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Thought for the Day: Building the Mishkan Is Building Yourself

Violating Shabbos intentionally is a capital crime; with witnesses and warning beis din is empowered to remove the person from this world, but in any case he has removed himself from the next.  You would think that something with such dire consequences would have the rules and all their details clearly stated.  Yet, all of hilchos Shabbos is revealed to us by reminding us not to violate the Shabbos even while building that most holy of structures, the mishkan.  That's tantamount to the human resources director telling you, "Of course I told you about our zero tolerance policy regarding immediate dismissal for sexual harassment; I mentioned that we expect you to keep all our rules just as we walked past the receptionist desk!"

There is a lot to say about why the Torah chose to reveal hilchos Shabbos via this simple adjacency, so let's just take that as a given for now.  The S'porono however, adds a chilling nuance.  If one violates Shabbos in building the mishkan, then he has ruined it; there's no place the HaShem's presence after that.  Really?  I have a computer for work; in fact, I am no able to do my job without a computer.  The don't really seem to mind if I use it for other things, as long as I get my work done.  I imagine that if they wanted to fire someone, they would include the fact that he used the computer for non-work activities as part of their justification.  However, they are not going to fire someone who is doing a great job for them just because the misappropriated some time on his laptop.  After all, he is still making a lot of money for them, just not as much as he could be.  Why in the world, then, would HaShem turn away from our avoda in one area because of indiscretions in another?

Because we aren't working for HaShem.  "Take a donation for Me," HaShem says at the beginning of parshas T'ruma.  "Take a donation"?!  "Give a donation," is what it should say.  "Build a mishkan so I can reside in you"?!  "Build a mishkan so I can reside in it," would seem to be the proper grammatical construct.  And from whence did we get all that gold, silver, copper, and what not in the wilderness anyway?  We had retrieved the gold, silver, copper, and what not that washed up in the shores of the Yam Suf from the heavily bejeweled, begolded, besilvered, becoppered, and bewhatnotted horses/chariots/riders that were drowned in the sea.  If the all that gold, silver, copper, and what not was meant for the mishkan anyway, why didn't HaShem just instruct us to gather it up for that purpose?  We were all feeling mighty beholden to the Creator at that point for rescuing us from slavery, deposing our enemies in a dramatic show of power, and revealing to us such beautiful and awe-inspiring miracles.

The rescue from slavery, deposing our enemies in a dramatic show of power, and revealing to us such beautiful and awe-inspiring miracles was certainly meant to motivate and elevate us; to prepare us to be worthy of being the am ha'nivchar -- the chosen nation.  Giving us the gold, silver, copper, and what not was a further preparation.  By giving us the opportunity to give from our own possessions, we are further elevated; and almost there.  The final step is to do all that for no reason other than, "The King told us to."  The proof?  We stop on Shabbos.  We want nothing more than to receive our King, but he said to stop on Shabbos; we stop.

When we do all that, we became a holy nation.  If not, then we aren't serving the King, we are serving ourselves; we turn the mishkan itself into nothing more than another vatican -- a beautiful and ornate coffin.  When we keep the Shabbos, though, we ourselves become a living extension of the divine presence.


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