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A Cover-Up of Biblical Proportions

A Tribute to My Dear Student Nadiv

    Rabbi YY Jacobson

  • March 7, 2024
  • |
  • 27 Adar I 5784
  • Comment

Class Summary:

In the Torah, the building of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) is presented as a seamless flow of command, collection, and finally, construction. In reality, it was anything but smooth and simple. Moses actually forgot what he did with some of the silver, and the rumors began circulating.

Is the Torah trying to brush over the disturbing truths? Is the Torah teaching us to repress uncomfortable facts; to ignore the real story, to make believe everything is “perfect” when in fact it’s far from it? And if so, why did the Rabbis in the Midrash “ruin the party” and spill the beans?

In the loving memory of my dear and unforgettable student, Nadiv Dovber ben Uzi Kehaty

Dedicated by Menachem Abrams in honor of his dear parents Rabbi Moshe & Dvora Abrams

The Truth, the Whole Truth and…

Harry gets stopped by a police car. When the police officer gets to his car, Harry says, "What's the problem officer?"

Officer: You were going at least 65 in a 50mph zone.

Harry: No sir, I was going 50.

Wife: Oh Harry, You were going 70.

Harry gives his wife a dirty look.

Officer: I will also give you a ticket for your broken brake light.

Harry: Broken brake light? I didn't know about a broken brake light!

Wife: Oh Harry, you've known about that brake light for months.

Harry gives his wife a really dirty look.

Officer: I am also going to book you for not wearing your seat belt.

Harry: Oh, I just took it off when you were walking up to the car.

Wife: Oh Harry, you never wear your seat belt.

Harry turns to his wife and yells, "Shut your mouth!"

The officer turns to the woman and says, "Madam, does your husband talk to you this way all the time?"

Wife: "No, only when he's drunk…"

Smooth or Problematic?

In the Torah, the building of the Mishkan (Tabernacle)—culminated in the Torah portion of this and next week Vayakhel & Pekudei—is presented as a seamless flow of command, collection, and finally, construction. G-d commands Moses, Moses presents the people with the plans, the people respond over-enthusiastically, donating more than necessary (for the first and last time in Jewish history…), and all Moses has to do is tell them when to stop. The construction goes ahead according to plan, and in no time at all—six months in total (compare that with construction nowadays)—the Mishkan is up and ready to function.

However, the student of Midrash—the Talmudic and Midrashic commentary to the Torah, transmitted orally throughout the generations till transcribed—makes aware of the “politics” behind the events. It was anything but smooth. The Midrash[1] tells us, shockingly, that there were those who suspected Moses of pocketing funds and they insolently demanded that Moses make an accounting for every ounce of every item. Moses conceded to their demands and humbly presented a detailed account of every “dollar” collected for the grandiose “building campaign.”

The Midrash[2] also tells us that Moses actually forgot what he did with some of the silver, and the rumors began circulating… The Rabbi is driving a new BMW… Who paid for his cruise to the Bahamas… How did he manage to buy the two-million-dollar home for his daughter? How can he afford such a grandiose wedding?... Did you see his new kitchen?… Till Moses reminded himself that he used them for hooks on the pillars in the Tabernacle, and the Jews calmed down.

There was another obstacle in the process. There were times—the Midrash tells us—when Moses struggled with understanding G-d’s directions, and G-d had to show him a detailed vision of what He wanted.[3] Once, during the formation of the Menorah, the sages relate, that too did not work. Moses completely gave up and G-d had to make the menorah Himself.

Then the Sanctuary was completed much earlier than expected, and it had to remain idle for three months.[4]

When the time came for the actual erection of the Mishkan, they again ran into a glitch: No one could succeed in lifting the walls. Even collectively, it was impossible. Imagine the anti-climax, the fear that all was in vain. At the end, Moses miraculously lifted the beams alone.

Yet here is the astounding part in all of this:

All of these parts of the story are completely ignored in the biblical text itself! There are a few tantalizing hints, but overall, the story presented in the Torah is one of a holistic, pure, and ideal experience. No glitches, no politics, no accusations, no problems; a perfectly smooth ride.

One wonders how do we reconcile the biblical and oral traditions of the narrative? If the Midrashic traditions are presenting what happened, why are these details ignored in the biblical text? Is the Torah trying to brush over the disturbing truths? Is the Torah teaching us to repress uncomfortable facts; to ignore the real story, to make believe everything is “perfect” when in fact it’s far from it? And if so, why did the Rabbis in the Midrash “ruin the party” and “spill the beans”?

