Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues
In this week's parashah it says, "And it came to pass on the day that Moshe had finished setting up the Tabernacle, and had anointed it, and sanctified it, and all its instruments, both the altar and all its utensils, and had anointed them, and sanctified them" (Bemidbar 7:1). Rashi explains: It says, "on the day that Moshe had finished setting up the Tabernacle," not, "on the day Moshe set up." From this we may learn that every day of the seven days of the installation of the priests into their sacred office Moshe erected the Tabernacle and dismantled it. But on the eighth day, he erected it and did not dismantle it.
We have to understand what was the significance of erecting the Tabernacle every day of the week and then dismantling it.
Similarly, we find in the Midrash (Bereishis Rabbah 3:7) that before Hashem created this world, He created other worlds first and destroyed them. Finally, He created this world and said, "This one I like. The other ones I didn't."
This is extremely difficult to understand since surely Hashem is not like us who do not see the finished product until it is done, and then we decide if it satisfactorily meets our expectations or not. Hashem makes things exactly as He wants them to be and knows, in advance, exactly what they will be like. Certainly, then, if they came out imperfect and He destroyed them, then that is what He wanted to happen. But why would Hashem create worlds that were not what He liked, and destroy them, before creating the world which He really desired?
The answer is that both Hashem and Moshe wanted to teach us a very important lesson.
In Parashas Ki Sisa, we discussed the passage in Proverbs (Mishlei 24:16), "For a righteous man falls seven times, and yet rises up again; but the wicked stumble into calamity." I wrote there that my Rebby, shlita, explained that the number "seven" is used here to indicate many times. We are being told that not only the rasha (wicked one) falls. The tzaddik (righteous one) falls many times too. But the difference between him and the wicked one is that the tzaddik picks himself up and tries again, no matter how many times he has already failed, while the rasha falls and stays there, thus stumbling into calamity.
The Rebby always reminded us that the contest with the Yetzer Hara is not a one-time battle, but a war with many battles, and, like in every war, you win some, you lose some. But the most important thing is that the war goes on. Then, there is a chance to win it eventually. The strongest weapon our adversary has is the "atomic bomb" called yiush (hopelessness). If the Yetzer Hara can succeed to convince someone that his situation is hopeless and it doesn't even pay to try to go on, then, at least for the moment, he has actually won the war, not just that individual battle. Of course, once he realizes that he has been fooled, the fellow will renew the war again, but until then, for all practical purposes, it is over.
Hashem purposely created worlds, which were unsatisfactory, destroyed them, and re-created new ones, until He finally "got it right." Moshe erected the Tabernacle and dismantled it, until he finally constructed it to remain erect. This was to teach us, by example, that we, too, must not get discouraged if we worked very hard, with tremendous self-sacrifice, to build something great, only to see it crumble before our very eyes. As much as it hurts, we must not get discouraged but strengthen ourselves and start again. And if it falls again, chas veshalom, then we must gird ourselves with even greater might, and try again and again, until, with Hashem's help, we attain our goals.
In the Talmud (Berachos 61b), it is related how Rabi Akiva was martyred by the wicked Romans. The Gemara describes the scene in which the evil ones combed his flesh with iron combs. Yet Rabi Akiva calmly recited the Shema all the while. When his students were amazed at his behavior and strength of spirit, Rabi Akiva explained it to them by saying, "All of my days I pained over the passage (in Shema, Devarim 6:5), "And you shall love Hashem your G-d with all of your soul," (which the Sages explained to mean) even if He takes your soul from you. I said to myself, 'When will I get the opportunity to fulfill this?' Now that I have the opportunity, should I not fulfill it?"
I once heard an address by the great tzaddik of Manchester, Rav Yehudah Segal ztvk"l, during the days of the counting of the Omer. He said that we probably think that in this story we witness the epitome of the remarkable strength of Rabi Akiva's unconquerable spirit. But, he said, there is another story which is even more revealing.
The Gemara in Yevamos (62b) relates that Rabi Akiva had 24,000 students who all died during the period between Pesach and Shavuos. The world was void after their passing, because they constituted the foundation of Torah. Rabi Akiva then went to the rabbis in the south of Eretz Yisrael and acquired five new students and learned with them. From them came all of the Oral Law, which we have today.
The Gemara explains that Rabi Akiva would interpret the passage in Koheles (11:6), "In the morning sow your seed, and in the evening do not withhold your hand; for you do not know which shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both alike shall be good," as follows: "If you had students when you were young, have (other) students when you are old," for you never know which will be more successful. He practiced what he preached and taught another group, from which came out the entire Torah Shebe'al Peh (Oral Law).
Rav Segal argued that if we delve into the human psyche, and try to imagine the awesome disappointment Rabi Akiva must have felt when he lost all of his students - 24,000 in number! - we will realize that the fact that he wasn't totally crushed, and mustered up the strength to build again, indicates a spirit even greater than the one with which he gave up his life as a martyr.
No doubt he learned this important lesson in life from Hashem's method of creation and Moshe's practice of erecting and dismantling the Tabernacle. Let us learn from them too, never to be broken, never to give up, but to continue to try until Hashem finally grants us success in all of our endeavors.
Shema Yisrael Torah Network