In many ways, we have arrived both at the peak period of the Jewish calendar and the peak section of the Torah.
What is the message behind the Torah’s sequence of Matan Torah (Yitro/Mishpatim) and then the Mishkan (Teruma throughout the rest of the Sefer Shmot)? How do we understand the sin of the Golden Calf mixed-in to the grand events that occurred to Bnai Yisrael during their first year in the Midbar?
What role does Adar and simcha play during this particular period of the year?
The Kutzker Rebbe once asked, why on Shavuot do we refer to the holiday as being זמן מתן תורתנו (The time of the giving of our Torah) and not זמן קבלת תורתנו (The time of the receiving of our Torah)? The Rebbe answered, indeed only the giving of Torah occurred at Sinia. The receiving of Torah occurs constantly at every moment that we learn and keep the Torah.
What is the practical significance of the Kutzker Rebbe’s brilliant teaching?
The Jewish year begins with Bereishit. During the fall months leading into the winter, we slowly but steadily build our foundation through the stories presented to us in the opening book of the Torah. The Creation Story, the Avot and the Banim form us and create our existence on every level. Only after formation can stage two occur.
Sefer Shmot, Sefer Sheni as the Netzi”v terms the book, is the arrival to who and what we are.
The Netivot Shalom, the Slonimer Rebbe, expresses it beautifully in the following breakdown. Parshiyot Shmot and Va’era examine the concept and reality of exile – Galut. Bo and B’shalach develop the stage of redemption – Geula. Yitro and Mishpatim are the Parshiyot of Matan Torah. Finally, Teruma through Pekudai are the Parshiyot of establishing and building the Mishkan. Our ultimate goal in personal and national existence is to make ourselves and our people into sanctuaries in which the Divine Presence can dwell as it says in the pasuk, “ועשו לי מקדש ושכנתי בתוכם”. (To this day, all we hope and pray for is that we will soon be able to build the 3rd Beit Hamikdash and create an abode for השרת השכינה.)
These are the four undeniable, unmistakable and irreplaceable stages of Am Yisrael’s development and each individual Jew’s growth.
3. Matan Torah
Where do we find ourselves now? We have been formed. We have experienced galut during the winter months. We have been redeemed and have received our full mission in our Torah during the last two weeks. In this week’s parsha, as we arrive to the climax of שובב”ים ת”ת; we are told to start building. The Jewish soul is now fully developed and now, at the dawn of spring time (in Israel), it is the right time to start building.
How do we build?
Only each Jewish soul can answer that question, but here are a few general possible options. Building can occur on subtle inner layers and it can occur on tangible external layers as well. We build Jewish homes, both in form and in structure. We build loving relationships in our family and show Ahavat Yisrael among our people. We build our Home-Land in Eretz Yisrael. We build our personal חלק בתורה (portion in Torah). We build our personal contribution to Am Yisrael and Tikkun Olam. We build our identity and commitment to Jewish values.
The Gemara in Taanit 29b teaches us that there is good mazal for the Jews in Adar. Moreover, there is simcha. The joy and energy of Adar enables constructive building; and constructive building brings genuine simcha. This year especially, we have been endowed with double the amount of simcha and building time.
What happens if we squander the opportunity to build at this crucial stage within the year? As the Kutzker Rebbe teaches us, it means that there was only the giving of the Torah and not the receiving/building of Torah. The four stage process was cut short of its fourth and final stage. The receiving of Torah inevitably entails building with it. Squandered potential to build is undoubtedly an unfortunate and even ugly situation.
The sin of the Golden Calf was a tragic episode within the receiving and building process. I will not claim that it was unavoidable. Aharon Hacohen and the generation that received Torah should have made much better judgment of how to channel the tremendous energy that existed at that remarkable time. However, it is clear that with “serious building” comes the potential for downfall and failure. It comes with the territory. We try to prepare ourselves and avoid moments of weakness, but “real building” includes within it potential for real disaster. It is considerably better to build and falter than completely ignore the mandate of Torah and shrug off the call to build.
Chodesh Adar (I and II) and the period of the Parshiyot of the Mishkan (5 weeks) set the stage for a Jew to bring out the hidden potential that lies within and build a meaningful life. Finally, it is the nature of this period and our output at this time that prepares us to enter the peak day of the year, חג הפורים.