"And make two cherubim out of hammered gold at the ends of the cover." - Exodus 25:18
The Torah portion for this week is Terumah, which means "contributions," from Exodus 25:1-27:19, and the Haftorah is from 1 Kings 5:26-6:13.
Thomas Edison once said, "The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are: hard work, stick-to-itiveness, and common sense." I think that most people are OK with the "common sense" component, but when it comes to sticking with something when it gets tough or when the work is hard, many folks tend to run the other way. Hard work, after all, is just that - hard!
In this week's Torah portion, we read about the instructions for the construction of the Tabernacle and the ritual objects within it. One of the objects that we come across is the cover of the Ark that contained the cherubim. We read, "And make two cherubim out of hammered gold . . ."
Now, translated literally from the original Hebrew, the verse reads, "And make the two golden cherubim, hammered out you shall make them . . ." Here's the interesting part: The word for "hammered out" in Hebrew is miksha, which is nearly identical to the Hebrew word for "difficult." Based on this understanding, the Jewish sages provide an alternate understanding for that phrase: "even if it is difficult, you shall do it."
By looking deeper into the multiple meanings of this phrase, the sages sought to provide us with an important life lesson: Don't run away from hard work! When called to a task, don't be intimidated by the hard work it may take to accomplish it. Most worthwhile things take hard work. Raising children is hard work; relationships are hard work; and making a contribution to society takes hard work.
When the early pioneers returned to the land of Israel in the early 1900s, a lot of hard work was involved. The Jewish people who believed in reclaiming the ancient homeland worked harder than almost anyone. They spent their days draining swamps, digging ditches, cutting stones, and laying the foundation for what would eventually become Israel's renowned agricultural accomplishments. Their days were filled with hard physical labor, and at night, they retired in tents, often shared by three or more people. The work was harder than anything that these immigrants were used to. But they persevered, and because of that, Israel is what she is today.
There are other kinds of hard work, which are not necessarily hard physically, but are difficult in other ways. Saying "I'm sorry" can be hard. Starting again after multiple failures is hard. Fixing a damaged relationship is hard. Accepting criticism and taking responsibility can be some of the most difficult things that we are called to do. However, just as it is in the physical realm, hard work is worth the effort. The sages teach that "the more difficult it is to do God's will, the greater the reward."
So work hard . . . and with joy.