The Torah generally is as concise as possible. We are taught that there is not one unnecessary word or even letter. Apparently, extra statements or different spellings of words teach great lessons and vital Torah laws. Therefore, one must pay close attention to the second half of the book of Shemot.
Four of the last five parashiyot discuss in great detail the command to build a Mishkan and the utensils that were used in service to Hashem. The clothing of the kohanim — the bigdei kehunah (priestly garments) — also fill page after page of our Holy Book. What makes the situation more puzzling is that the first two parashiyot, Terumah and Tetzaveh, describe the instructions given to Moshe to advise the people what to make and how to make it. The last two parashiyot, Vayakhel and Pekudei, tell of the actual construction in great detail. Why would Hashem’s otherwise concise Torah repeat so many details? Why would He advise of the building of every wall and every utensil and each of the garments? Wouldn’t it be sufficient to state “And the people did exactly as instructed by Moshe”?
Harav Avraham Pam, zt”l, says that there is a basic difference between the sections that command our people to build a House of G-d and the subsequent description of the actual building process. In the former, “v’asitah — you shall make” is used to introduce each commandment. In the latter, the word “va’yaas — and he made” is used to describe the fact that Moshe did make the Mishkan and its utensils and priestly garments. The lesson learned from this minor change is that the planning stage was followed through to reality — the “you shall make” became “and he made.”
Follow-through to completion is rare. So many good projects do not happen at the end of the day. Changes in circumstances, neglect, costs, and a variety of other unexpected circumstances yield a totally different product than the one that was planned for in the initial “idea” stages. “And you shall make” rarely turns out to be “and he made.”
The human being is born in a raw, unfinished state. One’s life’s task is to grow and perfect one’s body and one’s soul in service to our Creator. During the High Holy Days, so many of us feel the motivation and the inspiration to improve. Resolutions are made and self-improvement projects begun, but with most it doesn’t take long to revise and adjust one’s lofty plans into a mundane “same old, same old’’ lifestyle.
Every seven years the Jewish world becomes excited and inspired by the worldwide completion of the study of the Talmud — one two-sided page per day for 2,711 consecutive days. After the massive gatherings held to celebrate and praise the program’s completion, many are inspired to start the seven-year commitment one day at a time. The new devotees flock to many new classes held in every corner of the globe wherever Jews are found. Unfortunately, the rigors of the program and the difficult discipline needed to complete the job decimate the participants in short order.
That is why the Torah expended so many extra verses to indicate the success of Moshe in completing the work exactly as planned. Harav Pam attributes Moshe’s success to the trait of zerizut — alacrity, zeal.
The Mesillat Yesharim explains that this vital trait consists of two elements. Firstly, to begin the mitzvah immediately — not to push it off. Secondly, once started, to stubbornly see it through to fruition. Can you think of a situation where you resolved to do something good and did not accomplish it because you delayed only slightly? Most of us can recall such a situation.
When the Chofetz Chaim realized there was a need for a work that would summarize and codify the decisions of the great commentators on the book of Jewish law, the Shulchan Aruch, he approached a number of distinguished Sages and requested that they undertake the project. All agreed it was necessary, but each found a reason not to commit himself to the task. The Chofetz Chaim reacted by undertaking the 26-year project on his own. The result is the Mishnah Berurah — the modern-day classic on the laws of daily conduct and one of the most widely used books of all of Judaic writings.
As we complete sefer Shemot with these two seemingly repetitious sections — Vayakhel and Pekudei — let us all use the zeal within us to consolidate our enthusiasm for spiritual growth to make sure we can look back and say “and he made”!
Rabbi Raymond Beyda serves in the Sephardic Community in Brooklyn, N.Y. He lectures to audiences all over the world. He has distributed over 500,000 recorded lessons free of charge. He is author of the book 1 Minute With Yourself: A Minute a Day to Self-Improvement, Sephardic Press, 2008.