Torah Fax
Friday, February 28, 2003 - 26 Adar I, 5763

Torah Reading:  VaYakhel (Exodus 35:1 -38:20) - Parshat Shekalim
Candle Lighting Time: 5:27 PM
Shabbat Ends: 6:28 PM

We bless the new month of Adar II

Get Your Self Together

This week's parsha, Vayakhel, "And he gathered," features Moses' instructions to the Jewish people concerning the building of the Mishkan (the portable sanctuary) they would build in the desert. To transmit these instructions, Moses gathered the entire Jewish people together.

The term Vayakhel, however, actually, conveys a deeper meaning then simply a gathering of a large number of people in one location. A kahal is a community, a cohesive group of individuals who cease to be recognized as individuals because they have become one organic whole. Before Moses would teach them about the building of a Temple for G‑d, he had to transform their status into that of a Kahal.

But this fact itself begs an explanation: Why was it necessary to transform the Jewish people into a collective unit before they took on the project of constructing the Mishkan? True, Moses wanted everyone to hear that they were expected to contribute towards this effort, but it did not seem necessary for this objective to have them coalesce into one communal entity. What harm could there have been to the Mishkan project if they were to have retained their status as individuals?

To answer this question it is necessary for us to understand the objective of building the Mishkan. G‑d, obviously, does not need a physical location for Himself. Nor does He want us to simply make a symbolic gesture of our devotion to Him by building a structure that is dedicated to serving Him. What then was the purpose of building the Mishkan?

What G‑d wants of us, is to search for, discover and harness the Divine energy that exists within creation, for the purpose of ultimately revealing the Divine essence of everything that exists. To accomplish this task we were told to build a Sanctuary, a physical location that would express that G‑dly essence in a way that eludes the rest of existence. The ultimate goal, however, was to extend this expression of holiness to every part of the world. In the Torah's words, "You shall make for Me a sanctuary and I will dwell in them." The purpose was not just that G‑d should dwell in "it," the Mishkan. Through the Sanctuary the Divine essence can later be revealed in all of creation, "them."

In order for we as humans to accomplish this task of revealing the Divine in everything by way of constructing a Mishkan, we had to first reveal the Divine essence within ourselves. Our approach to building the Mishkan had to reflect a Divine attitude of selflessness and unity, two of the characteristics we associate only with the Divine. Humans, left to their own devices, will be self-centered. As such there cannot really be true unity and cohesiveness, because each individual's self-oriented life will conflict with someone else's selfish interests. However, because we also possess a Divine soul, humans are capable of finding the Divine element within that allows them to transcend their own existence and to be utterly selfless. And as a consequence, we all have the capacity to merge our own identities with those of the rest of the community, to the point where we become one. In the process of the construction of the Mishkan, thus, it was crucial for the Jews to strip themselves of their selfish, individualistic natures and expose their collective and transcendent Divine nature. 

Human nature makes it hard for an individual to part with his or her possessions. Even when one does so, they will try to retain some measure of authority over that object. For example, if one were to give a car to another person, they will feel compelled to give friendly advice to its new owner as to how they should treat the car. If something were to happen to the car, they would feel worse than if it was never theirs.

Had the Jewish people been asked to contribute to the Mishkan effort merely as individuals, they would have felt that they never really gave anything of their own. There would have been no sacrifice - an expression of the Divine within us that allows us to transcend self - in the act of contributing because they would have always felt that they had not really relinquished total ownership over that object. Moreover, by retaining the individual status of their contribution, they would have always felt a sense of identification with that particular component of the Mishkan to which they contributed. All the other parts and functions to which they did not contribute would have not meant the same to them.

Hence the very "project" that was designed to introduce a divine element into nature would have been thwarted by the less-than-Divine attitude that would have been brought to bear on the construction of the Mishkan. Therefore, Moses had to gather all of the people into one Kahal, one indivisible communal entity that would imbue their G‑dly nature into the Mishkan.

Our preparations for the imminent Messianic Era require no less of an effort to maximize our G‑dly talents than that which was needed when they built the Mishkan. While, as humans, we cannot-nor should we-relinquish our individualist talents and identities-there is a need for us to also reveal that G‑dly capacity to rise above our individual identities and to give of ourselves selflessly. In addition, we have to be able to see ourselves as indivisible parts of the entire Jewish people, as a way of preparing for the ultimate Redemption, a time that is described by the prophet when:  "a great assemblage-kahal-will return." May we see the unfolding of this prophecy imminently!

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, 5th Rebbe of Chabad, 1917)

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