“Va’teichel kol avodas mishkan ohel moed va’ya’asu Bnei Yisrael k’chol asher tzivah Hashem es Moshe…” (39:32). The pasuk switches from active voice, “va’ya’asu,” “they did,” when talking about Bnei Yisrael starting the work, to passive voice, “va’teichel,” “it was completed,” when talking about the work being finished. I know in my house when my kids switch to passive voice – “It broke” – it spells trouble because it means no one wants to take responsibility. Here, things went right – the work was finished. Why switch to the passive voice? Similarly, when the navi speaks about the Beis haMikdash, it uses the term (Melachim I ch 6), “habayis b’hibanoso” in the passive voice, “the house that was built”, not “she’banu’hu,” the house that the people built. Why? The Zohar (222b) answers (see Ohr haChaim as well) that Bnei Yisrael started the job, “va’ya’asu,” but it was not their efforts and abilities alone that brought the work to completion. “Va’teichel” -- the work actually finished itself of its own accord.
R’ Ya’akov Ades writes that this Zohar is an important lesson for attaining one's goals in avodas Hashem. One should not be afraid of aspiring to achieve great things even if they seem far outside one’s abilities and grasp. Not to worry – “va’teichel,” the job will finish itself. All a person has to do is to start and to make an effort.
The Midrash echoes this idea of the work completing itself, albeit in a different context with what seems like a different lesson. The Midrash writes: “Rabos banos asu chayil v’at alis al kulana”-- there were many chachamim (banos = binah, wisdom) who tried to put together the mishkan, but they were unable to get it to stand, so they brought the boards and beams to Moshe, and he was finally able to assemble it. But don’t think, says the Midrash, that it was Moshe’s skill that enabled him to do it. “Hukam ha’mishkan,” (40:17) the pasuk says, in the passive voice. The mishkan miraculously assembled itself (see Rashi); Moshe was simply the conduit for the miracle to occur.
A mussar-ish reading of the Midrash (see R’ Reuvain Katz in Dudai Reuvain) might derive from it that everyone wants to be a chief; no one wants to just be an Indian. Everyone thinks that he is the chacham who can assemble the mishkan, but that didn’t work and it can’t work. It’s only Moshe Rabeinu, the person who never wanted to be the chief, who is able to do the job.
The Sefas Emes (5643), however, sees a more positive message here. We need those “rabos banos asu chayil” – we need everyone to try to put up the mishkan, to want to be the one to get the job done. There has to be a hisorerus on our part, and only then, “v’at alis al kulana,” is Moshe Rabeinu enabled and capable of completing the job. We need leaders who lead, but we also need followers prepared to do everything they can to make their mission a success.
There is another connotation to “va’teichel” that the Ohr haChaim highlights. David haMelech tells us, “Nichsifa v’gam kalsa nafshi l’chatzros Hashem.” (Teh 84:3) “Vateichel” = kalsa nafshi, the people were filled with tremendous desire to make a mishkan -- it wasn’t a chore or a burden. We say every Shabbos, “Vayichulu ha’shamayim v’ha’aretz….” It’s this same idea as “kalsa nafshi…” When Shabbos comes the world is filled with kisufim, with a desire, to come close to its Creator.