Parshas Vayakhel: How Not to Trample the King’s Flowers
There was once a wise and just king who had a magnificent garden planted. The garden was simply dazzling, with the most delightful trees, the most fragrant plants, and the most spectacular flowers.
The king loved his garden, and would love to walk along its many paths. Being a kind ruler, he opened his garden to the public, so that his subjects could enjoy it as well- provided they walked along the paths and did not trample the vegetation.
One day, the king set out on a lengthy journey. Finally, after months of travel, the king was set to return, and a welcome reception was arranged adjacent to the gardens.
The entire populace came out to greet the king, and a few people- in their desire to get close to him- trampled on the precious, nearly irreplaceable, plants and flowers. When the king saw the results of their actions, he became upset, and the celebration marking his return was marred.
These people were trying to honor the king, but they acted rashly and without regard for the rules he set. So rather than bring him honor, they actually brought him anguish and ruined the event.
In this week’s Torah reading, like those of the past several weeks, the Jews are instructed to build the Mishkan, a Sanctuary that would serve as the “dwelling place” for the Divine Presence. Of course, G-d’s glory fills the entire world, but His immanent Presence was going to reside on this world, among the Jewish nation, in a small building at the center of their encampment.
How lofty an objective! What could be greater than that?!
In the Torah portions last week and this, the commandments regarding the Mishkan and its vessels are juxtaposed with another command: To observe the Sabbath. This teaches us that although building the Mishkan is an infinitely exalted undertaking, its construction does not supersede the Sabbath.
Each one of us seeks spirituality and fulfillment. We have a desire- a need, even- to connect with G-d and develop a relationship with Him. And we endeavor to bring Him into our lives through our deeds and our behavior.
These weeks we are taught that we certainly can attain that goal, but to do so we must follow the directions He has given us.
G-d has given us the Torah- the Written and Oral Law- and he has commanded us to follow the traditions established by our Sages (see Deuteronomy 17:11). Those teachings set the guidelines and define our national and individual responsibilities and obligations as a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”
We have been provided with many tools to achieve true holiness and to bring G-d into our lives, each one of us at his or her own level. So long as we use the correct tools, and use them properly, we will be certain to succeed. If we choose to make our own rules, we risk trampling on the flowers and defeating our purpose.
May each of us succeed in elevating ourselves and thus merit to perceive G-d’s Presence and be granted His blessings in every way.
Rabbi Avrohom Biderman