web analytics
September 30, 2014 / 6 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



Home » Judaism » Parsha »

Parshat Vayakheil-Pikudei

General Robert E. Lee

General Robert E. Lee

May 1864 was one of the bloodiest months in American military history. At what came to be known as the Battle of the Wilderness, General Grant’s Union forces suffered close to 18,000 casualties between May 3 and May 6. It seemed as yet another Union general, even one such as Grant who had been successful out west, lost to General Robert E. Lee. The soldiers in the Union army were convinced that following the battle, Grant, like all the generals before him who had faced Lee in Virginia, would retreat across the Rapidan River to nurse his wounds and rethink his strategy. They fully expected, when they arrived at a fork in the road after they left the Wilderness battlefield, to go left towards the north and the river. It therefore came as quite a surprise to them when they were ordered to march right and south.

Suddenly cheers began to spread throughout the line of march as General Grant and his staff rode by. “In a scene reminiscent of Napoleon’s torchlight march among his troops the night before the Battle of Austerlitz, many Union soldiers lit pine torches and held them aloft as Grant passed. The general remarked that the cheering might alert the Confederates to the army’s movement and sought to have it stopped, but it continued until he was out of sight” (Lee & Grant: Profiles in Leadership from the Battlefields of Virginia by Major Charles R. Bowery Jr., U.S. Army, 2005, pp.104-5).

Indeed, one of the soldiers of 124th New York Volunteers is quoted as exclaiming to his friend when Grant rode by, “I say Joe, this little chap from out West—I don’t believe he knows when he’s whipped. If it hadn’t been for his coming along with us we would have been back to our old camp again by this time.” His friend Joe replied, “I’ll just bet you a plug of tobacco and a briarwood pipe, that this army never re-crosses the Rapidan until we go home to stay!” (p.105).

It would in fact take Grant nearly a year to wear down Lee’s army and force his surrender at Appomattox Court House. Grant would suffer many trials in the process and endure much criticism. Battles such as Cold Harbor, Spotsylvania, The Crater and the siege of Petersburg cost the Union tens of thousands of casualties. But Grant learned from his mistakes and viewed his losses as setbacks, not failures. He understood the fundamental truth that in a war of attrition Lee stood no real chance. During this trying time the biggest obstacle to Union victory was the tired and drained Northern will—not Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.

Grant had demonstrated this tenacity throughout his military career. In July 1863 Grant had captured Vicksburg—arguably the most important single victory of the war. But it was also a victory that was hard-won after many months and tactical setbacks. Grant changed approaches several times—but never lost faith that he could achieve victory and never lost his focus. He learned from his mistakes as well as from that which occurred beyond his control. Grant’s actions have taught generations of military commanders the importance of never giving up, never looking back and never allowing the enemy to take the initiative. In addition, he taught commanders to learn from mistakes, to adapt tactics when necessary without abandoning the objective, and to view setbacks as learning opportunities to ultimately move forward even further than originally intended.

Chazal had already learned these leadership lessons from a midrash on this week’s parsha. The midrash relates (Tanchuma Parshat Pikudei: 11) that prior to the official dedication and inauguration of the Mishkan, Moshe assembled and disassembled the Mishkan each day throughout the prior week. According to Rav Chiya he did this twice daily while according to Rav Chanina he did it three times daily. The obvious question is why? Why didn’t Moshe build it once and leave it standing?

The anthology Meiyana Shel Torah quotes the following explanation of the Imrei Emes. Historically there were to be seven Temples. The Mishkan of the desert was the first. Then came the one in the Gilgal followed by the one in Shilo. That was followed by the temples in Nov and Givon. Following Givon were the two Batei Mikdash in Jerusalem. Each day Moshe taught Bnei Yisrael how they were to rebuild the Temple following its predecessor’s destruction. Moshe’s efforts were therefore twofold in nature. On the general level he informed Bnei Yisrael that there would be spiritual revivals following spiritual lapses. He also taught them the particulars as to how to go about rebuilding the Temple following its destruction.

The Slonimer Rebbe in Nesivos Shalom (Pekudei p.279) develops a similar idea, but applies it to our individual religious experiences. In life, as we move forward and grow, there will be inevitable setbacks. The lesson Moshe taught was that no matter how much time we have invested in our development and no matter how frustrating the setbacks may be—we must never despair. Rather, we must return immediately to rebuild what we have lost. In fact, the Slonimer Rebbe argues that such setbacks serve a positive and constructive purpose. By constantly assembling and disassembling our personal and inner temples we have the opportunity to look into the recesses of our souls and check to make sure that everything is of the best quality and on the highest level. Each time we rebuild the finished product is that much better.