Creation Cover-Ups

This is not the only incident with this birthmark. We find this tendency at least twice more.

The opening of Genesis records eloquently but concisely the facts of creation and it sounds like pretty smooth sailing. “In the beginning, G-d created heaven and earth…” Over the next six days, a universe is formed. The Talmud and the Midrash, however, tell us that even G-d ran into some seemingly unexpected delays and had to make some serious alterations. Each of the six days presented another challenge.

For starters, the Midrash relates[5] that the attribute of Truth opposed creation, and G-d had to cast Truth away in order to create our universe. The sages also relate that G-d attempted to create the world with the quality of Judgment and was forced to retract to Mercy when He saw that the world could not handle it.[6]

Then: He created light on the first day, hoping it would serve all of creation, but it was too great and luminescent and He deemed it useless (and had to stow it away as a reward for only the truly meritorious.)[7]

Next: On the second day, he constructed heaven and separated higher waters from lower waters. According to the Midrash, the lower waters “revolted” and are still weeping about their rejection.[8]

Next: On the third day, G-d designed trees with edible branches, but the trees disobeyed and produced only edible fruit.[9]

Next: On the fourth day, the sun and the moon were created to be equals, the moon complained that “two kings cannot serve with one crown,” and hence the moon was diminished.[10]

Next: On Thursday, G-d created the fish, including the Leviathan. Then, realizing that if the Leviathan would procreate, it would spell the end of the planet, He killed the partner of the Leviathan.[11]

Next: On Friday, when He wished to create man, the angels in heaven complained it would be a fatal mistake.[12] Indeed, shortly after Adam and Eve were created they disobeyed G-d's commandment to refrain from eating the Tree of knowledge.

Can you see a pattern? Not a single day passed without some glitch or crisis. Yet, none of these “glitches” or “issues” are recorded explicitly in the actual biblical text. There it is as smooth a process as can be. How can we make sense of this shocking discrepancy?

Even more perplexing is the fact that following the six days of creation, the Torah sums it all up with these stunning words:

וַיַּרְא אֱלֹהִים אֶת כָּל אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה וְהִנֵּה טוֹב מְאֹד וַיְהִי עֶרֶב וַיְהִי בֹקֶר יוֹם הַשִּׁשִּׁי.

And G-d saw all that He made and it was very good.

Very good? Really? Each day brought another headache, another meltdown, and another crisis. What makes it so good?

The Second Cover Up

The Tanach describes glowingly and in minute detail the materials and construction and dedication of the First Temple built in Jerusalem without the hint of a glitch. Yet the Midrash adds the “problematic” information: During construction, they hit an underground spring that threatened to flood the entire world;[13] then, at what was to be the climactic finale, the entering of the Ark to the Holy-of-Holies, the gates refused to open against all efforts.[14]

According to the Midrash,[15] the entire dedication of the First Holy Temple was heavily delayed because the night before King Solomon married the daughter of Pharaoh and he slept in! It was his mother, Bat Sheba, who had to enter his bedroom, wake him up, and chastise him for oversleeping on the day the Temple was to be dedicated.

We are left with a striking enigma: The biblical text ignores the disturbing details. Then the rabbis come and share with us “the rest of the story.” Why?

What Is Your Story?

The answer is a crucial and profound lesson in life. It captures a basic perspective of Judaism. The Torah is not trying to hide anything (a general pattern in Torah is that it tolerates no cover-ups, for anybody), and that is why the Sages felt comfortable exposing all of the details. Rather, the Torah is telling us that when one develops a proper perspective of his or her life, the problems do not always deserve to be mentioned. Not because they don’t exist, but because they don’t define the story of our lives, and therefore we can decide not to make them part of the narrative.

In each of these three series of events—creation of the universe; construction of the Sanctuary and the Jerusalem Temple—something awesomely cataclysmic and earth-shattering is occurring. The infinite fuses with the finite; the impossible becomes possible, Man meets G-d and G-d meets Man. Out of cosmological emptiness and infinite Divinity, creation develops; something-ness is made out of nothingness. G-d “squeezes” his omnipotence and omnipresence into a Mishkan (sanctuary) of a few square cubits, into a building of stone, into the heart of mortal man.

This, then, is THE story; this is what happened. The bumps on the road, true as they may be, do not constitute the story, not because they didn’t happen, but because they are not what really happened; they should not, they cannot, obscure or even dampen the majestic power and beauty of the events.

