11 Feb 2016 Humility and Pride in Avodas Hashem
In this week’s parsha, Parshas Terumah, we enter the world of the Mishkan: וְעָשׂוּ לִי, מִקְדָּשׁ וְשָׁכַנְתִּי, בְּתוֹכָם – Make for Me a Sanctuary of holiness, that I may dwell amongst them (Ex.25:8). Our journey to freedom, which began with the physical redemption from Egyptian servitude, and reached its apex with the giving of the Torah at Har Sinai, now continues with the detailed and precise instructions to build the Mishkan, the earthly abode where G-d will, keviyachol, dwell amongst us and within us.
The Mishkan was made of many luxurious materials, which were donated by the people, including: gold, silver, and copper; turquoise, purple and scarlet wool; linen and goats’ hair; filling stones and shoham stones; oil and spices (Ex.25:2-7).
One of the many beautiful materials that was to be used in the construction of the Mishkan was עֹרֹת תְּחָשִׁים, techashim skins (Ex.25:5). What were these techashim skins?
Rashi, quoting the Sages, teaches that the techash was an animal which existed only at that time, and it had many colors. Furthermore, it was an animal that rejoiced and prided itself in its colors (Rashi to Ex.25:5). The hides would be used in the uppermost covering that was spread over the Mishkan.
We can derive a very important lesson from this Rashi. While it is true that there is never a place for gay’vah – unhealthy, boastful pride – in our avodas Hashem, nevertheless, there is a place for recognizing our individual kochos, our strengths and talents, our abilities and Divinely-endowed gifts, and using those gifts and talents appropriately.
The techash was a beautiful multi-colored animal. To be boastful and proud without reason is abhorrent to Hashem and distasteful to fellow man. To be quietly proud of the unique talents Hashem bestows upon us, and to use those talents to serve Hashem and fellow man, is exalted service, for which Hashem rewarded the techash, by using its skins for the upper-most covering of the Mishkan.
We must always be private and humble, quiet and refined. And yet, we must always take healthy pride in recognizing, and utilizing, our own unique strengths as we serve Hashem, the Giver of all.
When R’ Yechezkel Abramsky zt’l eulogized R’ Chaim Soloveitchik zt’l, he related that, “R’ Chaim was a very humble man. He always referred to himself as simply Chaim Soloveitchik when he introduced himself or when he signed letters, never as the Rav of Brisk. Except for on one occasion. He once heard that a certain woman in Brisk had been recently widowed, and was going through a difficult time. R’ Chaim decided to pay her a visit to lift her spirits and give her chizuk and encouragement. When he was still a block away from the woman’s house, he sent his attendant ahead with instructions to tell the woman that ‘Rav Chaim Soloveitchik, the Brisker Rav, the Chief Justice of Brisk is coming!’ To make her feel important, R’ Chaim was willing to forgo his natural modesty and use his full title. Otherwise, never.”
The techash, the colorful and beautiful animal whose hides graced the top of the Mishkan, teaches us that we must always be proud of who we are and what we have. And we must be sure to channel that pride appropriately, while we constantly strive to improve ourselves in our own personal avodas Hashem, so that we may build a sanctuary of holiness wherein He will see fit to dwell.
בברכת חודש טוב ושבת שלום,