Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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17 Cheshvan 5761 - November 15, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
The Builder's Plumbline

by L. Jungerman

A group of students, products of Yeshivas Mir and disciples of HaGaon R' Yeruchom zt'l, formed nucleus to study a certain tractate together on a permanent basis. It bore fruit and the time came for them to celebrate the conclusion of their project. It was a momentous enough occasion for them to request the participation of their revered mentor and they duly drew up and sent a letter informing him of the upcoming siyum. It reflected a joy comparable to that of a wedding!

R' Yeruchom sent a return letter which was a masterpiece of expression in which he exposed a unique angle of approach to the portion dealing with Avrohom Ovinu's hospitality, as it appears in this week's parsha.

"You were privileged . . . to complete . . . " he writes. "You informed me that you set a day aside to celebrate this momentous occasion. Let me tell you that that day is for me, likewise, a day of jubilation and rejoicing, and I join in your joy."

He continues:

"You did well in preparing for this occasion, just as we were commanded to celebrate the completion of a mitzva with a festive meal. And in this, we are set apart from all the nations on earth.

"Chazal commented on the verse, `And great shall be the peace to your children.' Do not read `your children -- bohnayich but bownoyich -- your builders,' for all those deeds are in the category of construction.

"When a craftsman fashions something and completes it, it can be called a vessel. If it lacks any detail, however, it lacks the definition of a vessel; it is an incomplete, indeterminate thing.

"The Torah describes Avrohom Ovinu's attribute of hospitality in full detail. Ostensibly, the principle act of hospitality merely includes feeding one's guest and giving him to drink in generous measure. Nevertheless, we see that the Torah elaborates in its description of his performance, from the very inception: `And he lifted his eyes, and he saw, and he ran . . . and he bowed . . . and he rushed, and he said: Hasten . . . etc.'

"Nothing is omitted. This comes to highlight the conduct of our patriarchs, which was perfect, not superficial, haphazard, but in the manner of an architect, carefully constructed and completed. It further teaches that our Ovos emulated Hashem, Who is `the rock, perfect is His handiwork.' He is the beginning and the end. We are shown that all of a person's actions should strive to perfection, to a complete whole, an edifice in every way, that nothing should be lacking, either in the inception or the end. Everything should be constructed airtight, without gaps or weak spots. Therefore, it is good that you arranged a festive siyum, so that you can be called true builders! Let not even a single day and single daf be missing, for if it is, the loss is simply immeasurable. It falls short of perfection, and great is the pity.

"Dear Brothers: Take courage and fortify yourselves. And may you merit to build perfectly complete edifices, and not faulty, leaky vessels."


A new look. A whole edifice. Vessels and not broken potsherds!

When we read in this portion that every blink of an eye and gesture of Avrohom Ovinu's hand were meditated and reported in detail in the Torah, and, in effect, became part and parcel of the very Torah itself, the conclusion we arrive at is that by great people, there is no such thing as a conglomeration of small deeds, but that every single act is a single unit in a perfect composite, every gesture is a necessary building block in the end product.

Maran HaGaon R' Dovid Povarsky zt'l expresses this in his talks: "A great man is one who is not subject to doing puny acts." A superficial person expresses himself in those areas he deems important, but dismisses "small-time" matters as negligible, not worth his attention and therefore, things that don't count. They are incidental to him.

In contrast, a great person brings the sum of his soul, himself, to expression in every single thing he does, great or small. His stature is reflected in everything because he invests concentration and concerted effort to achieve the maximum of every deed, great or small. Nothing, indeed, is insignificant in his eyes.

"The deeds of the ovos," writes R' Yeruchom, with his golden pen, "were not incidental, casual, but meditated and measured, like a master architect. The product of design, with no detail of the blueprint overlooked, since every single line represents integral features, even an entire room, if not more, when translated from the paper to the field of activity. So is the attitude towards life of those `builders,' with special attention accorded to every detail. Negligible acts which normal people dismiss with a wave, are bested with great importance by great men, like the stone which the builders shunned, "evven mo'asu habohnim," the stone which eventually becomes a keystone, a cornerstone.

Chazal say, "Whoever begins a mitzva is told to finish it." And one cannot help wondering why this needs to be said. The truth is that sometimes people burn out; they tire, lose momentum and energy before reaching the finish line. It is necessary to boost their morale and say: Stick to it; see it to the end.

Whoever develops an attitude of construction to a project will also complete it. He will commence, persevere and will not miss out on a single day or a single daf, as the letter above stressed. And he will see it through to completion. He will march along the path of Hashem, Whose deeds are perfectly whole and wholly perfect, because even if a building is standing, it will not stand for long if any vital component or feature is lacking. At some point, it will collapse. In the eyes of those who are "builders" and not only "sons," every mitzva, every study project or any undertaking, for that matter, is a construction project. And a building must be whole. "Make them rejoice with a complete construction."

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