I’m Finished – Now What?
There was a time in this fair land
When the railroad did not run
When the wild majestic mountains
Stood alone against the sun…
For they looked in the future and what did they see
They saw an iron road runnin’ from the sea to the sea
This week’s Torah portions – it’s a double parsha – are not exactly action-packed. A couple weeks ago we read of the many details, measurement and dimensions that went into building the Tabernacle/Mishkan. This week we get much of the same.
The major difference between version one and version two is that while the Jewish people were given the instructions of how to build it, back in parshat Terumah, this week we are told of the execution of the plan and it being carried out. Earlier was the architect’s copy so to speak and now the GC has been called in along with the artisans to build it in earnest.
I don’t wish to diminish the importance and centrality of the Tabernacle as it was the place where God communicated with Moshe and was the forerunner to the Temple that was eventually built in Jerusalem. But if it was difficult to extract relatable Torah lessons the first go-round, it certainly isn’t much easier on the second.
It reminds me a little of when you visit someone’s’ home who has done renovation work and they regale you with all the details of what they did. They take your through the whole process and proceed to tell you about every aspect of their Reno. How the workers didn’t show up, that it took much longer than expected, what they did wrong, how they had to change things half-way through, why they picked this colour floor, etc. etc. And you sit there going, “Uh-huh, uh-huh” trying to look interested and keep your eyes open and feign interest.
This week’s Torah portion could have been much shorter if it simply stated that Betzalel and Co. constructed it in accordance with what was commanded and outlined earlier. By now we are very familiar with the specifics of the Mishkan. Why bother telling us, yet again, of each measurement and detail of the table, and of the ark, and of the curtains, and of the menorah, and of the… we get it!
But maybe this is precisely the point.
Very often we focus on every detail of something before we have it. We obsess over each and every aspect of what it’s like not to have the thing and we construct in our mind’s eye what is should or ought to be. But then what happens is that once we get there and accomplish our goal or obtain our desire, we quickly forget about it almost immediately. We fail to give an equal amount of attention to that sought after goal or thing once it’s in our hands.
So maybe this is one of the points that the Torah is trying to get across to us by repeating every nook and cranny of the actual construction of the Mishkan in addition to its planning. Just as we focus so much on the details when we plan something, so too we need to equally focus on those self-same details once it’s done.
Think for instance when something goes wrong with your car. Right now the 2011 Hyundai Sonata that my daughter drives to school needs new struts, new brakes and sway bars (whatever those are). I spent time finding them online rather than getting them locally because it was less than half the price. Took me the better part of an hour finding the right parts and confirming them with my mechanic. I mention this because we all have these irritants that take up part of our day. We tend to focus on every detail of them when they’re a problem. But once we get those new struts, brakes and sway bars installed, do we spend any time thinking of them again? Most likely not. And that is the problem. We should.
We should enjoy the solution and fix as much as we were bothered by it before it was fixed. If it was a minor bummer when the car was not operable, then it ought to be a minor upper now that it works fine. If we are so quick to get hot and bothered before something gets done, then we need to have the corresponding joy and satisfaction at a job well done and when it’s working.
This lesson is significantly more important when it comes to children and family members. We might get on their case with passion, emotion and frustration when we want them to do something. But do we have that same passion, emotion and satisfaction once they indeed did it? And more importantly, do we express it and tell them so?
If you are nagging or cajoling a loved one to do something, then once it’s done, the worst thing to do is to ignore it at that point and behave like it is a given. Nobody gets encouraged if the best they can do is get out of the negative zone and arrive at zero. People need love, encouragement and acknowledgement. So if you get aggravated at your kids for not cleaning the kitchen or their room and you point out every minor flaw, then make sure you are equally pleased once they indeed do their job and point out every detail of what they did right.
So maybe this is one of the reasons that the Torah goes over each and every detail of the actual building of the Tabernacle after giving us those self-same details of how it ought to be built. If God could take time and space out of His holy Torah to devote a significant chunk of it to repeating every facet involved in building His home on earth, then we too need to make every effort and devote an equal amount of time to the accomplishments and successes that we and others build in life.
Just as we are attuned to every step and effort along the way that is necessary before something happens, we need to go over and remind ourselves of those exact steps and efforts that went into making it happen. Don’t just live with the frustration and challenge before your spiritual house is built, make sure you stop to enjoy the fruits of your labour once it is finished. Each and every detail of it – no matter how boring it might be for another. Because for you, it’s what made it all worthwhile.
We are the navvies who work upon the railway
Swingin’ our hammers in the bright blazin’ sun
Layin’ down track and buildin’ the bridges
Bendin’ our backs ’til the railroad is done