62. Behaalotekha I - IT ISN'T EASY

THE WORD mikshah, meaning "hammered out or beaten by hand," is used in connection with the formation of three sacred objects in the Tabernacle, namely the Menorah, the cherubim and the silver trumpets. The sidrah opens by informing us that the Menorah which was kindled in the Sanctuary was mikshah zahav, hammered out of gold. The cherubim-the angelic images that appeared above the cover adorning the ark, also had to be made mikshah. They were hammered out of one piece of gold. The silver trumpets which were sounded to herald the celebration of festive occasions also were made mikshah. They had to be beaten out of one piece of silver (Num. 8:9; 10:2; Exod. 24:18).

The word mikshah stems from the root kasheh, which means difficult, tough, arduous. It implies that a great deal of hard labor and effort were required to make those holy objects in accordance with the command of God.

With the destruction of the Temple, the Menorah, cherubim and trumpets have only symbolic significance for us. The Menorah symbolizes the light of learning and knowledge. In no other era was so much said about education as in our era. Hundreds of books and thousands of pamphlets and articles are published annually on this subject. Why then is ignorance so rampant? Because people fail to realize that the Menorah can only be fashioned mikshah, the hard way. There is no short and easy road to knowledge. The light of Torah cannot be diffused by turning on a switch. Our sages urged us to be amalim batoraho be prepared to labor arduously in the study of the Torah. It is only thus that the flame of the Menorah can become a ner tamid, an eternal light.

The cherubim, we are told, demut pirtzuf tinok lahem, looked like children. Parents everywhere desire and pray for nachas from their children, but they forget that the cherubim were made mikshah. They had to be hammered out. It is much easier to have children than to raise them the right way. From a physical standpoint most parents are well aware of this truth. They know what it means to see a child through the stages of teething, chicken-pox, measles and mumps. They also know the cost of providing a child with the proper clothes and sending him to a nice camp. Parents realize that it is no easy task to raise sons and daughters and to see the day when they are ready to go under the chupah, but few take the trouble to pay the price of mikshah in so far as the religious and moral training of their offspring is concerned. That is where many are derelict in their duty. Socrates, the great philosopher of ancient Greece, once said, "If I could climb to the highest place in Athens, I would lift my voice and proclaim: 'Fellow citizens, why do you turn and scrape every stone to gather wealth, and take so little care of your children to whom one day you must relinquish all your possessions?'"

A farmer once brought his son to the university and asked the dean how long it would take for his boy to become a good doctor-a real specialist. The dean replied that the young man would have to attend college for four years, and after graduation he would have to attend another four years in medical school. Following that he would be required to serve as an intern in a hospital for two years: and if he wanted to specialize in any branch of medicine or surgery he would have to study three more years-a total of thirteen years. "Thirteen years!" exclaimed the startled farmer. "It would take me less than thirteen days to teach him how to rope a steer." "Yes," replied the dean. "As an experienced farmer you must know that a squash grows overnight, but it takes many years to grow an oak."

The joyous sound of the trumpet denotes the yearning for happiness. Everyone is in search of the chatzotztrot of joy and success. Alas, how few are those who realize that these can be attained only as a result of mikshah-of great effort and tireless work. Most of us would like to attain them in an easy manner. We prefer to take short-cuts to "easy-street," and are envious of those who were born with a "silver spoon" in their mouths. Long ago, however, the Psalmist advised us that "When thou eatest the labor of thy hands, thou shalt be happy and it shall be well with thee" (Ps. 128:2). There is no short cut to enduring happiness and peace of mind.

This is true in the field of art. Talent is a precious gift of God. Just as a diamond in the rough has to be rubbed and polished to bring out its hidden beauty and splendor, so is it with art.

It is said that the great pianist Paderewski once remarked, "If I don't practice on the piano for one day, I know the difference in my playing. If I miss two days, the critics know the difference in my playing. But when I miss three days of practice, the audience knows the difference in my playing."

Every young couple aspires to married bliss. Whenever I perform a marriage ceremony, I see this wish and prayer in the eyes of each bride and groom. What many of these newlyweds fail to recognize is that this does not come as a wedding gift. A happy home is fashioned mikshah-the hard way. It requires self-denial, patience, sympathy and tolerance. Thus, mikshah is the key to development and growth as well as to the enjoyment of the good and useful life.

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