Torah Fax

Friday, March 7, 2008 - 30 Adar I, 5768

Torah Reading:   Pekudei (Exodus 38:21 - 40-38
Candle Lighting: 5:36 PM 
Shabbat ends: 6:37 PM

Shabbat Chazzak – Shabbat Shekalim – Shabbat Rosh Chodesh

The Real Completion

 

At the end of the Torah's lengthy description of the construction of the Mishkan, the portable Sanctuary in the desert, the Torah provides us with the following summary: "And Moses saw the entire work, and behold, they had done it as G‑d had commanded, so had they done it. And so Moses blessed them."

 

Considering the succinct style of Torah literature, the question that has been raised here is why the Torah repeats itself. First it says, "…they had done it as G‑d had commanded," and then it adds: "so had they done it."

 

Rabbi Yisachar Dov of Belz, one of the Chassidic Masters, explained that there are actually two levels of completing a holy project that represent two mindsets. The average person feels a sense of satisfaction and contentment when they finish a task, especially if they invested their every effort in the project.

 

When a conscientious person undertakes a project for the sake of G‑d and completes it to the best of his or her ability, as proud as they may be for their achievement he or she will invariably feel that his/her efforts were insufficient: They will say to themselves: "I could have done better, and I crave for that opportunity to perfect what I have done." The more we realize the greatness of G‑d for whom we labored, the more we appreciate how inadequate our achievements were.

 

This feeling of inadequacy does not stop there. While it does not cause us to be depressed, it further engenders a sense of yearning to be able to perfect one's work.

 

When we feel how inadequate our best efforts and results were, coupled with a burning desire to do more and better, that is what truly makes our efforts complete. As long as we think we reached the top we have a long way to go. As soon as we realize how far we are no matter how high we climbed we will discover that we have reached the summit.

 

Hence, the Torah reports that the people did everything precisely as they were commanded. But, in addition to their actions that met with Moses' approval, the Torah adds, "so had they done it," to suggest that their desire to please G‑d was so strong that it was as if they did it again.

 

In other words, the more satisfied and complacent we are with our work the further it is from true perfection, for no human being's achievements rate in relation to G‑d who is infinite.

 

However, when we show G‑d how we recognize our inherent limitations and that we truly want to do our best, G‑d ascribes His standard of perfection to our actions. And His standards are, of course, truly without flaw.

 

Rabbi Mendel of Kotzk, the famed Chassidic Master, once remarked: "There is nothing more whole than a broken heart." He was certainly not suggesting that we should be depressed, G‑d forbid. Rather, he was advocating that we never feel that we have invested all of our emotions in the service of G‑d and that we have therefore achieved perfection. Instead, we should sense the inherent limits of even our greatest achievements. And then we truly reach wholeness and completion.

 

This might also add explanation to the Mitzvah of contributing a Half-Shekel to the Temple; the theme of the additional Torah reading this week. The conventional explanation as to why the Torah wants us to give a half a coin rather than a whole one is to impress upon us the need to recognize our oneness with G‑d and with our fellow Jew. Without G‑d and others we cannot build the Sanctuary.

 

In light of the foregoing discussion we might add another insight. It is not enough to finish a project, even with the participation of others, and think that we have finished the project. We must always look for the second half-shekel; the desire to do more to make our work more complete. No matter how much we have expended in the pursuit of building G‑d's Sanctuary, we must always seek to do more; make it more perfect.

 

With this premise we can also better appreciate the paradox we are presently in:

 

On the one hand we are told that we have to be humble; to know our place. We have to realize that we stand on the shoulders of giants who came before us. And, at the same time, we have to realize our own importance as the generation that will put the finishing touches on the process of bringing the Redemption. A Mitzvah, our Sages teach us, is credited to the one who completes the task.

 

How do we reconcile these two opposite feelings? On the one hand we have to know our own limits and stand humbly before the spiritual giants of the past. And on the other hand, we have to recognize our pivotal role in bringing Moshiach and the final Redemption. How could we do both?

 

The answer is that the way we actually complete the task of bringing and end to the exile and ushering in the period of Redemption is to realize that as much as we have done to make the process compete we crave to do it again, this time more perfectly. By never being content with our role as the ones who complete the Sanctuary of the Messianic Age and realizing our inadequacies, this is precisely the way we achieve perfection as it relates to the Redemption.

 

 

Moshiach Matters

 

Just as the Jews in the desert counted the days from the Exodus until they received the Torah at Mt. Sinai, and looked forward to that event with baited breath - so too must we count the years and centuries that we have been in exile and call out to G‑d to bring Moshiach. (The Rebbe, 25 Iyar, 1990)


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