With this week’s double parsha, we conclude the book of Shemot (Exodus), and so we come to the end of a month of Torah readings dealing with the construction of the Mishkan, the portable sanctuary. We have read about the instructions for making the sanctuary and the objects to be used in it, and this week we read about how these instructions were carried out. We also read about the completion of the project, how the Mishkan was assembled and its contents arranged. Finally, we read about how God’s presence filled the Mishkan to guide the Israelites on their journey.
Of course, most of us find the lengthy set of instructions for making the Mishkan, filled with detailed measurements and specifications, pretty tedious. And yet, here we are, essentially repeating what we have already read, as the Torah describes how each element was made just as instructed. Even the great medieval commentator Rashi has almost nothing new to add.
However, because we trust the belief of our sages that there is nothing superfluous in the Torah, we continue to search these parshiot for lessons. And when we do, we discover that the Torah does have important things to teach us.
Near the beginning of this week’s reading, we learn that Moses asked the people to donate the materials needed to make the Mishkan. The men and women responded generously, so much so that the Torah says:
The artisans who were engaged in the tasks of the sanctuary came…and said to Moses, “The people are bringing more than is needed for the tasks entailed in the work that the Lord has commanded to be done.” Moses thereupon had this proclamation made throughout the camp — let no man or woman make further effort toward gifts for the sanctuary.
Certainly, this was the first — and very possibly the last — time in the history of Jewish fund-raising that people were told to stop donating. But as Moses’ accounting shows, all the donations were used for their intended purpose, with nothing left over for operating expenses or an endowment fund.
According to midrash Tanhuma, it took only two days to collect all the materials needed for the Mishkan. And I imagine that there must have been hundreds, even thousands, of people who had things they sincerely wanted to contribute to the project, but they waited — just a little bit. Perhaps they had something else they wanted to finish first, or they got distracted. Perhaps they were tired or the weather was lousy. “I’ll get to it tomorrow, or maybe the next day,” they thought. But suddenly, it was too late. Everything that was needed had been collected and the procrastinators lost their chance to be part of this most holy effort.
We never know how much time we will have. We go around assuming we can take care of this or that task tomorrow or next week, and quite often this is fine. But our parsha reminds us that sometimes putting it off for even a day or two means you will be too late.
So if it’s really important:
• to make that phone call,
• to thank someone who helped you,
• to visit a family member,
• to see the doctor,
• to offer an apology,
• to buy a gift, or
• to say, “I love you,”
Do it now!