Parshas Pekudei – The Benefit of the Work of Our Hands

In the second of this week’s parshios, Parshas Pekudei, after many months of a labor of love, the Mishkan is finally erected.  The promise of וְעָשׂוּ לִי, מִקְדָּשׁ; וְשָׁכַנְתִּי בְּתוֹכָם, and You shall make for Me a Sanctuary, so that I will dwell amongst them (Shemos 25:8) has come to fruition.  After the Mishkan was put up by Moshe on the first of Nissan, in the second year from Yetzias Mitzrayim, the pasuk tells us: וַיְכַס הֶעָנָן, אֶת-אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד; וּכְבוֹד ה’ מָלֵא אֶת-הַמִּשְׁכָּן, and the Cloud (of the Shechina) covered the Tent of Meeting, and the Glory of G-d filled the Mishkan (Shemos 40:34).   The process of redemption that began with our physical redemption from Egypt (Shemos, Va’era, Bo, Beshalach) is now complete with our spiritual redemption, as a nation of Torah (Yisro, Mishpatim) wherein G-d chooses to dwell (Terumah – Pekudei).

Not for naught is Sefer Shemos known as “Sefer Ha’Geula” – the Book of Redemption, for the entire book tells the process of redemption from beginning to end.      

Prior to the assembly of the Mishkan, the people brought all the parts of the Mishkan, along with its keilim (vessels), to Moshe.  The pasuk tells us: וַיַּרְא מֹשֶׁה אֶת-כָּל-הַמְּלָאכָה, וְהִנֵּה עָשׂוּ אֹתָהּ כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוָּה ה’ כֵּן עָשׂוּ וַיְבָרֶךְ אֹתָם, מֹשֶׁה – and Moshe saw all the work, and behold, they had done it as Hashem had commanded, so had they done, and Moshe blessed them (39:43).

What was the blessing that he bestowed upon the people?  Rashi (ibid) teaches: 

ויברך אתם משה. אָמַר לָהֶם יְהִי רָצוֹן שֶׁתִּשְׁרֶה שְׁכִינָה בְמַעֲשֵׂה יְדֵיכֶם, וִיהִי נֹעַם ה’ אלקינו עָלֵינוּ וְגוֹ And Moshe blessed them, and he said: May the Shechina rest in the work of your hands, and may the pleasantness of the L-rd our G-d be upon us, and may the work of our hands establish for us, and may the work of our hands establish it (Tehillim 90:17). 

HaRav Avrohom Yaakov Pam (1913-2001, Rosh Yeshiva Yeshivas Torah Vodaas, Brooklyn, New York) zt’l notes a powerful insight of the Malbim regarding the bracha that Moshe gave the nation.

“The Malbim (in his commentary to Tehillim) offers a penetrating insight.  When a person designs and builds a magnificent edifice, he has changed the landscape and added beauty and splendor to the place or neighborhood where the building is situated.  However, the person himself is unchanged; he remains the same base personality that he was before he built the building.  If anything (he may have changed in a negative sense, because), his ego may be more inflated now than it was before, as he enjoys the prestige and honor this achievement brings him.

“But when a person reaches a milestone in Torah study, he is, in essence, a different person.  He had added a new dimension of spiritual depth and breadth to his neshama (his soul), which he will carry with him for the rest of his life.  

“This is what the bracha of Moshe to the people, upon completion of the work of the Mishkan,  stresses: may our handiwork be עָלֵינוּ – upon us, that is: may our work improve us spiritually.

“There is another insight in Moshe’s bracha, שֶׁתִּשְׁרֶה שְׁכִינָה בְמַעֲשֵׂה יְדֵיכֶם, may the Shechina rest upon the work of your hands.  It is obvious that the Shechina will rest upon the Mishkan and its vessels.  An entity enveloped in such intense holiness is a welcome receptacle for Hashem’s presence!  But Moshe was alluding to a far more difficult task – that the Shechina rest on the work of one’s hands – on his farm and field, on his business or profession, that place where a person spends the bulk of his working hours.  That is a much greater accomplishment!  

“When one earns his livelihood in an honest, legitimate manner according to the guidelines of the Shulchan Aruch and builds his home with funds acquired honestly, the Shechinah feels comfortable (so to speak) resting on such a place and bestowing all the blessings of life that a person wants and needs to be successful.  

“Perhaps this is a deeper insight into Moshe’s bracha, something that every person should aspire to achieve” (A Vort from Rav Pam, Artscroll, p.123-124).

In regard to Rav Pam’s first insight, we can further note that the way of the world is that generally, when a person works, the work of his hands benefits others.  A builder builds edifices for his customers, a lawyer works on behalf of his clients, a doctor is busy treating and healing his patients, a teacher imparts knowledge to his students, a chef cooks food for others to enjoy, and an accountant files taxes for the citizens.

However!  When it comes to avodas ha’kodesh, holy work, when we are involved in acts of ruchniyus, spirituality, we daven that the primary beneficiary of our toil not be others – rather, may we be enhanced, improved, changed and elevated from our involvement in holy work.  וִיהִ֚י נֹ֨עַם | הֵ֗’ אלקינו עָ֫לֵ֥ינוּ וּמַֽעֲשֵׂ֣ה יָ֖דֵינוּ כּֽוֹנְנָ֣ה עָלֵ֑ינוּ וּמַֽ֘עֲשֵׂ֥ה יָ֜דֵ֗ינוּ כּֽוֹנְנֵֽהוּ – may the pleasantness of the L-rd our G-d be upon us, and may the work of our hands establish for us, and may the work of our hands establish it.

While a life of Torah and mitzvos surely benefits those around us, let us ensure that any holy endeavor brings benefit to our neshamos, our being, our personalities, our very own selves.

Reb Uri of Strelisk (known as the Strelisker Rebbe, 1757-1826) used to say, “A Jew daily recites the prayer, ‘Let our hearts cling to Your mitzvos’ (morning prayers).  The meaning of this prayer is this: That the mitzvos that I fulfill will be etched on my heart.  That they will be an integral part of my being.  That I will be totally filled with them, and that I will not ever part from them.  In this way the love that I have for You, my Creator, will remain permanent” (Tales of the Righteous, S. Raz, p.108).  

May we be so fortunate to merit that G-d dwell amongst us and within us, and may the work of our hands benefit us, always for the betterment of the people we are and the ovdei Hashem we strive to be. 

בברכת בשורות טובות, חודש טוב, ושבת שלום,

Michal

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