Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz: Parshas Vayakhel: Good Hearted

By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz:

This week in Parshas Vayakhel, the Torah continues with the discussion of matters concerning the construction of the Mishkon. Though these topics have been discussed in the past few parshiyos, there are many lessons contained here, relevant to us in our daily lives.

The posuk (Shemos 35:27) states that the Nesi’im donated the precious stones that were needed for the Eifod and the Choshen. Rashi cites the Medrash Rabbah, which says that the Nesi’im were the last to donate to the Mishkon. They reasoned that they would wait until everyone else had made their donations and they would bring what was lacking.

Though it would appear that the intention to donate anything that was lacking was generous, and in fact their donation was the most expensive, the Medrash says that the thinking of the Nesi’im was born of laziness.

Rav Chaim Shmulevitz explains that when Hashem issued the request for the people to come forth with material that would be required for the Mishkon, they should have responded immediately and not made calculations. When Hashem says to do something, we do it first and make cheshbonos later.

This, perhaps, is included in the words of acceptance of Klal Yisroel when Hashem offered them the Torah. They famously responded, “Naaseh v’nishma – We will do and we will hear.” Included in that statement was the promise that when Hashem asks something of them, they would first rush to do it and leave the questions and rationalizations for later.

This is borne out by the Ramban (Shemos 35:21), who writes that the term “nesius lev,” which the posuk uses to describe the men who accepted upon themselves the task of building the Mishkon, refers to what drove them to undertake the task.

Nesius lev, the Ramban says, refers to their ability to raise their hearts above all else in order to fulfill Hashem’s directive. Though those people were neither trained nor experienced in any of the professions essential to the construction of the Mishkon, they dedicated themselves to the task anyway.

When a person is confronted with a task that they have never performed or know anything about, they can either say that it is not for them or they can devote themselves to studying the mission and learning how to go about carrying it out.

The people who say that it is not for them, and leave it for someone else to accept the job, are lazy. Those with nesius lev raise themselves above their natural inclination and set about accomplishing great things. They find within themselves abilities they never knew they possessed.

“Pischu li pesach kechudo shel machat,” Hashem declares. Your obligation is to exert yourself. And even if you are only able to open the door a tiny crack, “va’ani eftach lochem k’pischo shel ulam, I will open the door wide open for you.”

Our task is to appreciate what must be done and do what we can to accomplish the will of Hashem. We do hishtadlus and Hashem will help us accomplish the goal.

Betzalel and the people who worked with him had recently left Mitzrayim, where they and their people had been working as poor slaves making bricks and fashioning buildings from them. They had no experience with the finer arts and craftsmanship essential for working with silver, gold, copper and fine materials. Yet, when Moshe called upon them, they did not respond to him that they couldn’t be expected to do the job. “Niso’om libom.” They immediately acceded to his request.

This is the explanation of the posuk (31:6) which states, “Ubeleiv kol chacham leiv nosati chochmah – And into the hearts of those with wise hearts I have placed knowledge.” Many question that if they were wise, why was it necessary to provide them with wisdom?

We can explain that their wisdom consisted of the nesius lev. They were smart enough to jump at the opportunity to have a role in the Mishkon Hashem. They didn’t offer excuses and reasons why they could not be expected to be charged with putting together the Mishkon. And since they had the wisdom to accept to do the will of Hashem, He placed within them the ability to complete the task they had undertaken. Thus, they were able to craft the Divine instruments and the Mishkon itself.

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In our lives, as well, when called upon, we mustn’t offer excuses, even good ones, for not getting involved, for not doing the right thing, or for not extending ourselves to help expand the gevulos hakedusha. Doing so certifies us as lazy. Were we concerned about the plight of Torah and Bnei Torah, if we cared about preserving the pach shemen tahor, the purity of Am Yisroel, we would not shirk our responsibility. We would open our hearts b’nesius lev, doing what is asked of us. It may be difficult, and we may think that it is beyond our ability, but as those whose hearts have carried them have demonstrated throughout the ages until this very day, those who answer the call benefit from Divine assistance and are able to accomplish the impossible.

Look at the number of yeshivos, schools and institutions of chesed started by regular people like you and I, who, blessed with nesius lev, undertook projects much larger than themselves and were granted heavy doses of siyata diShmaya. Look at the people who undertook to raise millions of dollars for Torah and good causes. They didn’t know how they would realize their goal, but along the way, Hashem set them up with many fine people, nedivei lev, who extended themselves to assist in the construction and maintenance of the Mishkon.

That is the secret not only of our endurance, but also of our unprecedented growth over the past years.

When given a job, we do it. We accept upon ourselves to get the job done. We begin with faith, with emunah and bitachon that Hakadosh Boruch Hu will help us in what it is that we are doing. Every step we take in life requires faith and determination – faith in our abilities and in Hashem, and determination not to fail and to see our way through.

