Moshe summoned Betzalel, Oholiav, and every wise-hearted man whose
heart Hashem had given wisdom - everyone whose heart inspired him - to
approach the work; to do it. (36:2)
Numerous verses describe the wisdom of the architects of the Mishkan
(Tabernacle). It refers to them as "wise-hearted," although in reality it
is normally the brain which is considered the seat of wisdom. Here, it
again speaks of their wisdom, only to change course by interjecting "every
man whose heart inspired him." Was it wisdom, or inspiration, that best
described the qualities of those who built the House of Hashem?
Ramban (35:21) comments that in the natural order of things, it's hard to
believe there would have been Jews in the desert who were expert gold
and silversmiths, carpenters, and weavers. After all, as slaves in Egypt,
it was not gold and silver they were working with, but rather bricks and
mortar. Even if there were individuals who had studied these professions
in their youth, their lessons would have by now been long forgotten, and
their delicate hands and fingers permanently harshened by the coarseness
of slavery and its implements.
The materials for the Mishkan - gold, silver, copper, wool, linen, etc. -
are donated unequally by whomever pleased, with one exception; every Jew
had to contribute a half-shekel, from which the sockets, which held the
beams in place, were cast. When Hashem tells Moshe about the half-
shekel requirement, He does so by showing him a coin of fire. Why must
every Jew give exactly a half-shekel, and what is the significance of the
The Ramban notes that while both the builders of the Mishkan and its
benefactors are called "inspired," it is only the builders whose
inspiration is referred to as coming from their hearts. This is because,
he writes, their inspiration - and their "wisdom" - was entirely from
their hearts; they hadn't the faintest idea how to build a Mishkan! They
were not carpenters, smiths, or weavers. Their only qualification was a
burning desire to take part in such a monumental mitzvah. "Hashem wants to
dwell among man - He has asked us to construct for Him a Sanctuary!"
They came to Moshe and confidently declared their readiness to
participate - even though they should have been intimidated by the
daunting and "un-doable" tasks they were being asked to perform.
This, writes Ha'amek Davar, was their wisdom - their "wise-heartedness."
Hashem would not ask us to do something we're incapable of doing, they
reasoned. They jumped into the fray not knowing how things would play
out, and in a most powerful display of "learning on the job," their hands
taught them what to do. They provided the inspiration and burning
desire - Hashem provided the wisdom and mastery.
In every "rags-to-riches" story, writes R' Yerucham Levovitz zt"l (Da'as
Torah p. 348), there is one common denominator: a relentless desire to
succeed where others have failed. Truly great individuals never stop to
think how they are going to achieve their dreams; they dream, they act
on those dreams, and they are never put off by the disparaging
comments of the nay-sayers and dreamslayers of the world. They barely
even hear them.
If one would have reasoned with the Chazon Ish as a young man that it
is impossible in these Torah-impoverished times to be a master of all
areas of Talmudic study and Jewish law; that to write volumes on almost
every topic imaginable is no more than a pipe dream - all of this on top
of building communities, answering halachic queries, and personal
involvement in almost every aspect of Torah Judaism - do you think he
would have payed you heed? Would he have even heard you? If you
would have told R' Moshe Feinstein that it is ridiculous to dream of
finishing Shas 202 times (and more), would he have given up trying?
In the trying days of post-war America, the Bobover Rebbe zt"l made the
decision to rebuild the chassidus that had once been Bobov. Although he
started out with less than a minyan, in his heart he had no doubt that
one day study-halls and Yeshivos would again reverberate with the
sounds of Torah study. One erev Shabbos, as he walked to mikveh (ritual
bath), he voiced his dreams to the young man accompanying him.
"Here," he pointed to a building, "we can build a beis medrash. And over
there can be the cheder. That building will be the Yeshiva - and over
there we can build a girls' school! Oh, by the way," he turned to his
confidante, "do you have a nickel you could lend me for the mikveh?"
None of the Torah giants of the past, from whose waters we drink and
whose words guide our lives, would ever have achieved what they did,
writes R' Yerucham, unless they, like the builders of the Mishkan before
them, dreamed an impossible dream. They raised the bar of human
achievement, and in doing so changed the Torah world forever.
We, likewise, are not only permitted to dream - we are required to do
so! "A person is obligated to say, 'When will my deeds reach the deeds
of my forefathers?!'" (Tanna D'bei Eliyahu Rabbah chapter 25)
We have much to learn, says Shlomo Ha-melech, from the ant. "Go to the
ant, you sluggard; see her ways and grow wise... She prepares her food in
the summer, and stores up her food in the harvest time. How long will you
sleep, O sluggard? When will you arise from your slumber?"
There are many industrious animals and insects. Why does King Solomon
rebuke the sluggard with the ant?
The Midrash (Devarim Rabbah 5:2) remarks that the average ant lives only
six months. In that time it is capable of consuming only 1« grains of
wheat. Yet during her short life span, she amasses as much as she possibly
can - wheat, barley, even beans! In a single nest they once found over 300
cor (14,000 gallons)! Why, asks the Midrash, does she collect so much?
Doesn't she know she is soon to die? "Perhaps," she says, "Hashem will
grant me long life. I'd better be prepared!"
We think we know what we're capable of; we recognize our limitations
and our shortcomings, and we restrict our goals and aspirations
accordingly. Consider this: What others might call "foolhardy," the Torah
refers to as "wise-hearted!" We will never know what hidden gifts
Hashem has waiting for us - unless we jump-in over our heads and push
ourselves further than we think we can go.
The idea of a half-shekel is to recognize that we're only half of the
picture. It's up to us to make the first move, but not to determine the
finishing line. We must do our part, but it must be with the awareness
that the "bottom line" may turn out to be far more lucrative than we ever
imagined. The condition is that the half-shekel must be a fiery one - we
must jump in and give life everything we have and more, like the flame
that constantly jumps to higher and higher extremes (Midrash Moshe).
This is why every Jew had to give the half-shekel, which formed the very
base of the Mishkan - because the potential for greatness lies within
everyone; those who believe it, and act upon it without giving heed to
the "realists" who stand ready to dash every dream and lofty goal, will
achieve things they never imagined possible.
How many individuals were there that finished Shas this week that seven
years ago would never have believed it possible? How many of us are
inspired by their accomplishments, yet reluctant to undertake something
so great, whether Daf Yomi or some other ambitious study program, lest
we fall short. "Your task," say Chazal (Avos 2:16), "is not to finish the
job" - where we ultimately arrive is Hashem's contribution. "But neither
are you free to absolve yourself from trying."
Have a good Shabbos.
***** This week's publication has been sponsored by R' Benzion
Jakubovicz and his family, in honour of the marriage of their daughter,
Bailu, to R' Chazkel Einhorn. May they see much Yiddishe Nachas
from the new couple! ******