Vayakhel/Pekudei 5783 – Ki Tzarich
There is a famous teaching of Reb Simcha Bunim that states, “Each person must walk through the world with two pieces of paper in their pockets. In one pocket, a note with the words, “The whole world was created for me,” and in the other pocket, a note with the words, “I am but dust and ashes.” Around the same time as Reb Simcha Bunim was teaching this teaching in Poland, Rebbe Nachman of Breslov was teaching in the Ukraine. His magnum opus was a collection of teachings called Likutei Moharan (the teachings of Moreinu Harav Rabbi Nachman), and in the opening of the fifth chapter, he writes,
“Every person must say to themselves, ‘the whole world was created for me.’ Once I realize that the world was created for me, I must, at all times, seek out ways to do tikkun olam, and to fill up the holes in the world, and to pray on the world’s behalf.”
There are so many layers to this teaching. What stands out to me the most is the fact that not everyone has the privilege of being able to say “the whole world was created for me.” But if you do have the privilege of being able to say those words, it comes with the utmost amount of responsibility to do something about that. To find ways to change the world. To “fill up the holes in the world.” Rebbe Nachman teaches that there are holes in the world that each person is uniquely suited to fill up, and that only we can help the world in that particular way.
Each one of us is on our own individual and unique journey. And this is reflected in this week’s Parashah, Vayakhel/Pekudei. In the very last verse of the book of Exodus we read,
כִּי עֲנַן ה׳ עַל־הַמִּשְׁכָּן יוֹמָם וְאֵשׁ תִּהְיֶה לַיְלָה בּוֹ לְעֵינֵי כל־בֵּית־יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּכל־מַסְעֵיהֶם׃
For over the Tabernacle a cloud of God rested by day, and fire would appear in it by night, in the view of all the house of Israel throughout their journeys. (Ex. 40:38)
These last few words seem superfluous. It already says day and night, why do we need “throughout their journeys?” The Ba’al Shem Tov writes: Every Jew throughout their lifetime goes through these journeys. They come out of “Egypt,” the “narrow place” from when they exited their mother’s womb to their arrival in the “land on high” (the next world). Amongst our journeys there were times when we flourished and grew, like the Israelites at the giving of the Torah, and there were times when we fell, like the Israelites at the golden calf.
We all have moments in our lifetime of upward journeyings and downward journeyings, and through all of them we are constantly trying to move forward, to be the best version of ourselves. Sometimes we need that note in our pocket that says we are everything. Sometimes we need the one that says we are dust. But more often than not, we just need to remind ourselves that there are things in this world that only we can fix.
As we approach the holiday of Passover, the Israelites pause on their journey and take stock in the desert, so we should do the same. Where are you on your journey today? How does your one puzzle piece fit into the collective? You are unique. You are Holy. Your journey is important. You are essential.