1) THE WISDOM OF BETZALEL
QUESTIONS: The Gemara relates that when Moshe Rabeinu reversed the order for the building of the Mishkan and its vessels, Betzalel immediately corrected him. "If I build the Aron first," he said, "then where will we put it until the Mishkan is built?" (see also Rashi to Shemos 38:22).
There are a number of obvious questions on this Gemara:
(a) Why did Moshe Rabeinu reverse the order of Hash-m's commandments? (PNEI YEHOSHUA)
(b) Even if Betzalel built the Mishkan first, did he really keep the Aron there? The Mishkan was not actually erected until Rosh Chodesh Nisan (Shemos 40:1, and Rashi to Shemos 39:33), while the Aron (and the rest of the Mishkan) was built and ready for use by the previous Chanukah, according to the Midrash. Where, then, did he keep the Aron until Nisan? (PNEI YEHOSHUA, MELO HA'RO'IM)
(c) It seems clear from the verses that Hash-m Himself told Moshe Rabeinu to build an Aron before constructing the Mishkan (Shemos 25:10 et seq.)! Why, then, does the Gemara say that Moshe Rabeinu reversed the order of the directives?
(d) The Midrash (Shemos Rabah 50:2 and other places) relates an entirely different account. According to the Midrash, Hash-m told Betzalel to make a Mishkan and then its vessels (Shemos 31:7), while Betzalel protested that it would not be respectful to delay the building of the Aron; due to its inherent sanctity, the Aron should be built first! (MAHARZU and others)
ANSWER: It may be suggested that there were two stages to the completion of the Mishkan. The first stage involved the fabrication of the Mishkan and its contents from raw materials. The second stage involved the erection of the Mishkan after all of its contents were already constructed. (This second stage repeated itself every time the Jews traveled in the Midbar and dismantled and reassembled the Mishkan.)
In the first stage, the Aron, due to its sanctity, preceded the Mishkan as Hash-m commanded Moshe Rabeinu in Terumah. (Since the Aron was the primary part of the Mishkan, it had to be prepared first.) This is what Moshe Rabeinu meant when he instructed Betzalel to commence the construction with the building of the Aron. However, each time the Mishkan was erected and the Shechinah rested upon it, the Mishkan preceded the Aron. The Aron was not first put into place and then the Mishkan erected around it, but rather the Mishkan was erected and only then was the Aron moved into it. For this reason, Hash-m mentioned the Mishkan first in Parshas Ki Sisa (Shemos 31:7).
When Betzalel heard from Moshe Rabeinu that he was to begin the construction with the Aron, he realized that when it would come time to erect the Mishkan, the Mishkan would have to precede the Aron since, in the spirit of modesty, it would not be proper for Hash-m to rest His Presence upon the Keruvim in the open without being enclosed by the Mishkan, as the verse states, "Hash-m rests His presence in the shade (b'Tzel)" (Tehilim 91:1). This is the intention of the Gemara that says that when Moshe Rabeinu heard Betzalel's observation he exclaimed, "Have you then witnessed the shade (Tzel) of Hash-m?"
The Midrash that says that Hash-m told Betzalel to build the Mishkan before the Aron refers to the erection of the Mishkan. Betzalel realized why Moshe Rabeinu ordered that the construction of the Aron precede the construction of the Mishkan; it was only appropriate to begin with the preparation of the most valuable part of the Mishkan (i.e. the Aron). (M. KORNFELD)
2) THE REMEDY FOR "AYIN HA'RA"
QUESTION: The Gemara says that in order to avoid receiving or giving Ayin ha'Ra, one should hold his thumbs in the opposite hands, or gaze at his own nostril. What is Ayin ha'Ra, and how does one avoid it by holding his thumbs or staring at his nostril?
ANSWER: One should not arouse the jealousy of others by flaunting the possessions he has which they do not have. If he does so, he may cause Hash-m to take the object away from him and to give it to the others instead (as Rava said, "Let my enemies rejoice in my lack of good health, so that Hash-m will bring an end to my suffering because of their mocking").
The Gemara explains that the procedure for stopping Ayin ha'Ra from affecting oneself is to hold two thumbs in opposite hands, as if to say, "I am not prideful of my skill at amassing material possessions (or health, handsomeness, etc.). Rather, I have been blessed with a portion from Hash-m that was never meant for anybody else. I therefore have nothing to show off."
To prevent accidentally giving an Ayin ha'Ra to others, one should look down at his left nostril, as if to say that he is looking only at his own belongings and he does not even notice the belongings of others. He should look at his nostril, because that is the closest part of his body that he can see. He should look at his left nostril, because the left side represents material wealth and honor, as the verse says, "Length of days is to its right, to its left is wealth and honor" (Mishlei 3:16). (M. KORNFELD)