Parshas Vayakhel:

Golden Intentions

Rabbi Nosson Lederer

[Don’t forget to see the Halacha Encounters below!]

“And Moshe said to the Bnei Yisroel, “See, Hashem has designated by name, Betzalel, son of Uri, son of Chur, of the tribe of Yehuda. And He has filled him with Divine spirit, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with every craft. And to devise plans to work with gold, with silver and with copper…”

            When the great Torah giant, Rav Chaim Volozhiner Z”L started his Yeshiva, he appointed solicitors who would visit various villages and collect funds for the Yeshiva on a yearly basis. After a number of years, one of these collectors requested permission from Rav Chaim to take money from the Yeshiva funds in order to purchase a private horse and wagon as well as an elegant suit of clothing. He explained to Rav Chaim that these items would impress the donors, thus increasing the size of their donations. Rav Chaim agreed to this and permitted him to use some of the funds to purchase the items. That year, when the collector came around, one of the villagers, a generous donator in the past, refused to give as much as a penny. When Rav Chaim heard about this he was quite disturbed and he decided to pay the villager a visit. When Rav Chaim came, the villager received him warmly and explained, “I was always happy to help support the Yeshiva with my donations, but to buy a horse and a wagon as well as fine clothes, for this I do not want to give!”  Rav Chaim asked the man to bring a Chumash and open it to Parshas Vayakhel to the Pesukim mentioned above. He asked the villager, “The pasuk tells us that Betzalel possessed in him Divine spirit which the Gemarah (Berachos 55a) explains to mean that he knew the proper joining of the letters through which Hashem created heaven and earth. Isn’t it then demeaning to say that he also knew how to devise plans to work with gold, with silver and with copper, which are jobs of a simple craftsman?” Rav Chaim answered this with another question. “The Mishkan contained within it various sections, some of which were more holy than others; the most holy of these being the Kodesh HaKodoshim-Holy of Holies. Now, wouldn’t every Jew want his donation to be used for the construction of the Holy of Holies itself rather than for any other area of the Mishkan? This of course would be an impossibility, as an entire Mishkan was needed. How then did Betzalel decide whose donation should go where? “For this reason,” said Rav Chaim, “Hashem chose Betzalel who possessed Divine spirit, for the job. When a person would bring a donation for the Mishkan, Betzalel would be able to tell how pure the intentions of the donor were and he would place the donation in the Mishkan accordingly. If Betzalel saw that the person was giving only for the sake of Hashem, that donation would be used for the Holy of Holies. But if he saw through his Divine spirit that the person’s intentions were not completely pure and included honor or personal gain, then the donation would be used for a part of the Mishkan that had a lesser degree of holiness. This is what the pasuk is telling us. Betzalel was filled with Divine spirit, which enabled him to see the purity of each person’s intentions; thus he knew how to work with each person’s gold, silver and copper and to place it accordingly in the Mishkan. The same applies to you,” concluded Rav Chaim. “If you give your donation to the yeshiva with pure intentions, you can be sure that your money will go directly to support the students who are sitting and learning in the Yeshiva. Other donations which might be given with mixed intentions might be used for less holy necessities such as the horse and wagon.”

            Perhaps we can take this a step further with what Rav Chaim Volozhiner himself writes, (Nefesh Hachaim 1:4) as well as other commentaries, about the pasuk (Shemos 25:8) “V’asu Li Mikdash v’shachanti b’sochom”-And they shall make for Me a Sanctuary and I will dwell in them.” The pasuk does not say “v’shachanti b’socho”-and I will dwell in it, but rather “v’shachanti b’sochom”-and I will dwell in them. This implies that the Will of Hashem regarding the building of the Mishkan is to rest His Shechina inside every Jew. Hence, the Mishkan and all its components are only a portrait model for a Jew, whom with his own Mitzvos and good deeds creates inside himself a dwelling place for the Shechina. Now a person might wonder, “To which part of the Mishkan am I compared and how much of the Shechina’s presence is within me?” The answer to that is that it all depends on the purity and intentions of his actions, which are his “donation” to his Mishkan. If his Mitzvos and deeds are done with pure intentions, solely for the honor of Hashem, then he will, with his actions, have created inside himself a Kodesh HaKodoshim-Holy of Holies. If however, other intentions are mixed into his deeds, such as honor or personal gain, then the Shechina will rest in him to a lesser degree as it did in the other areas of the Mishkan.

            May we all merit to serve Hashem with pure intent so that we merit the fullest degree of His Shechina in our midst!

Rabbi Lederer is a Rebbe in Yishavas Tiferes Tzvi and learns in the Mechanchim Night Kollel.

Halacha Encounters

Brushing Teeth on Shabbos

Rabbi Yisroel Langer

Q - Is it permissible for one to brush his teeth on Shabbos?

A - There are several issues that come up with regards to brushing one’s teeth on Shabbos.


