Making This World A Reflection Of The World To Come Part II
Continued from last week Parshas Terumah…
Why is the Torah’s account of the Mishkan so detailed, and repeated
whereas other equally if not more important laws receive far less
attention? Why did G-d want us to extract the 39 prohibitive laws of
Shabbos (the Avos Melacha) from an analysis of what it took to create the
Mishkan? Basically, we are told that on Shabbos we are forbidden to do the
kinds of work that were necessary to build the Mishkan. What is the
relationship between the not building of the Mishkan and Shabbos?
The culture and mood of the Mishkan was intended to approximate the mood
and culture that existed in Gan Eden before Adam and Chava sinned. It was
also intended to recapture the mood and culture that existed within the
Jewish nation as they were camped at the foot of Mt. Sinai following Matan
Torah and before the sin of the Golden Calf.
The Mishkan was a microcosm of the world as it should have been and the
Kohain Gadol was a model of the human G-d intended all Jews to be and all
other nations to emulate.
On Shabbos the Jews were forbidden to build the Mishkan. The 39 Avos
Melachos (39 categories of forbidden-creative-work) were delineated
through an analysis of what it took to build the Mishkan. Whatever those
types of work were are the Melachos prohibited on Shabbos.
It stands to reason that if the Mishkan was a microcosm of G-d's
originally intended world, and whatever it took to build the Mishkan is
what is forbidden to do on Shabbos, then whatever it took to build the
Mishkan is what it takes to build a perfect world. Therefore, the building
of a perfect world should require all 39 categories of work. It also
stands to reason that studying the details of the building of the Mishkan
and analyzing the prohibited laws of Shabbos should reveal much of G-d's
intent and purpose in creating the world.
Furthermore, Shabbos was the day G-d chose to celebrate the completion of
His world. G-d completed His world in the first six days of creation. Upon
its completion He saw that it was “very good” and introduced Adam and
Chava into its perfection. Nothing more had to be done; everything was as
it was supposed to be. There was nothing that G-d needed added and there
was nothing He needed removed. Any change imposed on the world would have
only marred its perfection.
Only one thing remained to be done. The human creature had to use the
world G-d had created to recognize His existence and to serve Him. The
human had nothing else to do.
Essentially, the world was supposed to be one long continuous Shabbos. Not
in the sense of Kiddush, Challah, and the prohibition against doing the 39
Melachos, but in the sense of time devoted exclusively to recognizing His
existence and serving Him. As you can see, the seventh day, G-d's
designated Shabbos, our designated Shabbos, has always been what it is
today - a day devoted to recognizing His existence and serving Him.
In last week’s Parsha, the Torah detailed the construction of the Mishkan
and its vessels. In this week’s Parsha the Torah details the clothing of
the Kohain Gadol and the Kohanim. The last two Parshios of Shemos,
Vayakhel and Pekudei, review the details of the Mishkan and the Bigdei
(clothing) Kehunah. The emphasis on the Mishkan and its details now makes
perfect sense. In fact, if there was any part of the Torah that demanded
review and study, the Mishkan and the Bigdei Kehunah would be that part.
The details of the Mishkan are the clearest expression of what G-d wanted
from us in the form of character and performance. It presents a
functioning model of perfection for the individual, the family, the
community, and the world. As mentioned earlier, our purpose in this world
is to recognize G-d and serve Him. To do so we must create an environment
that proclaims G-dliness and devotion, purpose and value. We must adorn
ourselves in humility, dignity, and royalty. We must live in sanctity, eat
in sanctity, dwell in sanctity, and raise our children in sanctity. For
the short time that Adam and Chava existed in Gan Eden they lived in such
a rarefied environment. The Garden proclaimed G-d’s presence and purpose.
Their unclothed bodies were the essence of humility, dignity, and royalty.
Their reality reflected sanctity in the singular goal of their living. All
of it was predicated on the single understanding that they were the
creations of the Divine formed in His own image and completely dependent
on His benevolence. They had been given everything and they lacked for
nothing. Their being and reality were the gift of a continuous Shabbos.
Yet they were created to work. They were created to work hard. They were
created to work for their entire lives. The work was to raise a family and
train a society. They would have to integrate the lessons of reality into
their interaction with each other. They would have to convey the truth of
their unique and simple existence to their children and their future
generations. They would have to create a family life and a social
environment that reflected G-d’s presence and the devotion His presence
demanded. They would have to develop a delivery system, an educational
dynamic that would succeed with every child, without fail. What was that
system? How could they not fail?
The secret to succeeding with every child and every student is the
verse, “The words of the wise are heard in Nachas.” Nachas is a uniquely
Jewish word. It describes a sense of joy, contentment, pride, pleasure,
serenity, excitement, feeling of success and completion. It is the look
parents have on their face when their child or grandchild performs
flawlessly. (The way Rabbi Oscar Z. Fasman Zt’l looked and sounded when he
excitedly told of his great grandchild’s first published Dvar Torah, or
his attending the Bris of his first great, great, grandson.) As I said,
it is a uniquely Jewish word that has no other synonym.
