April 8, 2024
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April 8, 2024
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The previous Rebbe of Lubavitch, Reb Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn once delivered a mind-blowing maamar—complicated and profound, clarifying each person’s experience of that moment in history. Every question was answered perfectly, everything was symmetrically composed and perfectly timed, like the most masterful symphony. Every point was brilliantly referenced, and the chidushim were astounding. The hearts of the assembled chasidim were overwhelmed with emotion having beheld such a Divine epiphany, and they were about to burst into song. Then suddenly the Rebbe abruptly stopped speaking, stood up and unceremoniously walked out of the hall. The chasidim were stunned; there was no signal to start a celebratory nigun, no “post-game show,” no time to bask in the afterglow, nor even a moment of silent contemplation.

Nobody could understand how such a beautiful, revelatory maamar could have been displeasing to the Rebbe. Afterwards, one of the Rebbe’s close attendants asked him what had happened, and the Rebbe replied, “I heard from my father, that when everything flows perfectly and is flawless and comes out without any effort, it’s not a good sign. It lacks blessing. Az es is zu kelekhtik, is nit gut—if everything is ‘perfect’, then it’s not good.”

Our sedra centers around the commandment to build the Mishkan, and details the contributions made toward its construction. These instructions include the parameters for the vessels used in holy service, including the menorah, shulchan, coverings and mizbeach, the copper altar. At the center of the Kodesh haKodashim, the Holy of Holies, sat the Aron:

וְעָשׂוּ אֲרוֹן עֲצֵי שִׁטִּים אַמָּתַיִם וָחֵצִי רְכּוֹ וְאַמָּה וָחֵצִי חְבּוֹ וְאַמָּה וָחֵצִי קֹמָתוֹ׃

They shall make an ark of acacia wood, two and a half cubits long, a cubit and a half wide, and a cubit and a half high….

וְנָתַתָּ אֶל־הָאָרֹן אֵת הָעֵדֻת אֲשֶׁר אֶתֵּן אֵלֶיךָ׃

…And deposit in the Ark [the tablets of] the Testimony which I will give you.

(Shemos, 6 & 16)

Built with Divine inspiration by Betzalel, the Aron represented Hashem’s love for Klal Yisrael. For this spiritual-physical masterpiece, Hashem transmitted a very specific design: 2.5 cubits long, 1.5 cubits wide, and 1.5 cubits high. One might expect that this central vessel of the Mishkan would have measurements that are whole — with complete amos, not halves. After all, תורת ה׳ תמימה, the Torah of Hashem is temimah, complete, it restores the soul” (Tehillim, 19:8). Why all the half measurements?

My family and I have the privilege of being part of the Camp HASC community, the Hebrew Academy for Special Children. For more than fifty years, Camp HASC has served Klal Yisrael as the largest and most comprehensive summer program for individuals of all ages with specialized needs, intellectual and physical disabilities. During the summer and throughout the year, dedicated staff members serve the complex medical, therapeutic, academic, recreational, social and spiritual needs of our campers, providing an unforgettable sleep-away camp experience they deserve, just like their siblings and friends.

With full accessibility and true ahavas Yisrael in action, disabilities disappear, and each individual is seen for who they are and who they can be — they are free of any perceived limitations or handicaps.

The Aron contained two kinds of luchos: the whole Second Tablets, and the shivrei luchos, the fragments of the First Tablets, which were shattered at the foot of Mount Sinai during the Cheit haEgel. The contents of the Aron are a representation and testament to our covenant with Hashem and our kesher with Torah. We belong to Hashem and to His Torah whether we appear broken or whole.

Rav Binyomin Eisenberger, Marah d’Asra of Khal Heichal haTefillah in Boro Park visited camp HASC and shared a thoughtful insight:

Why are the measurements of the Aron half sizes, not whole ones? This is to teach us an important lesson in our lives. We strive to make things appear ‘just right’, shalem, symmetrical and even. However, this perfectionism is itself a manifestation of ga’avah which needs to be expunged. Only the Ribbono Shel Olam is perfect and complete. The avodas Hashem of mortals is by definition, incomplete: “The Torah was not given to angels” (Yoma, 30a).

Regardless of our abilities, regardless of our level of intellectual ease or challenge, we are all perfectly imperfect. Each of us is ‘half’, incomplete, always in-process, ba-derech. We might not “measure up” according to all the world’s standards. And in the end, “No one dies having fulfilled (even) half of his desires” (Midrash Koheles Rabah, 1:32).

The Ark and the Luchos show us how we are to carry Torah within ourselves. Just as the measurements of the Ark are incomplete, and some of the luchos broken, so must we be aware of our ‘incomplete’ nature and the fact that our knowledge is really only a few small ‘fragments’ of the Divine Intellect. As we continue to strive for great levels in our Divine service, may we humbly recognize that no matter how much we learn and accomplish, our avodah is never complete — by design.

“There’s a crack in everything…that’s how the light gets in.”

— Leonard Cohen

Az es is zu kelekhtik, is nit gut — “If everything is ‘perfect’, then it’s not good.”

— The Frierdiker Rebbe


Rav Judah Mischel is executive director of Camp HASC, the Hebrew Academy for Special Children. He is the mashpiah of OU-NCSY, founder of Tzama Nafshi and the author of “Baderech: Along the Path of Teshuva.” Rav Judah lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh with his wife Ora and their family.

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