Ever watch a child learning to walk? While strolling along confidently, albeit a bit wobbly, he’ll suddenly drop to the floor. With admirable persistence, he’ll usually pick himself right back up on his feet and continue on as if nothing had happened.
The Midrash (Tanchuma 11) says that throughout the seven inaugural days of the Holy Tabernacle, the portable dwelling place built for G-d’s Holy Presence, Moses would construct and disassemble it two or three times each day. The Tabernacle, of course, was a large and extremely heavy structure. Many of its parts were solid wood and gold, and it was tens of feet high. To build and dismantle the entire structure 14 times, or more, in one week must have been incredibly taxing to Moses! Why didn’t he just assemble it the first day, and then leave it standing until the next time G-d instructed the nation to travel?
There was a deeper meaning, however, to the construction of the Tabernacle, corresponding to the efforts of a person committed to spiritual growth. That person drafts a model of holiness, an ideal setting for rising above material and selfish pursuits, insuring the appropriate goals and safeguards are set. As he takes his first few steps of growth, he feels a sense of pride and serenity, assuring himself that he’s on the proper course. But soon, it all crumbles. The habits of the past return, and his best-laid plans for the future appear unattainable.
The continuous building and dismantling of the Tabernacle throughout the inauguration tells us that holy structures are designed to be built and rebuilt before they are completed. The nature of spiritual growth is to move forward and fall back, repeatedly, akin to the toddler’s efforts to walk. Although a toddler first falls immediately, after just a few steps, his strength, balance, and ability improve exponentially. Don’t be afraid when experiencing setbacks on the road to spiritual growth, because we are promised that the results will come — if we get right back up and keep trying! (Based on Nesivos Shalom, Pikudei, 279)
Rabbi Mordechai Dixler
Program Director, Project Genesis