Letter and Spirit

For the week ending 9 March 2019 / 2 Adar II 5779

Parshat Pekudei

by Rabbi Yosef Hershman
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Sanctified Creativity

The full description of the construction of the Mishkan culminates with the following observation of Moshe: Moshe saw the entire work and lo! They had accomplished it; as G-d had commanded, so had they done; and Moshe blessed them.

Moshe noted that this work bore two distinct characteristics: The people had done the work, and they had done it exactly as G-d had commanded. These two characteristics will come to define all spiritual work: it must be “done” by the individual and it must be done strictly as G-d has commanded.

The people “did [the entire work]” — they had done every part of the work, from the smallest to largest component, and the work was an expression of their devotion, enthusiasm and dynamism. But every last detail was done “as G-d as commanded” — their zeal and enthusiasm had been subordinated completely to the Divine command. There had been no attempt on the part of any craftsman to bring his own ideas and his own individuality to bear upon the work by making additions or omissions. Rather for each and every one of the craftsmen this was his greatest reward: to carry out G-d’s command and intention with scrupulous care and precision.

This “freedom in obedience and obedience in freedom” was the crowning characteristic of the craftsmen, and the nation as a whole, in the construction of the Mishkan. Precisely when one subordinates himself and his creative energies to the Will of G-d, does he realize the unsurpassed joy of a duty eagerly fulfilled. Upon this energetic devotion, carefully circumscribed by duty, the blessing of Moshe takes root. The text does not record the content of this blessing, but our Sages do: May it be His will that the Shechina (Divine Presence) should rest in the work of your hands. And may the pleasantness of the L-rd our G-d be upon us.”

§ Sources: Commentary, Shemot 39:43

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