Motive and agenda lie behind all activities that a person performs. One
buys and sells, gives and takes, goes and comes for reasons very often not
known to the person them self. A person may attest to a very selfless
purpose while actually working towards a selfish goal. Training oneself to
be other oriented is part of the maturing process of life.
In our Parashah the Torah states that Moshe did as commanded by Hashem.
This phrase is repeated with each of the many varied tasks necessary for
the construction of the Tabernacle, tailoring of the garments for the
Kohanim and the performance of the service of offerings in the new House
of G-d. It could have been mentioned once and we would understand the
loyalty of our leader to the commands of Hashem Our Sages learn different
lessons from every extra letter of our holy book and this repetitious
phrase is no exception.
Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman hy'd, who was killed by the Nazis in WWII, would
say: "What is the difference between previous generations and our
generation? In our times a person cannot speak about anything he does
without injecting a hint of ego into the conversation. In earlier periods
it was quite different. When a person spoke about oneself the listener had
difficulty discerning about whom the person was talking and did not sense
that he was praising himself. In the parashah the Torah says "And Moshe
did ... as Hashem commanded Moshe". Why doesn't it say, "As Hashem
commanded him"? Answered Rav Elchonon "It is as if Moshe was standing on
the side describing the virtues and good deeds of another person - not
himself.” It was", he explained, "as if G-d was using a certain Jew named
Moshe to accomplish His holy mission. It was as if Moshe himself had no
subjective gain in the matter."
It was said about Rav Elchonon that he did not ever take credit or brag
about his accomplishments in Torah and good deeds. His attitude was that a
person is a soldier in the army of Hashem and must do his job faithfully
without any self interest at all. One must remove oneself from the picture
as if there was another filling the role for which he was chosen.
One time he visited the home of the Mashgiah [spiritual mentor to the
students of a Yeshivah] who was very ill. The Mashgiah's wife commented to
Rav Elchonon that the Mashgiah kept saying that the young men of the
institution of learning were doing "too much" on his behalf.
"For himself he can say they may not serve him", retorted Rav Elchonon,
but for THEIR MASHGIAH the boys must work and serve and do all that they
can to bring him back to good health. Even the Mashgiah must be concerned
that the Mashgiah get well. After all - the Yeshivah does need a Mashgiah.”
Learning to work l’shem shamayim – for the sake of Heaven – requires one
to learn to remove self-interest from one’s primary motivations. One must
learn to speak about one’s accomplishments as if another did them. It is
not matter of I did it but one of I was chosen to do it.