Wait... There's a Way to Fix Our Worst Mistakes
It was the morning after Yom Kippur. Moshe Rabbeinu had just descended from Har Sinai carrying the second set of Luchos. He gathered the people and told them: We're going to build a home for Hashem in our world.
With the anxiety of their destruction, and the fear of Hashem abandoning them finally quelled, they gave like no other capital campaign in history:
וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֶל מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹר מַרְבִּים הָעָם לְהָבִיא מִדֵּי הָעֲבֹדָה לַמְּלָאכָה
And they spoke to Moshe, saying: The people are bringing much more than enough for the needs of the work...
Imagine the elation, the palpable excitement. Finally, there was something to do. In place of the worrying, pontificating and regret, they would be building.
Through giving and donating, building and constructing, carpentry and tapestry, they would make a place for Hashem in their lives. Through our actions, we will bring Hashem into the world once more!
But beyond the incredible desire to bring the building materials, the Ramban (35:21) describes how each person found within themselves new abilities to craft and construct; skills that they never had before:
וטעם אשר נשאו לבו לקרבה אל המלאכה (שמות ל״ו:ב׳) – כי לא היה בהם שלמד את המלאכות האלה ממלמד, או מי שאימן בהן ידיו כלל, אבל מצא בטבעו שידע לעשות כן, ויגבה לבו בדרכי י״י (דברי הימים ב י״ז:ו׳) לבא לפני משה לאמר לו: אני אעשה כל אשר ה׳ דובר
They were not trained, but found within their nature that they knew what to do... They came to Moshe and declared “I will do what Hashem had commanded.”
Imagine the hislahavus – the passion, drive and devotion.
It is then all the more perplexing that once each and every piece of the Mishkan was finally completed, the entire structure was packed up and put into storage, not to be touched or assembled for another few months.
It's Never Going to Happen
The Medrash (תנחומא יא) relates that during these months, the ליצני הדור, the clowns and the scoffers, were having a good time making fun of the entire effort:
והיו ליצני הדור מרננין ומהרהרין ואומרין: למה נגמרה מלאכת המשכן ואינו עומד מיד
The scoffers of the generation were celebrating and musing and saying: Why is it taking so long for the Mishkan to be standing? Why not put it up now?
The wording of the Medrash is telling: They're not asking “why are we waiting?” They're saying it. It's not a question, it's a statement. We all know that voice; the one asks rhetorically: “Why is it taking so long?” The voice that “knows” it's never going to happen. The voice that is convinced that once you've messed it this badly, there is no chance it's ever going to work out again. No matter what we do, we'll never be able to fix...
As loud as it might be, we know that voice is wrong. The Mishkan was eventually completed; it stood for forty years in the desert, and for three centuries in Eretz Yisrael.
The question, however, is still a good question; but instead of scoffing, let's ask the question honestly: Why, in fact, did Hashem delay the final completion of the Mishkan?
The Medrash (שם) explains:
אֶלָּא מִפְּנֵי שֶׁחָשַׁב הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא לְעָרֵב שִׂמְחַת הַמִּשְׁכָּן בְּשִׂמְחַת הַיּוֹם שֶׁנּוֹלַד בּוֹ יִצְחָק אָבִינוּ, לְפִי שֶׁבְּאֶחָד בְּנִיסָן נוֹלַד יִצְחָק. אָמַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא, הֲרֵינִי מְעָרֵב שִׂמְחַתְכֶם שִׂמְחָה בְשִׂמְחָה.
Because Hashem wished to combine the festivities of the building of the Mishkan with the celebration of the birthday of Yitzchak Avinu. Yitzchak was born on the first day of Nisan. Hashem, said to Himself: I will combine these celebrations.
All of this is perplexing. What does Yitzchak's birthday have to do with the Mishkan?
The Pain of Waiting
To understand this, we should consider circumstances that led to the Egel HaZahav: A deep fear that Moshe wasn't coming back. Despite Aharon's attempt to calm the nation, their fears couldn't be contained.
The Shem Mishmuel (פרשת דברים) explains:
Their failure was not that they made an Egel. The sin here was simply a lack of patience. If only they would have waited a few more minutes, they would have seen that Moshe was returning.
The Arizal (ע׳ שם משמואל ויקרא שמיני תרע”ט) explains that the very first חטא of humanity, the sin of Adam and Chava was, likewise, the inability to wait. Hashem always intended for mankind to taste from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil... but not yet. In essence the root of all failure was a lack of patience.
Perhaps then, it was not the Mishkan itself that provided atonement, but instead, this “mandatory waiting period”. If we erred by lacking patience, then Hashem would ensure that we fix our mistakes by learning to wait.
Why is impatience source of all failure? The Kotzker explained:
“What is the different between a patient person and a lazy person? The lazy person acts impulsively, because they do not have the patience to think things through.”
Impulsiveness, the Kotzker explains, is the willful abandoning of reason. If we're honest with ourselves, almost all bad decisions could've been avoided with a moment of rational thought. Before doing anything, take a step back and realize that Hashem is in change; that He runs the world, and that we are here because he wants us here.
Imagine the mistakes we would avoid. Imagine the fights that might never have started. The anger that might never have flared. The temptations that we might never act upon.
A patient person might still ask “why is this taking so long?” But the answer is always the same: “I don't know – but He does, and which means it's ok, even if I don't understand it.”
Patience is the ultimate acquiesce to Hashem's ownership of the world.
In this lesson, there are no greater role models than Avraham and Sarah, who waited an eternity for the birth of Yitzchak. The joy of his birth was far beyond that of other parents.
On the one hand, Yitzchak represented Hashem's desire to reach beyond the curtain and “break the rules” of nature for Klal Yisrael.
But on the other hand the great simcha of Yitzchak's birth was that for the first time in history, Avraham and Sarah were patient. This is the power that they bestowed upon all future generations: the ability to realize that Hashem is in the driver's seat.
Shabbos or Mishkan?
To this end, the Torah introduces the building of the Mishkan with the obligation to keep Shabbos. Chazal explain: To teach us that Shabbos overrides the construction of the Mishkan.
By this point we can appreciate why keeping Shabbos is more important than the Mishkan: The Mishkan teaches us that through our actions we can bring Hashem into our world. But Shabbos educates us כי ששת ימים עשה ה׳... In six days, Hashem made the world. He did, and we didn't. Every Shabbos, we're tapping into the understanding that we're the junior partner in this joint venture called our lives.
The experience of Shabbos, of disconnecting from being in charge of our lives, makes a little more space for Hashem to be present.
Hashem should help us to spend our weeks building the Mishkan. But also, to make some room and wait for Him to fill our lives; with the Tefillah that it should be soon.