Translating Plans Into Reality

V’asah Betzalel v’Ohaliav v’chol ish chacham lev asher nassan Hashem chochmah u’sevunah ba’heimah ladaas laasos es kol meleches avodas hakodesh l’chol asher tzivahu Hashem (Shemos 36:1)

At first glance, Parashas Vayakhel and Parashas Pekudei appear to be essentially a lengthy repetition of Parashas Terumah and Parashas Tetzaveh, detailing how all of the vessels for the Mishkan and vestments for the Kohanim were crafted and assembled, which is difficult to understand. Chazal teach us that every letter in the Torah contains vital lessons, and the Gemara is replete with legal derivations based on a single seemingly superfluous letter. If so, how could the Torah effectively repeat two entire portions?

Harav Avraham Yaakov Pam, zt”l, explains the need for Parashas Vayakhel and Parashas Pekudei based on one key difference between them and the preceding portions that also discuss these topics. In Parashas Terumah and Parashas Tetzaveh, the operative verb in the discussion of each of the vessels and vestments is v’asisa — you shall make — while in the latter portions it is va’yaas — and he (Betzalel) made.

Rav Pam explains that there are many people who make elaborate plans to build a house or building, but when the time to actually execute those plans arrives, they discover that the project takes far longer and costs far more than anticipated, and when they’re finally done, they often find that the final product bears little resemblance to the original blueprint — as anybody who has ever built a house can testify.

Therefore, in the case of the Mishkan, the Torah stresses that every single detail of this magnificent edifice was carried out kaasher tzivah Hashem es Moshe — exactly as Hashem had commanded Moshe. The concept of following through on one’s plans is so fundamental and such a chiddush (novelty) that the Torah essentially dedicates two entire portions to teach us this idea.

Rav Pam adds that this insight doesn’t only apply to constructing a physical structure. During the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah (10 Days of Repentance) and at other inspiring times throughout the year, we get motivated to make grandiose plans about building our spiritual “houses,” only to unfortunately discover that the end product doesn’t bear any resemblance to our blueprints.

One example Rav Pam gives is that every 7.5 years, there is a gala celebration of the Siyum HaShas, the completion of the entire Talmud by those who participate in the Daf Yomi program of learning one page of Gemara each day. Many people who observe and experience the excitement are moved to accept upon themselves to join in the next cycle, and for the next nine weeks their new undertaking goes relatively smoothly, as the first tractate of the Talmud is Brachos, which discusses many practical laws and interesting stories, and it is relatively easy to understand.

However, Brachos is immediately followed by the far lengthier and more intricate Shabbos, leading Harav Gedaliah Schorr, zt”l, to pithily remark, “Ba Shabbos baa menuchah — when Shabbos comes, it’s time to rest,” which literally refers to the respite we enjoy on the seventh day of the week, but in a play on words, can also refer to aborting one’s Daf Yomi plans when Maseches Shabbos arrives.

The next time we find ourselves inspired to grow in our mitzvah performance and our relationship to Hashem, it is essential to remind ourselves that these plans are an essential prerequisite, but they are only a first step. We must not allow the yetzer hara (evil inclination) to distract us and cause our dreams and aspirations to remain stuck in the planning stage. Only after the plans have been successfully carried out can they truly be considered as accomplishments. Even then, we must not allow ourselves to rest on our laurels, but must remain cognizant that actualizing our objectives is only the first stage, and we must work equally as hard to preserve and maintain our hard-earned achievements.

Q: Rashi explains (35:2) that the Torah preceded the commandment to keep Shabbos to the requirement to build the Mishkan to teach us that its construction doesn’t take precedence over observing Shabbos, and it may only be built during the six days of the week.

If the primary focus of this section is the laws of the Mishkan, why did the Torah repeat the mitzvah of Shabbos at such length to teach this lesson in such a roundabout manner instead of succinctly and directly commanding, “You shall not build the Mishkan on Shabbos”?

Q:The Torah emphasizes (35:21) that the artisans who assisted in the construction of the Mishkan were those whose hearts inspired them. Why was this necessary for their success, and what lesson is it coming to teach us?

A:Harav Dovid Povarsky, zt”l, suggests that had the Torah begun with the laws of the Mishkan and only mentioned the fact that it may not be built on Shabbos at the end, the listener would have briefly thought that the Mishkan may in fact be built on Shabbos until he reached the verse which states otherwise. Even though at that point he would recognize that his assumption was incorrect, every thought leaves an impression, and his temporary view of the lack of severity of working on Shabbos would still leave a psychological impression that could negatively impact his observance of Shabbos in the future.

A: The Ramban explains that due to the enslavement in Egypt, there were no experienced Jewish craftsmen, as they hadn’t been offered the time to learn these skills. Nevertheless, there were Jews who recognized their innate talents and through the inspiration of their hearts volunteered to assist in building the Mishkan, trusting that Hashem would enable them to properly perform His will.

Harav Yerucham Levovitz. zt”l, derives from here that in any endeavor for the sake of Hashem, one who becomes inspired and dedicates himself to a project for the purpose of increasing Hashem’s glory, even if he doesn’t possess the talents and skills necessary for the task, will be blessed with Heavenly assistance and success that he never dreamed possible — something to which this author can certainly attest!

Originally from Kansas City, Rabbi Ozer Alport graduated from Harvard, learned in Mir Yerushalayim for five years, and now lives in Brooklyn, where he learns in Yeshivas Beis Yosef, is the author of the recently-published sefer Parsha Potpourri, and gives weekly shiurim. To send comments to the author or to receive his Divrei Torah weekly, please email