of the Yom Tov.
There are many individuals and families who need our chizuk, including financial assistance, especially before Yom Tov, so that they can enjoy the Yom Tov along with all of Klal Yisroel. I call on all of our loyal readers and friends of The Jewish Press to help me before Yom Tov in my undertaking to collect money on behalf of the destitute people in our community. Feel the pain of our brethren and take a part in this great mitzvah. I personally administer and distribute the monies from the special Yom Tov Fund I have established directly into the hands of those who are most in need.
In the zechus of your contribution, may you merit blessing and success, good health, nachas, happiness and prosperity. You may also include the names of anyone in particular who is in need of shalom bayis, shidduchim, refuah, parnassah, etc., and I will say special prayers on their behalf.
Please send your contribution to Khal Bnei Yitzchok Yom Tov Fund, c/o Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser, 1336 E. 21 Street, Brooklyn, NY 11210.