This past weekend, we celebrated my son Menny’s bar mitzvah. We made lots of speeches at the intimate bar mitzvah meals. The theme that emerged from the weekend was about the inherent struggle of a life lived.

My husband, Eliyahu, spoke about struggling with getting locked in his office that morning when he was “supposed” to have been upstairs in the sanctuary giving his Torah class (with visions of impressing his father, no less). The backstory is that he was putting away milk and coffee for me because the Shabbat hot-water urn tripped the socket at home on Friday night, and he wanted to make sure I would have a hot coffee at least when I came to shul. He walked into his office, and the electronic security system locked him in. He was stuck for the time being, knowing that it would disable at 9 a.m., so he had 30 minutes of quiet and contemplation.

In this time, he came up with a message for Menny: “The answer to ‘why?’ is ‘what?’ ”

When life sends you challenges (which it inevitably will because being human means having stuff to deal with), and you want to ask “why?” or “why me?” it’s alright to ask, but we are limited in getting satisfactory answers.

Instead, ask yourself: “What is my purpose here?’ ‘What am I supposed to do as a result of this experience?’ ‘What is the lesson being shown to me?”

My father spoke about the struggles of life not as a means to an end but in some ways, the end itself. We are not here to achieve perfection; we are here to achieve greatness through finding our purpose in this world. The pleasure for G‑d is precisely in our struggle while doing so. Only G‑d can arrange for perfection, and that will happen when Moshiach is revealed in totality.

As my Dad told Menny to embrace the struggle, I sat with misty tears in my eyes thinking about how difficult it is to cross the bridge from innocent adolescence to teenagehood and into functional adulthood. Who comes out unscathed in this process? And adulthood is only the beginning …



In the Torah portions of Vayakhel-Pekudei, we re-read about the Tabernacle’s construction. This was G‑d’s physical dwelling place in this world and the predecessor to the Beit Hamikdash (the Holy Temple).

The most basic question asked about these verses is why they are there at all?

Previously, we read about G‑d’s instructions to Moses about what to make and how to make it; all of the beams, curtains, vessels, every detail is itemized in weeks past. If the Torah is so concerned with being specific and concise, why not just take one line to say, “And Moses and the Jewish people built the Mishkan as per the instructions of G‑d to Moses, or something like that? Why the need to tell us the instructions and then how it was constructed, almost word for word?

But the lesson that emerges is the same as the theme of Menny’s bar mitzvah. The Mishkan—as G‑d wanted it, as He would have built it—would be perfection. It will one day be perfection. Perfection is something G‑d can arrange.

When G‑d commanded Moses to build the Mishkan, he was on Mount Sinai, at a very high spiritual level. Even though he understood that the Mishkan would be built in a physical, concrete manner, he envisioned a Mishkan in a very idealized form. In reality, though, the Mishkan that was built was palpably physical and not the abstract and spiritual version envisioned by Moses.

Things can look pretty different from the abstract to the concrete, from the spiritual to the physical. And that difference is worth recording in the Torah because it represents the space in which we all live and the very thing that G‑d appreciates—our hard work in getting it right.

If the Torah did not record both the idealized building of the tabernacle, and the actual bricks and mortar—gold and copper construction—then how would we know this essential truth?

The ideal stays in heaven; the actual living is on earth below; and there is virtue, not shame, in that living.

Leave perfection to G‑d; He wants for nothing but your struggles.