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A Life of Meaning
By: SFW Students & Alumna
Debra Strashun (SFW '09)
The continuous efforts on behalf of בצלאל, אהליאב, and the “לב חכמי”are complete and the time for המשכן חנוכת has finally arrived! The day is ניסן ‘א and the משכן is ready to be sanctified for ‘ה עבודת. Who will be the first to bring the holy קרבנות?
"ויקריבו נשיאי ישראל ראשי בית אבותם הם נשיאי המטות הם העומדים על הפקודים. ויביאו את קרבנם לפני
ז':ב'-ג') במדבר) ויקריבו אותם לפני המשכן." … ה'
“The leaders of Israel, the heads of their fathers’ household, brought offerings; they were the leaders of the tribes, they were those who stand at the countings. They brought their offerings before Hashem…and they brought them before the Tabernacle.” (Bamidbar 7:2-3)
We expect this type of behavior from the נשיאים - of course they are the first ones to be קרבנות מקריב in the משכן! However, we can learn a lesson from here that I think is especially important as we approach the end of our “year in Israel” or for those ending the school-year and transitioning into the summer season.
רש"י on these פסוקים asks: why דוקא here by the המשכן חנוכת do the נשיאים volunteer to be קרבנות מקריב first whereas by the המשכן מלאכת they donate last? Previously, by the המשכן מלאכת their attitude was: יתנדבו ציבור מה שיתנדבו ומה שמחסרין אנו משלמין –“let everyone else give first, and then…whatever’s missing we’ll give.” But the צבור gave so much that there was nothing left for the נשיאים to give except for their contribution of the stones for the אפוד and the חושן. Therefore, learning from this past mistake of not seizing the moment, by the המשכן חנוכתà התנדבו כאן תחילה, here they volunteered FIRST.
I think a lot can be taken from this. Firstly, it is important to note that even people as great as the נשיאים made mistakes. But they didn’t wallow in regret or self-pity. Instead, the second a new opportunity came around they seized the moment and rectified their previous mistake. In life we are presented with so many chances to do מצוות and חסד, but so often we push them off thinking we’ll “get around to it later” and in doing so we miss incredible opportunities for growth! הגאון רבי מאיר רובמן in his sefer "זכרון מאיר" teaches us not to push off doing something until later. And if there’s one thing I learned this year it’s that time passes by too fast, and if we don’t take advantage of every opportunity that we have to do a מצוה, then it will be too late.
ר' רובמן brings down a גמרא (מסכת סוכה נו) that tells us: "בוצינא טבא מקרא". This means “a young pumpkin is better than a fully grown pumpkin.” רש"י there gives a mashal that helps explain this: A friend gives his buddy a vegetable plant and tells him “if you want to plant it now, go plant it. But if you want to wait for it to grow riper then you can wait…” But, the friend warns that it is better to plant the vegetable now, rather than wait because something might come up that will delay him from planting it. And since he has the time right now, why not just go for it?? The message here is simple: אין להחמיץ הזדמנות - don’t delay an opportunity, or as we know from פסח,
אל תקראו מצות אלא מצוות- "ושמרתם את המצות"because: "מצוה הבאה לידך אל תחמיצנה"
. (מכילתא שמות בא) When a chance to do a mitzvah comes your way don’t push it off!
This middah of being quick to seize an opportunity is explained further by the רמח"ל in ז פרק of מסילת ישרים:
" קודם התחלת המעשה הוא שלא יחמיץ האדם את המצוה. אלא בהגיע זמנה או בהזדמנה לפניו או בעלותה במחשבתו ימהר יחיש מעשהו לאחוז בה ולעשות אותה. ולא יניח לזמן שיתרבה בינתים ...
אשר הנה כל רגע שמתחדש יוכל להתחדש איזה עיכוב למעשה הטוב."
“Before a person does an action he must have in mind not to delay its performance. Rather, when the opportunity to do a mitzvah presents itself, or when it enters his mind, he must react quickly, without delay, seizing the moment. He must not procrastinate at this time… because every new minute can bring with it some new hindrance to the fulfillment of a good deed.”
As long as we have life, we have the ability to be accomplish great things. What we do with our time is so precious. We can waste the day or we can take action. In the Rav’s “Kol Dodi Dofek” or “Fate and Destiny” he writes something that has inspired me so much: “Man’s task in the world, according to Judaism, is to transform fate into destiny; a passive existence into an active existence; an existence of compulsion, perplexity, and muteness into an existence replete with a powerful will, with resourcefulness, daring, and imagination.” Life is about doing; always looking out for a chance to do something productive and make a difference in the world.
As this “year” comes to an end, I can’t help but reflect on the ways I have grown and how I now see the world in a whole new light. This year has been about finding the meaning in life. But I’ve learned that there is no meaning to life unless we turn our lives into a life of meaning. We each have the power to make choices and with each decision elevate ourselves to become closer to Hashem. Each one of us is on a search, trying to discover the things that bring us true happiness, surrounding ourselves along the way with people who help us see the goodness in the world. And on our journey through life we encounter struggles, times when it’s so hard to find the meaning, but we must never stop trying. We have to look for every opportunity to do something good and when these chances come our way we have to grab them. But at the same time we’ve seen from the נשיאים that it is okay to mess up, as long as we are able to recognize our mistakes and try harder the next time. Don’t ever lose hope. In Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning” he writes: “Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is asked…each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.”
May we all have the power to infuse our lives with meaning and seize every opportunity to make this world a better place!
J!!! ומבורך שלום שבת J
1: Parshat Shavua