There’s a quote attributed to Mark Twain, “no good deed should go unpunished”. Never has such a phrase been more pertinent than in the parent-child dealing with one’s children. This thankless role; of shlepping, buying, preparing and coordinating is too often met with ingratitude, entitlement and even resentment. It’s hard to be consistently loving when it’s not reciprocated.
When conflict arises in relationships, they can only be truly mitigated through both parties recognising their contribution to the dysfunction. The inability to take responsibility, relegates one to the powerless position of being a victim. This is a frightening and vulnerable place to be because it means that I cannot change the status quo. If I accept my part, I can potentially change my behaviour, even if I cannot change theirs.
Over the last two weeks the Torah has concentrated its focus on the plans for the construction of the Tabernacle; a temporary Temple-like structure that served as a conduit for communication between Hashem and Israel. Over the next two weeks we again will focus on the Mishkan, but this time on the actual construction.
All in all, we will dedicate four weeks, and an enormous amount of ink, to the Mishkan.
Why does the Torah put so much emphasis on this process?
The answer to this question pivots on this week’s Parsha.
Over the last two weeks, the Torah presented a blueprint set to inspire and excite the Israelites. They are commanded to build a place where their relationship with Hashem could be intensified.
But suddenly, in this week’s Parsha, the wheels come off. Panic ensues when Moshes descent from the mountain is perceived as delayed. Fear results in the building of a Golden Calf, a poor and desperate attempt to re-connect to the divine.
The result is disastrous; Hashem threatens to abandon His people and it is only through the efforts of Moshe, that forces both parties back into each other’s good graces. Hashem accepts the “stiff-neckedness” of the Israelites, and the Israelites resolve to commit themselves to serving only Hashem.
But what about the Mishkan? Are we still to build it or has that ship sailed?
Imagine a couple deeply in love. They purchase a home and furnish it lavishly in the hope of a long, committed and loving relationship. But what if there is betrayal? What if there is deceit? The relationship is now hanging by a thread, can it be salvaged?
If they are both deeply remorseful, and they want to make it work they can commit themselves to a process of recovery.
With combined effort they can reconstruct what they had.
But when they enter their home, do they enter with the same excitement as before? The home that promised so much hope for the future, can they still live in it? Or perhaps those bitter memories have permanently dashed any chance of moving forward?
And it is for this reason that the Torah goes to great lengths to repeat the construction of the Mishkan.
There can be reconstruction after the rupture. The Mishkan that was commanded prior to the Golden Calf can still be built after it. Relationships can be repaired, and even strengthened when we commit ourselves to one another.
Every marital, parental, and social relationship should be founded on a commitment to grow together, despite setbacks. A stable relationship can navigate its failures and rebuild damaged feelings.
If we can role model the ability to accept our own faults, and the willingness to grow into better parents, perhaps our children will similarly learn to accept their faults, and similarly be willing to grow.
If negotiated well, the relationship will mature into something even greater than before, but it requires the first step; us, as the adults, admitting our responsibility.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rabbi Gad Krebs is the College Rabbi at Moriah College in Queens Park, NSW.