2003Midrash Mishnat Rebbe Eliezer Ch. 13
In Praise of an Honest Day's Work
"And Moshe saw all the work [of the Tabernacle], and, behold, they had done it just as the Lord had commanded, and Moshe blessed them."(Exodus 39:43)
How great is work that the Divine presence only dwelled in Israel amidst those who work, as it is written: And Moshe saw all the work [of the Tabernacle], and, behold, they had done it just as the Lord had commanded, and Moshe blessed them.
The Holy One could have made the Tabernacle Himself, so why did He command Israel to make it? Work is dear to Him, and know that this is so, for God speaks of work in a way He does not speak of "fear of heaven." When speaking of fear of heaven, it is only written: Happy is the one who fears the Lord. (Psalms 112:1) When speaking of work, it is written: You shall be happy with the fruit of your labors; you shall be happy AND you shall prosper.
Your Midrash Navigator
1. What question is the Midrash dealing with? What could possibly be troubling in this text?
2. Why would the Midrash compare fear of heaven with work? How are they comparable?
There is a tendency to value the contemplative life at the expense of a life of physical creativity. The midrash is cautioning that God, as much as He appreciates reverence and adulation, He ultimately values those who choose to be partners in creation and the creative process. He desires those who make things happen with God's words, fashioning the material from the ethereal. This is a person who is not only happy, but will have the means to partner his destiny with the Creator. Because he has engaged in the world, he will have more of a hand in fulfilling his purpose, he will not only be happy, but he will have helped fashion his happiness which is the Torah's view of prosperity.
Prepared by Rabbi Avi Weinstein, Director, Joseph Meyerhoff Center for Jewish Learning.
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