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Thought for the Day: First Comes First, Even Inanimate Objects

My grandson has a very highly refined sense of what's fair; particularly when it comes to going first.  Note that I said "highly refined" and not "correct"; he is always convinced that his sister was first last time.  Being as he is four, his conviction can express itself with some enthusiasm.  Being as he is four, there is a good chance he can grow out of that enthusiasm, of course.

I saw a wonderful question (and answer, Baruch HaShem) in זבח משפחה by R' C.T. Hollander, שליט''א.  The background is that Moshe Rabeinu had come back from his conference with the Holy One, Blessed Be He/Creator and Author of Reality with (among other things) instructions on building the משכן/Tabernacle.  The man chosen to manage every detail of the construction was בְּצַלְאֵל.  Moshe Rabeinu carefully the work to be done, including the order of construction; vessels first and finishing with the משכן itself.  After receiving these instructions from the highest prophet ever to have lived in the history of mankind literally on the heels of having received said instructions directly from the Highest Source, בְּצַלְאֵל -- all of 13 years old, ie, barely bar mitzvah -- questioned that detail of the order of construction: The way of the world (מנהג העולם) is to build the enclosing structure followed by the vessels, in order to have a place to put the vessels as they are constructed.  Moshe Rabeinu responded: Certainly you live up to your name, which means, "In the protective shadow of HaShem"; that is indeed with HaShem told me.

I once wrote up a beautiful insight into "derech eretz kadma la'torah" from the R' Henoch Liebowitz, ztz"l, on this exchange (the insight from the rosh yeshiva is beautiful, not necessarily my writing).  That's not the issue at hand.  The insight from זבח משפחה was to note that the construction of משכן (and all its vessels) was begun on the heels (hooves?) of having received atonement for the sin of the golden calf; that is. after Yom Kippur (after Succos also?  I don't know), which is Tishrei.  The משכן was not actually erected until Nissan (a belated birthday present for Yitzchak Avinu).  It didn't really matter in what order things were built; there would be no place to put the vessels anyway.

Indeed, בְּצַלְאֵל was not asking a practical question of "where to put the stuff".  Rather, בְּצַלְאֵל knew full well that the Torah demands a sensitivity to even the imagined feelings of inanimate objects -- we put on our right shoe first, tie our left shoe first (men, at least; women still tie right shoe first), we cover the challah at kiddush, and so on.  בְּצַלְאֵל was asking if that sensitivity applies even when there is no practical difference.  He was told that, indeed, practical difference makes no difference; certainly one must sensitive to even an expectation of respect.  Even an expectation that is based on nothing more than "the way of the world".  As always, that applies all the more so to our fellow human beings.

The world had to wait six months for the משכן to be put into operation.  It seems that it was worth what wait to bring this insight into the world.

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