Stretch your imagination some. Mr. Goldberg gets a buzz on his intercom. “There’s someone who wants to see you,” his secretary announces.

“Who is it?”

“A distinguished-looking gentleman who calls himself Mashiach.”

“Listen, tell him that I would really like to speak to him, but I’m busy. Give him an appointment in two weeks.”

In a similar vein, but in an entirely different context, a classic chassidic tale is told: Mashiach arrives and the entire Jewish people come out to greet him. A few eminent scholars in the front row ask him: “Mashiach, would you like to hear a learned Talmudic dissertation to be delivered in your honor?”

Mashiach agrees, and one of the scholars begins to speak. When he concludes, he asks Nu, Mashiach, how was it?”

“Not bad,” replies Mashiach.

“Only not bad?!” protests the scholar.

“Well, quite frankly,” explains Mashiach, “it could have been improved here and there.”

The scholar shamefacedly admits, “You’re right. Unfortunately, I’m afraid, we weren’t quite expecting you.... If you had come a day or so later, it would have been better.”

Mashiach is then greeted by a jovial group of chassidim. Shalom Aleichem, Mashiach. Would you like to join us in a LeChayim?”

Mashiach agrees, glasses are poured, and a toast is made. One of the chassidim asks: “Nu, Mashiach, how was the mashkeh?”

And Mashiach tells the truth: “The mashkeh wasgood, but there was very little of it.”

The chassid explains: “Every day we were so sure you were coming that day, that we’ve been saying LeChayim all along! If you had come a day earlier, there would have been more.”

What’s the point of these stories?

Whether busy gathering spiritual or material wealth, each of us is preoccupied with the immediate here and now in which we live. Mashiach will break that pattern. His coming will ruffle our everyday routine and prevent tomorrow from being the same as yesterday. Neither the businessman nor the scholar mentioned above is ready for that.

One of our Thirteen Principles of Faith, however, is to wait for Mashiach — everyday — to expect him to come not only sometime in the far-off future, but each day.

Waiting for Mashiach, moreover, need not be passive. We can anticipate Mashiach’s coming by accepting a different mindset, and begin looking at our lives and our environment from a different perspective. This in turn will motivate us to act differently and increase our Divine service and our acts of goodness and kindness.

Parshas Vayakhel

This week’s Torah reading describes the building of the Sanctuary in the desert. In precise detail, it delineates the measures and the form of each of the elements of that structure. But for a student of the Torah, this is not new information. All of these details were related just two and three weeks ago in the parshios Terumah and Tetzaveh. G‑d told Moses how the Sanctuary should be built and Moses recorded the outline of that structure in the Torah.

Now, every word in the Torah is precise and every letter is interpreted by our Sages as having meaning and significance. Why then are entire passages repeated?

The review, however, is significant, for the Sanctuary — and later the Temple in Jerusalem — was a twofold structure. It was a medium for the revelation of G‑d’s presence. That is the message of the parshios Terumah and Tetzaveh. But it is also the place where man’s efforts in refining his surroundings are highlighted and given consummate expression. This is the message communicated by Parshas Vayakhel.

G‑d has His image of the world. He created it so that it would be His home, the place where He reveals Himself without limitations or constraints just like a person reveals himself freely in his own home.

But G‑d wanted man to feel at home in His dwelling, so He left its construction to man. He could have built it Himself. But then we would have felt like guests, unneeded and therefore somewhat superfluous. G‑d didn’t want that to happen. He wanted us to feel like — and actually to be — His partners. Therefore He left the job of making the world His dwelling to us.

It’s true that as the world exists now, it is hardly fit to be a dwelling for man. There is no need to elaborate on the greed, selfishness, and crass material desire that permeate our lives. Just look at any newspaper.

Certainly, there is the potential for good in the world. But so often, that potential is hidden and underdeveloped.

The task of revealing and developing that potential is man’s mission. His goal in life is not to avoid involvement with worldly matters and escape into the spiritual realms. That would defeat G‑d’s purpose. It would imply that the material world as it exists within its own context is separate from Him. Instead, man’s lifework centers on the physical environment in which he lives. His purpose is to take elements of our existence and show that they were not destined to be used for our petty, selfish purposes, but rather that they were intended to be part of G‑d’s Sanctuary.

That is the message of Parshas Vayakhel. Moses calls the people together (which also serves as an important lesson, teaching that this task must be achieved by going beyond our own individual selves and joining with others) and communicates this mission to them. G‑d will do His part and manifest His presence, but creating the setting for the manifestation of His presence is man’s responsibility.

Looking to the Horizon

These concepts are relevant not only to this particular Torah reading, but to the ultimate goal of all our Divine service: the era of the Redemption. For it is in this era that “the glory of G‑d will be revealed and all flesh will see”; i.e., His presence will be revealed throughout all existence. The setting for this revelation, however, will be created by man’s efforts and labor.

Mashiach’s coming is not dependent on G‑d’s initiative alone. Indeed, He is willing and even anxious to bring that revelation. What is necessary? Man’s effort to prepare himself and his environment. We have to focus our attention on the true nature of our lives and the true purpose of the world in which we are living.

When we are conscious of the fact that the world exists so that G‑d can have a dwelling, when we realize that our lives were given to us for the purpose of creating that dwelling, and when we act upon — not merely philosophize about — that realization, we will bring about change. As these ripples of change spread, they will become larger and soon — much sooner than we can possibly appreciate — awareness of the Redemption will permeate all existence.