Parshas Pekudei; Putting Things into Place If one wishes to transport a precious diamond from place A to place B, one does not make a big deal and hire out a security convoy to transport the jewel slowly - this attracts attention and raises chances of theft. Rather, a cunning trick is to personally transport the diamond alone; attention-free and less risk of anyone knowing about the transporting, let alone taking the jewel. This is the parable used by the Ramchal used in explaining that the most important parts in Torah are often hidden in obscure places, where one must search a bit before uncovering the hidden jewels. His example is the listing of the kings at the end of parshas Vayishlach, noting that one king’s death is not recorded, which refers to Moshiach. In our sedra we seem to be faced with a similar example presented by the Ramchal’s parable. The sedra Pekudei can be aptly summarised by the phrase which appears in it several times; ‘just like HaShem commanded Moshe.’ For in it we see all the mishkan vessels and clothes brought to Moshe, the assembling of the mishkan, and the resting of HaShem’s Presence there - as had been forecast in parshas Tetzaveh. In other words, parshas Pekudei sees the mishkan completed, everything went to plan, and nothing occurred out of the ‘ordinary.’ Even shorter; mission accomplished. What is there to take out of parshas Pekudei? Let’s narrow down our question. Each part of the mishkan symbolised a different facet of Jewish life. The aron represents Torah, (see Yoma 72b) the shulchan table represents wealth, the menorah radiating such values outside one’s personal quarters, and the keruvim show the ability to combine excellence between one’s fellow man and between you and HaShem [the pasuk tells us that the keruvim wings faced upwards, yet their faces were looking at each other (37;9); representing these two aspects.] This is the last sedra regarding the making and placing of the mishkan and its contents. What is symbolised here? Let’s pick a part unique to our sedra. There were two parts to the mishkan activities - the making of the various parts, clothes, etc, and the placing them in their correct spot within the mishkan [menorah right, shulchan left, etc], the latter of which occurs in our sedra. It has been said that these correspond to two important aspects in one’s mitzvos / middos (character traits). The first is the internal aspect - the building of mitzvah activities and middos. The second is the external aspect - putting the particular middah or mitzvah into its place in the grand scheme of things. Given that it is the ‘putting into place’ aspect that is unique to our sedra, let’s dwell on its corresponding message - the putting of mitzvos and middos into their place. This idea has many applications, some of which we shall enumerate. Firstly, there is a tendency to disconnect mitzvos from [service of] HaShem; putting mitzvos in their place in this context means simply having an awareness that mitzvos are acts and vehicles for brining one closer to HaShem. As an example of this ‘disconnection’ tendency, a (true) story is told of an American town with a small Jewish community. There was one man known as ‘the tenth man,’ whose job it was to come to shul if nine others showed up to make up the minyan. One snowy day eight people showed up. After waiting for half an hour, the rav told everyone that they should all start davening alone; there would be no minyan today. Finally, after they had already commenced their shmone esrei’s, in strolled a ninth man. One of the eight were so excited that they quickly finished their davening to phone ‘the tenth man,’ to come. The person who called the tenth man was so excited that he went up to one of the congregants, who were still davening, and shouted with glee ‘we’re gonna have a minyan!’ to which the congregant did not respond. After his amidah, this man went up to the excited congregant to apologise for not responding to him and explained that the reason he could not respond was because he was in the middle of his amidah. Responded the excited congregant ‘davening?! Who cares about davening; we’re going to have a minyan!’ An event showing similar ‘disconnection’ occurred to a friend of mine. The halacha states that one is not to take his post-amidah steps back if someone is davening directly behind them, as this ruins the davener’s concentration. My friend was davening the amidah, and the person in front of him (who’d finished), piously not wanting to transgress this halacha of stepping back and disturbing, simply turned his head around and told my friend ‘get a move on!’ The point is that we tend to do mitzvos by rote, forgetting their reasons and not placing them as part of the service of HaShem. In other words, one can do mitzvos without keeping to their spirit and overall goal. This is why Moshe starts by telling the people about fear of HaShem before any individual mitzvos in Devarim, and the messilas yesharim stresses the importance of clarifying one’s overall aim before enumerating individual facets of serving HaShem. This is the one of the reasons the Rambam cites for the institution of muktzeh on Shabbes; that otherwise we would spend our time moving, fixing, and generally busying ourselves with all sorts of articles, and we would completely miss the point of Shabbes; to rest (shabbes 24;12). In short, let’s achieve the letter and the spirit of the law. Another application to placing mitzvos/middos regards realising where they lie in the wider scheme of things vis-à-vis when they infringe upon other mitzvos. This idea was expressed by Rav Shach in a letter regarding the structure/hierarchy of mitzvos and the importance of not taking mitzvos out of their place in the structure. He gives an example of someone who is so enthused about Tefillin that he always wears them; even on Shabbes. Though his enthusiasm is commendable, by not realising the position of the mitzvah Tefillin, he did not realise that one is not supposed to wear tefillin on Shabbes. A major corollary of this is the recognition of the bein adam lachaveiro aspects of mitzvos bein adam lemakom. Rav Shwab avoided davening in a minyan at the back of a plane for it disturbed others, and I’ve been on the receiving end of many a tallis string flung by a devout congregant wrapping themselves with full kavana - and full force unaware that I was within range. It is interesting to note that on the climax of the holiest day of the year, the kohen gadol in the holiest place on earth would say a prayer which was very short, in order not to frighten the people for a short while into thinking that he had died (mishnah yoma 52b). As Rebbi tells us (avos 2;1) ‘the correct path…is that which glorifies HaShem and arouses people’s respect.’ Last is the placing of middos in their grand scale; particularly that one needs a balance of the middos. For example, one should acquire traits of forgivingness and an ability to overlook one’s personal pride, not allow others to trample over you. A great illustration of this is the sefer orchos tzadikkim which breaks down each middah into its positive and negative components, showing that one needs to have some aspects of each midday, even if it is seemingly negative. One is example is pride; that though one should not be full of pride and self-ego to the extent that one wears over-flashy attention-grabbing clothes, one nevertheless must have enough pride to wear respectable, non-stained, clothes. Similarly, it is negative to shout at others, but for chinuch this is sometimes necessary. In summary, please G-D we should develop the ability to emulate both aspects of the mishkan construction in our development; to be able to ‘make’ our mitzvos/middos and to be able to ‘place’ them too, Have a great Shabbes,

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