Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Time to Build

Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

Vayakhel and Pekudei conclude the five parshiyos that discuss the construction of the Mishkon.

The Mishkon was constructed over a period of a few months. The project required hundreds of workers and large amounts of material. To facilitate the construction, there was a large fundraising campaign, in which everyone participated. When the Mishkon was completed, a festivity ensued.

Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky points out that for all that effort, the Mishkon was originally intended to stand for a short period of time. The Bnei Yisroel left Mitzrayim on Pesach and were to travel through the Sinai desert and then enter Eretz Yisroel, a short trek. It was the chet hameraglim that caused the Jews to wander in the desert for an extra thirty-nine years. Why, then, was so much effort and expense invested in constructing such a temporary edifice?

After experiencing the joy of Purim and being reminded of our obligation to eradicate Amaleik, we can understand the necessity of the expenditure of time and effort for a building that would last but a few months. Throughout the generations, Amaleik has mocked us, as he seeks to sow doubt about Hashem’s Presence in our lives. Purim celebrates our victory over Haman, the embodiment of Amaleik in his time, and demonstrates for us that we can overcome evil if we unite and raise our level of commitment to Torah and mitzvos.

On Purim, we are b’simcha and seek to be mesameiach others. We meet new people, make new friends, and reconnect with old ones. We are introduced to worthy causes and recruit others to causes we believe in.

We gain an appreciation for what can be accomplished in one day. And then, even after the sun goes down, music plays and people continue to celebrate the miracles and messages of Purim.

We learned last week in Parshas Ki Sisa how the Jews sinned with the Eigel Hazohov. Misled by the Soton, they feared that Moshe Rabbeinu would not return and fashioned a golden image to replace him. The people desired leadership and a Divine relationship, but they were misguided. Following their teshuvah, they were granted their wish, along with the directions of how to construct a place among them where Hashem could be found.

Although the Mishkon would be temporary, its effect would be eternal. While it was meant to last for several months, it represented the ideal that every day could be spent in the presence of Hashem. No day, or even part of it, should be taken for granted or wasted. Every minute is precious and can generate greatness.

Klal Yisroel, newly-cleansed from the chet ha’Eigel and desirous of a proper relationship with Hashem, appreciated the opportunity to construct a dirah batachtonim. They understood that building the Mishkon, and contributing to its construction, was teshuvah for their sin and immediately responded to the appeals. They engaged in a labor of love, determined to begin again. It did not matter that the Mishkon was to be temporary, for they would take advantage of the opportunity to become closer to Hashem and in that zechus enter Eretz Yisroel and build the permanent Bais Hamikdosh.

Alas, that was not meant to be. They sinned again, this time with the meraglim, and didn’t merit entering Eretz Yisroel. Today we suffer from the absence of the Beis Hamikdosh due to internecine hatred and battles.

A story is told about a king who announced his intention to visit a certain town. The locals were excited to finally meet their beloved monarch, and spent weeks cleaning the town and decorating the streets. A special tax was levied on the townspeople and a beautiful gift was purchased for the king.

The great day arrived. Men, women and children lined the streets, waiting for the king’s entourage to appear. After a while, it was visible on the horizon. Everyone craned their necks and saw the magnificent horse-drawn carriage as it made its way toward them.

Finally, the king himself, a tall, handsome man with royal bearing, appeared. He stepped out of the carriage and waved to the people. A special delegation, led by the mayor and local dignitaries, came forth and presented him with the gift.

The king smiled and held up his hand. “I appreciate the gift,” he said, “and in return I am giving this town a year with no taxes. In addition, I will send money to build new roads and a few parks.”

The grateful crowd, overcome with emotion and gratitude, burst into applause. The king beamed at his people and continued on to the next town, leaving behind assurances of relief and assistance.

The next week, a golden carriage pulled up to the town square. Out stepped an impressive looking man, surrounded by guards. There was no delegation to greet him and no crowds lining the streets.

The irate man claimed to be the king. He was aghast that there was no welcoming ceremony for him. The mayor was summoned and hurried to the square to explain to the guest that the king had come the week before. The new visitor explained that he was the king and that the person who had visited must have been an imposter who had taken advantage of the impending royal visit.

The mayor apologized profusely, describing to the king the expensive gift, the parades, and the cheering of the week before. The king was incensed over the insult and issued an edict raising property taxes for the town. Anybody who couldn’t pay would be thrown into jail and charged with treason for dishonoring the king’s wishes.

A local wise man approached and begged for permission to speak. “Honored king,” he said, “last week, an impostor came to town. We gave him an expensive gift and we all came forth to show respect, but we thought it was you. That gift, that parade, that reception, they were all for you, even though you didn’t see them, and they all reflected our feelings for you. Please accept that what we did was our expression of how we feel toward you.”

The king was calmed, as he recognized the truth of the wise man’s words. He offered to give the people a chance to build a monument to him and promised to return for the unvailing ceremony after its completion.

Our forefathers attributed Divine abilities to the golden calf they had fashioned from their own jewelry. Alas, they erred and served an imposter.

The binyan haMishkon presented them with an opportunity to welcome the real King. Newly pardoned, they were given a second chance. The King was coming and they were charged with making the preparations for His arrival.

This time, there would be no mistakes. They labored in joy, thrilled at the opportunity to welcome their beloved and revered King. They understood that even a short period of hashro’as haShechinah was worth everything.

On Purim, we sensed and felt the points of light and holiness that define us. We wished that we could keep those embers aflame longer and merit more of the joy and fulfillment we felt on that one day.