Leaders must have the courage to try new things, build new edifices and achieve new heights. At the same time they must be open to the reality that they will encounter problems along the way. Rather than giving up in the face of these obstacles, they must persevere. If the cause is good, then learn and improve from the setbacks and keep moving forward. It is related that when General Lee heard that Grant was moving south and coming after him, despite his horrific losses at the Battle of the Wilderness, he commented that it was only a matter of time until the Confederacy lost the war. Once he faced a general who wouldn’t give up – no matter what—Lee realized he stood little chance of winning.

My we as a nation learn from our setbacks and merit speedily in our day to build our Beit HaMikdash for its final and everlasting time.

Rabbi Dr. David Hertzberg is the principal of the Yeshivah of Flatbush Middle Division. Comments can be emailed to him at mdrabbi@aol.com.

About the Author: Rabbi Dr. David Hertzberg is the principal of the Yeshivah of Flatbush Middle Division and is an adjunct assistant professor of History at Touro College.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Parshat Vayakheil-Pikudei”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu speaks to the UNGA, Sept. 29, 2014.
State Dept Press Corps Shapes US Response to Netanyahu’s UN Speech
Latest Judaism Stories

On Sunday, Jews will be refraining from food and drink from dawn until sunset to commemorate the Fast of Gedaliah. Following Nebuchadnetzar’s destruction of the First Temple and exile of most of the Jews, the Babylonians appointed Gedaliah ben Achikaam as governor of Judea. Under Gedaliah’s leadership, Judea and the survivors began to recover. On […]

On the beach

As we enter the Days of Awe, we must recognize that it is a joy to honor and serve true royalty.

Rabbi Avi Weiss

On Rosh Hashanah we are taught that true self-analysis involves the breaking down of walls

PTI-092614-Shofar

When we hear the words “Rosh Hashana is coming” it really means Hashem Himself is coming!

Who am I? What are the most important things in my life? What do I want to be remembered for? If, as a purely hypothetical exercise, I were to imagine reading my own obituary, what would I want it to say? These are the questions Rosh Hashanah urges us to ask ourselves. As we pray […]

We recently marked the thirteenth anniversary of 9/11 – that terrible day when the symbols of man’s power and achievement crumbled before our eyes and disappeared in fire and smoke. For a very brief moment we lost our smugness. Our confidence was shaken. Many of us actually searched our ways. Some of us even learned […]

Why am I getting so agitated? And look how we’re treating each other!

While women are exempt from actually learning Torah, they are obligated in a different aspect of the mitzvah.

Question: I recently loaned money to a friend who has been able to repay only part of it. This was an interest-free loan. We exchanged a signed IOU, not a proper shtar with witnesses, since I have always trusted her integrity and only wanted a document that confirms what was loaned and what was repaid. Now that shemittah is approaching, what should I do? Should I forgive the loan? And if my friend is not able to repay it, may I deduct the unpaid money from my ma’aser requirement?

Name Withheld

We must eat, sleep, work, and care for our dependants. How much time is left over after all that?

Once we recognize that our separation from God is our fault, how do we repair it?

Chatzitzah And Its Applications
‘Greater Stringency Applies To Hallowed Things…’
(Chagiga 20b-21a)

To choose life, you must examine your actions in the period preceding the Days of Awe as an unbiased stranger, and render your decision.

Rabbi Dayan took a challah and some cooked eggs. He then called over his 15-year-old son, Aharon. “Could you please ask your friend Chaim from next door to come over and help me with the eruv tavshilin?”

This world has its purpose; it has been ideally fashioned to allow man to grow.

More Articles from Rabbi David Hertzberg
Hertzberg-092614

Perhaps the most important leadership lesson Elkana taught us is to never underestimate the difference a single person can make.

Parsha-Perspectives-logo

Eisenhower understood that motivated men will fight much harder and longer than unmotivated men.

When Germany invaded neutral Belgium on August 4, England declared war on Germany. Thus, by the end of the first week of August all the major powers of Europe were at war.

Although famous for his smile, Ike Eisenhower actually harbored a volcanic temper that he worked arduously to control.

Why did we merit exiting the gas chamber alive when so many others did not?

Without a plan of action, a leader will never be able to lead his followers anywhere, no matter how important the destination or lofty the goal.

Like Dempsey and Gates, leaders must always be cognizant of the costs involved in their decisions – even when the costs are less than human life

G-d, accordingly, is encouraging Moshe to not just focus on reaching the top of the spiritual mountain but remaining there as well, thus fully capitalizing on his gains.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/parshat-vayakheil-pikudei/2012/03/15/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: