A ‘Your Mother’s Guidance’ Post by Rebecca Masinter
Numbers 7:1 says, “And it was on the day that Moses finished erecting the Tabernacle…” Ancient Jewish wisdom asks why Moses is credited with the Tabernacle when we know that Betzalel, Ahaliav, and a team of others actually did the work. The answer is that Moses is credited with the Tabernacle because he dedicated himself to it with devotion. The Hebrew phrase is mesirus nefesh, which implies devotion and dedication on steroids. Even though others actually did the work, Moses was completely dedicated to making sure each piece was made according to the dimensions and descriptions Hashem had given him. Because of his devotion for the Tabernacle, he gets the credit. Similarly, even though King David’s son Solomon built the Temple, it is called “House of David” because of his mesirus nefesh for it.
Apparently, when someone has mesirus nefesh for something, even if they don’t actually do the job completely themselves, the job becomes entwined with their essence and it becomes their own. Do you know when else we see this? A high school teacher of mine years ago pointed out to us that often in the Book of Kings, kings are identified as the sons of their mothers. This isn’t what you expect—kingship passes from father to son, so why does the prophet tell us their mothers’ names? For the very same reason as above. Mothers were moser nefesh to raise children who became kings, so of course they have to be credited.
There is a lot of mesirus nefesh going on in all of our homes these days. Every time we push ourselves to answer one more request, to read one more story, to speak calmly one more time, to bite our tongues from criticizing just this once, we are showing our devotion and dedication to our families and raising our children. The problem is that sometimes we downplay our mesirus nefesh. Maybe we get upset with ourselves when we don’t live up to our hopes, yet we don’t credit ourselves for all the times that we do. We don’t even notice when we do a good job, but we notice when we fall short of what we expect. Mesirus Nefesh doesn’t mean doing a perfect job or finishing the job completely. It means staying dedicated, staying devoted.
Moses kept checking with the artisans: “Are you making it the right size, the right way?” He stayed with it from beginning to end. He didn’t hand it over to Betzalel and walk away to something else.
We do that too. Day after day we try to be present, patient, calm, consistent, and that counts for a lot. The question of whether we attain our goals all the time is not relevant when it comes to mesirus nefesh. What matters is that we keep coming back and trying again. It is the dedication mothers show by working on themselves and their parenting day after day that translates as mesirus nefesh. And that counts.