Divrei Torah

PARSHAS VAYAKHEIL-PIKUDEI 5777

This week’s parsha feels redundant. The materials for the Mishkan – the Tabernacle – and the special clothes for the Kohanim were already discussed two and three weeks ago in the parshios of Teruma and Titzaveh. The Torah should just tell us at the end of those Parshios that Moshe did all that G-d commanded him. Why does the Torah discuss them once again and tell us with a strong emphasis on the fact that Moshe put into action what G-d commanded him and described to him in those parshios?

“And Moshe did as G-d had commanded him.” We read this phrase over and over again because the point can never be reiterated enough. The Torah is teaching us that Judaism is not only a religion of learning. While it is of utmost importance to learn words of Torah – as the Rabbis teach us, “the study of Torah is equal to all the mitzvos” - in Judaism the learning must be complimented with action.  I can learn the laws of Shabbos, Tefillin, Pesach and tzedaka inside out. However, if I desecrate the Shabbos . . . if I don’t wear Tefillin . . . if I eat Chometz on Pesach . . . if I am stingy and avoid giving charity, what have I gained? What has the learning accomplished?

In Pirkei Avos Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa states, “anyone whose good deeds exceed his wisdom, his wisdom will endure. But, anyone who wisdom exceeds his good deeds, his wisdom will not endure.” Meaning – one’s wisdom is dependent upon his performance and observance of Torah. Wisdom without Torah observance cannot endure. In order to be a part of the Jewish people and a player in its destiny – in order for the Jewish people to be a light to the nations, we must be active participants in the Jewish people. We cannot just sit back, watch the play and be entertained.  We must be on stage as one of the actors in the play. 

The Torah is not a novel that one reads, enjoys and puts back on the shelf. The Torah is a Book of Mitzvos. It tells us what we are not supposed to do and what we are commanded to do. In order to fulfill one’s obligation to G-d and the Jewish people, one must act . . . one must do. I can keep Shabbos by sleeping late, playing monopoly, schmoozing with friends and resting some more just in case those 13 hours of sleep on Friday Night weren’t enough. But, what have I done to make it feel like Shabbos? What have I gained? What have I contributed to the Jewish experience? 

However, if I go to shul and daven, recite Kiddush, eat special meals with my family and study Torah, then I have had a real Shabbos. I am participating in the story of the Jewish people! Eating kosher . . . keeping Shabbos . . . giving tzedaka . . . attending services. . . making a Pesach seder . . . consistent Torah study . . .  that is the only way to maintain our lifeline to the tradition of our forefathers. We read in this week’s Parasha: “Like everything that G-d commanded Moshe, so did the Jewish people perform in their labor. Moshe saw the entire work—that they had done it as G-d had commanded.” May it be our good fortune that this should be our fate—that we will have done as G-d has commanded and that G-d’s presence should rest upon our handiwork.