Established from Above

parashas Vayakhel-Pekudei 5781

Upon completing the monumental task of building all of the various components of the Mishkan (portable tabernacle in the desert), the artisans and craftsmen brought everything to Moses, who responded with the appropriate enthusiasm of the leader of B’nei Yisrael (the Children of Israel). “And when Moses saw that they had performed all the tasks—as the L-RD had commanded, so they had done—Moses blessed them” (Exodus 39:43, NJPS).

The Israelites had done all that was commanded of them; so, of course, they deserved a blessing. Yet, what does a blessing in and of itself constitute, especially for such an enormous amount of work that was done willingly, as a free gift offering by they who committed themselves to the task?

In the modern world, remuneration for services rendered is the norm amongst those who work for a living; and, often we value even our very selves, based upon our profession, and our ability to provide for ourselves and our families. Yet, anyone, including myself, who has worked as a volunteer for some cause knows the reward for doing so; and, to feel a part of a greater whole, for the sole sake of contributing to a good cause is an invaluable estimation of one’s time and effort in the endeavor.

Even so, the greater picture concerns our contribution to the expectations of G-d for the sake of others, as well as ourselves. There is no remuneration that can be measured in terms that would assess the benefits that the soul receives for having been part of G-d’s master plan; for He is the great architect of our lives, as well as the end goal of all human endeavors that are in alignment with His divine blueprint for the world.

The  Mishkan was constructed for the sake of providing a place where G-d’s presence would rest amongst His people. The project required a coordinated effort from the people to build something of lasting value for the sake of maintaining a connection with G-d. We would also do well to consider, that whatever we do will only be established through the blessings of G-d in our lives, whether we realize the nature of those blessings or not. The more we contribute to worthy endeavors that will be approved in His eyes, the greater will be our security. When we place our trust in Him, He will guide us in the right endeavors. “Except the L-RD build the house, they labour in vain that build it” (Psalm 127:1, JPS).

“Let the graciousness of the L-rd our G-d be upon us; establish Thou also upon us the work of our hands; yea, the work of our hands establish Thou it.”

– Psalm 90:17, JPS 1917 Tanach

parashas afterthought: Shelach 5780

B”H shiur for motzei Shabbos parashas Shelach 5780 “Of the first of your dough ye shall give unto the L-RD a portion for a gift throughout your generations” (Numbers 15:21, JPS 1917 Tanach). The commandment, regarding the requirement to first take from the dough being used to make bread for personal consumption, and give a […]

parashas afterthought: Shelach 5780 — The Tree of Life

parashas Vayishlach 5780 – Diminished Merit

B”H

Shiur for parashas Vayislach 5780

“Jacob sent messengers (malachim).”

– Genesis 32:4

According to Sforno, Jacob sent messengers, in order to find out Esau’s state of mind concerning him (Sforno, sefaria.org). Jacob had spent twenty years working for his Uncle Laban; now, Jacob was returning to his native land, as stated in Genesis 31:13. He was concerned that Esau may have been still harboring resentment towards him, for having acquired both the birthright and their father’s blessing for the firstborn. When the servants that Jacob sent ahead as messengers returned, they reported that Esau was approaching with four hundred men.

Rather than confront Esau, his brother, in battle, Jacob chose to send gifts to him, as part of a three-fold strategy. He hoped to appease Esau’s anger, by way of sending droves of animals ahead to him, through his servants. He also divided his entourage into two camps, placing his servants first, and then his family, so that if the first camp was attacked, the second could escape. Additionally, he prayed to H’Shem, asking Him for reassurance that he would be delivered from the hands of his brother, Esau.

When Jacob prayed to H’Shem, he said of himself, “I am not worthy of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which Thou hast shown Thy servant” (Genesis 32:11, JPS). According to Rashi, he felt as if his merit was diminished, perhaps, because of some sin that he had committed, so that he could not presume to think that H’Shem would deliver him from the hands of Esau (Shabbat 32a). Nachmanides comments that he “didn’t rely on his righteousness;” rather, “he made every effort to save himself” (Ramban, sefaria.org). Because he felt unworthy, he took practical measures on his own, in order to avoid a deadly confrontation with Esau.

In like manner, it is best not to feel entitled to H’Shem’s blessings in our lives. Instead, we should learn from Jacob, by prevailng upon H’Shem’s gadol chesed, the greatness of His kindness (Sforno, sefaria.org), while also making an effort on our own to overcome our challenges in life. In this manner, we reflect the Talmudic saying in our lives: “if you make an effort, H’Shem will meet you halfway” (Nedarim 39). As is elsewhere written, “And to him that ordereth his way aright will I show the salvation of G-d” (Psalm 50:23, JPS 1917 Tanach).