Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: Teruma (Exodus 25:1-27:19)

Putting in Your Personal Touch Have you ever put together something from Ikea? Their instructions are a series of pictures without any accompanying explanatory text. It would have been helpful if we had been given even minimal textual prompts, but the decision was made that this is how they are going to instruct their customers, and these instructions seem to work anywhere in the world. What if it was the exact opposite, text with no pictures? Would you be able to follow prompts such as “rotate piece H 45 degrees and insert screw 82 into slot 16” without any picture of what it’s supposed to look like (even a final picture)? For the next few weeks, the weekly Parsha revolve around the construction of the Mishkan, the portable sanctuary the Jews carried during their desert sojourn. There are precise instructions concerning its assembly and something that many of us struggle with when reading the text is, what exactly did this small building look like?  Fortunately, in modern times, we can learn about it with the help of visual aids but how were the original instructions conveyed? Exactly as I show you—the form of the Tabernacle and the form of all its vessels; so, shall you do. (25:9) See and construct according to their form that you are shown on the mountain. (25:40) Moses needed visual cues for how to make the Menorah and other vessels used in the Mishkan.Alshich (16th century Sefat, Israel) suggests that Moses was shown an actual picture of what was supposed to be constructed. However, from a construction perspective, that picture was lacking on two levels. First, the builder would need to copy from a real 3-d model he could hold and feel. Moses was only shown an image. Second, Moses wasn’t the actual builder. He saw the images but then he had to describe to Betzalel (the builder) what he had seen and give instructions. Nevertheless, G-d reassured them that they would be successful as long as they followed the instructions to the best of their ability. Alshich’s idea yields two noteworthy points. First, we know that everything we do is in partnership with the Almighty. Our efforts are important but ultimately, it’s G-d who pulls the strings, and this applies to mitzvot too because even when we put in our best efforts to make sure that we observe a mitzvah properly, we still need HaShem’s help to make it happen. Consider the case of a mourner who planned to get to a minyan ten minutes early, but got stuck in traffic and missed saying Kaddish, or the woman who rushed to visit someone in the hospital during visiting hours only to find out that she got the wrong information and the patient is at a different hospital. Second, despite the many details included in construction of the Mishkan and its ‘furniture,’ Betzalel wasn’t simply cloning a pre-existing model, he was using his own wisdom to interpret the details. With all of the many requirements involved in the construction, Betzalel’s personal touch was seen throughout the Mishkan. If someone else would have been tasked with the construction, there would have been some slightly subtle differences while still conforming to the many halachos that guided its construction. The same is true regarding all mitzvah observance. Consider a Passover Seder. Everyone uses the same text and instructions, yet each family personalizes the Seder in a way that if an outsider, who knew nothing about Pesach, would observe sedarim (seders) from different families, he may not even pick up on some of the parts that they all have in common. These two points really come together in the area of prayer. Over the last few months, our prayers have focused on the situation in Israel. Even though it’s a fixed text, there’s still opportunity to adapt our prayers to the current situation. The goal is that each day, each prayer, we should attempt to customize it in a way that each one is meaningful. And this brings us back to Alshich’s first point. We try our best to daven (pray) with kavanah (intention) knowing that the rest is up to G-d. We have a formula but bring with it our personal touch and then we ask G-d to accept our prayers. We might not have the promise given to Moses and Betzalel, we have no guarantee that if we pray for something we will get it, but we do know that G-d is near to all who call Him, to all who call Him with sincerity… (Tehillim/ Psalms 145:18) Whether one was davening specifically for Louis Har or Fernando Marman (the two hostages that were released this week) or more generally for the hostages to return home, we felt some of that closeness this week.  We continue to call out to HaShem with sincerity and beseech Him to help the hostages come home, protect our soldiers and help them win this war decisively. After that, we trust that He will take care of the rest. 
Good Shabbos