By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz
The parsha this week begins with the words, “Vayakhel Moshe es kol adas bnei Yisroel.” Moshe descended the mountain the day after Yom Kippur and all of Klal Yisroel flocked to him to hear his message.
There is an immediate lesson here for us, which is relevant throughout the year. The Jewish year, just like Jewish life, is composed of peaks and valleys, moments of joy and times of pain. Every moment has its specific avodah, whether it is a day that is spent entirely in shul or one that is spent eating and drinking. Even on a more routine day, each moment in a Jew’s life is laden with opportunity and meaning. Unfortunately, certain times, such as those that call for more intense avodah may be perceived as more significant than less intense periods.
The reality is, that time that passes will never return, and every moment that arrives is unique.
Mimochoras Yom Kippur is the day following the most exalted twenty-four hours of the year. How can you top that? Any day that follows must be a downer, maybe even a day off, without its own specific recipe for growth.
Our parsha opens on that day, Mimochoras Yom Kippur, when Moshe Rabbeinu gathered the nation. As they stood listening to him, they were once again together, b’achdus, and they merited the Mishkon.
The people flocked to listen to Moshe. They had learned the lesson of the day and understood. Following his return from Har Sinai after the chet ha’Eigel, Moshe called out, “Mi laHashem eilay. Everyone who remains with Hashem come to me.” Only the bnei Levi answered the call. But following their repentance, all the people recognized that just as every moment has its obligation, so does every individual have a mission and they came to hear what it was.
After falling and failing in the mindlessness of the chet ha’Eigel, after having done teshuvah, the enthused, newly-cleansed nation gathered around Moshe, the fountain of direction.
We can now appreciate the power of Moshe Rabbeinu’s message to them.
The parshiyos of Vayakhel and Pekudei conclude the five parshiyos that discuss the construction of the Mishkon and its design. The building of the Mishkon began after Yom Kippur and continued until Rosh Chodesh Nissan.
The work required hundreds of workers and large amounts of material. To facilitate its construction, there was a fundraising campaign, in which everyone participated. When the Mishkon was completed, the festivity lasted twelve days.
Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky points out the incongruity between the effort exerted into building the Mishkon and the original intended duration of its existence. The Bnei Yisroel left Mitzrayim on Pesach and were to travel in the desert until reaching the Promised Land. Had the sin of the meraglim not taken place, they would have entered Eretz Yisroel in a matter of months and would not have wandered in the desert for thirty-nine extra years. Why, then, was so much effort and expense invested in constructing a temporary edifice? Why all the specifics, precise merasurements and exhaustive work?
In fact, they teach us a vital lesson.
Rav Moshe Mordechai Shulsinger of Bnei Brak maintained a written correspondence with many great men. He once commented that when gedolei Torah would respond to his letters during the bein hazemanim period, they would indicate in their letters that it was bein hazemanim. He noted that Rav Elazar Menachem Man Shach, however, had a term all his own. He referred to the intercession as “zeman habeinayim,” or “the in-between zeman.” This, said Rav Moshe Mordechai, was part of the secret of Rav Shach’s growth and leadership. Each moment, each day, had a role and mission. Nothing was temporary or without meaning. The days of relaxation from the frantic yeshiva pace were a zeman of their own.
The Mishkon, epicenter of holiness, repository of Hashem’s presence on this world, defied time. Although the Mishkon would be temporary, its effect would be eternal. While it was only meant to last for several months, it represented the ideal that every day could be spent in the presence of Hashem. No day, or even part of it, should be taken for granted or wasted. Every minute is precious and can generate greatness. We know nothing about which day or which moment in it is most important.
We value rest and relaxation. We know the value of bein hazemanim and a change of pace. Everyone needs to relax in their own way, but there is never off-time.
Rav Boruch Sorotzkin’s wife once shared what she felt was key to her husband’s greatness. Before she and her husband departed Europe on the long escape route that would eventually lead them to Cleveland, Ohio, her father, the Telzer Rov, gave her some advice.
He told her to ensure that even though they would be on the run, moving from place to place, she should do what she could to give each day a sense of permanence and create a feeling of home. The rebbetzin would recount how, during the long journey across Europe to what felt like the end of the earth, she made sure to serve the future rosh yeshiva “breakfast” – whatever meager food there was – on a plate. She understood that by investing the day with a feeling of stability, her husband would follow by learning as if he was back in yeshiva in Telshe.
