In parashat Vayakhel, Hashem gives instructions to Moshe regarding the Shabbat. Immediately following that, the instructions regarding the building of the Mishkan and its details are given. With the list of materials and jobs to be done, it must have been a glorious production, complete with enthusiasm and diligence. But even in the midst of it all, we are given a period of time in which we may labor, and labor intensively. But the Shabbat, an island of time, is not to be for participating in creating and destroying. Rather, it is a time of avodah and personal soul growth and rest. But as I see it, with the following quote from The Path of the Just, we don't have any excuses for why we aren't diligent on days one through six. In fact, we are considered to be indolent when we are not doing what we should be — grand or not.
personal Mishkan construction
While we are not in the throes of building a Mishkan in the wilderness, we are very much in the midst of patching our own proverbial roofs or weeding our souls. There is always spiritual work, as well as physical work on our own homes, that needs to be kept up on. As B'nei Yisrael are commanded to bring materials that they have in order to complete the work and the assignments are given, we too live in the calling to be a people busy with the service of the Divine. The jobs may be different, and sometimes the orders in our time might seem vague. But we are called to keep up with the task and not rest, even if there is no hope of finishing it.
“The work is not yours to complete, and [yet] you are not free to abstain from it.” — Avot 2:16
There was much to do in the making of the Mishkan, and we can infer the only time they rested was when they slept or on the Shabbat. But if we imagine that there was joy in the service they performed, then it was a labor of love and not one that was despised. No doubt there was great joy in the building of the Mishkan. But something was about to happen in the not too distant future: they would finish. And then what? Would that same zeal and diligence that helped to build the Mishkan be present in their daily lives as they worshipped? Ahh, now we are on to something: Diligence in the absence of excitement.
While it is a thrill to buy your first home, get your first apartment, or whatever it is that you live in, ultimately that initial joy will fade and what will be left is maintenance. Whether it is home maintenance or just the day to day grind of keeping things in order and clean, you are left with caring for what is yours. This also goes for the soul. Those who newly come into the throes of spirituality and finding Hashem and Yeshua are in a honeymoon phase of sorts. Everything is wonderful and sparkles. But how do we keep that feeling of wonder and remain diligent in our walk, when it might not seem as glitzy anymore?
In summation: A person needs great reinforcement to strengthen himself and persevere with alacrity in the fulfillment of the mitzvot. This will be accomplished when he throws off the lethargic indolence that restrains him. — Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, The Path of the Just, Chapter 6, pages 41
The antidote is in living. It is in day to day experiences of living life to the fullest, in all manners, that we find true joy. The honeymoon feeling is just the beginning. The continuation of this joy is in commitment to doing whatever it takes on a daily basis to maintain that commitment. And yes, even in the work there can be magic moments. Lethargic indolence comes simply out of wanting life's joys and not the hard work in between.
don't procrastinate, don't forget
As human beings, we have interesting ways of responding to repetition. If an activity pleases us, we repeat it. If we don't like it, we begin loathing and procrastination. But as servants of the Divine, we are not called to cast it off if we don't want it. We need to be honorable and attend to the task at hand. It might not have that honeymoon effect attached to it anymore, but we limit the possibilities of what it can bring to our lives in the way of endurance, faithfulness and consistency. We might not be weaving gold and silver thread in fantastic robes, we might not be in the job of a lifetime, but we are given life and the lot that comes with it.
If we meditate upon the things we are required to do in life, whether we like them or not, we can start to find new moments of joy in the fact that we have been given an opportunity. We can train ourselves to not put off the undesirable jobs but to view them as stepping stones to the next moment in life. Accept all your moments as possibilities and embrace them as if you were building the Mishkan. Because whether you believe it or not, you are building a place for those who come after you who will need a space to do their divine service. Make it beautiful through your daily diligence, bring back the sparkle, and know that your reward will be the Shabbat — a joyous moment in time celebrating your labors and perseverance.