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Building A Foundation

Whenever I begin to learn Talmud or Torah with people, I always start with an introduction explaining the perspective one needs to adopt, in order to successfully understand what is about to be taught. I explain that one must accept that the Torah, both written and oral components, was presented to the Jewish people at Mount Sinai. The Torah is record of the exact words Hashem spoke to Moshe over the 40 years in the desert. Basically, Moshe was Hashem's secretary. One may ask, "Why is this introduction necessary? Just read the text and let it speak for itself." The answer is that one needs a proper foundation before beginning any venture.
I remember when I was in yeshiva and decided to take a break, I walked over to the local high school and watched the football team practice and was amazed when the runner didn't throw the ball backwards to another person on his team. Rather it appeared, he would rather be tackled than let his teammate have the ball. I asked the coach why the runner didn't pass it to someone behind him? The coach looked incredulously at me and said, "That's illegal." (You can tell I know nothing about this game.) I asked why, and he just looked at me assuming that I was from outer space. After all, how was it possible that a man wouldn't understand the basics of football?! Without a proper foundation, one doesn't really understand or appreciate what can and cannot be done.
Similarly when one begins to learn Torah, it may appear that the Rabbis are coming up with explanations based upon their own perceptions. Or it may look like they are just trying to twist the text to fit their own agenda. But when one understands that the text came with an "audio" and that the Rabbis are just recording the audio for prosperity, it changes one's perception. It is no longer "one man's opinion" but rather what Hashem wanted us to understand. If what I'm saying is true, one may ask, how can there be disagreements? Great question and possibly another idea for a blog post or class! But, bottom line without a foundation, questions like this could not even be posed.
To end off, one of my greatest joys was when one of my students remarked, "Rabbi, I'm so glad we went through the introduction. Without that basic belief, I would never have understood why the Rabbis cared so much about the verses they were commenting on." I then knew it was all worth it. Do you agree?

This Is The House Hashem Built

When the Torah spoke of the building the Mishkan, it went into painstaking detail as to how to make the pieces, the length and width, and even how the clothes of the kohanim should be made. And, in addition to the detail, it stated that the Jews did it exactly as Hashem commanded, showing that no artisan put his/her own personal flair into the project. But after all the pieces were manufactured and the time came to erect the structure, they ran into a major problem. The walls were too heavy to lift, thus the Mishkan, with all systems ready to go, had no "lift off." So the Jews brought the pieces to Moshe, explained the problem and said, "HELP!" Moshe, befuddled by the situation, turned to Hashem asking what to do. After all, if all of the Levi'im couldn't erect the Mishkan, how could one man do it? Hashem responded, "Moshe, since you had nothing to do with the actual building, I wanted to leave this for you. Make the effort to lift the walls and I'll do the rest." And this miracle would repeat whenever the Jewish people would have to erect the Mishkan. What was the implication of this miracle? It was to teach the Jewish people that both our individual and communal success are dependent on Hashem, but we must make the effort if we want anything to happen.
This concept is seen through many of the stories in the Torah. In particular, Noah had to build a gigantic box the size of approximately 2 football field with 3 stories. It took 120 years to build the box (tavah.) Yet, as the Ramban states, "The dimensions of this tavah wouldn't be able to house all of the animals, nor even 10 like it. Therefore Hashem made a miracle that they could all fit." Then the Ramban asks, "If there was going to be a miracle, why not let Noah build an even smaller box?" His answer twofold, one to limit the miracle and secondly, to teach us that we have to make our best effort and then Hashem steps in and finishes the job.
What the Torah is trying to teach in both cases is that while we need to put in our effort, our successes really belong to Hashem and we must constantly recognize and thank Hashem for everything. That may be the reason that the Mishkan never carried the name of Moshe. It was always known as "The house that Hashem built." Do you agree?