One of the 39 Melochos prohibited on Shabbos is Memacheik (scraping). We learn this from the Mishkan where animal hides were scraped down to make them smooth. The Gemorah (Shabbos 75b) learns from here that any “smoothing” of non-food items is prohibited on Shabbos. One example mentioned in the Gemorah is the spreading of a salve or ointment onto a cloth that will be applied to one’s body. The use of a bar of soap on Shabbos is forbidden for this reason.1 Hagaon Rav Moshe Feinstein2 zt”l even questions whether one could use liquid soap on Shabbos.  Since it has a thick texture perhaps it is not considered to be a liquid and is subject to the violation of Memareiach (smoothing – a toldah of Memacheik). When one brushes his teeth with toothpaste, the toothpaste gets smeared upon his teeth. Therefore most Poskim, amongst them Hagaon R’ Moshe Feinstein3 zt”l rule that it is strictly forbidden to use toothpaste on Shabbos and if one does so he has violated the Melacha of “smoothing”.

Putting Water on the Toothbrush

On Shabbos it is prohibited by Torah law to squeeze out a cloth from liquids contained within it. This is only true if the liquid was absorbed by the material. Therefore if liquid gets caught in hair on Shabbos it should be permitted to squeeze them out since the liquid doesn’t get absorbed by the individual hairs. However, due to its close resemblance to actual squeezing, Chazal forbade even this form of squeezing. Based on this, the Poskim4 say that although the nylon bristles of a toothbrush do not absorb water, since the bristles are close together that the water gets caught between them one should refrain from using a wet toothbrush on Shabbos.

After one finishes brushing (with his dry toothbrush) he may not rinse the toothbrush with water, since this rinsing is done to prepare it for the next brushing which is after Shabbos.5

Additional Requirements

It is forbidden to make oneself bleed on Shabbos. Therefore if one’s gums bleed when he brushes his teeth, he may not brush his teeth at all on Shabbos, even though he has no intention to make himself bleed since it will most likely happen it is considered a Psik Raishai and is forbidden.6

Even if all these requirements are met: 1) his gums don’t bleed, 2) he is not using toothpaste, 3) the toothbrush is dry, some require that he have a special toothbrush set aside just for Shabbos. The reason for this is since brushing one’s teeth during the week is ordinarily done via a Melacha (smoothing or squeezing) to use that same toothbrush on Shabbos would be classified as “Uvda D’Chol” and prohibited. Therefore, these Poskim require a toothbrush set aside for Shabbos only.7 Others do not require a separate toothbrush for Shabbos as long as there are no remnants of toothpaste left on the brush.8

Some say that even if one fulfills all these requirements it is still better to avoid brushing teeth on Shabbos.9

Flossing is permitted provided that 1) you don’t cut the floss 2) it’s not usual for your gums to bleed.


1 The Rema (O.C. 321:10) prohibits the use of soap because of Molid. The Mishna Berura quotes the Tiferes Yisrael that holds in addition one has also violated the Melacha of “smoothing.” This is also the psak of Hagaon R’ Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Igros Moshe O.C. 113) see Kitzos Hashulchan (127:5, Badei Hashulchan 13)

2 Igros moshe (ibid)

3 Igros Moshe O.C. 112. This is also the Psak of the Minchas Yitzchak Volume III 48, and volume V 104. The majority of Poskim hold like this view. See also Kitzos Hashulchan (Badei Hashulchan, end of Siman 138), Sridei Eish Volume II 28 Yabia Omer Volume IV 27-30, and Harav Chaim Regensburg in Mishmeres Chaim Ch.9.

4 Hagaon R’ Moshe Feinstein zt”l 9 ibid) advises against using a wet toothbrush on Shabbos since it’s similar to the Rabbinical prohibition of squeezing out liquid from hair. Some say that it’s not exactly comparable to squeezing hairs. By hair, it’s perceived as if the water was absorbed into the hair. But, by the nylon bristles of a toothbrush it doesn’t look as if the bristles themselves absorbed any water. (oral ruling of Rav Dovid Feinstein shlit”a)However, the Minchas Yitzchok (ibid), amongst many Poskim, rules that it is strictly forbidden to use a wet toothbrush since it’s comparable to squeezing hairs and is prohibited Midrabonon. Harav Dovid Zucker shlit”a commented that it is permitted for one to put a small amount of water in his mouth and brush his teeth with a dry toothbrush.

5 Igros Moshe (ibid). This is a violation of Hachana, to prepare something on Shabbos for the weekday.

6 Minchas Yitzchok (ibid)

7 Minchas Yitzchak (ibid) see M.B. 303:87

8 Harav Dovid Feinstein shlit”a

9 Shmiras Shabbos Kihilchasa (14:34)

Rabbi Langer learns full time in the Kollel and is a frequesnt contributor to Halacha Encounters.

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