The Torah is teaching us how to live. Life is tough. The really important things are even tougher. Raising and support a family requires strength and courage. Building a good marriage is often challenging and difficult. To develop a relationship with G-d may be frustrating and lonely. Many things will not work out as we hoped they would. We face adversity, grief, and loss. There are inevitably times of pain and heartbreak. There are quarrels and squabbles, moments of anger and setbacks. We must confront depression, illness, mental challenges, financial stress, and spiritual confusion.

But we have the choice not to make all of these THE story of our lives. Sure, raising children is challenging, but when you gaze into the loving and trusting eyes of your child—that is THE miracle of existence, not the challenges leading toward that moment. When you connect to your spouse in a truly meaningful way, in a moment of real camaraderie and respect—that is the miracle of love playing itself out in your life. A bad day at work, hours of frustration in running your business, all melt away before the power of something so much greater, so much more real—your growth as a human being and your ability to help others with your money and your experience.

We must look at our lives and ask what is the real story happening here? Is my life a story of hardship and struggle, or am I part of something incredible: I am building a home for G-d; I am constructing a fragment of heaven on planet earth; I am building a Jewish family, a loving marriage; I am helping people; I have the privilege of studying Torah, of spreading Torah, of doing a mitzvah, of inspiring others to light up the world. This is my story; this is my life. The other parts are of course also true and deserve to be acknowledged as such, much as the Midrash acknowledges the other side of the story with creation, the Mishkan and the Temple. I must deal with every challenge and I must attempt to repair it, but I cannot allow it to become THE STORY.

Here we have the origin, thousands of years ago, of what is known today as Narrative Therapy. Each of us has the choice to define and reframe the story of our lives.

When I wake up in the morning, I know that I have fifty things to do today, most of them are not fun; some are difficult and frustrating. But that is not THE story. The real story is captured in the words a Jew says the moment he or she opens his eyes: “Modeh ani lefanecha… shehechezarta bi nishmasi…” I am alive; G-d gave me back my soul for another day. Gevald! How awesome is that? I can now talk to G-d face to face, learn Torah, pray, share my heart and love with another human being, give charity, and become an ambassador for love, light and hope. I can embrace an aching soul, and touch a bleeding heart. Now that’s a life!

Yes, I got to pay my bills, I have to deal with headaches, I need to catch the bank, I have to fix my garage, I need to call my son’s principal, I have to pick up the cleaners, I need to go to the dentist, and I need to pay back the loan, and I was just called to do Jury Duty. But do not let that become the story of your life. Stay focused on the real story – that at every moment you can construct a home for G-d in your corner of the world and bring redemption one step closer.[16]

My Dear Student

At this time of the year, I remember a dear student who passed on on the 18th of Adar, nine years ago. Nadiv Kehaty was only 30 years old when he died. A loving husband, and the father of four young children, his sudden passing left a family and a community in shock.

Nadiv’s very presence made you feel how much possibility life contained if it was filled with laughter, love, and innocence. For Nadiv, all of life consisted of one story: An opportunity to laugh and make others laugh.

A memory: I was a teacher, sitting at my desk in the lecture hall, presenting a Talmud class to 25 students. I was focused, immersed, and serious. But then, suddenly, one student leaped into the classroom, jumped over the tables, and after listening to a few sentences, exclaimed with his genuine giggle and pure selflessness: “Rabbi, you are awesome; I love you!”

This was Nadiv on a regular day. I’d melt away. It was clear that his soul was sent to this world to teach us how to love and laugh.

I love you too, Nadiv. 


[1] Shemos Rabbah 51:6
[2] Ibid.
[3] Shemos Rabbah 52:4
[4] Shemos Rabbah 52:2
[5] Bereishis Rabbah 8:5
[6] Bereishis Rabbah 12:15. Rashi Genesis 1:1
[7] Talmud Chagigah 12a
[8] Tikunei Zohar Tikun 5 (19b).
[9] Rashi Genesis 1:12
[10] Talmud Chulin 60b
[11] Rashi Genesis 1:21
[12] Midrash Tehilim 8:2
[13] Talmud Sukkah 53a
[14] Talmud Shabbos 30a
[15] Bamidbar Rabbah 10:4
[16] My thanks to Rabbi Avraham David Shlomo for his help in preparing this essay.

Please leave your comment below!

  • A

    Alex -1 year ago

    He created light on the first day...

