Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Pkudei
To dedicate this lesson

Vayakhel – Pekudel


Rabbi Berel Wein

The Torah reviews for us once again the details of the construction of the mishkan/Tabernacle. In this review the Torah points out that the work was done by volunteers, people whose hearts and intuition brought them to do the actual work. And as Rabbi Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin points out that these were not trained artisans that were the volunteers to build the mishkan/Tabernacle. They were rather people who had a vision of the holy building in their minds and hearts and who were willing to sacrifice for the cause their hands and minds and time. Of course they had to have talent to do their jobs. But it was not so much a contest to find the best carpenter or goldsmith but it was rather a call for people whose hearts would bring them to do the work. The volunteers were to be people who were aware that they were involved in building a spiritual structure and just a physical building. This is true regarding all tasks of holiness and eternity. Teachers have a job but it is not just a job. There is a commitment to the student and his or her future and to the importance and holiness of the subject matter being taught. The Talmud states that teachers who do not have this attitude and commitment are guilty of doing God’s work in a fraudulent fashion. Volunteerism, commitment, holy attitude and soaring vision are all necessary to complete a holy building. One’s heart must accompany one’s hands.

This message is not to be construed as allowing a novice with good and holy intentions to practice as a brain surgeon. There is a famous Jewish story about a young rabbi who had just come to town and with great enthusiasm set for himself the task of constructing a mikvah/ritualarium. Not having architectural instructions and plans or previous construction experience he nevertheless set himself to the task with great commitment and enthusiasm. The source of his expertise in the construction of the building was his study and understanding of the mishnayot of tractate Mikvaot. After a short period of time the building rose and was completed. After another period of time the building suddenly collapsed. When the townspeople came to inform the rabbi of the collapse of the building he mused and said to them: "Tosafot, the later commentary to Mishna and Talmud, truly raises an objection to the conclusion of that mishna!" The Mishkan was built by talented people. But in the Jewish world talent without commitment is eventually of little value just as commitment without talent is not the way to build buildings or teach children. The Torah always deals in practical human terms. But having commitment, vision and a holy attitude is a practical requirement not a soaring spiritual achievement. This lesson of the Torah applies to all areas of life - marriage, children, professions, and human projects, etc. One has to always see the larger picture, the vision that lies behind all of the apparently smaller things in life. And perhaps that is the most important and relevant lesson that the parsha has to teach us.
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