Parshas Pekudei/Rosh Chodesh: An Accounting of Time
In this week’s parsha, Parshas Pekudei, the Mishkan is completed. After months of donations by the people and construction overseen by the master craftsmen, Betzalel and Ohaliav, the embroidery, metalwork, woodwork, lapidary work, spice mixing, oil pressing, leather work, and sewing are all done. The Bnei Yisrael bring all that they have made to Moshe, and Moshe saw all the work and behold, they had done it as Hashem had commanded, so had they done, and Moshe blessed them (Shemos 39:43).
With the completion of the Mishkan, Sefer Shemos, also known as Sefer ha’Geula (the Book of Redemption), comes to a close. From a slave nation, once oppressed by the backbreaking labor of Pharaonic Egypt, to a free people with G-d dwelling in their midst, the Book of Shemos takes us from the lowest low to the highest high.
The journey to freedom began back in Parshas Bo, the moment Hashem commanded us regarding the first national mitzvah – Rosh Chodesh.
And Hashem spoke to Moshe and Aharon in the land of Egypt saying: הַחֹדֶשׁ הַזֶּה לָכֶם, רֹאשׁ חֳדָשִׁים: רִאשׁוֹן הוּא לָכֶם, לְחָדְשֵׁי הַשָּׁנָה – This month (Nissan – Rashi) shall be to you the heads of the months; it shall be to you the first month of the months of the year (Shemos 12:1-2). With the gift, blessing, ownership and sanctification of time, the slave nation was ready to become a free people.
And since that very moment when our freedom was bestowed upon us through the gift of time, our nation has been shaped by the passing of time, the ongoing experience with each moment in the here and now, and the anticipation of future moments to come.
Related to our parsha, on the opening pasuk, R’ Moshe Feinstein zt’l teaches: אֵלֶּה פְקוּדֵי הַמִּשְׁכָּן מִשְׁכַּן הָעֵדֻת, אֲשֶׁר פֻּקַּד עַל-פִּי מֹשֶׁה – These are the accountings of the Mishkan, the Mishkan of Testimony, which were counted at the word of Moshe… (Shemos 38:21). “This verse holds a profound lesson that can be applied to every aspect of our lives at every moment of our existence: Just as the artisans had to account for their use of every ounce of material that was donated for the construction of the Mishkan and its furnishings, so too, we must be able to give an accounting for all the bounty with which Hashem has blessed us.
“This includes our time. Do we devote the days and years Hashem allots us to Torah and mitzvos or do we, Heaven forbid, squander them on frivolities? This also pertains to our money and possessions. Not only will we be asked whether we used our resources for tzedakah and helping people, we will be asked if we were careful to use (all of our resources, from time to money to talents) wisely and productively. We should not think that the resources Hashem gives us are ours to use as we desire… Each of us will be called to give an accounting as to whether he had utilized all the abilities and talents Hashem granted him to fulfill Hashem’s will through Torah and mitzvos” (Darash Moshe on the Torah, p.157-158).
If national freedom was bestowed upon us through the gift of time, and the accountings of the materials donated for the construction of the Mishkan reminds us that we will have to give an accounting for our time, it behooves us to ask ourselves: How exactly do we spend our time? Are we involved in matters of importance, are we serving G-d and helping fellow man, are we bettering the lives of those around us, are we enriching our souls through Torah learning and tefilah b’zman, are we involved in tasks for the good of the whole, the good of our families, the good of our very own selves? Are we working for Toras Yisrael, Eretz Yisrael and Knesses Yisrael?
In our day and age, with the tremendous challenges that come along with technology (here we are speaking, not of its benefits, which are admittedly and thankfully, many; but of its dangers, which are admittedly and sadly, many as well), which fosters an entire culture and society of wasting time, this question becomes even more powerful and even more relevant. Are we using our time well, or are the hours passing us by, never to be reclaimed, but somehow, unused and wasted?
R’ Soloveitchik zt’l teaches, “Judaism is very sensitive to the flux of time. G-d’s rendezvous (at Har Sinai) with man occurred at an appointed time. Be ready! This is the command of Judaism. Each moment of conscious existence is a divine gift out of which the summons to the service of G-d emerges. Judaism believes that each person has a fixed place in creation. If I find myself thrust in here and now, it is because G-d thinks that I can act here and now efficiently. If I had been born one hundred years ago or if I would come into this world a century later, my contribution as a servant would be nil. G-d wills me to act right here and now. I anticipate the future with trepidation and anxiety, because it is the time in which I may act and serve. Every fraction of the infinite stream of time become precious” (Chumash Masores HaRav, Shemos, p.163).
In regard to longevity, R’ Aharon Leib Shteinman zt’l once noted, “On the one hand, there is a value to longevity – you can do more mitzvos. On the other hand, you will need to account (in the Eternal World of Truth) for every single second… I always think to myself – what is preferable? A man who lives to an old age and needs to account for every second, or a man who doesn’t and by extension, has less of an account to give?”
As we usher in the month of Adar II, and the yomtov of Purim, let us recall Mordechai’s sage advice to Esther Ha’Malkah: כִּי אִם-הַחֲרֵשׁ תַּחֲרִישִׁי, בָּעֵת הַזֹּאת–רֶוַח וְהַצָּלָה יַעֲמוֹד לַיְּהוּדִים מִמָּקוֹם אַחֵר, וְאַתְּ וּבֵית-אָבִיךְ תֹּאבֵדוּ; וּמִי יוֹדֵעַ–אִם-לְעֵת כָּזֹאת, הִגַּעַתְּ לַמַּלְכוּת – For if you persist in your silence at this time (and do not go to the king to plead for our people), deliverance and salvation will stand for the Jews from another place, and you and your father’s house shall perish, and who knows if for a time like this you have become queen? (Esther 4:14).
May we always be graced with the wisdom to use our time well, as we appreciate the tremendous gift in each moment of our lives.
בברכת חודש טוב ושבת שלום,