At the beginning of this week's Torah portion, the discussion of the construction of the mishkan (Tabernacle) and its service is abruptly interrupted. Inserted there is a summary of the raw materials collected from the people.
At the beginning of this week's Torah portion, the discussion of the construction of the mishkan (Tabernacle) and its service is abruptly interrupted. Inserted there is a summary of the raw materials collected from the people. The Torah proceeds to delineate the exact sum of each material collected, followed by a precise accounting of how each material was employed in the construction of the mishkan. Finally, the Torah continues its description of the elements of the mishkan by describing the Priestly garments worn in the Mishkan.
The necessity of this summation, however, seems to be quite questionable indeed. The Torah, in fact, devotes two full portions (the previous one as well as our current portion) to a detailed explanation of every element of the mishkan and its service. Concerning each and every component, the Torah provides us with its precise dimensions, its function and role in the mishkan, as well as the materials necessary in its construction. What then is the purpose of the synopsis detailing the utilization of the raw materials themselves?
Rav Moshe Feinstein, a foremost leader of American Jewry who passed away in 1986, suggests an intriguing solution which provides us with an invaluable lesson about our own lives. Rav Moshe proposes that since each material was donated for the specific intent of the construction of the mishkan and its service, any misappropriation of the donated funds would be tantamount to stealing from the Children of Israel who had generously offered the materials. Therefore, a final tally of all the contributions was necessary to ensure that in fact every donation collected from the Jews was used for its designated holy purpose.
Rav Moshe continues that we can apply the same idea to our daily conduct. We are all born with certain innate talents and abilities "donated" to us by Hashem for the specific intent of performing His will. However, how we use those G-d given talents is up to us. We may choose to use our talents for their intended purpose -- to serve Hashem -- or we may choose to utilize those abilities for evil. For example, imagine a person blessed with a brilliant intellect. Gifted with such brilliance, his potential seems endless. However, how he decides to employ his talent is solely up to him. He may determine that his gift is best served by somehow benefiting mankind. On the other hand, he may conclude that his intelligence was given to him so that he could become the world's mastermind of crime -- using his wits to cheat and extort from his fellow man.
Certainly, the same can be said about any talent or gift -- the choice is in our hands. However, we must realize that, although we do have the power to decide how to use our G-d given abilities, any misappropriations of these talents is in fact tantamount to stealing from Hashem, as these gifts were given to us for the sole purpose of serving Him. Therefore, it only makes sense that, every once in a while, we too must compute and tabulate our own use of the donations from Hashem. Only in this way can we ensure that the "materials" contributed to us by Hashem are employed to their expressed and original intent.
Yoel Spotts, a native Atlantan, is currently enrolled in a joint program with Ner Israel Rabbinical College and the University of Maryland, both in Baltimore
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