Building Together

Jews... Gathering... To build, and then carry, the ark.

Zev “Will” Gotkin is a GTJ staff writer.  The opinions expressed in this piece belong solely to the author.

Gather the Jews is an organization whose title is rather self-explanatory. Gathering our fellow Jews and enabling them to work together in a spirit of love and brotherhood is actually the key that will unlock the door to the Messianic age for which the Jewish people have long been praying. The era of the Messiah, or Moshiach, will be a time of universal peace among nations in which all peoples will share a common recognition of G-d as the only master of the universe. In the times of Moshicah, G-d’s glory will again be openly revealed within our physical world.[1] We can hasten the coming of Moshiach through working together and building a world ready to receive the Divine Presence. Our combined Parshiyot (Torah readings) of this week, Vayakhel-Pekudei along with the commentary of the Chassidic masters help us to understand this concept.

The four parshiyot, Terumah, Tetzaveh, Vayakhel, and Pekudei are concerned with the construction of the Mishkan (the Sanctuary in which G-d’s presence will dwell among the Jewish people during their travels in the desert). The Lubavitcher Rebbe teaches that these four parshiyot detail a sequence of events leading up to a flow of Divine inspiration to the Jewish people.[2] Parshiyot Terumah and Tetzaveh discuss the fashioning of the Mishkan, its vessels, and the garb to be worn by the priesthood, or Kohanim. In Vayakhel, Moses (Moshe) transmits G-d’s commands dealing with these subjects to the Jewish people who then implement them. Finally, in Parshat Pekudei, G-d’s glory fills the Mishkan (Shemot 40:34).[3] It is an oft-repeated concept in Chassidic philosophy that our Divine service (Torah study and observance of mitzvoth and good deeds) below i.e. in this physical world, leads to a revelation of G-d’s presence from above. Through these four parshiyot we see that the work done by the Jewish people to build a Mishkan was reciprocated with G-d’s emanation of Divine Light from Heaven to earth.[4]

In Parshat Pekudei the Torah tells us that “Betzalel…did all that G-d commanded Moshe” (Shemos 38:22). Rashi explains that Betzalel is singled out here in order to indicate that he was on such a high spiritual level that he could even intuit those instructions G-d gave to Moshe on Mount Sinai that were not taught over to him. The Sfas Emes teaches that Betzalel’s ability to intuit G-d’s will without directly hearing the commandments symbolizes the entire Jewish nation. According to the Sfas Emes, the Jewish people can intuitively sense the will of their Father in Hevaven more than any of the prophets.[5] Or HaChaim makes a similar point and cites the following verse in the Torah as proof: “The Israelites did all that G-d had commanded Moshe” (Shemot 39:32). In this light, the building of the Mishkan is a metaphor for serving G-d. Building the Mishkan united the Jewish people. So too, Jewish people working to help one another in serving G-d through studying Torah and doing mitzvot and good deeds also unifies the Jewish people. “In Torah observance,” Or HaChaim explains, “G-d created a bond to link the entire Jewish people. He showed them that that every Jew can bring merit to his fellow Jews, for the Torah can only be fulfilled by the entire Jewish people working together. If all Jews do what they can, they will bring one another merit.”[6]

Judaism teaches us that our neighbor’s welfare should be just as important to us as our own (See Vayikra 19:18). There are 613 commandments in the Torah, but it is impossible for any one person to fulfill them all. Some of them can only be performed by Kohanim or Leviim. Others can only be done by women and still others can only be performed in the land of Israel. It should bring us comfort that when we each do our job and play our respective roles we bring merit to the entire Jewish people. When we work together in peace and harmony to make this world into a dwelling to receive G-d’s presence we make G-d more willing to reveal Himself and thus, bring G-dliness into the world.[7]

I’ll close this discussion with an inspiring thought from Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev (1740-1809), a sage and mystic who had a passionate love for every Jew. He consistently pleaded with the Master of the Universe to overlook the misdeeds of his fellow Jews, and he was famous for always being able to see the good in others. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak taught that since our current exile was brought about by the hatred that existed among Jews, the only way to bring about the Redemption is through mutual love. This love is only possible when all people unify themselves with G-d, the Root of all unity. He stressed that even admonishment and correction should not be done in order to shame the recipient, but to convince the person how lofty is their soul and how beloved they are by G-d.[8] Through helping, loving, and respecting one another may we finally merit the rebuilding of the Sanctuary and the revelation of G-d’s presence in the world.

[1] era of moshiach

[2] “Studies in the Weekly Parsha” Sh’mos, Y. Nachshoni, Artscroll. 584

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid., 615

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Chassidic Masters. Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan

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