Rabbi Berkman is a rabbi for Mesorah DC and leads this weekly discussion of the Torah portion. The first part to this discussion ran on Monday. Will Gotkin also commented on the significance of the “shitim” trees in this week’s portion.
Hello again Jew gatherers and gathered Jews. I hope you are all having a wonderful week. Please end your week with a blast by joining Mesorah DC for Shabbat Services and dinner this Friday night at 6&I. Services start at 6:30 and dinner follows. I hope to see you there!
Editor’s note: The service and dinner are free. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you plan on attending.
We began the week with a question on the Torah portion. Our Sages tell us that the “shitim” trees used for the beams of the Mishkan (tabernacle) were actually planted by our father Jacob in Egypt and carried into the desert by his children upon the exodus. Out of all the materials used to build the mishkan, why specifically did Jacob prepare the wood to be used for the beams? What message was he sending, us, his children?
Thank you Will, Tila, and JBK for your comments, all very true and very insightful. I would like, however to approach the question from a different angle. So what if there were no “shitim” trees in the desert. Think about our existence in the desert in general. We ate a miraculous food called “monn,” delivered from the sky each morning. We were led by pillars of fire and protected by holly clouds. Basically we relied on God’s miracles to sustain us and to provide whatever we needed along our journey. Would it be, then, too much to expect that if God tells us to build something, with specific materials that were not available to us, that he would miraculously provide those materials just like he had everything else?
What was it about the beams of the Mishkan that they could not be constructed from materials obtained in any supernatural way, rather Jacob had to plant and prepare them many years in advance?
We have to understand the function of these beams. The beams of any structure support that structure. If the beams are removed, the structure will fall. We could rely on miracles for any of the materials used to build any other part of the Mishkan or for any of the vessels used within. But the foundation had to be laid before we could hope for the assistance of any miracle. Therefore, Jacob prepared the trees far in advance so his children would be ready to go when the time came.
What a powerful message! Each and every Jew is analogous to the Mishkan. We all in some way or another rely on miracles, small or great, in our everyday lives. It is even appropriate and reasonable for us to ask God for help in every step of our lives. God wants us to ask, God wants to help. What we can’t do though is sit around and wait for God to do everything for us. We have to start laying the foundations on our own, then with the help of God we should be able to accomplish all of our goals.
“If we start to build it, He will come.”