Food For the Soul
Celestial real estate
The Parshah Vayakhel (Exodus 35:1-38:20) describes the building of the Mishkan and the specific details of craftsmanship involved. After describing each section of the Mishkan the Torah testifies that it was all done in accordance with G-d’s instruction to Moses. Many have wondered why the Torah so often repeats this point?
The Midrash teaches that as Moses erected the sanctuary in this world, angels in heaven raised a parallel sanctuary. The Zohar adds that the Mishkan in heaven was erected in the merit of Moses’ actions here below. The laborers who built the Mishkan, skilled as they were, did not specialize in heavenly architecture. They were well suited to building the physical structure but to build the heavenly one they relied exclusively on direction from Moses.
There may have been times when they felt that a particular detail should have been approached differently. Yet they recognized that Moses was not only building the sanctuary below but also the one above. They faithfully executed every instruction knowing that they were building more than what was immediately apparent. This is why the Torah so often repeats that they fulfilled the instructions G-d had given to Moses.
In discussing this concept the Baal Shem Tov notes that every mitzvah builds an edifice in heaven. Most Jews are oblivious to the heavenly affects of their physical mitvot. We often wonder about the meaning of our prayers, the order of the words, the particular laws as they pertain to certain mitzvot. Yet we must always remember that when logic fails trust should set in. For those who formulated the prayers and taught the law understood the heavenly ramifications and took those too into account.
Rabbi Lazer Gurkow
Doing Shabbat “right”
Our sages declare that one must rest on Shabbat “as if all work has been done.” One should not only take a break from work—one needs to feel as if there is no work left to be done! How is this practical?
Take your work seriously and give it all you got. But the stress and preoccupation that comes along with it is unnecessary, spiritually numbing and emotionally draining. Being mindful that success is a blessing from G-d and that work is merely a natural channel for the divine blessing to flow into our universe is a sure way to erase stress and anxiety from the experience.
Doing Shabbat “right” is not limited to observing the relevant laws one day a week. A peaceful and spiritually uplifting Shabbat depends on a more focused and spiritually balanced workweek. Conversely, when observed properly according to Jewish law, Shabbat redefines the workweek. It’s divine energy permeates every fiber of our being and every moment of our lives, allowing us to live up to our fullest potential.
Edited from an article by Rabbi Levi Greenberg
Mind Over Matter
Just who are the oppressors of which you are victim? People? Institutions? The Laws of Nature? They are but tools in the hand of their Master. Or are you the victim of your own Creator?
The Designer of this cosmos does not contrive schemes to undermine His own creations. He knows us as He knows Himself; He sees His world from our eyes; He is our life and our essence. When He makes demands of us, He meets us on our own ground, not according to His unlimited power, but finely measured to the capacity He has hidden within us. There are times when you compare the burden on your shoulders to the strengths you know you have, and it seems impossible. But He knows better the hidden powers of your soul. And He has faith in them. For He is there within them.
Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
Know how to listen
Within each thing we behold, the moshiach dwells, like the embryo waiting to break out of its egg. In the rhythm of a dandelion shivering in the breeze, in the eyes of the children we raise, in the goals we make in life, in the machines we use and the art we create, in the air we breathe and the blood rushing through our veins. When the world was made, the sages say, the moshiach was the wind hovering over all that would be. Today, those who know to listen can hear his voice beckoning, “Do not let go of me after all these ages! For the fruit of your labor and the labor of your holy mothers and fathers is about to ripen.” The listening alone is enough to crack the shell of the egg.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe
Have I Got A Story
The first time I was asked to speak for a women-only audience I was worried. I’d previously addressed men and mixed crowds, but this was different. Or was it? I had no idea what tack to take; should I tone down the rhetoric and drop the crudities, or just act like one of the boys? So I did what I always do when in doubt, I asked my mother for help. “You can say whatever you wish”, she told me, “I don’t care if you go for humor or highbrow, it doesn’t matter if you’re provocative or insightful, just don’t be patronizing!”
“Women cannot stand it when guys get up to lecture and spend the first 15 minutes extolling them. We don’t need to be reminded of the special spark of spirituality that beats in our feminine hearts. We’ve been told a million times about the extra measure of wisdom that we are said to possess and you are not winning any brownie points by enthusing about our unique ability to bring Judaism into the home. “The average lady is secure in herself and has sufficient self-confidence in her worth and ability to find these well-meaning reassurances patronizing in the extreme.”
One could be excused for wondering if Moses wouldn’t have been better off for a dose of my mother’s advice. As part of detailing the construction process of the Tabernacle (Mishkan) we are informed that the wise women wove the wall hangings of goat hair (VaYakhel 35:26). Besides from being alliterative, isn’t the description rather patronizing? What special degree of wisdom is entailed in the process of weaving, to justify the overly effusive praise? Wise women, shmise women, they had a job to do, they did it. Get over it and move on.
Rashi explains that this wasn’t just a supercilious pat on their proverbial collective backs but an honest appreciation for a specialized craft. Utilizing a little known technique, the weavers managed to skillfully weave patterns into the goat hair while it was still attached to the goat’s back. Once shorn, the resultant hangings were far superior to weavings spun in the conventional method. Volunteers all, these skillful laborers had undertaken to deliver quality workmanship for the Divine cause and lived up to their pledge.
They were not commanded to make this effort, but they recognized an opportunity to add luster to G-d’s home, and willingly volunteered to participate.
What matters in life is not who you are, or to which gender you belong, but what you can contribute to the common cause. You have a specialized skill? Then utilize your ability to bring beauty and greatness to the world.
When we mindlessly stroke someone’s ego, praising him or her unreservedly without justifying the cause, it is tantamount to an insult. When you treat people of substance with kid gloves, place them on a pedestal and expect nothing in return, we are almost implying that they are worthless or worth less.
Every single one of us has gifts and gaffes, feelings and failings, don’t lump us in as an amorphous mass, but judge us as individuals and honor us for the unique blessings that we bring to the world.
Rabbi Elisha Greenbaum