Torah Fax

Friday, March 19, 2004 - 26 Adar, 5764

Torah Reading:VaYakhel-Pekudei (Exodus 35:1 - 40:38)
Candle Lighting Time: 5:49 PM
Shabbat Ends: 6:50 PM
Shabbat HaChodesh
We Bless the New Month of Nissan 

Voluntary Commandments

After having read for the past few parshahs the details of the construction of the Mishkan, the portable Sanctuary in the desert, we finally read about its completion in this week's double parshah of VaYakhel-Pekudei. And here, once more, the Torah , seems to have made an exception to its general pattern of conciseness, bordering on the cryptic.

In the very end of this week's parshah   the Torah states: "And the Israelites did in accordance with all of that which G‑d commanded Moses, so did they do." One immediately notices the repetition here. If the Torah made it clear that they did "all of that which G‑d commanded Moses, why does the Torah then add, in the very same verse, "so did they do?"

To be sure, the entire story of the construction of the Mishkan has been repeated several times in recent parshahs, however, that repetition has been explained as a sign of how precious the Mishkan was; it symbolized that G‑d was once more willing to dwell in the midst of the Jews, even after they had rebelled against Him by building the golden calf. However, what lesson can there be in reiterating how the Jewish people completed their task?

One might suggest that there are two levels of dedication: The first is the actual labor, the second is the thought and intent. In some areas, what counts is the thought, while in others what is most important is the action, the deed. Here, the Torah informs us that both components were equally significant; that the Jews not only completed all that they were commanded to do in terms of the contributions and the construction of the Mishkan, but moreover, they also invested their thoughts, feelings and intent.

However, the language of the text does not support this interpretation. When the Torah wishes to convey the idea that they put their heart into the project it uses the term "nidvas lev," which means, the intent or generosity of their heart.  In our verse, the text employs the word "doing" which implies action and not thought or intent. This brings us back to square one: Why does the Torah repeat the fact that the Jews did precisely as they were commanded?

If one examines the precise wording of the text, the answer to the question is easily resolved: The text reads that they did as G‑d commanded Moses. This means simply that they acceded to the commandment. It does not necessarily convey that they would have done it had they not been commanded to do it. Hence the Torah continues: "So did they do it." Here the emphasis is on the word "they." They were so dedicated to the project, they would have done it voluntarily - even if Moses had not commanded them.

To explain: The Talmud raises the question as to which is superior? One who does what is right because he was commanded to do it, or one who does something good because one wants to do it, even though they were not commanded to do it. In truth, one can find advantages to both approaches. On the one hand, what one does voluntarily demonstrates their love and passion for the cause. On the other hand one who does what they are obligated to do demonstrates their ability to accept the authority of G‑d even when it goes against one's own grain. Moreover, when there are obligations there are also greater obstacles imposed by one's own "evil impulse" that deter one from fulfilling their duty.

In the building of the Mishkan, the Torah informs us, they had the benefit and virtue of both approaches. On the one hand they were prepared to do anything for G‑d, even if they did not particularly enjoy doing it. In addition, they did it because they truly wanted to do it. And even if they had not been commanded they still would have built the Sanctuary for G‑d.

There are certain aspects of Judaism where that combination is most desirable. One of those areas is the effort to transform the world into a macro-Sanctuary for G‑d (based on the model of the micro-Sanctuary the Jews built in the desert), the ultimate purpose for the creation of the world in the first place. When we will finally succeed in this endeavor that has been in the making for 2,000 years, we will see the fulfillment of all the prophecies concerning the Messianic Age. One could approach this endeavor with either one of the two attitudes: One could do it because we were commanded to do it and one could do it because they want to do it.

From this week's parshah, the message we received was that when it comes to building a home for G‑d, both approaches are necessary. If one only builds the Sanctuary because they were commanded to do so, that would mean that their heart and soul was not a Sanctuary for G‑d. Conversely, if we only did it because we enjoy doing it, then we would, in actuality, only be building a Sanctuary for our own desires and passions, as good as they are, but not for G‑d. The ideal situation is where we build it for G‑d because He told us to do it and then open our hearts and entire beings to the point where our very essence becomes receptive to the Divine presence. 

Moshiach Matters

“The rulership of King David (and his descendants) is eternal. Even during the Exile ‘King David is alive and well’ (See prayer for sanctification of the New Moon). If at times it is not apparent, it is merely because the Davidic leadership is temporarily hidden....” (The Rebbe Rashab, 1917)

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