Wednesday, February 20, 2013

the larger picture

V’asu li mikdash… k’chol asher ani mareh oscha... v’chain ta’asu (Shmos 25:8-9)

Rashi writes “v’chein ta’asu” is a mitzvah l’doros to make the klei hamikdash (when needed) exactly as made during the building of the Mishkan.  Ramban disagrees and proves that this is not a mitzvah l’doros from the fact that the mizbeiach built by Shlomo did not have the same dimensions as that built by Moshe.  The simple answer in defense of Rashi is that although the size of the mizbeiach may not have been the same, its essential features were.  Shiur is a measure of the amount of something that there is; it’s not the essence of what the thing is.  Maharal suggests that Rashi may have been referring to the kli hamikdash in particular, meaning those items that were portable.  The mizbeiach was connected to the ground, to the building of Mikdash/Mishkan, and was therefore different than a normal kli.

The Tiferes Shlomo has a beautiful answer.  The Radomsker writes that “v’chein ta’asu” is not talking about the physical making of the kelim, but rather is talking about the “k’chol asher ani mareh oscha.”  Moshe did not just make kelim the way he thought fit – he had a vision of what the Mikdash should look like and made kelim to fit that ideal.  The mitzvah l’doros is similarly to make kelim not according to one’s own standards or needs, but according to the vision that Hashem shows of what a Mishkan or Mikdash should be.  Every generation has its Moshe who is privy to that vision and can direct the work accordingly. 

I don’t think the Radomsker is telling us a din in the mitzvah of building Mikdash; I think he’s telling us a general din about life.  You can’t build unless you have vision.  The nitty-gritty of how-to can only be addressed if one starts with an image of the ideal one would like to achieve.  And it’s true that the end product many times will not match and it’s true that how to meet that ideal will not always be simple or clear.  “Nitkashe Moshe” is part of the process.  But without an overarching philosophy and dream to guide them, piecemeal solutions will ultimately never have any coherence or direction.

L’havdil, to take an example from the outside world, when JFK made his famous speech challenging the county to land a man on the moon within a decade, he didn’t specify whether to use rocket X or Y or how to build a lunar lander.  He pointed the space program in the direction he wanted it to go, gave his bracha and got funding, and left the details to the engineers.  He trusted that the how-to would eventually work itself out; his job was to get people dreaming and aspiring to achieve a goal. 

It seems to me that our leaders these days are experts in nitty-gritty detail, but short on vision.  We hear a lot these days about what not to read and what not to do and how not to dress and not act etc.  We hear about who to vote for to get the most benefit to yeshivos and avoid yeshiva bachurim from serving in Tzahal.  What we don't hear is an overarching vision of how to bring together the various factions in society in a way that balances the needs of a modern state with the religious needs of our community.  If you don't accept the philosophy of Rav Kook or Mizrachi, what is the answer -- how do you think we can achieve that goal?  I am more than willing to acknowledge that it may be my ignorance; maybe I am just not reading the right books so I'm not getting the message.  How we are going to have doctors, pay bills, keep our yeshivos running if the only path in life that is approved is klei kodesh?  I exaggerate, but you can think of your own examples so I won’t belabor the point.  I don't see the vision; I don't see how the particulars add up to make a strong Torah society of diverse personalities that fill different rolls and can contend with economic, political, ideological, and existential challenges in the modern world. 

We need to start with “k’chol asher ani mareh oscha,” with the larger vision.  We need Moshe's that see that vision and can guide us to make the kelim that match that ideal.

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