Friday, March 04, 2011

Parshat Pikudei - פרשת פקודי

"ותכל כל עבודת משכן אהל מועד ויעשו בני ישראל ככל אשר צוה ה' את-משה, כן עשו - All the work of the tabernacle of the Tent of Meeting was completed, and the Children of Israel did according to all that Hashem commanded Moses, so they did."
(Exodus 39:32)

The most obvious way to read the verse above is that it makes a simple statement: that the Jews finished building the Mishkan in accordance with the commandments laid down by Hashem. There is, however, another way we may look at this short passage that I'd like to share in this D'var Torah.

There is a well-noted Jewish concept taught in Gemara Sukkah known as "העוסק במצווה פטור מן המצווה - One who is currently involved in performing a mitzvah is exempt from performing another mitzvah." Rationalising this command, we can see that there is a lot of logic in this dictum. Instead of jumping from mitzvah to mitzvah, we learn that so long as one is busy seeing to one mitzvah, one is completely exempt from performing other mitzvot.

Returning to the context of the verse above, we may note that for last few Parshiot in the Torah, we have been reading about how the Mishkan was built. As the Imrei Shefer explains, the Jews were involved in this mitzvah intensively and did not participate in other mitzvot. However, the moment that they finished the work on the Mishkan, they did not rest, but immediately resumed their normal tasks and roles. Instead of allowing themselves to rest contented with the work that they had done, they realised that they were no longer exempt from other mitzvot and it was incumbent upon them to continue working.

I think we may take two rather important lessons from this. First and foremost, if we have a number of tasks to do, it is better to do them each properly than to try and do as many as possible, to the detriment of the quality of each. Far better would be to tackle each task on its own. The person who tries doing five things at once will inevitably do none of them well.

Second, we may also recognise that often after an achievement, we think that we may take things easy. While this may or may not be true in the academic world, when it comes to working on and bettering oneself, and when it comes to Jewish responsibilities, we know that the task demands our undivided attention and energy. There's not a second to lose and we cannot afford to lie back and bask in our earlier achievements. Just like the Children of Israel went back to work on the other mitzvot, so too must we not allow ourselves to rest any more than is necessary. Onwards and upwards!

Shabbat Shalom :)

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