From when we were young children taking our very first steps through all the stages of our physical and spiritual development, if we would have said, “I’ve never done this before. This job is not for me,” where would we be now? We would not have gotten too far in life.

Way back when, we were handed our Alef-Bais book in primary. We were overwhelmed. How could we ever be expected to know all those letters by heart? And when we finally mastered all the letters and were celebrated with a grand party, we were then given a siddur. It was confounding. And so it went when we first studied Chumash and so it continued. At every step of the way, we were overwhelmed, but because we accepted the challenge, we continued to increase our knowledge and ability. And so it is as we advance through life. Those who fear taking the next step are left behind, as the others step into the unknown with resolve and faith.

Leibel Kutner, a Polish chossid, was imprisoned by the Nazis in a work camp. After working twelve hours straight in a munitions factory, the machine that powered the enterprise gave out and sputtered into silence. Everything stopped. The Nazi commandant searched around the large room, finally settling upon Leibel. “You, fix the machine.”

Leibel protested, “How can I fix the machine? What do I know about machines, especially a complicated one with many moving parts such as this one? How can I be expected to get it in working order?”

The wicked commander barked at him, “Du bist ein Jude. You are a Jew. Kunst du – You can figure it out.”

That night, Leibel worked feverishly on the machine, taking it apart and putting it back together, as the rest of the camp stood by nervously, unsure of what would happen if he would not be able to get the gears turning once again.

Suddenly, it gave a jerk and began roaring to life. The astounded Nazi returned to the room and was just as surprised as everyone else.

Poor Leibel in the work camp is an extreme example, but we must all know that as long as we are proud bnei Avrohom, Yitzchok and Yaakov, we can do it. We can move on to the next level as long as we recognize that it is Hashem who is holding our hand as we advance.

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The following may be a simple story, but as I began thinking of returning to Eretz Yisroel now that it is “opening up,” this anecdote about a man’s faith in Hashem guiding him popped into my head.

During a previous visit to Yerushalayim, I stood on a street corner in an unfamiliar neighborhood and waited in vain for a taxi to drive by. It was a stifling hot day and there was no place to hide from the sun.

There is no better place to be reminded of the beauty of Jews than in Yerushalayim, and quite often, it is a taxi driver who delivers that reminder.

I saw a car slowly rolling down the hill and stuck out my hand to signal for him to stop. The driver of a gleaming new car stopped next to me and asked me to come inside and sit down next to him. I looked into the car and saw someone in the back seat. I asked the driver if the other passenger was okay with me joining. He assured me that it was fine, so I entered and sat down.

The driver had a huge smile on his face as he welcomed me into his car.

He laughed out loud and said that Hashem had sent him to pick me up. “Ha’Elokim shalach oti eilecha.”

I certainly agreed and was happy to be ensconced in a gorgeous air-conditioned car, but the driver didn’t seem religious and I wondered what possessed him to announce that Hashem sent him to me.

He was taking the other passenger to an office on a different street, but made a wrong turn and ended up on the street where I stood.

With typical Israeli taxi-driver bravado, he told me, “Never before have I made a wrong turn. I never get lost. So if I’m on this street, I’m clearly not lost. Clearly, ha’Elokim shalach oti lepo lakachat otcha. Hashem sent me here to pick you up.”

After he dropped off the passenger, he explained the reason for his happiness. The car was brand new; I was the fourth person to sit in it. It was a fancy vehicle, and his wife was very annoyed with him that he spent so much money on the car.

Atah ro’eh? See how Hashem is looking out for me? I was thinking that maybe she is right. But now I see once again how ha’Elokim ozer li. He sent me here to pick you up while I still had another passenger in the car. Ha’Elokim wants to show me how He provides for me. He made me get lost in order to find you and be reminded that everything comes from Him.

Ha’Elokim shalach oti eilecha to remind me that every passenger I get is from Him and that He is always looking out for me and helping me.

“He sent me on a mission to pick up a Jew who was hot to teach me that lesson.”

I know you were expecting a better story, a better moshol, to drive home the point, but I think that it demonstrates the faith of a simple person that Hashem assists him as he goes about earning his living. He overextended himself for his business and rejoices as “ha’Elokim” puts more shekels in his pocket.

All of us, no matter what it is that we do – from real estate investors and nursing home owners to rabbeim and moros and people trying to get through school – need to know that what we have is from Hashem hu ha’Elokim.

We need to be reminded that when spiritual opportunities present themselves and require us to go where we have never gone before, we must not be lazy. If we undertake to accomplish good things, Hashem will be there for us, assisting us and providing the strength and ability to persevere and succeed.

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