Unless otherwise noted, "This week's Parsha" comprises articles taken from contributors to the Chabad.org website. We show the original author's name here, so that proper attribution is given. For the sake of brevity, footnotes cited in the original author's writings are omitted from this website. If you need to see the citations, please refer to the original articles on the Chabad.org website.
The Task of Leadership
For the Jewish people, past, present and future are inextricably bonded together. The Torah describes details of the service in the Temple which, although it was destroyed two thousand years ago, remains the inner reality of Jewish consciousness. The Temple is in the past, but it will also be in the future. Hence it teaches us about the present.
Part of the Temple service was the fact that every day the High Priest would enter the sacred hall of the Temple, where the lights of the golden Menorah burned. The Torah describes the special clothes he wore. From this we can learn something about the nature of Jewish leadership.
The High Priest was the spiritual representative of the entire Jewish people. On their behalf he entered the Temple, where the presence of G-d was revealed. The Rabbis tell us that his clothes expressed his bond with all other Jews.
Granted gold has some practical applications: in dentistry, conducting electricity and other things we remember as vaguely vital. But that is not gold. That is not gold's worth. That is not why people have been gaga over it for as long as we can remember.
It's not even that it looks so nice. Bronze has its own look that in some settings surpasses gold -- but it has never caught attention like gold. Gold is simply a way of marking stature or status. A phenomenon that has no intrinsic, concrete worth. The story is told that in Stalin's Siberian gold mines the guards didn't check the forced laborers after a day in the mines; even if the prisoners stole, what could they do with gold in Siberia? Against the moldiest bread it held no value.
Once in Thirteen Years
"And these are the laws (Mishpatim) which you shall set before them" (Exodus 21:1)
With the expression "set before them" (rather than "teach them") G-d emphasized that Moses should not merely teach the Torah's laws to the people once, in cursory fashion. The great teacher was to be devoted to his pupils; he was to rehearse the laws again and again until the people became thoroughly familiar with them, as one sets a table before a person about to eat.