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The Systems of the Jewish Year

Moshe’s Strength

By Rabbi Sender Haber

The Talmud in Nedarim tells us that Moshe was strong. He spread the covering over the Mishkan. The Gemara challenges this proof. Maybe Moshe was just large? What is the proof that he was strong? Instead the Gemara brings a proof from the Luchos which Moshe carried down from Har Sinai and broke.

The Rosh asks a simple question: What about the Krashim? Those were huge, yet Moshe put them up as well.

The truth is that this whole passage Gemara is strange in light of a Medrash, quoted in rashi, that Moshe did not know how to put up the Mishkan. It was actually G-d who put up the Mishkan. Moshe just got the credit. Similarly, we find regarding the Luchos that the ark carried those who carried it. Moshe didn’t need to be strong!

Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz explains that nobody ever does anything. All we can do is try. Real strength is about giving it everything that we have. The most awesome part of putting up the Mishkan was the fact that after he finished, the cloud of Hashem’s glory came down on the Mishkan. Nobody can do that! As a matter of fact, Moshe couldn’t even enter the cloud – much less make it.

Our job is to give it all of our strength. Accomplishments belong to G-d.

R’ Chaim Volozhiner’s students testified that when the cornerstone of the yeshiva was laid, he wept so much that no water was needed to moisten the mortar. The Chofetz Chaim concluded from this, “A yeshiva is built with tears.”

R’ Dov Eliach tells us in his book Avi Hayeshivos, Rabbenu Chaim turned down a tempting offer from Vilna’s Jewish dignitaries: if he would move his yeshiva from Volozhin to Vilna, they would completely finance it, as well as make him rav of the city.

“Not everything can be moved from one place to another without damage,” R’ Chaim explained to them. “A stone or a beam of wood for example, no matter how heavy it may be, can always be dislodged and reinstalled in a new location. You could do that with the beams and benches of the yeshiva, too. But you could never move the cobwebs from the yeshiva and reinstall them. A yeshiva is more like a cobweb than a beam of wood. If you try to move it, you are liable to destroy it.”

It is not easy to build.

The Pirkei Avos teaches us:  “Who is strong? He who conquers his Evil Inclination”. Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz explains that we can’t do that either. All we can do is give it all of our strength.

That is how we build buildings and that is how we build ourselves.

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