    "He created light on the first day". You know, Bereshit is not a Geology or Science book, so what we call science maybe HaShem call it something else. Light (not the sun) was created on the first day, yes it is strange and I have listened to many interpretations of it but in Physics, Time Can Not Exist Without Time. 😉

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    • A

      Alex -1 year ago

      Sorry, Time Can Not Exist Without Light. 😉

      Reply to this comment.Flag this comment.

  • Anonymous -3 years ago


    Thanks for yuor wonderfull work, Just wondering if there as any source or backing to above concept (quote: It captures a basic perspective of Judaism. The Torah is not trying to hide anything), Its a unique prespective and would like a source,


    Reply to this comment.Flag this comment.

  • M

    Moshe -5 years ago

    On Linkedin I wrote you last week that I wasn't so happy with the essay. 

    Why? I thought about it some more. 

    Humans need to overlook / overcome obstacles and the unexpected exactly as you wrote. Concentrate instead on the long term achievements. 

    But Hashem?

    He had problems in his execution of the 6 days of bereshis?! I don't get it.....

    Reply to this comment.Flag this comment.

    • RY

      Rabbi YY -5 years ago

      Thanks for your question.
      Hashem was teaching US a lesson: Inherent in creation is "chesaron," flaws and voids.
      Of course, Hashem could have ensured that none of these issues come up. But that is the idea of "laasos -- letaken," carving out a path for us, that as we create our world, flaws and voids exist; this is part of being human and living in this world.
      See Sefas Emes Bereishis 1870, where he explains the idea of trying to create world with midas hadin -- in same fashion.

      Reply to this comment.Flag this comment.

  • Anonymous -5 years ago


    Beautiful essay and a timely message in my life. Thanks for your continued guidance and inspiration!


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  • S

    SW -5 years ago

    completely awesome essay with no cover-ups..had me melted in encouragement just when I need it badly 3 weeks before my youngest daughter wedding as a single mom.. BE GEBENCHED!!!

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  • N

    Nechemia -5 years ago

    What is the source for this vort 

    It is moradig, and that was the class interest that is this week. But I would love to know the source for this.

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  • C

    Chaya -5 years ago

    THE STORY is the one you heard from Rav Adin...years ago. It’s time to come home. We have been wandering long enough. It’s the elephant in the room that few are speaking about. As I pack up from my “sabbatical” in Montreal I see how desperately we need to understand that the exile is no longer sustainable. We cannot assume that kosher food and Jewish education for the elite will do it. We must encourage especially the Torah world to mach du Eretz Yisrael because that way you will understand that as much as it is, it is not! Eretz Yisrael must be transformed but it takes each and every one of us being a part of that transformation...because we too will be transformed. In this month of Adar we must be clear about our direction...everyone in their time...but the direction must be unequivocally clear. Shabbat shalom. 

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  • M

    Miriam -6 years ago

    Wonderful! Thank you!

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  • JS

    J Stansky -6 years ago

    Very beautiful message. Thank you. Good shabbos. 

    Be well!

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  • JK

    Joseph Kalimi -6 years ago

    One of the most beautiful essays I have ever read..put tears in my eyes...

    Shabbat Shalom.

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  • RMR

    Rabbi Mordy Rudolph -6 years ago

    This is beautiful. Thank you for sharing. And mazel tov on your simcha!

    Reply to this comment.Flag this comment.

  • CG

    Chaya Gross -6 years ago

    Very well said. We must understand that in every situation is our interpretation that tells the story, rather than the story itself. I used to say 98% attitude and 2% story until recently a friend convinced me that it truly is 100% attitude and I had to concede. WE create our reality with our thoughts. Our Rebbe taught us “think good and it will be good” and so it is! May we be blessed to only think good and see the revelation of good in everything. 

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  • Anonymous -6 years ago

    THANK YOU!!!😁👍


    THANK YOU Rabbi Jacobson!!! You are a LIGHT & an INSPIRATION!!! I REALLY needed to hear this today!!! For those who are prone to berating themselves, instead of acknowledging the OVERALL picture, (me!) your insight enables one to sigh with RELIEF, & REGAIN one's SELF-RESPECT!!! Kudos & GRATITUDE!!!😊❤👍

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  • S

    sara -6 years ago

    A cover up ?

