Parshas Ki Sisa: What Fuels Your Ego?
The ‘show-bread’ in the Bais HaMikdash, the Holy Temple, stayed warm and fresh from Shabbos to Shabbos. Bread is a physical manifestation of the same energy in the universe that powers the ego. Like ego, it rises without substance, but it, ego, gives each person a feeling, an imagined feeling of importance. Ego is essential to the continuation of mankind. People are motivated to build and to do because they imagine they have irreplaceable value. Of course, there are only a handful of people at any given point in history who aren’t replaceable, but that knowledge wouldn’t motivate people, would it? So there’s ego to keep everybody going.
What really matters is what the fuel, the yeast, the source, of that ego is. This bread, the showbread, stays fresh from Shabbos to Shabbos. The kohanim, the priests, ate it on Shabbos. It was sustenance for their Shabbos experience.
If your purpose, your sense of purpose and value, comes from the feeling, “I am connected to The Source of everything and therefore have value in being LIKE The Source,” well, that’s something mighty and motivates a person to give and give. But if the sense of ego is coming from, “My value is because I am Mr. So and So,” well, so? That ego is motivated to take and take.
That is the part of the human spirit which you often see manifesting in people whom, although they have so much, just want more and more. There is no amount that will make them feel done with wanting more. Or people that whomever they’re with just want to be with someone else. And no matter what, they never feel respected enough. But other people are just the opposite. Take my father for example. He’s been teaching Torah for free to whoever is hungry to learn for his whole life now, and all he wants to do is teach and give away more and more of himself.
Some people mostly take and give a little back, while others mostly give and take a little back. One guy is never satiated in giving and one is never satiated in taking. The Sages tell us, “He who has one hundred wants two hundred,” but “Who is rich? One who is happy with his lot in life.”
With regard to Moses it says, “Moshe was happy with the lot he was given, BECAUSE he was a trusted/loyal servant,” i.e., the lot of choosing to be a conduit of Hashem, The Source. He had quite a turbulent, un-jeweled life. But his purpose came from being in connection.
We’re taught that Moshe had no ego. Well, for a man who had no ego, he sure was pretty sure of himself when he smashed the Tablets, Hashem’s Tablets no less, just given to him to give to the new Jewish people. Like, hey, they ain’t your Tablets to smash! You gotta think you’re Moses or something to take on that kind of authority. Oh, Moshe had a sense of purpose all right, but he didn’t have an ego based on “I’M important. MY opinion counts because I AM Moshe,” but rather, “I’m important IN MY ROLE of being a source for Him.”
Rav Shimon Schwab points out that the first person assigned to be architect and designer of the Mishkan, the tabernacle, was Betzalel the son of Uri the son of Chur from the tribe of Judah. This was a well-known “superstar” of a person, the son of a famous and important person who was the son of the martyr who gave his life for Hashem in the story of the Golden Calf, from the most prestigious tribe. The second person Hashem chose to be the co-designer and architect in the Mishkan was Ahaliav, the son of Achisamach, from the tribe of Dan. He was a ‘no name,’ i.e., not a leader or famous person, the son of the same, and from a tribe that was not of the prestigious ones, but he was obviously, says Rav Schwab, a man of clean hands and a complete heart. The message is that yes, on the one hand, out of proper respect and honor for the Mishkan, the communal house of commune with the Creator, it should be designed by a person as heralded as Betzalel. But at the same time, because it is in fact not meant to be like a palace for only the royal family or elite but the property of the nation, representing and being in service of the whole nation, that it is equally essential that the co-designer and architect be a regular citizen, but who is just as worthy because of where his heart is.
Rav Shimshon Rephael Hirsch points out that the funding for both the sockets which physically supported the structure of the Mishkan and the funding for all the offerings were funded in exactly equal portion by everybody. Every single family had to contribute exactly the same amount, a half a shekel, and ONLY a half. It’s only the total of all halves together, and the same amount from everybody, that supports and carries the building and all that happens within it.
All of these insights are in support of the same theme. The only way the Mishkan, and later in history the Bais HaMikdash, is meant to function is ego-free. Or more accurately, free of unhealthy ego. One’s ego is meant to come from the ability to serve and be part of a greater whole, a whole that’s greater than the sum of its parts. Only then are you actually not irrelevant and replaceable. Right smack in the middle of talking about the creation of the Mishkan we revisit, not for the first time, the declaration of the value of the Shabbos, because Shabbos is in time what the Mishkan was in space. A place in the mind where it’s not about you anymore. Where the greatest construct of you is where it’s not about you. Just like Moshe. That’s why HE was so great.
Let’s all have a great Shabbos- together.