Healthy Time Management: Parashat V’ykahel
(This portion belongs to last week’s reading, my apologies for the late publishing)
Making non-physical or non-material connections challenges intrinsically our condition as simple human beings , but meaning in life can be found only by assuming the imperative necessity of being reflective beings. The missassumption of this challenge means sentencing our souls to be separated from our existence.
In the last Torah portion Parashat Ki Tisa we read about the golden calf; Moshe left the People of Israel for a month and went on a mission to bring the tablets. He came back to find that they built this object of idolatry. In our current portion V’ykahel we find elaborate instructions on how to build the Mishkan (tabernacle). These instructions may remind us of an Ikea manual, a seemingly easy “do it yourself” booklet, which in my experience in fact necessitates the presence of at least an engineer if you really want to get it done. But how come the people got scolded for making an object to worship the golden calf and are now told to build the Mishkan - another tangible structure? What makes the Mishkan different?
We are human beings and as such we need to touch, to feel, to see, these things are truly basic in the way
that we perceive the world; we need our hands on! Both the calf and the Mishkan are answers to the human
necessity of tangibility. In Kabbalah words, this is part of our need to be in Olam Ha’asia (the mundane
world). The same need directs us to focus on our daily routine work, studies or whatever else it is that fills
our daily life. We are occupied with the strive to get more or to achieve more. We are highly invested in our
routine and it feels like that is what gives us meaning. Often we become so focused on our projects that it
suddenly becomes difficult to remember other topics in our lives.
In Parashat Ki Tisa, the people are left alone without an initial symbolic idea. Moshe returns with the tablets,
which symbolize the meaning. However, in his absence the people made an object unconnected to a
meaning. It was this missing connection that made the golden calf idolatry.
Parashat V’ykahel changes the order of things and tries to connect between the object and meaning, in an
attempt “to do it right”. It raises a usually missing component in our life, a time balance. Before talking
about the Mishkan, it begins by reminding us of the importance of Shabbat. In Shabbat we don’t work, we
are busy with different things, we do for our souls. The Shabbat is the symbol of adopting a reflective
routine which provides the “contrast” that helps us put our life into perspective. It is only the second
message of the Parasha which instructs the building of the Mishkan, the “Ikea-like” list. In this context your
weekly tasks, when balanced with Shabbat, have the potential of being ‘asiyat kodesh” holy deeds. In
contrast, when your tasks (work, studies etc.) miss this balance they become fruit of adoration and you
convert them in idolatry.
Abraham Joshua Heschel says that during 6 days Man tries to conquer the world, and on the 7th day he
tries to conquer himself. If I do not actively try to conquer myself, if I give up introspection then in a way I do
not fully materialize my humanity. And the particular Jewish framework is the Shabbat, but the need in
balance between creating and introspecting is universal.
When my doing becomes single channeled I am fully immersed in my work, my studies, my exams and
so much so that I do not do any reflective thinking, then my doing becomes idolatry. What I do becomes so
narrow that it limits my being.
On the contrary, when balance and contrast are present, it is like a dish with many flavors. Certain times in
our lives may emphasize a certain taste but still the framework will be colorful. Within this colorfulness we
can truly express the diversity of our existence. When we succeed to be present in the world of space
(business, studies etc.) but also in the world of time, we sanctify our lives.
The important message of Parashat V’ykahel is keep the perspective, don’t overdo, don’t say I don’t have
time and don’t give up the diversity that gives meaning to the tangible facts of your life. Work hard because
this is where you can express your creativity, but don’t postpone love, friends, rest, breath, because if you
do then this creation will be empty. In other words the Mishkan of your life won’t be populated by the spirit
of God but rather by some meaningless object that you have created.