I’m off to a Shabbaton with the next group of 6th-graders I’ll be tutoring, so, preparations pressing me for time, I offer some recycled musings. This time, I offer two musings for parashat Vayakhel, both concerning the same subject, but with somewhat different takes and conclusions (or not-I leave it to you, dear reader, to decide how different the two conclusions are.
Random Musings Before Shabbat-Vayakhel 5760
Vayakhel-The Lost Episodes: Too Much of a Good Thing
“Moishe! Hey, Moishe! Look. I gotta have a word with you. You have just got to stop it. You have got to tell all the people to stop bringing materials for the mishkan. We’ve got more than enough now, and we’re practically out of room to store it. I’m up to my elbows in linen, gold, silver, bronze, skins, you name it. It just keeps coming and coming and…”
“OK, Betzie, I get the picture. The good people cough up an excess of goods for the mishkan, and all you can do it kvetch about it? I got bigger problems on my hands than that, Mr. Craftsman.”
“Look Moishe, I know it’s been a tough time for you lately, what with having to schlep up and down the mountain lugging those tablets..and then that whole golden calf thingie…so I can understand you’re being preoccupied, but that’s no reason to get snippy and sarcastic with me.”
“Ah, yes, you’re right, Betzie, I’m sorry. It has been a hectic couple of weeks. Heck, I’ve barely had time to catch my breath since we left Mitzrayim. Now, what’s the problem again?”
“You just need to tell the people to stop bringing more stuff for the
mishkan. I mean, it’s great that everyone is being so generous”, and I do mean everyone. But enough is enough.”
“Right. OK. You got it. You got enough stuff for the mishkan. I’ll pass the word around, and before you know it, the stuff will stop coming.”
“You know, Moishe, it really is quite amazing how generous every one has been. It’s kind of unusual. Even Korach and his cronies have cheerfully been bringing lots of stuff.”
“Hmmmm. You know, Betzie, you’ve got me to thinking here. What has gotten into this rabble to make then so generous?”
“Maybe, since most of the troublemakers got swallowed up into the ground, just the nice people are left?”
“It a possibi-hey, wait just a darn minute here, Betzie. I think I get it. This has nothing to do with a sudden onset of generosity. G”d knows, these people should be generous, after all G”d has done for them.”
“Maybe they’re finally catching on?”
“Oh, to be young again, Betzie. I wish I had your youthful confidence and your optimism. But I’m becoming a cynic, dear friend. I wish they were catching on, but something tells me…heck, for all I know, three thousand years from know they could still be bellyaching, ungrateful, and disobedient. Wouldn’t surprise me one bit. No, sir. Betzie. What’s driving these people isn’t generosity, it’s CYA!”
“CYA? CYA? Oh…cover your a- err, I mean tuchis?”
“You got it Betzie. Cover your tuchis. That’s the mentality here. Think about it. First of all, where did everyone get all this stuff to contribute to the building of the mishkan and the ohel mo’ed?”
“Ohhhh. I see where you’re going. Well, from the Egyptians, of course. They didn’t earn it. The Egyptians were so thrilled to be getting rid of us they just gave away the store! None of us earned this stuff.”
“Whoa up there, pardner. I’d say we all earned it. we, and our ancestors, over centuries of slavery to Pharaoh and all of Mitzrayim. So we did earn it, in a way-with blood, sweat, and tears…but yes-it’s pretty easy for the folks to give all this stuff up for the mishkan, since if kind of just fell into their laps. But let’s see if you’ve figured out my thoughts, Betzie. Use that artistic brain of yours.”
“I’m not quite following you there yet, Moishe. Let’s see. CYA. CYA. Hmmmm…what does CYA have to do with……….OH. I get it! They’re sucking up to the big guy, numero uno, the One and only.”
“Bingo. You got it, Betzie. Think about it. They just saw a whole bunch of us get swallowed up by the earth after that golden calf thing. I’ll bet they’re feeling just a little insecure about what G”d might do to them. Especially now that they’ve got all these chukim and mishpatim to follow. And following some of these rules ain’t gonna be easy. Mark my words. Heck, if they only knew how I had to plead and cajole with G”d just to get him to dwell amidst us and be at the front of us as we sojourned-G”d was hopping mad about that golden calf business. One small mistake and G”d might have wiped half of us out just like that!”
“Phew! It’s better the people don’t know about that. It’s not good to have G”d mad at you.”
“No, it’s not. Trust me on that one, Betzie.”
“Whadayya mean, Moishe?”
“Don’t go there, Betzie. Don’t go there.”
“OK. I won’t pry. So, let me get this straight. You’re saying that everyone is being so generous with the stuff for the mishkan because they’re sucking up to G”d?”
“Well, I guess I can see that. Y’know, come to think of it, you’re probably right. Guess who have been the two biggest contributors-they just keep bringing more and more stuff…Nadav and Avihu! Probably trying to get your brother back on good graces with the big cheese. ‘Cause if Aharon’s out of a job, they’re out of a job!”
“Oy, those two nephews of mine. Don’t know when to quit. It’s gonna get them in real trouble some day. Sigh. Now, don’t think I’m giving you the bum’s rush Betzie, but we both got a lot of work to be doing, and we’d both better get back to it.”
