In the opening lines of this week’s parasha, Pikudei, the Torah tells us the final accounting of the completed Mishkan and its’ vessels. In doing so the pasuk says: “Betzalel, the Son of Uri the son of Chur, of the tribe of Yehudah, did all that G-d had commanded Moshe” (Shmot 38:22). This verse mentions how the principle architect of the Mishkan, the Divinely-inspired Betzalel, completed the building according to how it was commanded by G-d. On this Rashi raises the question; it would have been more appropriate for the Torah to teach that Betzalel did all that he had been commanded by Moshe as Moshe had in fact been the one who commanded Betzalel and not G-d directly. Why does the Torah say that Betzalel did what G-d commanded?
Rashi explains that in fact there was information about the building which Betzalel had perceived on his own in line with G-d’s desires even though it went contrary to Moshe’s instructions. Moshe had first mentioned for Betzalel to build the vessels (the Menorah, the Altar, etc.) and then build the structure of the Mishkan (the outer walls, etc.) while Betzalel responded that the way of the world is to first build the house and then afterwards put the furnishings into it. Moshe then praises Betzalel and says that Betzalel’s order is indeed the correct one from G-d.
This is most strange. Why would Moshe have commanded the wrong order of construction in the first place if in fact Hashem’s instructions had been as Betzalel understood? The Maharal in his Gur Aryeh on Rashi asks this question and explains that indeed the vessels, the content of the Mishkan were of primary importance over the structure itself. Moshe, when teaching of the construction, taught about the content first to teach of their primacy, but when it came to the actual physical building, Betzalel understood that in the process of the actual construction, the content is only to be built once the structure is in place.
It is famously taught that the construction of the Mishkan is an ongoing command for each and every Jew, as the verse says back in parashat Teruma “Veasu Li Mikdash, Veshachanti Betocham” – ” Make for Me a sanctuary and I will dwell within them“. We are to make ourselves into a Mishkan for Hashem to be able to shine into the world through how we think, speak and act.
Rabbi Yerucham Levovitz, zt’l , thus teaches that we can learn from the importance of the order of construction of the mishkan that correct order and structure are of critical importance when building ourselves spiritually into a sanctuary for Hashem. Building oneself is no simple task. One needs to approach the building of oneself with no less thought and attention to detail and order as one would when building a physical structure.
It is said of one of the great rabbis who lived and taught the Torah’s wisdom on character refinement, that he once stopped by a construction site and spent hours meditating and contemplating all the details of construction and learning from them powerful lessons for life:
First there is the choice of the correct, even ground to build upon. This must be measured and calculated to ensure the final building will be level. Then foundations need to be set, which requires deeply digging into the earth to ensure the foundations will be deeply enough entrenched to give the structure its’ needed stability. Then layers of concrete are reinforced and laid deep in the ground. And then, painfully, slowly, the building gets built, layer after layer.
The structure must come first even if the content is primary. With the greatest content, a person lacking structure will not be able to bring his or her potential goodness into reality.
When building oneself the order and method employed in the construction is critical. Some people try and jump to the final exterior furnishings before having built their foundations. Others lack the patience to follow the correct order of construction and build with shoddy materials which create an externally looking ‘pretty’ building, which in fact cannot weather the slightest of storms of difficulty in life. Building yourself takes painstaking effort and patience. Rabbi Yisrael Salanter, zt’l, famously said that to refine one character trait is more difficult than learning through the entire Talmud (a monumental task indeed).
Without a systematic, structured approach to growth (or daily life in general) we are left in the frustrating position (that so many find themselves in) in which we so badly desire to change or grow in a specific area, but feel as though we have no direction or clarity as to where to move to start the process. This lack of clarity can cause anxiety and stress and often makes us feel as though we are lost in a maze and overwhelmed by the lack of clarity. There is therefore a deep connection between the word for sadness/crying (BOCHEH) and the word for a maze (MEVOCH) which share the same Hebrew letter root of Bet and Chaf.
Clarity and order in life is critical, both to build yourself and to function properly on a day-to-day basis. Order, clarity and structure bring about an intense harmonious joy where doubts are lifted and vision is clarified. The Metzudat David on Mishlei thus teaches: There is no simcha like the clarifying of doubts.
May we all merit to build the correct orderly structure in our lives that allows for direction, true lasting growth and elevation, and genuine joy.