Monday, March 5, 2018

The Term ‘Al’ – Spiritual Growth and Greatness

Art Gustav Klimt

by Rabbi David Pinto Shlita 

 It is written, “The men came al [with] the women. Everyone whose heart motivated him brought bracelets, earrings, rings, body ornaments – all kinds of gold ornaments – every man who raised up an offering of gold to Hashem” [Vayakhel 35:22]

This verse deals with the donations that the Children of Israel brought to the Sanctuary. Why does it say, “The men came al [with] the women” rather than, “the men and the women came”? In reality, the Sanctuary was meant to atone for the sin of the golden calf, a sin which only the men had to rectify, since they were the only ones responsible for it.

The women had no part in this sin [Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer 45]. Thus in order to be forgiven and rectify their sin, the men yearned to participate in the construction of the Sanctuary more than the women. Hence they brought their offerings with even greater zeal, something that we learn from the phrase: “The men came with the women.” Given the fact that it was the men who committed the sin of the golden calf, it was incumbent upon them to quickly build the Sanctuary in order to return to the spiritual level that they once occupied, but then lost. As for the women, they brought their offerings for the sake of the mitzvah alone, something evident in the very letters of the terms ha-nashim (“the women”) and ha-anashim (“the men”).

The letter aleph, which only appears in the term ha-anashim, refers to the Sovereign (Aluph) of the universe, namely Hashem. This indicates that in making the golden calf, the men sinned before Hashem. Furthermore, we should underline that in contrast to women, men are obligated to study Torah. Now it is a well-known fact that “one who is commanded and fulfills [the command] is greater than one who fulfills it, though not commanded” [Kiddushin 31a]). When a person has been given a Divine command, the evil inclination cleaves to him in an attempt to prevent him from fulfilling G-d’s will. Hence for a person to conquer his evil inclination and fulfill Hashem’s command as should be, he needs to invest more energy and demonstrate even greater zeal.

This is why the men, who were obligated to bring an offering for the construction of the Sanctuary, had to act with extra zeal in order to fulfill their obligation. Hence it is stated that the men “came al [with] the women” – the term al alluding to spiritual growth and greatness. It means that in order to grow spiritually, men need a greater impetus than women.

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