> Weekly Torah Portion > Intermediate > The Guiding Light

Making the Effort

Trumah (Exodus 25:1-27:19 )

by Rabbi Yehonasan Gefen

Shemos, 25:31: "You shall make a Menorah of pure gold, hammered out shall the Menorah be made…" Rashi, 25:31: sv. Shall the Menorah be made: By itself; because Moses found it difficult [to make it], God told him, 'throw the gold into the fire and it will be made by itself."

Rash brings the Midrash Tanchuma to explain the Torah's language that the Menorah "shall be made", as opposed to; "you shall make" the Menorah. The Midrash tells us further that Moshe could not visualize how the Menorah should appear, so God showed him a Menorah of fire. Even then, after exerting great effort to make it, Moshe was still unable to do so. Therefore, God instructed him to throw the gold into the fire and the complete Menorah emerged. The Sfat Emet asks that if the Menorah was destined to be made by itself, what then was the purpose of showing Moshe the image of the Menorah - even then he was unable to make it!

He answers that this teaches us a fundamental principle in Torah thought: Even though man has free will to make decisions as to follow God's will or not, he does not have the actual ability to carry out the instructions unless God enables him to do so. For example, someone may decide to give charity, but any number of obstacles may prevent him from actually doing so. On an even more basic level, most mitzvot requires physical actions of some kind, and man can only perform these actions if God enables him to. What then does God require of man? Only that he make the effort to perform the mitzvot. Even if he is unable to complete them then he has done what is required of him. But, the Sfat Emet says, if he does make the effort with all his strength, then he will receive the siyata dishmaya (Heavenly assistance) to actually complete the mitzvah.

This is what happened with Moses and the Menorah - God didn't expect him to actually complete its construction, but He showed Moses an image of the Menorah so that he would make an effort to build it. As a reward for his efforts, God completed the task.

Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz writes about a number of characters in the Torah who exemplified a belief in the idea that if a person makes the effort to perform God's will then he will receive incredible Divine assistance to achieve superhuman results. One example of this is the story of Batya the daughter Pharaoh saving the young Moses from the river. One of the less discussed questions about this story is why Batya even tried putting her hand out to draw Moshe out, when it was physically impossible to reach him. The answer is that she recognized the need to make the effort even though there was no logical way that that effort would be fulfilled. Yet, because she made the effort, God performed a miracle by lengthening her arm that enabled her to succeed.

We have seen from the example of Moses and the Menorah how God only requires that we try to do His will, and if we do so with sincerity then He will complete the task for us. A recent dramatic example of this idea was seen at the Dirshu siyum HaShas. 200 men learned the entire Talmud and were tested on everything. Many of them said that when they began they did not think that they could pass the tests on even one tractate, but somehow they succeeded and kept going, until they achieved this incredible accomplishment. May we all merit to emulate them in our own spiritual growth.

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