Tzav: The merit of direct participation
For this week I'll relate part of what I heard in the shiur given by Rav Goldwicht on Monday night. Among the sources he cited was the the famous debate between Turnus Rufus and R' Akiva recounted in Midrash Tanhuma Tazria 5:
[Some accounts of this interaction end here, for the point has been made that the purpose of human beings is to improve on nature by application of intelligent design to work what is given into something better. But, in fact, Turnus Rufus did not concede the point so easily, and the debate continues.]Turnus Rufus posed the question, "Whose works are superior, those of God or those of man?" R' Akiva answered unequivocally: "Those of man are superior." Turnus Rufus persisted: "But look at heaven and earth, can man make their like?" Rabbi Akiva disqualified that argument by pointing out a type of apples and oranges flaw there: "Do not draw on what is above human experience and control, but rather on that which is within our range."Then they got to the crux of the issue when Turnus Rufus asked, "Why do you circumcise?" R' Akiva saw that coming, as he replied, "knew you would ask this question, and so I anticipated you by declaring that human works are superior to those of God." Rabbi Akiva then brought him sheaves of grain and rolls and said: "The former are the works of God, the latter of man. Aren't the rolls preferable?"
Rav Goldwicht's focus here was on the work done by man in order to participate in creation, improving on the natural product. We do that by turning wheat into flour and then baking it into rolls. We also do that in altering the body from the natural state in circumcision, a necessary step in our tradition just as cutting the umbilical cord is for just about all human births. Hashem leaves us something to do to be active participants in creativity and improvement.There is also a particular merit in doing the activity directly, even when it seems to be menial work.Turnus Rufus persisted: "If He requires circumcision, why is the child not born that way?"Rabbi Akiva replied: "Why indeed, does the umbilical cord come out with him and he is suspended by his navel and his mother cuts it? He is not born circumcised because the Holy one Blessed be He has given the commandments for the purpose of refining our character through them. This is why David declared: 'The word of the Lord refined'" (Psalms. 18:31).
[I'm reminded here of the Gemaras that gave accounts of rabbis who did work to prepare for the Sabath themselves. According to Shabbos 119b, Rav Chisda would slice vegetables; Rabbah and Rav Yosef would chop wood; Rebbi Zaira would light the fire; Rava would salt the fish; Rav Nachman bar Yitzchok would clean the house, and would bring out all the pots and dishes needed for Shabbos, putting away all those that were not needed for Shabbos.
If I were so bold, I'd also refer to that kind of merit coming into play for Pesach. See http://kallahmagazine.blogspot.com/2014/01/pesach-hotels.html]
However, that was not among Rav Goldwicht's points. The connection he drew was the contrast between the Mishkan, which was never destroyed, and the two Temples, which were. The Sforno presents the concept of what merits endurance in his commentary on Pekudei on the words, Atzey shittim omdim standing cedar trees. It's written in the present tense to indicate they remain standing forever. The Mikshkan never fell into the hands of Israel's enemies. That is in contrast to the first Temple that fell to Nevuzaradan. There are four key merits for the endurance of the Mishkan.
1. It is Mishkan haeduth and contains the luchos haeduth.
2.It was arranged by Moshe's order.
3.Aharon's son Itamar was in charge of the Leviim who had charge of it.
4. Betzalel the son of Uri, the son Chur was the architect, and all the craftsmen involved in making it were, likewise, notable people.
In other words, the work of gathering, melting, molding, connecting, building, etc. was not outsourced abroad or passed on to immigrant workers. It was done directly by the Jews themselves. On the other hand, when Shlomo set out to build the Temple, he did import workers from outside and let them do the work of building. Consequently, even though the Temple had the presence of the Shchina and some of the merit associated with the Mishkan, it lacked that eternal quality. That evidenced even before it fell in enemy hands by the fact that it required maintenance for cracks and such. In the second Temple, there was even less, as the Ark and the luchos were not even there. It was orderd by King Koresh, and Ezra could not find Leviim for the work. Plus, again, there was foreign labor -- the Tzidoonim and Tzurim -- involved. It, too, came to be destroyed.
Only the Mishkan created out of direct participation endures forever.