Fantasy or Reality: The Ultimate Challenge (Pekudei)
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Rocky times not a reason to not think about peace
The opinions, facts and any media content in them are presented solely by the authors, and neither The Times of Israel nor its partners assume any responsibility for them. Please contact us in case of abuse. In case of abuse, Fantasy or Reality: This poor farmer stood weeping by the side of the road. He was a farmer with no land to farm and no food to feed his family.
As he stood there, contemplating his bleak future, the Czar happened to pass by in his Royal Coach. When he heard the whole problem was a lack of land to farm, he took a stake and drove it into the ground, right where they stood.
He then gave the peasant three stakes and instructed him: Turn, walk again as far as you wish, and then place the next stake in the ground. The land between the four stakes will be yours as a gift from me, the Czar. The man was overcome with joy and eagerly began to walk.
After some time, he stopped and prepared to plant the stake in the ground. I can have so much more! After some time, he stopped and he once again prepared to plant the stake in the ground. And as the story goes, this man never stopped walking… The powerful message from this story is clear; we have so much potential in our lives, but if we never sacrifice our potential in order to create something real, we will never accomplish anything! Moshe and Betzalel Parshas Pekudei begins by stating that Betzalel built the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, according to the exact instructions that Hashem gave to Moshe.
Chazal describe a critical debate that took place between Moshe and Betzalel regarding the proper way to construct the Mishkan. Moshe believed it best to first create the keilim, the actual utensils which would be used to serve Hashem, before then creating the Mishkan, the place within which to store them. Betzalel, however, thought it best to first create the actual structure of the Mishkan, and only then construct the inner content, the vessels.
It only makes sense to first create the container before filling it up with substance? Therefore, when Betzalel built the Mishkan, he first constructed the outer structure and only afterwards built the inner content, the vessels.
If, however, this is the obvious approach, why did Moshe initially reason that they should do the opposite? What exactly was this argument about? Furthermore, the passuk states that Betzalel built the Mishkan according to the exact instructions that Hashem gave Moshe. In order to understand this episode, we must first analyze the fundamental topic of potential and actualizing potential and see if there is something deeper here than meets the eye.
Potential vs. Actual As the Maharal and others explain, there is an important relationship between the spiritual concepts of potential and actual. Potential is endless, multipotent, everything and anything. It has no boundaries, no borders, and no limitations. Something real, on the other hand, is limited, has borders, and is restricted only to what it is.
What is real might be limited, but it has taken on true existence. Our lives are filled with experiences of both potential and actualized potential. Let us explore a few manifestations of these ideas in order to better understand this root concept.
Important Expressions The prime example and illustration of potential and reality is our relationship with time. Every single morning, when you wake up, the day holds infinite potential. You have the time to do anything, go anywhere, meet anyone. On the other hand, every night when you go to sleep the potential of that day is completely gone. The only thing that remains is that which you made real from the time you were given, what you accomplished, who you became in that day.
The sadness of this moment is that the potential is gone — your day is over. This same paradigm applies to life itself. At the beginning of life you have infinite potential; you can become anything, learn anything, meet anyone. Your whole life is ahead of you, but completely in potential.
Only the potential that we actualize and make real becomes eternal. At the end of our lives there is a mixture of feelings. The sadness is that your potential is gone. The happiness is that we can then look back at all that we have accomplished with a feeling of pride, knowing that we have taken the time we were given to build ourselves, to make our potential real.
Winter vs. Summer In secular culture, youth is associated with spring and summer while old age is compared to winter. This is because youth is a time of potential, of excitement, of newness and fun. Old age, on the other hand, is when that potential is nearly gone and the physical body has withered and gone cold.
Fascinatingly, this is in stark contrast with the Jewish approach. He compares youth to winter and old age to summer. This is because winter is the time of planting seeds, the ultimate time of potential.
It represents childhood, the beginning of your journey in this world. Secular culture is enamored with youth and potential, with less attention paid to actualized potential and achieved greatness. This is the true joy of life, the ultimate summer. The Creative Process This pattern of potential and reality is behind the experience of every creative process as well. The creative process can lead you down any path, there are endless possibilities of what you can make.
However, in order to make something real, you must decide on only one thing to make. You must limit the endless potential in order to make something real. The Ramchal states that Hashem is infinite and therefore has the ability to create any type of world that He chooses.
However, out of all the endless possibilities, He chose to create this world, the one you and I exist in. Moshe vs. Betzalel This principle of potential and actual is the key to understanding the debate between Moshe and Betzalel.
Moshe was focusing on the potential destination and outcome. The goal of creating the Mishkan was to house the keilim so that we could serve Hashem. However, this was merely potential, a vision, a destination. Betzalel was focusing on the practical, on how to actualize this potential. In order to have the vessels, we must first create the Mishkan to house them. That is why Moshe admitted to Betzalel that he was correct, for there was in fact no real machlokes, just a difference of focus.
This is why the passuk says that Betzalel acted exactly according to the instructions that Hashem gave Moshe, for in truth, this was the plan all along. The Strength and Weaknesses of Both Potential is beautiful, majestic, and genuinely precious. We all understand the value of potential. A finished project is a form of actualized potential. It could have been anything else- there were endless possibilities.
Limiting Potential for Actual The ultimate challenge is limiting infinite potential for the purpose of making something real. Just imagine if a wealthy and generous person comes over to you and offers you any amount of money in the world. Ten thousand dollars? A million? You could have said six million, or five hundred million, or seven trillion.
The list of potential numbers is never-ending. We genuinely struggle in this area. The Modern Challenge We like to fantasize about perfect futures, ideal living conditions, and ultimate relationships. In fact, many people are stuck fantasizing about the life they want to live instead of bringing that potential into reality. We must be willing to start with what we have, where we are, and work our way from there.
Potential is beautiful, but only in as much as we use it, only in as much as we bring it to fruition. May we be inspired to actualize as much of our potential as we can, choose the real over the fantasy, and prepare ourselves for the ultimate summer.
Shmuel Reichman is an inspirational speaker who has lectured internationally at shuls, conferences, and Jewish communities on topics of Jewish Thought and Medical Halacha. He is also the founder and creator of Shmuel Reichman Inspiration: You can find more inspirational shiurim, videos, and articles from Shmuel on Facebook and Yutorah. For all questions, thoughts, or bookings, please email Shmuel at shmuelreichman gmail.
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