June 24, 2024
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June 24, 2024
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The construction of the Mishkan was an extremely intricate work, and certainly required the skill of highly qualified craftsmen with a wealth of experience in architecture, design and building. Yet, it wasn’t these professionals who involved themselves in this holy work, but the pasuk in Vayakhel (35:21) says it was those whose “hearts were raised up.” The Ramban clarifies that this is to be taken literally: These people didn’t know an inkling about how to build in general, let alone a structure like the Mishkan, and thus it was one and only one factor that motivated these people to seek involvement: a sincere drive to want to engage in that which is holy.

Practically speaking, a person can be earnestly driven and have his heart raised up to the high heavens, but if one doesn’t have a clue about that certain endeavour, why even try?!

In Parshat Shemot (chapter 3) arises the first open encounter between Hashem and Moshe, where Hashem wants to reveal Himself to Moshe—but Moshe declines! He “covered his face out of fear of looking at Hashem.” The Midrash (Shemot Rabbah, chp. 3) writes that later on (Parshat Ki Tisa, 33:18) Moshe in fact desired to see that same revelation of Hashem, but this time Hashem declined and said, “When I wanted to show you, you covered your face…”

The Etz Yosef explains that the reason why Moshe originally declined was because Moshe felt that he wasn’t experienced, nor learned in the “art” of prophecy. It would seem based on this that the fear Moshe had of looking at Hashem was due to his lack of expertise in this area, some adverse reaction would occur to him. If that’s so, then why wouldn’t Hashem allow Moshe to see His revelation the second time around?

Perhaps we can suggest that although on the one hand Moshe’s fear was legitimate—for after all he wasn’t well versed to experience such a magnitude of spirituality—to see Hashem’s revelation, however, Hashem seemingly believed Moshe nevertheless should have taken this opportunity from the fact that He Himself presented it to Moshe. Moreover, the fact that Hashem later on denied Moshe’s request also seems to indicate that Hashem believed Moshe should have taken on this lofty endeavour. Hence, perhaps Hashem’s turning down of Moshe’s request wasn’t necessarily a punishment of sorts, but rather Hashem sometimes sends moments and golden opportunities that are rarely available, and although we may think we are not yet on that level to take on such an endeavour, Hashem may think otherwise. Yes it’s true, Moshe wasn’t ready yet for he wasn’t experienced in prophecy, but sometimes moments come up that are rare and priceless, and may be a message from Hashem perhaps saying that although you, Moshe, think you’re not ready, I’m nevertheless sending you a chance where you can soar beyond your own expectations. Later on, however, when Moshe retracted, then it was already too late. Those opportunities don’t always come up.

Those amongst Bnei Yisrael with “raised hearts”—those who wanted to fervently serve Hashem and build the Mishkan—were not learned at all in this area. But perhaps they saw Hashem was putting out an opportunity for tremendous spiritual growth and closeness to Him. They weren’t technically ready or capable of taking on this big step, but they saw Hashem was putting it out there, and they grabbed it. Indeed, their hearts were “raised up”—they were motivated to take on this noble undertaking that greatly exceeded their own expectations and self-believed capabilities. Maybe they really couldn’t do it, but at least they could try. Hence, as the Ramban writes, they stepped forward and came to Moshe to ask how they could get to work.

Indeed, the Mishkan—although a physical edifice, is truthfully a representation for the essence of a person (see Rabbeinu Bachya 25:9, and Da’at Torah, Teruma/Tetzaveh), and we know that the Mishkan was for Hashem’s Shechinah to dwell there. Thus, perfecting ourselves through Torah and mussar allows Hashem to “dwell within us”; through this we come close to Hashem. As R’ Friedlander (Sifsei Chaim, Vayakhel) says, the building of the Mishkan is also a metaphor for our personal avodat Hashem. Perhaps then it becomes more clear why Bnei Yisrael took this leap. Even though they were limited in their technical abilities, however, the Mishkan, being a representation of a person’s ascendance and relationship with Hashem allows one to reach beyond what they think grounds them. Yes the general path is to go step-by-step at a healthy pace, but at the same time, the sky is the limit. And there are times in a person’s life where Hashem sends us a boost, but it’s up to us to take them and at least try. Hence, despite knowing nothing about this profession, the “raise hearted’’ nevertheless took this opportunity to jump into something far beyond their grasp.

Pirkei Avot (chp 2) says, “in a situation where there are no people [to lead], try to be that person.” Focusing on the emphasis of “try” to be that person, perhaps we can suggest that although one may acknowledge they aren’t on the level to be that great person, however, if Hashem sends you an opportunity for reaching a greater level, you can nevertheless step forward and “try” to be that guy. You may think it’s not practical, but for all you know this may be a rare moment to soar way above the typical pace you think you can handle.


Binyamin Benji can be reached at [email protected].

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