On Purim, we dress differently, as virtual masks cover our faces. When Purim is over and we go back to our regular dress, we find ourselves freshly invigorated with a renewed sense of the abilities we each carry within us.

On Purim, people shlepped with their children from rebbi to rebbi and teacher to teacher, with one eye on the road and the other on their watch. There was so much to accomplish in just a few hours. Yet, special simcha permeated the day.

We should seek to maintain the sense of the opportunities we associate with Purim, the chance to do good, to increase and spread happiness and kedushah. We need to recognize that not only Purim, but every day, is a gift from Hashem and worthy of expending the effort to construct a Mishkon, a place for Hashem, in our hearts. Every day presents new opportunities to grow, learn and achieve greatness.

On Purim, we energetically performed the mitzvos hayom, giving as much as we thought we could, and then, when we thought we were done, we gave a little more. We must learn to stretch our spiritual reserves every day. When we have pushed ourselves to our maximum ability, we will merit the eternal blessings promised to the eternal people. The amount we accomplish from the time we think we have no strength left until we are really depleted is the difference between greatness and also-rans.

The Chazon Ish would learn daily until he only had enough strength remaining to place a pillow under his head. Stories are told and retold of gedolim who would sit at their Gemaros with their feet in buckets of cold water to keep them awake. Last week, we learned that Rav Shmuel Auerbach would learn nightly in the bais medrash until he fell asleep over his seforim.

Greatness means never saying, “What good is it? It’s only for a few minutes, a few days, or a few months.” Greatness means utilizing every opportunity and moment to gain knowledge and grow.

Purim is a day when we put everything else aside and spend our time in revelry and high spirits. To do this, we mask a part of our lives, the things that are disappointing or painful. We subjugate the somber tendencies to the mitzvos of simcha and mishteh. For people who can accomplish this feat, simcha shines from them with a new radiance.

Perhaps, the influence of yayin helps some gain a new perspective on life. They realize that, for at least one day, they can set aside the pressures that sap their attention and energy. And so they smile.

When Purim has ended, we find that we have a new look and a new face. We have a new perspective. You had a great Purim when you are able to maintain that fresh perspective after the yayin has worn off and after the last mishloach manos has been eaten. Keep your priorities straight. Look for the good. Concentrate on the positive.

Sometimes, we need to be reminded to have faith in our convictions. We must have the moral courage to stand up for what we believe. A winner does not bend his beliefs to conform to popular ideas, even if not bending makes him appear to be a loser. The real loser is the one who has no courage, twists with the wind, and has no core beliefs that he is ready to fight and sacrifice for.

Rather than fall prey to apathy, fatalism or self-serving causes, let us remain idealistic, dedicated to the ideals and values of the Torah. Let us remember that elections, political intrigue and world events are veils masking the work of Hashgochah.

The posuk states, “Vayavou kol ish asher nesao libo” (35:21). Every man “whose heart lifted him” came to work on the construction of the Mishkon.

The Ramban writes that none of the people who worked on building the Mishkon had learned that trade, nor did they have any previous experience. Those who built the Mishkon were the people who responded to the call of Hashem. Nosom libom, their hearts lifted them up. They were consumed with the desire to fulfill the wish of Hashem. They didn’t say that they weren’t trained for anything that the Mishkon required. They didn’t say that the work was too difficult. They didn’t say, “Leave it for someone better to do.” The Mishkon was built by men of greatness who ignored their shortcomings and pushed themselves to do what they didn’t know they could, to serve Hashem.

They achieved greatness. They brought the Shechinah here. They received the brochah of “Viyhi noam and the Mishkon lasted much longer than anyone thought it would. In fact, the Mishkon was never destroyed. It lies in hiding, waiting for the day when we can all join together and summon the inner strength we possess to put aside all differences and work together to reestablish a dirah laHashem batachtonim with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu.

Purim is a day of chizuk that resonates in our age. As the story of Megillas Esther progressed, there was no obvious Yad Hashem involved. The people of Shushan read the newspaper and scrolled the news - pun intended - and noted the comings and goings of the various ministers and King Achashveirosh. There was lots of palace intrigue as well, but no one attached any of it to the decree against the Jews.

It was only in hindsight that the people were able to trace everything that transpired and recognize that Hashem had been pulling the strings all along.

In our day, we see things happening that make no sense to us. This president was given no chance at winning the election and he swept the Electoral College into power.

The Israeli prime minister is one of the most respected world leaders. He leads and lectures on vital matters that affect the entire world, yet he is going through the grinder at home. Though he has no obvious replacement, many wonder how much longer he will be able to remain in office. Why go through a mess like this now? Nobody knows.

We see the evil emanating from Iran and North Korea as the world remains silent. We see people starving in Venezuela, turmoil in Germany, and Muslims sweeping across Europe. Nobody does anything about any of this, and nobody seems to even care. Why? Nobody knows.

In our communities and lives, there are ups and downs, occurrences we understand and appreciate and many others that seem to defy logic.

Purim recharges us and reminds us that we are children of Hashem who know that every move here is carried out by Him up there. There is no depression and despondency when we recognize and testify that the Borei is manhig.

Thus, we bring joy to ourselves and salvation to the world. For just as the Mishkon was a reward for the Jews repenting after mistakenly thinking the Eigel would lead them (Rashi 38:21), the realization of the truth in our day and placing our complete faith in Hashem will enable the Bais Hamikdosh to be built and bring about our redemption.

What is stopping us?

Chazak chazak venischazeik.


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