Close this search box.
Close this search box.

Who Produces Our Medicine

Vayakhel – Pekudei
Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites
In this week’s two parashot of Vayakhel and Pekudei, we read about the implementation of the directions on how to build the Mishkan (Tabernacle), how to make the clothing for the kohanim, etc… which we read in Teruma and Tetzaveh.  While reading these two parashot, we notice a phrase that is repeated often while the Torah describes the execution of the directions: “As the Lord commanded Moses.”  This phrase is repeated no fewer than nineteen times. At every stage, we are reminded that things were done precisely as the Lord had commanded Moses.

Couldn’t we have understood this after being told once?  Was it necessary to “plant” this phrase in each stage of the execution? Clearly, the Torah is trying to direct our attention to the fact that the Mishkan and its utensils were made exactly according to the directions.

When we examine this closely, we realize that sticking to directions does not come naturally at all.  The people chosen to create the Mishkan were distinguished artists, led by Bezalel, the son of Uri from the tribe of Judah, about whom the Torah writes, “He has imbued him with the spirit of G-d, with wisdom, with insight, and with knowledge, and with [talent for] all manner of craftsmanship to do master weaving, to work with gold, silver, and copper…to work with every [manner of] thoughtful work” (Exodus 35, 31-33). However – isn’t unconstrained freedom a prerequisite for art?

When we delve into the words of Chazal, we wonder about this even more.  Chazal teach us that the Mishkan was not built to fulfill a need of G-d’s, but rather of people.  The building of the Mishkan was due to a demand of the Children of Israel.  Therefore, who could fulfill the spiritual aspects more than those who required them? It would have made sense that the Children of Israel invest their efforts and build the perfect creation as they saw it.  But that is not what occurred.  They created the Mishkan “as the Lord commanded Moses.”

Rabbi Yehuda Halevi (1075-1141), one of the greatest authors of Spanish Jewry’s Golden Age, wrote a book that became one of the foundational books of Jewish philosophy: The Cuzari. In this book, he wonders about the need for detailed commandments.  Wouldn’t it be better to direct humans to behave as their hearts tell them to behave, according to what draws them spiritually? He responds to all the questions using an allegory of a man who enters a famous physician’s treasure-trove of medicines.  When he saw people waiting to get medication from the doctor, he distributed medicine to each waiting patient without knowing what kind of medicine it was or if it suited the patient’s illness.  This fool did not help, and even harmed, those who took the medicine based on his instructions.

This is how Rabbi Yehuda Halevi viewed a person trying to create his own values and act according to his needs, even if these were worthy spiritual needs.  A person trying to attain wholeness of his soul, without divine revelation, cannot help himself.  Ideologies and theories rise and fall one after another because human wisdom does not have the power to find a remedy for a person’s spiritual needs!

Repair of the human soul can only take place when a person takes on values external to himself.  The most accurate and efficient art is that which follows the directions “as the Lord commanded Moses.”  Even Moses, the greatest prophet, is the not the source of spiritual direction a human strives for.  Only G-d, the Creator of the Universe, knows the depths of the human soul and the secrets of existence and creates the correct “medicine” for people.  Only He Who created humans knows what they need to redeem their souls and transcend to a spiritual and moral life.

Judaism believes in living a life directed by the Torah – “as the Lord commanded Moses.”  We do not try to create medicines by ourselves.  We know the greatest physician and follow His directions.  Thus, we can live an exemplary life of spirituality and humaneness, in the light of the Torah and its commandments.