| Parshah |

A Tale of Two Values

When a person uses his daas to serve Hashem with his physical assets, he combines the spiritual world with the physical world


“He filled him [Betzalel] with the spirit of Hashem, with chochmah, tevunah, and daas….” (Shemos 35:31)


Rashi says daas is the greatest of these three forms of wisdom. Rav Shlomo Wolbe explains that daas is the ability to blend two opposites: Heaven, the spiritual realm, and earth, the physical realm. The Mishkan was the dwelling place for the Shechinah — the fusion of Heaven and earth (Rabbi Shlomo Caplan, Mishulchan Shlomo).

Welcome to Ben Gurion. A trip to Eretz Yisrael in those days was rare, and as the plane taxied, my parents were glued to the window, drinking in the views.

Then the plane came to a halt, and they were caught up in the explosion of noise and activity as everyone prepared to deplane. Suddenly, my father stopped and began frantically searching his seat, bending over to look underneath as well. My mother couldn’t imagine what was missing.

“My chiddushim. My papers!” he said, rising urgency in his voice. “I can’t find what I worked on the whole flight!” My father z”l wrote a weekly kuntress on machshavah based on the parshah (seems it’s hereditary). He spent every possible minute refining, researching, and writing these thoughts, and the plane ride was no exception. However, somehow in the confusion of landing, the papers were nowhere to be found. My mother joined him, expanding their search as the plane emptied.  Soon they were the last passengers left, and security officers boarded to investigate the delay.

Rav Wolbe adds that within every person there’s the soul — which is spiritual — and the body — which is physical. Every person should attempt to make his heart a Mishkan for Hashem, thereby integrating the spiritual and physical realms — a Betzalel-type feat.

Selichah.” The burly Israeli security officer approached. “You need to get off the plane right now.” His voice and stance broached no argument.

Yet my father wouldn’t budge. “I’m sorry, but I’m missing something, and I must find it before leaving.”

“Whatever you’re missing, you’ll file a report. You will get off now.”

My father refused to be cowed. “What I’m missing isn’t something that can be replaced. It’s kadosh, my papers of Torah. You cannot fathom how much value this has for me, and I will not leave without them.” My father’s sincerity and his equal determination (sabra meet Yekkeh) penetrated the guard’s iron demeanor, and he began to help. They made an unlikely trio searching on their hands and knees.

“I found them!” my father called out, holding up a sheaf of papers. His elation was palatable as he joyously thanked and hugged the Israeli guard, who shrugged and hugged him back. Americanas!

When Yaakov went to sleep in Beis El, he placed several stones under his head, and each declared, “Let the tzaddik rest his head upon me” (Bereishis 28:11). They wanted to elevate themselves to the spiritual. We can bring about the same effect when using physical objects for a mitzvah. The paper upon which we write a devar Torah or a letter of encouragement becomes elevated. Food prepared for Shabbos becomes sanctified. Indeed, our very bodies can become elevated and uplifted when we perform any mitzvah.
When a person uses his daas to serve Hashem with his physical assets, he combines the spiritual world with the physical world. Like Betzalel, we can each build our own Mishkan and help turn the entire world into a Mishkan for Hashem.

End of story. Except… Cue next one.

Years ago, when people still needed actual paper tickets to fly (who remembers those long, shiny booklets where the flight attendant ripped off one page of your flight segment as you boarded the plane?), my parents flew to spend Pesach with my brother in Chicago. Somehow during the course of the flight, their return ticket booklets disappeared. (It was still possible then to fly under someone else’s name; perhaps they were “repurposed”?)

When the plane landed, my parents frantically searched their seats, knowing if they didn’t find the actual booklets, they’d need to purchase new return tickets. Similar setting, similar actions. Empty plane, security guard boarded.

Then things took a different twist.  After spending so much time searching, my father conceded defeat, saying, “Nu nu, what can we do? They’re gone. Zol zein a kapparah.”

Similar stories. Different values. Life on a higher plane.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 835)

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