OpinionTorah Portion

A hope and a prayer

When all is said and done, we still need the finishing touch.

An illustration of the erection of the Tabernacle as described in Exodus 40:17-19 from the 1728 book "Figures de la Bible." Source: Wikimedia Commons
An illustration of the erection of the Tabernacle as described in Exodus 40:17-19 from the 1728 book "Figures de la Bible." Source: Wikimedia Commons
Rabbi Yossy Goldman
Rabbi Yossy Goldman
Rabbi Yossy Goldman is Life Rabbi Emeritus of Sydenham Shul in Johannesburg and president of the South African Rabbinical Association. He is the author of From Where I Stand, on the weekly Torah readings, available from Ktav.com and Amazon.

Finally, the job was done. The Jewish people’s building of the Mishkan—the Sanctuary—under Moses’s guidance is completed in this week’s parsha Pikudei. It has taken no less than 13 chapters of the Book of Exodus to recount it. Consider that the entire story of Creation took up only one chapter in Genesis. The Revelation at Sinai and the giving of the Ten Commandments and the Torah took all of three chapters. It appears that it was a lot easier for God to create the world than for humans to make a physical home worthy of God’s presence.

The people show Moses all they have done and he is very pleased that everything was performed according to the precise instructions given to him by God. Then he blesses the people. 

Rashi, quoting the Midrash, tells us that Moses’s blessing was, “Yehi ratzon, may it be His will that the Shechinah, the Divine Presence, should come to dwell upon the work of your hands.”

Using what would later become a verse in Psalm 90, Moses added, “May the pleasantness of the Lord our God be upon us and may He establish for us the work of our hands [to be successful].” 

Later, we will read that the Cloud of Glory descended and came to rest upon the Sanctuary, a clear sign that the Almighty was pleased with the people’s efforts and had established His residence on earth in the Sanctuary they built.

But why the need for Moses’s blessing?

The work was completed. Everything was done according to plan. There were no hitches, no glitches, no mistakes—it was clearly a job well done. It was a project performed to perfection. So why the need for a blessing?

Have you ever pitched for a contract or tried to make a sale and it was all going smoothly, but in the end the deal wasn’t done? Sometimes we make a monumental effort in our businesses. We prepare the most professional and compelling presentations. We wine and dine the customer. We do absolutely anything and everything to do the deal, but in the end, he doesn’t sign on the dotted line.

The best-laid plans of mice and men still require a blessing from Above to be successful. In Jewish tradition, the term for this is syata d’shmaya, Aramaic for “help from heaven.” At the end of the day, we are not the arbiters of who will be successful and who will not. There are always higher forces at work, whether seen or unseen—usually unseen. 

“But I don’t understand. I did everything right. The pitch, the presentation, even the lunch!” Correct, but in the end, the client didn’t sign. 

The rabbis compare it to farming. We must plow the land, till the land and plant. But if it doesn’t rain, the crop will fail. Rain is the blessing from Above that we hope will always follow our hard work. If we don’t work the land, no amount of rain will yield any growth. But even when we do everything we must, we still need the rain, which is the blessing from Above for a successful crop.

On the other hand, sometimes businesspeople may be sitting at their desk, not very busy with anything important, when suddenly the phone rings and, out of the blue, they make the deal of the year. In fact, for this very reason, it has been said that those who are in business see the hand of Hashem much more clearly than rabbis. They are eyewitnesses to the indisputable fact that there are higher forces at play. While we always need to give it our best shot, ultimately, success or failure is not necessarily in our hands.

So, even after the people did all that was required to build the Sanctuary, they still needed Moses’s blessings for their work to succeed in its desired objective—that God should dwell among them.

May we all do our part in laying the groundwork for all the Almighty’s abundant blessings to be showered upon us. And may the government of Israel, the IDF and all our protectors do what they must to merit that Hashem will bless the work of their hands with the most outstanding success. Amen!

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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