Welcome To Sochi, Comedy Of Errors And Every Single Detail Is Crucial [Parshat Tetzaveh By Rabbi Zalman Lent]

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As would be expected, sports lovers are watching with great interest the events happening in Sochi, Russia this month. What is unexpected is how many people are turning to Sochi  for their daily dose of  humour.

As journalists arrive in Sochi, expecting to enjoy the fruits of the $51 billion dollar investment (the costliest games in history), they are finding themselves in an ever-growing comedy of errors. Many are finding their hotels barely finished, with floors, doors or other fitments missing. Furnishings are falling off or falling down, and lots of bartering is going on in hotels, such as exchanging light bulbs for door handles!

Under the puzzling slogan “Hot. Cool. Yours” the Sochi Games fizzled to a start when the Torch, made by a factory that produces ballistic missiles, repeatedly went out and even exploded. The newly paved road to the ski resort cost so much to build ($8.7 billion) that it could almost have been paved with gold for the same price, and the ski-jump developer has fled the country after having to rebuild it several times.

Meanwhile, as journalists compete over Twitter to document the strangest hotel construction failures there, we turn to a slightly better constructed building, the desert sanctuary known as the Mishkan. Designed by G-d and build by man, the Torah gives us incredible detail about every last component of this building. Beginning in Parshat Terumah last week there are tens of pages of repetitive detail about the measurements, the materials, the quantities, the placement and the manner of construction.


Why do we need all the detail? Couldn’t  G-d simply have said, “Build me a home,” and let Moses and Aaron haggle with the contractors? (Or even say “Let there be a home!” for it simply to appear!) The Mishkan was not simply a gathering place for the Israelites;  it was the focal point for G-d on this earth. At Sinai something special happened – the Jewish people were given the ability to bring Heaven down to Earth, to infuse physical objects with holiness, and to transform those physical and mundane objects into a place where the shechina would rest.

The nation was going to get up close and personal with their  Creator, and maybe they needed to understand that to G-d, every single detail matters. The world which we inhabit is more precise than we could possibly imagine. A fraction closer to the sun and we wouldn’t survive the heat, a tiny amount the other direction and our planet freezes. Gases, temperature, gravity, axis speed … the mind boggles at how many variables we are dependent upon for life and existence. If any one of them was to change ever so slightly, life as we know it would end instantly.

Even within the parameters of life, every single detail is crucial. In Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything  he has an entire chapter on the stuff we are made of, those amazing things we call cells:
Every cell in nature is a thing of wonder. Even the simplest are far beyond the limits of human ingenuity. To build the most basic yeast cell, for example, you would have to miniaturize about the same number of components as are found in a Boeing 777 jetliner and fit them into a sphere just five microns across; then somehow you would have to persuade that sphere to reproduce. But yeast cells are as nothing compared with human cells, which are not just more varied and complicated, but vastly more fascinating because of their complex interactions … Typically a cell will contain some 20,000 different types of protein, and of these about 2,000 types will each be represented by at least 50,000 molecules.
That is the world we inhabit, the impossibly detailed world G-d crafted for us to fulfil our mission. Our mission is to imbue that very physical world with soul, with spirituality, as we go about our daily lives. The devil is not in the detail, the Divine is in the detail. Whether we eat kosher meat or not doesn’t seem like a big deal, neither does not observing Shabbat or not sticking a mezuzah on the door … but we must not forget that the details are all important. It is not good enough just to be a mensch, or to live an ethical life – G-d really cares about the details – that’s why he put them in the Torah for us to follow.

After Sinai, the Jewish perception changed; gold was no longer simply ornamentation for war chariots and pharaohs, it could be formed into a container for the tablets bearing the Ten Commandments; it could become an altar, a menorah or a priestly headdress. Precious stones, emeralds, rubies, sapphires, were not just created to embellish pendants, bracelets or anklets; they were to adorn the breastplate (choshen) containing the ineffable name of G-d. And so on …

Our task, as we live our lives day by day, is to recognise the importance of the details; that G-d really cares about what we do and how we do it, and that using mundane objects for mitzvot gives us the power to bring Heaven down to earth.  Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Zalman Lent


Rabbi Zalman Lent is a Community Rabbi in Dublin and director of  Chabad of Ireland.



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