“Moshe erected the Mishkan, placed its sockets, put up its planks, put in its bars, and set up its pillars.” (Shemos 40:18)
In discussing the erection of the Mishkan, the Seforno (1475-1550) explains that Moses first erected the eser yerios, the ten curtains, before he put up the beams of the structure. Why is this detail so important?
Let’s look at what the ten curtains represent. The Torah says that those who made the curtains were “chacham lev,” wise hearted (Shemos 36:8). Why are these people called wise hearted? The Seforno explains that these curtains required special skill to be made. The curtains were beautiful and required a great deal of skill. Skill takes time.
Often, when we are given an important task, we want to impress the one who tasked up by performing the task immediately. In fact, doing so demonstrates the admirable trait of zerizus, alacrity.
An example of zerizus can be seen from the women who contributed their jewelry to the building of the Mishkan with “nediv lev,” great generosity (Shemos 35:22). The Malbim (1809-1879) explains that they were giving generously in contrast to their stinginess in giving to the egel hazahav, the golden calf. They did not want to give their precious jewelry to the profane golden calf. However, when it came to the holy Mishkan, they gave their jewelry generously and immediately. We see from their generous and quick giving how much the women loved G-d and only wanted to give toward items of holiness.
However, sometimes running to perform a task means that we may unnecessarily rush through the process, make mistakes and not appreciate the lessons that can be learned.
The Netziv (1817-1893) learns, based on the idea of the Seforno about the creation of the ten curtains, that sometimes the value of taking time is greater than zerizus. Those who made those curtains could have done it quickly to show their enthusiasm and love for G-d. Instead, they chose to contribute of themselves on an even higher level. They chose to devote more of themselves by giving time, skill and thought to beautifying the curtains for the Mishkan, G-d’s home in this world.
Sometimes, if we want true holiness, we need to wait and put work into it. Rabbi Yosef Ber Soloveitchik (1903-1993) famously used to write on the top of the blackboard of his classroom the phrase “Ein kedusha bli hachana” – There is no holiness without preparation.
Perhaps this is why Moshe decided that the first item to be erected in the Mishkan would be the ten curtains. Moshe wanted to first adorn G-d’s home with the beautifully crafted curtains of those skilled artisans who sacrificed so much of themselves in order to give to G-d.
The obvious question that follows is how Moshe could put up the curtains before their beams. Did they float? Was there a miracle? If there was a miracle, why does the Torah say that Moshe “erected” the Mishkan?
Firstly, it is important to understand that the Mishkan could not be erected from bottom up. Rav Nissan Alpert (1927–1986) explains (Limudei Nissan, end of Parshas Pekudei) that the Mishkan was not an earthly structure but a heavenly abode in the physical world. Therefore, the Mishkan had to be constructed from the top down, symbolic of its origin.
Secondly, Rav Yechezkel Levenstein (1895-1974) explains (Ohr Yechezkel, Torah v’Daas, pg. 332) that the miraculous construction of the Mishkan is suggestive of G-d’s desire to benefit humanity. G-d can, with great and swift ease, perform any tasks that He desires. However, He asks us to perform mitzvos in order that we can reap the reward. When G-d witnessed all that the Jewish people put into the construction of the Mishkan, he decided to give Moshe the opportunity to erect the structure, with G-d meeting him halfway to continue the miraculous remainder.
This is what our relationship with G-d is about. G-d presents us with commandments and we spend our lives giving our all- skill, time, thought- in order to perform those commandments as a way of showing our limitless love for our Creator. When G-d sees this, He “steps in” and bestows upon us blessings and miracles.
May we take the method of the Jewish nation’s building of the Mishkan as a model for growth in our relationship with Hashem.
Rabbi Mordechai Weissmann