Doing is growing

LIfe lessons from the Torah reading.

Moshe Kempinski,

Moshe Kempinski
Moshe Kempinski
צילום: PR

Starting again after failure is a very difficult thing to do. That is because inside of  all of our hearts lurks the nagging fear that failure will just re-occur ,even if we succeed in starting over. The failure in sin is even more devastating, as the ensuing feeling is that perhaps we are unworthy of turning back and facing the challenge. Yet we forget that "sin" is not a trap. Sin is a test and a challenge. It is something that we can and must overcome. That was the challenge for the people of Israel after the "sin pf the Golden Calf"

While it is true that in fact "only “ three thousand people were involved with the sin of the calf, all the others felt responsible and culpable. That sense of mutual responsibility is a critical theme in the journey of the Jewish people. After the collapse of the walls of Jericho the armies of Joshua were soon overwhelmed by the defeat at the next city called Ai. Hashem declares  that the reason for the defeat  was because  "But the children of Israel committed a trespass concerning the devoted thing;"( Joshua 7:1) Yet we learn that the "trespass of the children of Israel was committed by one individual , Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerach, of the tribe of Judah, ..."(ibid). This individual trespass is seen by G-d as the responsibility of the whole people.

It is in the midst of that sense of culpability that depression and futility began to seep in.

The Torah portion begins with the verse Moshe assembled the whole community of the children of Israel, "And Moses assembled (Vayakhel Moshe ) the whole community (Adat) of the children of Israel , and he said to them: These are the things that Hashem has commanded to make." ( Exodus 35:1.). Most translations ignore the word “and” even thought the letter Vav in the beginning means exactly that. This    "and " is critical. It connects this event and these words to what had transpired right before.

Rashi teaches that these words were spoken: "on the morning after Yom Kippur, the day that Moses descended from the mountain [with the second tablets."

The sin and its repercussions have left a broken-spirited and hurting people. And Moshe on Hashem's instructions brings the healing and the cure.

How does a people who has failed in their mission and faltered in their destiny regain the courage to begin anew? "And  Moses assembled (Vayakhel Moshe) the whole community ( Adat) of the children of Israel , and he said to them: These are the things that Hashem has commanded to make." (Exodus 35:1.).


Moshe was attempting to create a Kehilla (congregation) out of the Adat (Eidah-community).  The word “Eidah “originates from the word “eidut” or witnessing. It describes a community that witness similar experiences and perhaps sense an identical history.  It is a community that sees itself as a body of individuals connected by a bond of history and experience. A “Kehilla, “ on the other hand is a corporate body focused on a similar purpose and destiny .

How is that change made?  With the following words!

Hashem declares "These are the things that Hashem has commanded to make." (ibid) .

Move the people into action. Fill them with the sense of purpose that is found in the fulfillment of  the will of our Creator. Let them open their hearts and find the wisdom ensconced within those hearts and get active.

Yet it is clear that at times activity and creativity can fill one with an inflated sense of self. Therefore before beginning that process  that Hashem has to remind them of the context of their "doing". That is why he begins with the following reminder; "Six days you shall work , but on the seventh day you shall have sanctity, a day of complete rest to Hashem; whoever performs work thereon [on this day] shall be put to death." (Ibid:2) That is to say on six days of the week be active and creative but the rest on the Shabbat will remind you of the sanctity of your endeavors,

In this way the broken hearted dispirited people regained their vision and destiny. At the end of the Torah portion of Pekudei we read that at the completion of all the work and the preparation;

And the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of Hashem filled the Mishkan. … For the cloud of Hashem was upon the Mishkan by day, and there was fire within it at night, before the eyes of the entire house of Israel in all their journeys. (Exodus 38:34-38)

These  clouds were but  a reminder of another set of clouds the people had experienced before the sin  at Mount Sinai:

“And you approached and stood at the foot of the mountain, and the mountain burned with fire up to the midst of the heavens, with darkness (Choshech)  a cloud (Anan) , and mist( Arafel)” ( Deuteronomy 4:11) .

We know that when the people of Israel sinned with the golden calf , the clouds of Glory left the people and left them vulnerable and feeling orphaned. When did they return? Hashem gave Moshe the second tablets to bring down on Yom Kippur and on the following day Moshe gathered the people and told them to begin working on the building of the Mishkan ( Tabernacle).

They spent three days in preparation and on the fifth day after Yom Kippur, the fifteenth day of Tishrei which is the first day of Sukkot – they began to build the Mishkan. According to the Gaon of Vilna, since it was on that day that the Clouds of Glory descended on the tabernacle and thereby returned to the people of Israel , it is that return that  we actually celebrate as we sit in the sukkah.

Yet that sense of the covering of the cloud was lost until they began to build the tabernacle.“Make for me a Mikdash and I will dwell within you.”

LeRefuat Yehudit bat Golda Yocheved