Torah Reading this week
March 4, 2011 28 Adar, 5771
Parshat Pekudei - Shabbat Mevorachim - Shabbat Chazak
Pekudei - Exodus Chapters 35:1 to 38:20
Haftorah: Melachim II - Kings II Chapters 12:1-17
Dvar Torah by Rabbi Elisha Greenbaum, Moorabbin Hebrew Congregation
One Hit Wonders
Some mornings I start off right. I wake up early and quickly accomplish the first job on my to-do list from the night before. I look at my achievement with pride and decide that I deserve a quick break before moving on to the next task at hand. It’s a trap. All too often, that first task is the last productive thing I manage the entire day.
It’s ironic, but early success is often a harbinger of future failure. Histories pages are littered with examples of prodigies who blossomed early and then just as quickly faded away into obscurity. How often do we hear of rock groups that release a number-1 hit and then fritter away the rest of their careers on drugs and groupies, novelists whose entire reputation is built on one break-through novel and sporting stars who somehow never satisfy the promise of early stardom. What a sad waste of potential. I guess if you’re not hungry, you’re not working.
What can one do to drive ones self to thrive in spite of the success one has already enjoyed? How to keep ones nose to the grindstone when every temptation cries out for a well-earned break.
Perhaps this was the point Moshe was making at the end of this week’s torah section. For the last 4 weeks we’ve been describing in absorbing detail the construction and dedication of the Mishkan. We’ve built the Tabernacle and done the interior decoration. The Cohanim have been anointed and their ceremonial clothing prepared. At the very end of the Parsha, in the penultimate verse of the Book of Exodus, the text breaks from message and introduces a totally new concept: When the cloud of glory that covered the Tent of Meeting would rise, the children of Israel would travel.
At first glance this seemingly off the cuff description of the Jew’s travel through the desert seems a total non-sequitur. We’ve been describing the Mishkan and nothing else; describing the subsequent travel arrangements seems totally off topic.
However, the torah is clearly teaching us how to achieve lasting success in life. You’ve just fulfilled a phenomenal mission; designed a home for G-d and built an eternal edifice for spiritual accomplishment. The temptation now is to rest on your laurels and take time off to bask in the radiance of His presence. But you have to remind yourself that your achievement was but one stage in the long journey through life. Immediately upon completing this first step you are expected to start planning and preparing again for your next march into history.
We cannot afford to be satisfied; we can never feel secure in past glories or previous triumphs. Getting something right early is not an excuse for future time-wasting or lazy self-congratulation but should act as a driver towards further achievement. Youthful promise can be a herald of future destiny, but it is up to us to deliver. The clouds of glory guarantee greatness for all those who are willing to leave camp and follow wherever they may lead; towards the grandeurs that lie at the end of the road.