Italy is italy

Friday, 17 March, 2023 - 5:57 am

I have this habit: when I land in an unfamiliar city, I try to avoid taking a taxi, preferring to use public transportation to reach my destination. There is something pleasant, interesting and even exciting in coming into contact with the local population, and viewing the people and their lives from close up. Plus, getting along on one’s own in a strange place is a nice challenge.

I did it few years ago in Milan. The Cadorna station in the center of town was not overfull. The people seemed calm; they weren’t rushing or running. Perhaps because it was a Sunday and perhaps because this was Italy, and in Italy, as anyone who has ever flown Alitalia knows, no one is in a rush.

Something special caught my eye. A number of parents of young children brought them to the large metro map posted on the station’s wall, and with notable patience explained to the boy or girl how the map is constructed, where they are, where they need to go, and which metro line they should take. As a father of children myself I liked this very much (in fact, I missed the train because I was so interested… but, Italy being Italy, there was time). I am assuming that these parents teach their children the relevant, important values for them, for life, and still, there they were, investing time and patience in teaching their children something so small and technical: how to find your way in the metro.

Why was I reminded of this? Because this week in the Parasha, in the summary of the building of the Mishkan (Tabernacle), it says, “And all wise-hearted among you will come and do everything that Hashem commanded.” And immediately after that the Torah lists all the implements that those wise-hearted artisans made. A special talent for craftsmanship was necessary in order to make the components of the Mishkan – from the Menorah, the Table and the Altar, to the wooden panels, including the ornate cloth covers of the Mishkan. One needed very talented artisans, described by the Torah as “wise-hearted.”

On Shabbat Parashat Vayakhel of 1977 (5737), in a Hitva’adut in front of a large group of Chassidim, the Rebbe focused on these Psukim and noted an extremely interesting and curious fact: among the components of the Mishkan that needed to be made by the wise-hearted were also the “pegs of the Mishkan and the pegs of the courtyard.” A tent peg is a very important thing – it is the peg that in the end tightens, strengthens and stabilizes the entire Mishkan. But the peg, in itself, doesn’t seem to be so complicated to make, and certainly there is no need for it to be made by a wise-hearted person. And yet, the Torah says specifically, that the pegs, too, should be made by the wise-hearted.

There is a great message here, said the Rebbe this week 39 years ago. When you educate a child, whether he is your child or a child handed over to you to teach in a school, you are invested with the task of building and forming that child’s personality: teaching him to tell good from bad, positive from negative; educating him regarding priorities in life and how to use the tools we have received from Hashem to best advantage, in order to correct the world around us. This is a great task, for which artisanship is obviously necessary. We need a “wise-hearted” to be involved in it. If the Torah demanded that the wise-hearted make the pegs as well, that is a message for us, that the education and the building of a child’s personality should not relate only to big and lofty values and ideals, but also to the simple, technical details, like pegs. For in the end, that simple peg is what upholds that entire structure.


May we be successful…


Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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