Weekly Torah portion: Vayakhel

By Rabbi Yaakov Marks

Rabbi Yaakov Marks

SAN DIEGO — Moshe faced a monumental and daunting task: the building of the Mishkan (the portable tabernacle). Enormous amounts of gold, silver, and bronze had to be procured and fashioned. Many varieties of dyed wool, linen, goat hair and ram skins needed to be processed according to complicated and intricate specifications. Tremendous amounts of acacia wood needed to be collected, hewed and precisely cut. All this was to be done with an untrained workforce. The future of the Jewish people was dependent on the construction of this building. They had pushed G-d aside for the golden calf and now the Mishkan would be the invitation for G-d to return to dwell amongst them once again. If built improperly G-d’s glory might not return.

Moshe gathered the entire congregation and asked them to make the necessary donations. He appealed to anyone who could work to step forward and join him in this important endeavor. He asked that anyone who had the desire to come forward and collaborate on this formidable project. A rush of excitement spread throughout the camp and the people mobilized.

The princes were taken aback by Moshe’s leadership. The princes were normally consulted first and then they would go and deal with and organize the people, but now they were bypassed and called together with the general population. They were insulted and withdrew. They sat by quietly waiting for Moshe to fail thinking that Moshe would eventually require their help. The task was too big to be completed without them. In the end, they would be called on to furnish the missing money and supplies. Suddenly a message was circulated. No more supplies or work was needed. The financial goal had been surpassed and the quota of workers had been fulfilled. The princes were shocked and were now humbled by their behavior. There was nothing left for them to do except to bring some precious gems and fine oil.

What were the princes thinking? Why did they believe the job could not be done without them? Why did Moshe implement his daring plan?

The princes had a small amount of haughtiness in them and they wanted to be in charge and tell the people what to do. They wanted to take control. People working in such an environment, lack the proper motivation and without passion only do whatever is required of them and no more. The princes were right that according to their form of management the Mishkan would not have been built without them.

As a true leader, Moshe knew that if he gave the people control and empowered them to be partners in the construction of the Mishkan their passion and commitment would be limitless. An inspired nation is hard to stop. True leadership is giving control not taking control. A great leader creates leaders, not followers. He gives people the courage to overcome obstacles and to hold their ground in the face of adversity.

Anyone on any level has the potential to be a leader. Many people think that a leader is someone in charge of a country, a company, or a large organization. A leader is anyone who guides somebody. The Talmud states, “Whoever saves a single soul, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.” (Sanhedrin 37a) Inspiring even one person to be better is as if he inspired the whole world.

Many times, when a person is in a situation where people are over indulging or doing something wrong, they will overreact and tell people they are wrong, this type of leadership will not be successful. Other people will conceal their good habits as not to cause any problems. This type of reaction will not benefit anyone. A third group will continue their proper behavior, ignoring any criticism directed towards them and calmly listen, understand, and then explain what they are doing. Giving the person the ability to make his own choice.  If we would work with people and not demand that people do what we want, we will be more successful and we will have a positive impact on people’s lives.

May we have the humility to be good leaders. May we have the strength to be proud of our positive actions and not cower with negative criticism. May we blessed with the courage to give control and not take it. May we merit to inspire greatness in all the people we meet.

Rabbi Marks is a certified wellness coach.  He may be contacted via [email protected]








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