Parshat Pekudei

At the end Parshat Pekudei, arguably the most thrilling, jam-packed sefer in Chumash comes to a close with a very hard to swallow pasuk. There, the Torah tells us “the cloud of Hashem would be on the Mishkan by day, and the fire would be on it at night, before the eyes of all the House of Israel in all their journeys.” The issue is as follows: when the Jews traveled throughout the midbar, the cloud of Hashem was in front of us, guiding the way; it only rested on the Mishkan itself when Bnei Yisrael rested. How can the Torah tell us that the cloud was on the Mishkan while we traveled?
Rashi tries to get us out of this jam by posing a simple, yet profound solution. Just as Parshat Ma’asei uses the term “journeys” to describe all of the encampments the Jews had in the midbar, so too here the term “ma’asei” really means encampments.
Yes, at face value that gets us out of our issue with the pasuk. But at the same time, we can still ask an obvious question. How can journeying and encamping be the same thing?! Moving and not-moving can only be described as antonyms…
The answer may very well lie in Rambam’s Hilchot Deot (3:2), where he says that all of ones’ actions, even mundane activities such as working, eating, and sleeping, should be directed towards his ultimate goal of Hashem. The implication of this Halacha is enormous: by doing mutar actions with mitzvah-like kavana, we thereby elevate normal, every-day activities into vehicles towards kedusha. Lunch-break is now just as important as lulav. Both are just as integral to one’s avodat Hashem.
We now can understand Rashi. Yes, on a superficial level, moving-forward and taking a break are the total opposite. But, if the mindset while taking that breather is to rejuvenate for the long road ahead, even those moments are considered part of the journey. At the level of avodat Hashem that the Jews of the midbar had reached, there was no difference between when they where physically moving and when they were standing still, because spiritually, they were always soaring higher and higher. Their encampments were part in parcel of the larger goal at hand.
With the proliferation of entertainment and technology, we live in an age with many different pathways to take a proverbial “encampment” in our journeys towards our individual missions. Unfortunately, they can also easily play the part of distractions, taking us away from our ultimate purpose.The solution is does not have to be, however, to completely reject and ignore all of these God-given gifts with huge potential for good.

So what should we do?

With this message from Parshat Pekudei in mind, I think a direction becomes clear: Yes, we can rest. Yes, there is no issur in the Torah to take a break from crunching Tosfot. But we need to ask ourselves a question: Is this rest to help me get back to what is inherently important, or is it an ends in an of itself? If Rashi “read” my life, would he say that these encampments were really the journey itself?

Hopefully, by trying to use all of our time for our avodat Hashem, even by taking and enjoying our breaks, we will merit in the coming of the Mashiach, b’meheira b’yameinu.
Shabbat Shalom!

(Thanks to Rav Zucker for the inspiration behind the d’var Torah!)

Student Studying in Mevaseret