This week’s parshah teaches us about building the mishkan, the Sanctuary which traveled with the Jews through the desert. The walls of the Mishkan were made of wooden planks cut from cedar trees.

We can learn a lesson from the use of cedar trees for the mishkan. The Torah calls the cedar trees atzei shittim, and this name helps us understand the lesson which the cedar trees teach us. The Hebrew word shittim comes from shtus something foolish.

Our sages teach us that a person will not commit a sin unless he thinks foolishly. Every Jew wants to be close to HaShem and to do what He wants us to do. So what foolish shtus could cause a person to sin? It’s the yetzer hora, which tries to convince him that he can commit the sin and still be close to HaShem. The person doesn’t always realize that this is not true, and that believing it is foolish.

That is one type of shtus, but there is also “good shtus.” But how can shtus be good? Good things aren’t foolish.

Being foolish means doing things without thinking. Yet sometimes, doing something without thinking can be good. For example, before the Jews received the Torah, they said naaseh venishmah, “We will do and we will listen.” They promised to do what HaShem said without waiting to hear what He would tell them to do.

Was that foolish? Well, the Jews didn’t think about what HaShem would tell them to do before they made that promise. They promised to follow HaShem’s instructions before knowing what they would be. This is good shtus.

Good shtus means kabbalas ol deciding to fulfill HaShem’s mitzvos, and studying the Torah just because HaShem tells us to.

Every Jew has a mishkan in his heart. Like the mishkan in the desert was built from atzei shittim, we can build our mishkan by teaching the part of ourselves which listens to the shtus of the yetzer hora, to do “good shtus.”

(Adapted from the maamar, Basi LeGani, 5711)