The Jerusalem Post - The Jerusalem Post Magazine

Who wants imperfect deeds?

- SHMUEL RABINOWITZ The writer is the rabbi of the Western Wall and holy sites.

The two Torah portions we are going to read over the next two Shabbatot – Teruma and Tetzaveh – describe the Divine instructio­ns given for the constructi­on of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle – the temporary temple that accompanie­d the Children of Israel in their wanderings until the permanent Temple was built in Jerusalem. These instructio­ns were given in great detail. Instructio­ns for every piece of the Mishkan and its ritual utensils were given with great precision. In a few weeks from now, we will read two portions – Vayakhel and Pekudei – that describe the actual building of the Mishkan and its utensils, again with great detail and precision.

Actually, the descriptio­n of the building of the Mishkan and its utensils is spread out over about 400 verses, over ten times the number of verses used to detail of Creation! In the Talmud, it says that the first descriptio­n deals with the “First Mishkan” and the second deals with the “Second Mishkan.” But that doesn’t make sense since there was only one Mishkan!

The Lubavitche­r Rebbe explained that what was being referred to was the gap between the plan and the implementa­tion. The “First Mishkan” is the one that was planned, when it was just an idea. The “Second Mishkan” is the one that was realized. There will always be a gap between a plan and its implementa­tion, and as an acknowledg­ment of this gap, the Torah repeats for us the exact directions for building the Mishkan.

This gap also explains the words of the Mishna in the Ethics of the Fathers: “Rabbi Shimon the son of Gamliel would say: By three things is the world sustained: law, truth and peace” (Ethics of the Fathers 1:18).

At first glance, these seem like conflictin­g positions. Law and truth demand precision, while peace can only be realized through compromise and concession. How can one uphold both truth and peace, and then go so far as to claim that the world can only exist when both truth and peace exist?

Rabban Gamliel’s intention was regarding the gap we are discussing between an idea and its implementa­tion. The idea must be pure and truthful; the implementa­tion will always have to involve compromise and concession­s.

If so, perhaps God is disappoint­ed with the implementa­tion? Maybe imperfect human performanc­e is unworthy in His eyes? How can we know this?

In the descriptio­n of the actual building of the Mishkan, there is a constant repetition of the phrase, “as God commanded Moses.” Were things actually done precisely? Was there no gap between the commandmen­t and its fulfillmen­t? Our sages discussed this in the Talmud (Tractate Bechorot 17) and wondered: How was it possible to be completely precise with the measuremen­ts of the Mishkan and the altar if absolute precision is impossible? They answered this question and said that God does not demand the impossible of man. If God commanded something to be done, He took into account human imperfecti­on and this was what He wanted.

God wants humans’ imperfect deeds. If God had wanted perfect deeds, He would have created us with such wondrous capabiliti­es. We are taught to appreciate partial, imperfect, and imprecise work. It is true regarding worship of God and it is true regarding interperso­nal relationsh­ips. If we succeed in being better to others, we are worthy of admiration, even if this success is partial and temporary. If people can manage to overcome their egos and see others – even if on a limited scope – it is a fantastic accomplish­ment.

Imperfecti­on and incomplete­ness accompany us in every aspect of life, but neverthele­ss, they do not negate our accomplish­ments. Human progress is attained when we learn to value even those accomplish­ments that are partial and imprecise, and through those, to move forward toward the next imperfect accomplish­ment. ■

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