FRIDAY, March 9th

Reading the description of the construction of the Mishkan and all its vessels and appurtenances in this week’s parsha, one can get a sense of dejá vu. The detailed description of the Mishkan’s construction is largely a repetition of the instructions for building it, which we read in Parsha Terumah and Parsha Tetzaveh, respectively. The Ramban raises a question that is on many people’s minds when we read this Parsha. “It would have sufficed for the whole matter for it to say, ‘And Moshe told the whole congregation of the Children of Israel, all the work that Hashem had commanded him’ and then to say ‘The Children of Israel did just as Hashem had commanded Moshe, so they did. And Moshe saw all the work and behold, they had done it just as Hashem can commanded, so they did it, and Moshe blessed them (Sh. 39:42-43).’” In other words, the Torah could have omitted nearly five chapters from Shemot 35:5 through 39:41 and instead said simply that Moshe commanded the Israelites to do what God had instructed and they did it.  Why did the Torah repeat all of this description of the construction?  Ramban offers various reasons for different seeming redundancies, but he sums it up by saying, “Overall, all of this is the way of affection and elevation, that is to say that Hashem desired the work, and mentioned it in His Torah many times to expand the reward for those who were occupied with it.”

One way of understanding Ramban’s answer is just that he’s saying the work of building the Mishkan was so important, that it’s worth mentioning twice. But I think he’s saying something much more profound. It’s not the idea of the Mishkan, or even of the Mishkan itself that God desires, according to Ramban, but the work (the Melakha) of building it. It’s easy to have a vision, to have a dream, to have a good idea, but actually transforming an idea into a reality takes courage, time, work and resources.

When it comes to political leaders, the vision they promote is important, but not nearly as important as what they actually do for the country. It’s the same for all of us. We all have values and dreams and ideas about the world. But if we act contrary to those values, if we never try to make that dream a reality, then ultimately those values and dreams don’t matter very much. In other words, ideas are cheap, implementation is as precious as pearls. God includes the seemingly repetitive description of the building of the Mishkan in the Torah to remind us that our ideas, and dreams, our hopes are only as important as the degree to which we act to carry them out.

May we all have the courage and strength to act on our highest values, and to make our dreams a reality.