An Edifice to House God’s Presence?!

This week’s Torah reading concludes the description of the construction of the Mishkan (Tabernacle). The building of the Mishkan culminates with the Shechinah (God’s Presence) resting upon the Mishkan. In reference to this, the Midrash (Shemot Rabbah 52:2-3) quotes the verse from Mishlei (Proverbs) (31:25) which says, “And she will laugh on the last day,” and applies it to Moshe (Moses). When Moshe initiated the project of the construction of the Mishkan, he was mocked. There were people who claimed that it was impossible that Moshe would be able to erect an edifice upon which the Shechinah would rest.

Furthermore, quite some time elapsed between the time that the Mishkan was ready and the time it was actually put into service. When they saw that the Mishkan was ready, yet nothing happened, the mockers used this as support for their derision. But in the end, Moshe had the last laugh. At the appropriate time, God decided to begin resting the Shechinah upon the Mishkan, and that’s when Moshe was awarded the satisfaction from his efforts. Everyone saw that in the end, Moshe was right.

Those who Follow the Torah will Have the Last Laugh

The Midrash applies this concept in a similar manner to life itself. Very often, the people who are most loyal and committed to the Torah are not the ones who enjoy wealth and profuse luxuries. Many times, they are mocked by those who do not follow a life of Torah. The mockers look at them with disdain and scorn them for being old-fashioned and missing out on the pleasures of life. They think that they are the ones who are truly taking advantage of life by being free to have all the fun they want. They look down at those who spend their lives committed to Torah study and toiling over keeping its mitzvot (commandments) properly instead of pursuing the materialistic pleasures this world has to offer.

But it is those people who follow the Torah who will have the last laugh. The true reward for keeping the Torah is not experienced in this world, but is reserved for the Next World. Those who live a life committed to the Torah will enjoy the fruit of their labor in the World to Come, and then, everyone will see that they were right. They were the ones who really took advantage of life.

The Wealthy Man Loves us Most!

The Chofetz Chaim illustrates this point with a parable. The wealthiest man in town was marrying off his daughter. He was planning a most glamorous and exquisite party, but he had one problem. He knew that all the town’s people were expecting to be invited, including the lowest elements of the town’s society, and he was afraid that they would spoil the party. How could he make his dream wedding without having these unsavory figures joining and ruining the atmosphere?

A plan was hatched, and this is what he did. He sent out special invitations to all these people to celebrate the wedding. The date on these invitations was the day prior to the real wedding date. On that day, the wealthy man sponsored a party, and pretended to be celebrating the wedding. All the guests were greatly impressed and said, “Look, we are the only ones invited and who get to enjoy the party! It is us who the wealthy man loves and cares about most, not the people of status in town!” As they enjoyed the party, they mocked the higher elements of society for being excluded from the party.

Don’t Be Fooled by the Mock Wedding

But then, the following day, they were in for a great surprise. The next day, the real wedding celebration took place. The real wedding was a true dream party, with all the luxuries and amenities one can imagine. The real wedding made the modest party which took place the day prior seem like nothing. But all they could do was gaze from the sidelines and see how foolish they were yesterday, when they thought that they were the ones who were being treated to the real party.

Many people are fooled by the “mock wedding” of this world. They think that this is where the party is really at, and scorn those who deprive themselves of material pursuits. This is a challenge we all encounter. On the surface, they would seem to be the ones who are taking advantage of the pleasures life has to offer, as opposed to those who curb their lusts and live a life of spiritual pursuits. We must remember that the real pleasure is the reward in the Next World, which will make all that this world has to offer seem like nothing. It is those who exercise self-restraint and are loyal to the Torah who will have the real party and the last laugh.

By Rabbi Yitzchok Aryeh Strimber

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