The rebbetzin said that she felt that her husband shteiged during the multi-year journey in a way that others had not because of her father’s wise directive.
Klal Yisroel, newly-cleansed from the chet ha’Eigel, desirous of a proper relationship with Hashem, appreciated the opportunity to construct a dirah batachtonim. And they knew that in a relationship, there are no off moments. For however long it would stand, they would ensure that the Mishkon would be a place where Hashem would, kevayachol, be comfortable.
They understood that building the Mishkon was an act of teshuvah for their sin and they immediately responded to the appeal. They engaged in a labor of love, determined to begin again with a cleansed slate. It did not matter that the Mishkon was to stand for only a short period of time, for they would take advantage of the opportunity to become closer to Hashem, and in that zechus they would enter Eretz Yisroel and build the permanent Bais Hamikdosh.
They toiled and labored in joy. They understood that even one moment of hashro’as haShechinah was worth everything.
As the Mishkon was completed, Moshe Rabbeinu blessed the Jewish people, stating, “Viyhi noam Hashem Elokeinu aleinu.” Rav Simcha Scheps explained that they were blessed upon the completion of the work and not when they began it, because Moshe knew that there would be an initial burst of enthusiasm for the project. He didn’t have to bless them at the outset. He feared that the initial euphoria would wear off and they wouldn’t be able to maintain the proper spiritual levels to merit the Shechinah remaining among them. It was at the end, with the task completed and the Mishkon erected, that he was able to look on with pride at the lesson his people had learned.
In the great mussar yeshivos, every talmid was infused with an awareness of the greatness inherent in man, referred to as gadlus ha’adam.
Rav Shlomo Freifeld would tell of the time he stayed at a Tel Aviv hotel and was eating breakfast. He noticed a distinguished looking woman enter the hotel dining room and begin looking around, as if for something in particular. After a while, she found it: a vase, holding a single flower. She proudly carried the flower to her table, where she sat down to wait for her husband, who came a few minutes later.
Her husband was the Ponovezher Rov.
Rav Freifeld would say, “When I saw that flower on the table, I understood how the Ponovezher Rov was able to accomplish so much every day of his life and just how much of a partner the rebbetzin was.”
Every day is a gift from Hashem and worthy of expending the effort to construct a Mishkon – a place for Hashem – in our hearts. Every day presents new opportunities to grow, learn and achieve greatness. Every day deserves cleanliness and preparation for Godliness.
The posuk states, “Vayavo’u kol ish asher nesa’o libo” (35:21). Every man “whose heart lifted him” came to work on the construction of the Mishkon.
The Ramban states that none of the people who were engaged in building the Mishkon had learned that trade, nor did they have any previous experience. They were the people who responded to the call of Hashem. Niso’om libom, their hearts lifted them. They were consumed with the desire to fulfill the wish of Hashem. They didn’t say that they weren’t trained for anything that the Mishkon required. They didn’t say that the work was too difficult. They didn’t say, “Leave it for someone else to do.” The Mishkon was built by men of greatness who ignored their shortcomings and pushed themselves to do what they didn’t know they could, to serve Hashem.
Perhaps, in light of our understanding, we can appreciate the lesson. Nothing is random. Our year doesn’t consist of “on-days” and “off-days,” and our nation doesn’t boast capable people and those who are absolved of work. Every day has its special light, shone into it by the Master of us all. Look for something positive in each day and you will find motivation.
They achieved greatness. They brought the Shechinah to this world. They received the brochah of Viyihi Noam and the Mishkon lasted much longer than anyone thought it would. In fact, the Mishkon was never destroyed. It lies in hiding, waiting for the day when we can appreciate our blessings, the potential that lies in each moment, and all join together and summon the inner strength we all possess to put aside differences and work together to reestablish a dirah laHashem batachtonim.
B’Nissan nigalu ubeNissan asidim lehigoel. Nissan is a month of redemption. Redemption of time, of people, and of our nation. If we would all appreciate the gift of time, our personal gifts and the gift of our nation, singular in the world, we would be redeemed.