When I was in elementary school, I had a math teacher who would deduct points on an exam if students did not follow his instructions for finding the answer to a problem. Since there were typically many ways to answer a problem, I always bristled at this requirement. “What is the problem”, I thought, “if I find my own way to the right answer?”. Apparently, there was a problem, and I continued to have points deducted until I figured out I should simply follow directions. Math, at least in the primary grades, was not the place for creativity, at least not on exams.
In our parasha this week, which closes out the Book of Exodus, we read in excruciating detail about the variety of components having to do with the building of the Mishkan. We are given the names of the master artists and craftsmen who are in charge of the project, long lists of the materials, and instructions on how to put it all together. Similar to my math teacher and his exams, it was essential to follow God’s instructions on how to build the Mishkan. What is the teaching here?
There are those who insist that it doesn’t matter how you achieve your goal, as long as you get there. There are others who equally insist that the journey is as important as arriving at your destination, because how we get somewhere is influenced by our path. In other words, we are affected not only by our achievements, but also by how we accomplish them. Did we cut corners or use inferior materials? Did we grow a business from scratch or inherit it from a relative? Did we work by ourselves or with others?
How we achieve our goals is as important as actually reaching them. May there be honor and righteousness in all of your endeavors!