News From Ramaz
By Eva G. (Grade 7)
In this week's parasha, Parashat Vayakhel, Moshe tells the people what they should contribute to the building of the Mishkan. They will need to bring precious metals, wool in colors, such as royal blue and crimson, linen, and goat hair. Moshe then explains exactly what everything will be used for. The second perek is about the nation's contributions, and from the third onwards, it starts talking about the construction itself. Vayakhel is incredibly detailed on every aspect of the Mishkan, from the length (28 cubits) and width (4 cubits) of the curtains, to the number of copper clasps (50), to the length (10 cubits) and width (1.5 cubits) of each individual plank of wood. Why is it so, so precise in the descriptions of each minor detail? Vayakhel is about starting and completing a project. In this case, it's the home of God, so it's slightly more important than the science fair or the next history report. Even though it might seem hard to connect an endeavor as significant and holy as this to a student's day-to-day life, the principles are the same.
It's important to note that before we launch into the minutiae of the Mishkan's construction, we have a perek about the people, and how enthusiastically they contributed. A word that pops up often in the second perek is lev, or heart. The nation gave with their hearts, with passion. It wasn't because Moshe told them to; if that was so, they would have given the bare minimum. However, Moshe was overflowing with raw materials. He had to tell Bnei Yisrael to stop giving. It goes to show that every project is better if you genuinely care about it. Even if you don't, find something to get excited about. If there's energy in the preparation, the final product will always be better. The next part of the parasha is detailed, a comprehensive record of every single aspect of the Mishkan. Every item is meticulously put down with its measurements. The exact number of the tiny details, such as the number of sockets under the planks, is important enough to be written down. This is to teach us that every facet of a project is crucial, that nothing is too petty to be ignored. When doing a project, for school or otherwise, it's absolutely necessary to pay attention to the small things. Even the tiniest of details, when done right, enhance the whole operation. When each facet of an idea or design is executed with care, the final edition is, so to speak, on a whole 'nother level.
Some people say that they are "big picture people." Others say that they are "detail people." Vayakhel is about how both of those characteristics are crucial to the success of a plan. But Vayakhel has one more key message, Shabbat. Before Moshe even asks the nation to bring their things, he repeats the mitzvah of Shabbat. This may be the most important thing of all: to remember to breathe. If you are laser focused on a project, you will get sucked in -- detail and big picture people alike. Suddenly, everything is about the project, and if it's not related, it's not important. Before embarking on any major journey, you have to plan rest stops. You know that it will be necessary to stop and regroup in the middle. It's impossible to work straight through. Shabbat comes to teach us to slow down, that even the most perfect projects have to take a break. Vayakhel, which seems to be about something relatively obscure, is very applicable to today, especially to students. It tells us how to succeed at most things we attempt, from the initial energy, to the follow through, to not over-exerting ourselves. Parshat Vayakhel may be one of the most useful parshiot when it comes to success.