Rabbi Yair D. Robinson
So this past weekend Cantor and I took our confirmation class to New York City. I’m not going to lie: It was EXAUSTING. Thank God we came home Sunday so I had Monday to recover! And yet, it was amazing; we joined up with another confirmation class from Baltimore, and we took a combined 16 kids on the subway, to delis, different synagogues for services, to a musical and various museums. And Saturday night, at Havdallah, we went around and shared our favorite part. And I started reflecting on watching these kids create community with each other, grow together, grow individually. As I was looking at these kids, who had bonded so quickly, share with each other, I felt a sense of real accomplishment.
This week, Israel completes the building of the Mishkan, the tabernacle, the holy place God had commanded to be built, that God may dwell within the people’s midst. In Ex. 38:22: we read that Betzalel, the chief architect, had completed the project, doing everything that God had commanded Moses. On the surface, it just means that he finished, but the Sfat Emet teaches that, in making the Mishkan, he literally did EVERYTHING commanded: all 613 commandments, both the 248 positive and 365 and negative mitzvoth. That in fulfilling this task, there was not only a sense of completeness, but of holiness.
Most of us won’t build a tabernacle, or feel ourselves filled with the chacham of God and images of fire showing us how to create sacred vessels, but it’s worth asking ourselves: what projects do we spend our energy on? Where do we put our efforts, and what of those tasks has real potential for holiness, for completeness, for shalom? Is it in the time we spend with our family, or volunteering our time toward some act of tzedakah? Is it in meaningful careers that allow us to inspire and motivate or connect with others? Or is it working with our hands to till the soil, to shape objects or capture the world around us through photograph or canvas? Or, are we blessed to discover that every act we perform—from reading the paper to working with those around us to even shopping and cleaning—is filled with their own sense of holiness? That might sound funny to us, but that’s clearly what the s’fat emet is trying to tell us: that every act has the potential to fulfill every one of the 613 mitzvot, that no matter how mundane or silly the activity, every act has the potential to deepen our connection to God, our fellow and the world around us.
So the next time you find yourself surrounded by a pile of parts, or the remains of a school project, or the next time we have a severe case of the Mondays at work or in our errand running, let’s take a deep breath, and strive to be like Betzalel, finding the holiness in the work around us.