Moshe and Aharon came to the Ohel Moed, and they went out and blessed the people.
What berachah did they need at this time? Rashi (citing Toras Kohanim) explains that the people were crestfallen. They had labored hard to build the mishkan to host the Shechinah – and signal thereby that Hashem had forgiven them for the egel. That signal still had not come. So Moshe and Aharon gave them a berachah: “May the pleasantness of my Lord, our G-d, be upon us. Secure for us the works of our hands, and may the fruits of our labor be established.” At first blush, citing this pasuk seems appropriate simply for indicating that they would yet see the success of their handiwork after the required avodah to be performed by Aharon. But there is much more that it communicates. To discover why, we need to go back to Bereishis, and the Chasam Sofer’s explanation of the identity of the mysterious, nameless person – the ish – who guided Yosef to his brothers.
Rashi tells us that the unnamed figure was the angel Gavriel. Why Gavriel? The Chasam Sofer explains that a major part of our quest for perfection involves refining our capacity for chesed. Now, the ability to perform chesed comes easier to us when we have warm feelings for the recipient. Real progress in chesed happens when we have to struggle with our impulses and tendencies – when we need to invoke personal gevurah to be able to perform as chesed dictates. Chesed reaches a stellar level when it is available to all those who seek it from us, even those who have hurt us in the past. This takes enormous inner strength/gevurah.
Such an opportunity presented itself to Yosef when his father sent him alone to check on the welfare of his brothers – who had not tried to hide their hostility to him. He could not have been excited at the task, and if he sensed danger ahead, he would have been correct, as he soon found out. Nonetheless, he accepted with alacrity his father’s request to perform chesed to his brothers in the fields. He found the gevurah within himself to deliver chesed in spades.
Yosef, however, was still a young man, not yet at the peak of his maturity. Because he resolved to do the right thing, Shomayim was willing to offer assistance to him. Gavriel – the angel of gevurah – was sent to offer him an injection of the gevurah that he would need to overcome resistance from his yetzer hora.
This kind of assistance proffered from heaven is commonly available to help people accomplish what they set out to do. It is withheld, however, from tzadikim. They are left by Hashem to fully wage their own internal battles, thereby earning much greater reward.
When Yosef finally revealed himself to his brothers, the Torah reports that Yosef ordered, “‘Remove everyone/every ish before me!’ No one remained with him as Yosef made himself known to his brothers.” This seems obvious. If Yosef commanded it, of course everyone in the court would obey! Explains the Chasam Sofer: The pasuk tells us that the same ish who had given him a boost in his chesed years earlier now absented himself. Gavriel withdrew to allow Yosef to overcome any leanings towards revenge that may have welled up inside him, as he easily could have paid them back for the long years of suffering they had subjected him to. This time, Yosef did it entirely on his own.
Parents act similarly with their children. When children are young, parents are at their side to help them take all their first steps, and to assist them whenever needed. They supply them materially with all their needs. As they grow older, children learn to stand independently, to become self-sustaining and the build families of their own. Some are so successful, that they are able to repay the debt of gratitude to their parents by helping them in their older years. Even when the parents have no real need for this support, it gives them nachas to see their children express their gratitude. Sometimes, the assistance makes a difference, as it frees up monetary resources that they can then use to help their other children who are not as successful.
Hashem acts similarly with us. He is with us at every juncture, providing a bit of extra momentum to our decisions. When we mature, he leaves us to make our choices on our own, without the extra boost. Some people become so spiritually successful that they “pay back” to Him more than the law requires. While we can actually offer nothing to a perfect Being, the attempt brings nachas to Him. Sometimes, the extras that tzadikim do allow Him, kivayachol, to use them to cover deficits and deficiencies in His other children.
This is the essence of the berachah that Moshe and Aharon conferred upon the waiting nation. “May the pleasantness of my Lord, our G-d, be upon us.” Today, we fully need the support of the Shechinah in our midst. We ask that Hashem bring it to the mishkan. “Secure for us the works of our hands.” We do not wish to remain takers. Let us be able to rise to the level when our own, unassisted handiwork can accomplish important things. “May the fruits of our labor be established.” We will not be satisfied with that lofty level. We wish to rise further, to be able through our deeds to firmly establish the heavenly throne, and to add to the pamalia shel maalah.