SALT - Monday, 29 Iyar 5776, Omer 44 - June 6, 2016

  • Rav David Silverberg

            The final section of Parashat Naso tells of the special gifts brought by the nesi’imBenei Yisrael’s twelve tribal leaders – in honor of the Mishkan’s consecration.  This section begins with the words, “Va-yehi be-yom kalot Moshe le-hakim et ha-Mishkan” – “It happened on the day when Moshe completed erecting the Mishkan.” 

            The Midrash Tanchuma (12) advances an unusual reading of the first word of this verse – “va-yehi,” suggesting that it be read as “vay” – an expression of angst.  While we would have naturally assumed that the occasion of the Mishkan’s formal consecration was one of great joy and celebration, the Midrash comments that it actually caused the Almighty anguish, so-to-speak.  The Midrash draws an analogy to a king who had a whiny, argumentative wife.  Once he asked his wife to make a special garment for him, and when she completed the project to satisfaction and brought it to him, he was pleased by what he saw, but he cried out in angst.  When his wife asked him why he reacted this way to her skilled handiwork, he explained, in the words of the Midrash, “I found the work very satisfactory, but throughout the time you were involved in the work, you were not angry and you did not complain to me.  But now that you are idle, I am afraid that you will anger me.”

            Similarly, the Midrash comments, the completion of the Mishkan was a source of anguish, as it were, to the Almighty, as He anticipated that Benei Yisrael would now resume their complaints against Him.

            When we are involved in lofty and important tasks, we are less inclined to fret over petty “problems” and concerns.  As we focus our attention on the sublime, the issues and worries that would otherwise occupy us and break our spirits are put in perspective and tolerated without much effort.  Pursuing meaningful and significant goals changes our outlook so we are not bothered by trivial concerns.  And thus as Benei Yisrael labored to construct the Mishkan, they did not complain about their conditions.  The complaints returned once this undertaking was completed and they were no longer intensively engaged in a lofty project. 

            Chazal here remind us to keep our minds and attention focused on lofty goals and aspirations, and to avoid allowing ourselves to get bogged down by vanity.  We are to spend our limited time in this world involved in the “Mishkan,” in idealistic, spiritual pursuits, rather than worrying and complaining about matters which are, in the long run, petty and inconsequential.