Sweat and Tears by Rabbi Sariel Malitzky


As “project Mishkan” was getting underway, the Jewish people began to contribute money along with the many crucial materials needed to build the Mishkan. The Torah lists the items that were to be collected: gold, silver, copper, turquoise, purple and scarlet wool, linen, goats’ hair, skins, wood, oil, spices, and the “Avnei Shoham and Avnei Miluim,” the stones for the eiphod and choshen.

At first glance, the order that the Torah lists these items in are rather simple. They seem to be placed in order of value. Obviously, gold being the most valuable is listed first, followed by silver and copper etc. However, a closer look at the Pasuk is quite revealing. The Ohr Hachaim (25:7) points out that the Avnei Shoham and Avnei Miluuim were the most expensive and valuable of all of the items that were donated for the building of the Mishkan. If so, why are they listed last, it would seem logical for them to be the first items listed?

The Ohr Hachaim offers an answer, which if understood and inculcated in our lives, can have a major impact in our everyday activities. The Gemara in Yoma (65A) writes that these precious stones were brought to the people by the clouds of glory. A Jew would wake up, open his door, and find these precious stones. No work went into acquiring these stones and a person did not have to save money, or even do a stitch of work to obtain these stones. This was not the case with any of the other items that were donated to the Mishkan. For those, one needed to work hard and toil to obtain the gold, silver, and copper. To bring the wool, skins, and wood for the Mishkan, much sweat and toil was required.

The Ohr HaChaim explains that the list is not in order of monetary value. The items instead are arranged according to what is most precious to Hakadosh Baruch Hu. While these stones might have more value in the Mishkan, in Hashem’s eyes, they pale in comparison. Hashem, more than anything else, is looking for our effort; the Avnei Shoham and Avnei Miluuim were effortless donations.

I believe that this answer can help explain another difficulty in this week’s Parashah. The Pasuk states “ViAsita Et HaKirashim LaMishkan Atzei Shitim Omdim” “You shall make the Beams of the Mishkan of shittim wood, standing erect” (26:15). Rashi notes that when describing every other item the Torah does so without the letter Hay before the word. The beam is the only item that is preceded by a Hay. Viasita Et HaKirashim. Rashi explains that Yaakov Avinu knew (presumably through Ruach Hakodesh, divine inspiration) that the Jewish people would be commanded to build a Mishkan in the desert. Therefore, he planted Shittim trees in Egypt, and before passing on, told his children to take these Shittim trees out of Egypt with them to enable Bnei Yisrael to have the Shittim wood for the beams of the Mishkan. Therefore, writes Rashi, the Hay is added to explain that it is these beams, namely the beams that Yaakov Avinu planted for his descendants to use in the Mishkan, that should be used to build the Mishkan.

Rav Shalom Schwadron, in his work on the Parashah, Lev Shalom, asks why was it necessary for Yaakov Avinu to have this prophecy, plant the trees, and have them taken out of Egypt? Why did not Hashem give them to the Jewish people through a miracle, just as he did with so many of the other items? What was so special about the beams?

Rav Shalom explains that the foundation of any edifice is the beams. This was true for the Mishkan as well. As we know, the Mishkan was symbolic of our capacity to achieve holiness in our relationship with Hashem. The foundation of the Mishkan needed to be built by human hands and the Jewish people needed to toil and sweat over the building of the Mishkan. The act of building the Mishkan, especially its foundation, would serve as a model for future generations as how to approach the pursuit of holiness in our relationship with Hashem. We, the Jewish people needed to build this tool of holiness by ourselves. We had lived a life with so much being served to us on a silver platter. Moving forward we need to learn how to build, how to achieve on our own.

This idea of Rav Shalom and the idea of the Ohr Hachaim go hand in hand. Hashem is looking for our actions. He is not looking for that which is most valuable or that which looks best. He is not interested in us taking short cuts in our Avodat Hashem, rather, he is looking for our hard work, our effort, and our sweat and tears.

This is true both in our relationship to Hashem, as well as in our relationship with man. Sometimes, we might be able to cover more ground in our learning by having others help us or by using shortcuts. We can learn from the Ohr Hachaim’s understanding of the order of the contributions, that this is incorrect. Hashem wants our efforts and our toil. Perhaps, this is why the Berachah we recite before learning Torah is not “Lilmod Torah”, to learn the Torah, but rather it is “Laasok Bidivrei Torah” to work or toil in the words of the Torah.

This is true in interpersonal relationships as well. It is nice to buy a parent, spouse, or a child an expensive gift. However, what is often most special in the eye of the receiver, is that which the person does for them. For some it is creativity and effort, while others are more touched by consistent care and sensitivity, all which shows the person how much they are loved.

Finally, we can learn from the message of Rav Shalom, that when we attempt to build Kedushah in our lives, that we do it ourselves. Some people go through their entire lives waiting for the other person or even Hashem to help them out. We each need to strive to build the foundations of our relationships and to enable the Kedushah, that please God we will obtain, to be most meaningful.

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