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Parshat Pekudai: 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 
-Gordon Lightfoot 

This week’s Torah portion, and last week’s as well, 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 as well as the garments for the Kohen Gadol/High Priest. In last week’s reading and this week’s we get much of the same. 

The major difference between version one and version two is that while Moshe and the Israelites were given the instructions of how to build the Mishkan and make the clothes in those earlier parshas, these latter Torah readings are the execution of the plan as it was being carried out. Earlier was the architect’s copy and the tailors vision, so to speak, and now the GC has been called in along with the artisans to build and fashion it all. 

I don’t wish to diminish the importance and centrality of the Tabernacle and the Kohen Gadol’s role since 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. 

These Torah portions could have been much shorter if they 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 Breastplate… 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. What happens though 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 the point that the Torah is trying to get across by repeating every nook and cranny of the actual construction of the Mishkan and Kohen Gadol’s garments. 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. 

For instance, recall for a moment when something goes wrong with your car. Like when it sputters when you give it some gas and, after a visit to Rami the mechanic, you have to order a set of ignition coils from Parts Geek online because nobody locally carries them for your 2007 Saab 9-3. So you end up driving on 3 cylinders for a week and you gotta’ make sure you are not travelling too far from home in case it conks out. I mention this, not only because it’s autobiographical, but because it is but one example of irritants that occupy a part of our lives. And when they do, we tend to focus on every detail of the problem. But once we get those new ignition coils, do we spend any time thinking of them again? Most likely not. And that’s the problem – we should. 

We should enjoy the solution and the fix to the same degree as we were bothered by it before it was fixed. If it was a bummer when the car was not operable, then it ought to be an 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, when it’s working and functioning. 

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 a 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 flaw, then make sure you are equally pleased once they indeed do their job and point out every detail of what they did right. 

Maybe this is the reason that the Torah goes over each and every detail of the 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. 

Don’t live only with the frustration and challenge before your house is built and your goals are met, make sure you stop to enjoy the fruits of your labour once you get there. Each and every detail of them – no matter how boring they might sound – 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 

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