When we work together as a group — collaboratively, and with a single goal and a shared mission in front of our eyes, something miraculous occurs.
When God commanded the building of the Mishkan in Terumah, the words we heard over and over again were “ve-asita – you shall make,” and “ve-asu – you shall do”. This is echoed in Vayekhel-Pikudei where the people take up this charge and throw themselves into this holy task. Throughout these parshot one word is repeated, va’yaas – “he made”, va’yaasu, “they made.” Everyone acted, everyone constructed, everyone contributed. Men and women, individually and as groups, donated money and materials and brought their unique talents to the task.
Once everything is done, after all of this effort and work, we find a fascinating shift in the verses from the active to the passive. God tells Moshe “You should erect the mishkan,” (Shemot 40:2), only to be told a few verses later that “The mishkan was erected,” (40:17) passively, as if by itself.
Responding to this passive verb, the midrash tells us that it was not Moshe who brought the Mishkan to completion, but the angels. What is meant by this?
When the angels build the Mishkan, it is being built in a way that exceeds our human efforts. After each person gave 110% of his or her effort, the Mikshkan arose as if by a miracle. Everyone knew they were working towards this end result, and yet, when it actually came into being, they looked at one another and said: This is amazing what we just created. Did we just do that? How could we have produced this awe-inspiring building, this place for God’s presence?
There was, of course, a rational explanation for what their joint efforts accomplished, and yet, on the experiential level, what they accomplished felt like so much more than just the sum of their individual contributions. When people are working together towards a shared goal, and that goal is constantly before their eyes, then a certain energy takes over that propels them forwards. With this flow running through them, they are lifted above the grind of the work, they organically share efforts and ideas, build off of one another’s ideas and contributions, and inspire each other to greater heights and creativity.
The Amish build a whole house in a day. One moment there is nothing and the next you step back and exclaim, “Oh my God. How did that happen?”
Closer to home, we have all seen such a miracle in the development of the coronavirus vaccine. Who could have imagined that we would develop such a highly effective vaccine in just one year? Normally it takes years upon years, and sometimes it never happens. It was truly a miracle.
But of course it wasn’t, not truly. It was an amazing accomplishment produced by an entire society working together and in parallel to achieve this one goal. Everything came together: the collaboration between the public and the private sectors, the funding that was made available, the waving of normal procedural requirements without compromising safety, an unprecedented number of people stepping up to volunteer for challenge trails, scientists both cooperating with one another, sharing data and results, and in competition with one another, urging each other on to work even harder.
The end result was a vaccine that was at once both the product of human ingenuity and cooperation and at the same time a miracle.
This has been true about the Yeshiva as well. We recently celebrated our 21st year, and we have so much of which to be proud, with 150 rabbis serving in the field, supporting individuals and transforming communities. Building on that, this year we strived for something even higher – a new, expanded vision of the yeshiva reaching beyond a rabbinical school, becoming a Center of Torah and Torah Leadership. This vision – for a YCT 2.0 – has been our shared focus this last year, propelling us forward, with everyone dedicated to this goal. Each person gave it his or her all, building on and energized by one another. And with all that, what resulted seem to arise by itself, larger and more powerful than we could have imagined.
For each of us, let’s give thought how in our lives – whether it is at work, with friends or with family — we can find those clear focused goals to which we want to dedicate ourselves. Some deep passion or vision that we have never acted on. It’s okay, maybe even better, if this goal seems out of reach. For it we then work together with that compelling vision before us, the angels will come and help us. We will achieve something that had before this only been a dream. After all the hard work, dedication, and sweat and the tears, what we had envisioned will arise by itself, as if by a miracle.