“Yeah, you go back and do all that hard work-praying, judging, and writing that book I know you’ve been working on. Just promise you’ll think of me out there sweating and working my tuchis off getting the mishkan ready. Hard work, my a**!”
“Hey, smarty-pants. I’m not the sissy artist with the sissy name! Betzie? Betzie? What kind of man’s name is that? Moses. Now there’s a manly sounding name.”
“Yeah, right. For a prince of Egypt, it’s a great name. But years from now people are gonna wonder about your descendants. Moses? Moses? Doesn’t sound Jewish.”
“Get outta here before I break my staff over your head….
It’s great to be generous. This Shabbat, be generous. But not too generous. With G”d, we don’t need to CYA. After three millennia, you’d have thought we’d figured that out by now…
© 2014 (portions © 2000) by Adrian A. Durlester
Random Musings Before Shabbat-Vayakhel 5763
More than enough. It’s an interesting concept. One should certainly aspire to do as much as one can. One should be generous to a fault. Or should one?
That’s the question posed by what we read in parashat Vayakhel.
וְהַמְּלָאכָה הָֽיְתָה דַיָּם לְכָל־הַמְּלָאכָה לַֽעֲשׂוֹת אֹתָהּ וְהוֹתֵֽר
The outpouring of materials and effort from the people of Israel for the building of the tabernacle was “dayam l’chol ham’lacha la’asot ota” enough for all that needed to be done for it [the building of the tabernacle.] However, not only was it “enough”, the text goes on to say “v’hoteir” which one might colloquially translate as “and then some” but the combination of “dayam” and “hoteir” is most often rendered “more than enough.” [Ex 36:7]
It’s wonderful that Moshe had to tell the people to stop, that more than was needed had been given by those whose hearts moved them to give. And it’s certainly appropriate to look at this as an example of generosity of spirit.
I also think there’s another way of looking at it. It can also be a lesson in knowing when enough is enough. We’ve all experienced the sensation of getting really caught up in something, getting carried away in our enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is a good thing. Yet enthusiasm, as with anything carried to extremes, needs its limits. Energies that may be needed elsewhere can be needlessly and wastefully expended on something that no longer needs that energy.
I also believe we have a lesson here in learning to allow someone with an objective outside opinion warn us when our enthusiasm has blinded us to the need to move on to something new. In the Talmud, Rabbi Tarfon teaches us that “it is not your obligation to complete the task, yet you are also not free to desist from it. Would that he had also said “and when the task is done, move on to the next one.” Moshe rabbeinu had to get up in front of the whole community and effectively say: “Enough already! Stop with the all the ferkhakhte gifts for building the tabernacle! We’re up to our ears in this holy dreck.”
I wonder what might have happened had not Moshe done so (or if the people had not listened to him.)
The artisans who were engaged in the work knew something had to be done. They were probably so busy continuing to accept and sort all the gifts being brought they had little time to actually work on the creating of the items for the tabernacle. So they went to Moshe and asked him to tell the people to stop.
The last time the people had gotten in such a fervor they had committed a great sin, and brought forth the abomination of the golden calf. Surely Moshe must have had this in mind when he ordered the people to stop. Another case of poorly channeled energy.
What are the things in our own lives to which we devote more than enough? Are we open to the comments of those who tell us when we have done enough and it’s time to stop? It’s great to be moved by our hearts to do things. It’s also important to use our heads to know when to stop and move on.
As we help with the building of our own tabernacles in our own times, let us all pray for the wisdom to know when enough is enough.
I could say more on the subject, but maybe enough is enough.
© 2014 (portions © 2003) by Adrian A. Durlester
Maybe, at the moment, I don’t agree that enough is enough, so I just can’t resist adding a few more words. So what do you think? How similar and different are the apparent conclusions of these two musings, written just a few years apart? Am I just doing an act of CYA just by adding this little tag? And down the rabbit hole we go.
© 2014 by Adrian A. Durlester
Other musings on this parasha:
Vayakhel-Pekudei 5773 – Craftsman. Artisan. Artist. Again.
Vayakhel-Pekude 5772 – Vocational Ed
Vayakhel 5771 – Giving Up the Gold Standard
Vayakhel-Pekudei/Shabbat HaHodesh 5770-Corroborative Detail
Vayakhel-Pekudei 5769 – There Are Some Things You Just Have To Do Yourself
Vayakhel 5768-An Imaginary Community?
Vayakhel-Pekudei/Shabbat HaHodesh 5767-Redux 5760-The Lost Episodes: Too Much of a Good Thing
Vayakhel-Pekudei/Shabbat HaHodesh 5766 – So How Did Joseph Get Away With it?
Vayakhel 5765-The Wisdom of the Heart
Vayakhel/Pekude 5764-Comma or Construct?
Vayakhel 5763-Dayam V’hoteir
Vayakhel/Pekude 5762-Sacred Work
Vayakhel/Pekude 5761 (Revised from 5758)-Craftsman. Artisan. Artist.
Vayakhel/Pekude 5758-Craftsman. Artisan. Artist.
Vayakhel 5760-The Lost Episodes: Too Much of a Good Thing