Thursday, March 15, 2007

Parshas Vayakhel / Pekudei

וְהַנְּשִׂאִם הֵבִיאוּ--אֵת אַבְנֵי הַשּׁהַם, וְאֵת אַבְנֵי הַמִּלֻּאִים: לָאֵפוֹד, וְלַחשֶׁן.

“And the leaders [of the tribes] brought onyx stones, and stones for setting into the ephod and breastplate.” (Sefer Shemos, 35:27)

Rashi comments on this Pasuk that the Nesiim/leaders had agreed to donate to the Mishkan all that was lacking from the donations of the rest of Klal Yisroel. However, the donations of the rest of the people were so plentiful that there was nothing left for the Nesiim to give, so they brought the items listed in this verse. While the general attitude of filling in wherever needed may be construed as noble, Rashi notes that because they were lax in offering something upfront, their title of “Nesiim” are lacking the Yuds that normally are included in the spelling of this word.

This approach to mitzvos is in stark contrast to the actions of Avraham Avinu, who we are told ran to welcome guests to his tent. The Sforno there says that the zrizus that one shows for a mitzvah is shows how important that mitzvah is to him/her. In the case above, the delay in donating to the Mishkan shows that the Nesiim viewed these donations as less important than they really were; or else, they would’ve donated initially.

There is a verse in Mishlei which basically states that “…a lazy person has a fence of thorns, but those who aren’t lazy have a clear path.” The Metzudas Dovid there says that the fence of thorns is all of the excuses that lazy people use to explain why they don’t take the initiative. However, those who aren’t lazy don’t use these excuses, thus, their path to action is clear. One can easily say, “I’ll pick up the slack from what everyone else doesn’t do”, but that isn’t near as noble as one who doesn’t use any excuses and takes the initiative from the get-go.

I believe that the remedy for such an attitude can also be found in this week’s reading. In the 2nd half of our reading, Parshas Pekudei, the verse tells us that, “Moshe erected the Mishkan”, and then explains that he first put up the base, then the poles, etc etc. The Sforno comments that the ceiling to the Mishkan was also called the Mishkan, so the verse is telling us that Moshe first put up the ceiling, and only then made the base, poles, etc. How could it be possible to make the ceiling to a structure before the foundation? He answers that either people held up the ceiling, or it was a miracle, and R’ Reuvein Feinstein notes that this teaches us that when one is about to undertake a task, it is important that he/she has the goal in mind from the outset. Moshe needed a reminder of what the point of this construction was.

Many of us go through the motions in life, Yiddishkeit, etc, not really knowing where we’re going. We graduate high school, learn in Israel, go to college, and so forth, but where are we headed? What do we want to be? How do we want to act? If we are able to have goals in mind from the outset, we will be less likely to act like the Nesiim, and more likely to act like Avraham Avinu.

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