Drash Cards for Vayakel (5776)
by Marc Mangel
- Today I am going to deviate from my usual themes of Tzedaka and Teshuvah to discuss building and rebuilding. I also appreciate your forebearance because this drash is twice the length of my usual ones.
- Here’s why: two days ago would have been my father’s 100th birthday and next week is his yahrzeit so I have been thinking a lot about him.
- A very brief history: he was born in Vienna in 1916 – the midst of WW I. His parents had been in Vienna for probably two generations (their parents having come from Tarnow and Lemberg respectively). His mother had seven sisters. I don’t know much about his religious upbringing except that he had a Bar Mitzvah and that every Pesach, according to him, his mother went crazy cleaning.
- I begin with the Torah. In Ch 2, v 11-15 Moses strikes down the Egyptian taskmaster, discovers that he is not Egyptian but an Israelite, and has to flee Egypt because Pharaoh seeks to kill him. Seder HaDorot tells us that Moses was 18 years old when he struck and killed the taskmaster. The episode of Moses’s discovery of his identity and needing to flee takes 4 verses of the entire book of Shemot.
- My father was barely 22 years old in March 13, 1938 when the Anschluss occurred. Within two or three days Jews in Vienna discovered that they were not Austrians but Jews and had better flee.
- My father was a conscript in the Austrian army at the time of the Anschluss in March 1938. His girlfriend’s father warned him, his brother and sister to leave Vienna asap because this time the anti-Semitism was going to be different – and we all know that it was. My uncle escaped to Canada, my aunt to Scotland and then Palestine, and one cousin to Switzerland. Everyone else perished in the Shoah.
- People like my father who were in their late teens and early 20s were too old to be part of the kinder transport but too young to have established careers that would have helped them easily immigrate elsewhere.
- My father escaped first to Antwerp and then came to the US, sponsored by Sol Mangel, who I am pretty sure was my grandfather’s first cousin. He served in the Army, rising to the rank of Master Sergeant and was naturalized in Litchfield England in 1943 along with all the other German or Austrian soldiers who were potentially part of the invasion force.
- After leaving the Army in 1945, my father — like many similar Jews – had to rebuild his life. Let us see what the building of a dwelling place for God in this world has to say about a young man rebuilding his life in a foreign country.
- Rosally Saltsman tells us that (Ch 35, v29) building of the Mishkan involved “the entire nation and the success of the project depended on the generosity of heart and the generosity of spirit of the people. Volunteering for any project or cause that will help a larger group of people and requires teamwork is an act of chesed.” Rebuilding lives – as well as the state of Israel – after the Shoah required the same kind of dedication and chesed. My father behaved that way.
- Regarding Ch 36, v 5-7 – which deal with the people bringing more than is needed – the Sefat Emet said that overflowing generosity was what was needed for making the mishkan. Similarly, my father showed great generosity towards Jewish causes even as he rebuilt his own life.
- The Rebbe taught that Ch 35, v 22 — which seems to be about people bringing ear-rings , nose-rings, and finger-rings, braceletsand — is about child-rearing: listening to children’s conversations, determining if one’s children have beneficial friendships, pointing children along the right path, and providing direction when raising them. My father did all of these.
- Regarding Ch 38, v 7: The Rebbe taught that we must blend assertiveness with humility. We must show determination in achieving our goals, especially when rebuilding our lives. My father did this, for example, in learning English after he came to the US by spending hours and hours at the NY Public library learning English.
- Regarding Ch 35, v 32, the Chazal taught that each of us has a unique contribution. Among other things, my father (and mother) made aliyah when they were 57 and 55 respectively and one of his goals was to help a factory in Ashkelon that made tanks transition to make elevators. He not only rebuilt his life but tried to help the Jewish people rebuild the Jewish state.
- R. Shaya Kilimnick, Modern Orthodox, says that this parsha emphasizes Jewish unity. Those whose lives were shattered by the Shoah had to rebuild for themselves but also rebuild the Jewish people. My father was an avid supporter of Israel.
- The Torah is timeless. The building of the mishkan provides advice on building – or rebuilding – lives at any time