The verse specifically describes the educational delivery system from
parent to child and teacher to student as “Nachas – The words of the wise
are heard in Nachas.” Most people understand the word Nachas as describing
the tone and mood of the teacher as he or she delivers the information. It
mandates or suggests that the methodology employed by the parent or
teacher when giving his lecture should be patience and calm. The volume
and tone of the lesson should be set to an acceptable, civil, and
On the one hand, that interpretation is certainly defensible and sensible;
on the other hand, the interpretation is fundamentally flawed. The
word “Nachas” means a whole lot more than patience, calm, and the right
decibel level. If the verse used the word Nachas it meant all aspects of
the word, not just an approximation of its true meaning. The mandate is to
the teacher and parent to stand in front of his class, to sit with the
child, to learn with a chavrusah (study partner), and view the student,
child, and partner with joy, contentment, pride, pleasure, serenity,
excitement, feeling of success and completion. It means that the Rebbi
(teacher) and parent must consider their own part in the delivery of the
information with joy, contentment, pride, pleasure, serenity, excitement,
feeling of success and completion. A teacher who is truly proud and
excited of the Torah he or she teaches, the lesson he or she has prepared,
and the opportunity to impart that pride and excitement to his or her
child, student, or chavrusah, is a teacher and parent who will never fail.
Patience, calm, and volume are one thing, joy, contentment, pride,
pleasure, serenity, excitement, feeling of success and completion is a
completely different game!
Gan Eden before the sin and the Jewish encampment before the Golden Calf
were places that inspired joy, contentment, pride, pleasure, serenity,
excitement, feeling of success and completion. All the opportunities for
success were there. No distractions, no worries, no fears, no limitations,
and a single focus. Each person knew that he or she could attain their
potential; all they hade to do was want it enough.
Unfortunately, humanity and the Jewish people did sin. They marred the
perfection of G-d’s world. They denied His benevolence and their
potential. They traded joy, contentment, pride, pleasure, serenity,
excitement, feeling of success and completion for falsehood and
The first time humanity failed, G-d divorced them from “Paradise” so they
could experience the consequences of their actions. However, the ideal
remained the same, humanities obligation remained the same. They still had
to recognize G-d and devote themselves to fulfilling His will. After
almost 2000 years, Avraham and Sarah graced the world with their
unadulterated love and began teaching the world, by word and example how
to recognize G-d and ascertain His will. Clearly, it was time for phase
two of G-d’s plan to be put into action.
Consider a world that had tasted the emptiness of false gods. Frustration,
suffering, jealousy, destruction, hatred, fear, and discontent reigned
freely. Leaders were users and morality was dictated by strength and
avarice. The masses did not know better and life was the curse of
malevolent gods. Into that world entered a couple who lived lives of joy,
contentment, pride, pleasure, serenity, excitement, feeling of success and
completion. Into that world entered a couple willing to share their
understanding with any one who may wish to listen. Had the ten generations
that preceded Avraham not experienced the void of falsehood, they would
not have had the clear contrast that Avraham and Sarah represented. The
two of them changed their world by offering their students a taste of Gan
Eden, a taste of Nachas.
Their reward was to birth the nation that would continue to present a
cognitive and emotional dissonance in contrast to all other beliefs and
lifestyles. Their children were destined to do for their worlds what
Avraham and Sarah had done for theirs. However, to do so they needed to
embrace joy, contentment, pride, pleasure, serenity, excitement, feeling
of success and completion. They needed to feel Nachas in themselves, and
even more so, Nachas in the other nations of the world.
Had they not sinned with the Golden Calf, their existence would have
approximated the abundant benevolence of Gan Eden, and they would have
personally attained the level of Nachas necessary to continue the work of
Avraham and Sarah. Unfortunately, their fears gave way to discontent and
the Nachas that had been gifted to them in the first seven weeks of the
desert and had been realized at the time of Matan Torah, “Like one being
with one intent,” dissipated into temporality and false gods.
Once again G-d needed to create a contrast between what should have been
and what was. Once again G-d had to remove Himself from the overt workings
of the universe and hide behind the embroidered curtains of the Mishkan.
Inside the Mishkan the world would be as it should have been. Inside the
Mishkan the visitor would be exposed to a potential otherwise thought to
be beyond and impossible. Inside the Mishkan and the Bais Hamikdash G-d’s
presence would be felt in a way that demanded compliance, devotion, and
listening. The Kohanim, and especially the Kohain Gadol, were to be living
models of joy, contentment, pride, pleasure, serenity, excitement, feeling
of success and completion. When they interacted with their fellow Jew,
when they administered their devotional needs, the Kohanim would do so
with such apparent Nachas that the sinner, petitioner, or supplicant would
be uplifted by the expectation and pride. Infused with a newfound energy
and enthusiasm, he would know in his heart that his failures were all his
own. He would know with certainty that all limitations on his personal
development and relationship with G-d were self-imposed. He would know
that he too could attain Nachas. However, it was by contrast with the rest
of the world that the unique culture and mood of the Mishkan was apparent
The mood and culture of the Bais Hamikdash and Mishkan was Nachas. The
mood and culture of Shabbos is supposed to be Nachas. The 39 Melachos
detail how to create a world in which joy, contentment, pride, pleasure,
serenity, excitement, feeling of success and completion can reign supreme.
However, that world demands six days of hard work to create and maintain.
It was not intended to be easy; it was not intended to be simple; however,
it was intended to be possible.
The work of creating the world must be completed before we can attain
Nachas. The work of building the Mishkan had to be completed before the
Mishkan reflected Nachas. The work of six days must be contrasted with the
non-work of Shabbos to perceive and appreciate the joy, contentment,
pride, pleasure, serenity, excitement, feeling of success and completion
that is the mood and culture of Shabbos.
Text Copyright © 2005 by Rabbi Aron Tendler and Torah.org
The author is the Rabbi of Shaarey Zedek Congregation, Valley
Village, CA, and Assistant Principal of YULA.