    Another excellent and inspiring essay. Thank you!  As I was reading it, I was reminded of another article or maybe it was one of your shiurs where you talked about the Journey and how important and signigifcatn the Journey is and that G-d wants us to enjoy that Journey as well as the destination.  This essy talks about the end result, the thing that happens after the struggle, the planning, the defeat, the success, the hardships along the way.  So at first I was confused, what is more signgificant, the Journey or the Destination?  The struggle/joy along the way or the "gazing into our child's trusting and loving eyes" (as you put it, or any other joyful moment of success and satisfaction that we are blessed with in our life).

    Then I thought, well, that's Judaism.  LOL.  There is always another side (I guess they say there are 70 sides) to each and every discussion. And so it is with this.  The answer is it's both - The Journey and the Destinatin. This essay and the shiur I heard do not contradict each other at all. And maybe the bigger lesson is that everything is a balance. We need the balance in our lifes. Some days are uch...so challenging, and then some days are so wonderful.  We need both. That is what life is about, at least here in the physwical world and so that is how it is.  

    Thank you for your insights, your guidance, your inspiration. 

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  • CJ

    Cantor Jerry -6 years ago


    Best essay that shows balance between daily struggles and ultimate results.  In It’s recollection of Nadiv it shows the joy, the fire that can light a soul.  Thanks 

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  • T

    Terry -6 years ago

    A cover up of biblical proportions

    A beautifully articulated perspective on the real meaning of our lives.  Thank you, Rabbi Jacobson.

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  • EZ

    Efraim Zaltzman -9 years ago

    Dear Reb YY. u do It again. how profound, insightful and true!!! I'll BEH touch many lives again during my sermon tomorrow. I'm proud to have been ur classmate. keep 'em coming... keep spreadin' the light... buddy

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  • M

    Mendel -9 years ago

    I once heard a vort that in sheshes yimay bereshis every day had something that apparently went awry . considering that hashem is the essesence of perfection how did this happen. However the point is that the general concept of things not going according to the script and the ABILITY to make it work had to be part of the briah – it had to be hard wired into the very essence of this world. Of course the individual episodes each teach different variations of this theme, some of which I think I may understand on a very basic level and some I understand even less.

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  • Z

    Zalman -9 years ago

    Beautiful. i might even remember that incident, and certainly remember many more just like it. i would always laugh so hard when a loud cry would be heard from the center of zal (while everyone was immersed in intense talmudic study): "farbreinngen!" that was nadiv.

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  • SR

    Shlomo Rosenzweig -9 years ago

    Thank you dear Rabbi Jacobson.

    What a beautiful perspective to have on life!

    My dear parents are holocaust survivors who witnessed and experienced the unimaginable.

    Losing their parents and all their family from Poland, they came to Canada all alone.

    They established a family and raised healthy and happy children,grandchildren and great grandchildren.

    Despite all they experienced, they were able to work hard and enjoy the fruit of their labor and nachas from the family they established. They were able to do all this because they too saw the "bigger picture" that

    Rabbi Jacobson so eloquently described.

    Our generation, despite BH being spared what our ancestors endured seem to struggle with life's

    challenges and hardships. We seem to miss looking beyond and seeing the "bigger picture"

    of all the beauty and purpose that life offers us.Establishing families, raising children and living

    life with meaning as our Creator created us for.

    Nadiv, I never met you, yet you have taught us all how to appreciate each other and live a happy

    meaningful life.

    May your family be comforted by the legacy that you have left.

    May we all be comforted by the coming of Moshiach.

    May it be now.

    Reply to this comment.Flag this comment.

  • Z

    Zippora -9 years ago

    Thank you. I really needed this today. I woke up depressed and overwhelmed with everything that's hard and wrong in my life. Thank you for the insights on how to re-frame it. One small mitzvah at a time. Now I can go try and smile again....

    Reply to this comment.Flag this comment.

Essay Vayakhel/Pekudei

Rabbi YY Jacobson
  • March 7, 2024
  • |
  • 27 Adar I 5784
  • |
  • Comment

In the loving memory of my dear and unforgettable student, Nadiv Dovber ben Uzi Kehaty

Dedicated by Menachem Abrams in honor of his dear parents Rabbi Moshe & Dvora Abrams

Class Summary:

In the Torah, the building of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) is presented as a seamless flow of command, collection, and finally, construction. In reality, it was anything but smooth and simple. Moses actually forgot what he did with some of the silver, and the rumors began circulating.

Is the Torah trying to brush over the disturbing truths? Is the Torah teaching us to repress uncomfortable facts; to ignore the real story, to make believe everything is “perfect” when in fact it’s far from it? And if so, why did the Rabbis in the Midrash “ruin the party” and spill the beans?

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