Parashat Terumah describes Hashem’s commands to Moshe regarding the construction of several Kelei HaMikdash. One of these Keilim, vessels, is the Menorah. In describing the command to construct the Menorah, Hashem first commands, “VeAsita Menorat Zahav Tahor,” “You shall make a Menorah of pure gold” (Shemot 25:31). Later, He commands, “UReih VaAseih,” “See and construct [the Menorah]” (25:40). Rashi (25:40 s.v. UReih VaAseih), commenting on both the repetition of this instruction and the use of the verb “see,” explains that Moshe is at first perplexed by the construction of the Menorah, so Hashem shows him a Menorah of fire and tells him to see it. Another command to construct the Menorah, “Tei’aseh HaMenorah,” “The Menorah shall be made” (25:31), seems redundant and is enigmatically written in a passive voice while the other two commands are written in an active voice. Therefore, Rashi (25:31 s.v. Tei’aseh HaMenorah) comments that Moshe is still baffled, so Hashem commands him to throw gold into a fire, and the Menorah will emerge without Moshe actively making it.
This latter Midrash quoted by Rashi is reminiscent of another Midrash. After Moshe confronts him about his role in Cheit HaEigel, Aharon tells Moshe, “VaAshlicheihu VaEish VaYeitzei HaEigel HaZeh,” “I cast [the gold] into the fire, and this calf emerged” (32:24). Aharon does not say he made the calf; he says it emerged on its own. This reading of the Pasuk is confirmed by Rashi (32:4 s.v. Eigel Maseichah), who explains that Aharon casts the gold into the fire, and the calf is made either by sorcerers or by Michah, who uses an inscription of Hashem’s name and a plate that Moshe had used to retrieve Yosef’s body.
Clearly, Chazal are trying to connect the Menorah to the Eigel HaZahav, but why?
One evidently integral aspect of the Menorah is detail; it is one of the most elaborately decorated Keilim in the Beit HaMikdash. The Torah describes the makeup of the Menorah as consisting of twenty-two Geviim (golden goblets), eleven Kaftorim (golden knobs), and nine Perachim (golden flowers). The Torah requires that it be made from one solid block of gold, so that not even the slightest imperfection can be found where two pieces of gold connect. These details are so overwhelming that even after seeing Hashem’s diagram, Moshe remains perplexed, and Hashem has to make the Menorah Himself.
Conversely, Cheit HaEigel seems to stem from a lack of attention to detail. Rashi (32:1 s.v. Ki Vosheish Moshe) writes that Moshe, before going to Har Sinai, tells Bnei Yisrael that he will be there for forty days. Bnei Yisrael think that day counts as the first day, while Moshe says it does not. Therefore, Bnei Yisrael’s count is off by one day. When Moshe does not return after their count of forty days, Bnei Yisrael seek a new leader, and eventually choose the Eigel HaZahav. Rashi words his comment in a very interesting way. He writes, “Amar LaHem ‘LeSof Arba’im Yom Ani Va BeToch Sheish Shaot’ Kisvurim Heim SheOto Yom SheAlah Min HaMinyan Hu VeHu Amar Lahem ‘Sheleimim,’” “He said to them, ‘At the end of forty days, I will come within the first six hours of the day.’ They thought that the day he ascended was part of the count, but he had told them ‘[forty] full [days].’” Rashi directly quotes Moshe omitting the word “Sheleimim,” “full,” from his announcement to Bnei Yisrael, but then later directly quotes Moshe including that word. In doing so, Rashi stresses that Bnei Yisrael’s sin was due to a lack of attention to detail. They heard Moshe make his announcement. They heard the words he said. However, they did not hear one detail. They could almost directly quote Moshe’s announcement, but they could not quote it with the word “Sheleimim.” The lack of attention to this one seemingly innocuous detail leads to one of Bnei Yisrael’s most grievous sins.
Details are the true test of a person’s commitment to anything. On the one hand, when we are forced to do something not agreeable to us, we will often try to complete it in the quickest way possible and overlook as many details as possible. On the other hand, if we possess a true love for something, we will display it by noting its details. An artist makes sure every detail of his artwork is perfect. Similarly, an art aficionado will note every detail of a work of art and attempt to find meaning behind each one.
It is clear that details are key to Avodat Hashem as well. At the time of Cheit HaEigel, Bnei Yisrael have some flaw in their love for Hashem and the Torah. This flaw first manifests itself in their lack of attention to detail in Moshe’s announcement. Eventually, the same flaw develops into an urge to violate one of Hashem’s major commandments and worship another god. In contrast, Moshe has a great love for Hashem’s commandment to build the Menorah. He spends time poring over Hashem’s initial instructions as well as Hashem’s diagram of fire. After realizing that he does not understand all of the Menorah’s details, he could have constructed it anyway. He could have simply ignored the minor details, as someone without a deep love for Hashem would have done. But Moshe does not do this;nstead, he asks for further guidance from Hashem. Since Moshe is unable to make the detailed Menorah himself, Hashem makes it for him, but only after Moshe tries to the best of his ability to understand all the details.
We should follow Moshe’s example in our own Avodat Hashem. Instead of simply performing Mitzvot in the quickest way possible, we should pay attention to the minute details of these Mitzvot. We should note the things that we generally regard as insignificant. Though they may seem unimportant individually, these details are imperative as a whole—they can shape our entire attitude toward Avodat Hashem. By paying attention to details, may we develop a love for those details and for Hashem’s Mitzvot, and merit the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash and the lighting of its Menorah BiMheirah VeYameinu.