July 12, 2024
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July 12, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

After all the work was put into constructing all the parts toward the assemblage of the Mishkan, the Bnei Yisrael had a serious problem: Rashi, based on the Midrash, writes that the parts were all there and ready to go, but no one was able to actually put all the things together for the final product. The planks were just too heavy for anyone to lift! Moshe asked Hashem: how is it possible for the Mishkan to be assembled by a human being? Hashem told Moshe that he should just make the effort to toil in assembling the Mishkan. Moshe went to work, and miraculously the Mishkan became assembled on its own.

Rabbi Frand brings Rav Meir Rubman, who explained that we can learn a very important insight regarding spirituality from this Midrash. The Midrash teaches us that regardless of the difficulty of the task, we must make the effort. In other areas of endeavor, a person is only given credit for producing. However, when it comes to Judaism, Hashem is not necessarily interested in results; He is interested in the effort.

We live in a world where results are the focus. That’s what everyone chases after, that’s what gets you into the best schools, that’s where the cash flow flows, that’s what gets you places, things and even people. It’s all about the results. Educationally, fiscally and socially, this system may have infiltrated our psychology and the way we begin to view ourselves. And so, the way we begin to learn how to buff ourselves and to feel self-worth is based on our ability to produce. From a young age, minds are molded to think that if you don’t score well on the test, you are an “F”. That stranslates not only into the actual mark being an F, but also that their efforts are an “F”-ert. They learn to think that all the work they put into studying, concentrating, prioritizing what’s important and working hard don’t really matter; it’s all about the end result. Let’s be honest: When was the last time you saw someone pride themselves on how much effort they put into things? Usually it’s us trying to convince people that although they may have not done so well they should feel proud of themselves for the effort they put it. This culture of only caring about the final product and neglecting the efforts that were put in can easily become the way we approach even matters of ruchniut.

In ruchniut, when you do a good deed, that end result is sort of like an extra credit. It’s the cherry on top. Our bechira (free will) essentially takes place in the efforts to get there; that’s where we have the challenge. We’re tested with how much effort we are really going to put into making it happen. The result is like a zechut (merit), somewhat like Hashem gave us a gift. It does not necessarily show who you are as a person. But the effort presents strong indications of who you really are: it shows you are a person who sincerely wants to build a meaningful bond with Hashem. It indicates your level of commitment, what you care about and where your heart truly is. It shows you have courage, moral strength, self-control, diligence and perhaps many other good qualities. Moreover, the effort itself builds you to become a greater person. Hashem cares about the fight, the energy put in, and the determination: how much are you willing to sacrifice to make it happen…

Practically, Moshe Rabbeinu’s efforts in no way were able to get the Mishkan assembled. But he put in the effort anyway. Just like Moshe Rabbeinu put in the effort and was given the result, we too can achieve the results we want even if we think logistically and pragmatically our efforts won’t be able to achieve it. I heard a mashal from Rabbi Ashear (which I’m going to style a bit differently): There was once a king who built a large tower that was a hundred floors high, and he promised a great reward to the person who could climb to the top. Most people could not get past the 40th floor. Some made it to the 50th, some to the 60th, and the strongest of the strong even made it the 80th. But beyond that no one could reach. Lo and behold, one day, the news went out that a man made it to the top. Word spread that there was going to be a large ceremony where the king would fulfill his promise and give him the great reward. On that day the man got up to speak to tell everyone how he did it. He said: “Ladies and gentlemen, let me tell you how I defied all logic and plunged forward to eventually make it to the top. You see, by the time I got to the 80th floor, I realized I would never be able to go another 20. I was huffing, I was puffing, I thought my legs were going to fall off and my heart would explode. But I took a few moments and thought: If the king is telling us to do it, it must be possible, so I am going to go as far as I can. After a few moments of contemplation I then realized that there was a perspective that exceeded what typical logic would dictate: The king just wanted to see what kind of person would go above and beyond his own practical limitations and believe in his own efforts. Sure enough, when I reached the 81st floor there was a little door that led to an elevator that carried me to the top; indeed, I was all the way up. I trusted in the king because I knew deep down his wisdom is far greater than mine and that he simply wants to see how much someone will believe in that. And it was that emotional knowledge that led me to believe that I can strive even farther than what my own limited understanding tells me. With that faith I took off.”

Sometimes we’re presented with a chesed project, sometimes it’s a difficult sugya (topic) in Gemara, sometimes it’s in the area of child-rearing (although I have no practical experience), or whatever matter it may be whether it seems big or small, where we look ahead and tell ourselves, “There’s just no way it’s possible; I just don’t see how I can accomplish such a feat!” It’s in those moments where we need to believe in the importance of solely our efforts and not to get overwhelmed with the less-than-practical belief that it just can’t be done, to firmly understand that Hashem wants us to succeed if we’re involved in the right matters, and that when He sees we are truly doing as much as we can—like that climber in the mashal—He will hopefully be there to carry us the rest of the way.

By Binyamin Benji


Binyamin Benji currently learns in Rabbi Shachter’s kollel at Yeshivas Rabbi Yitzchak Elchanan, and is a semicha candidate there as well. He holds an MSW from Wurzweiler School of Social Work and is the author of the weekly Torah portion in the Sephardic Congregation of Paramus’ newsletter. He can be reached at [email protected].

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