The Torah addresses the bigger picture and also the little intricacies of how the Mishkan must be built.
And the entire Nation participated.
Because we are a Nation who serves Hashem.
That is our main purpose.
When a Mitzvah Falls Out of Use
It stood in the land of Efrayim for 369 years.
And Jews came 3 times a year for some of the most powerful inspiration you could imagine.
Then Rav Miller mentions a shift in idealism – a shift that happens throughout Jewish history, sometimes out of prosperity and sometimes out of persecution.
In this case, the Plishtim (Philistines) in Gaza started persecuting the Jews.
On the way to Shilo, Plishti officers stopped a Jew on trumped-up charges, resulting in confiscation of his possessions or even imprisonment.
So many people feared going. So they went a roundabout way; they took the less convenient back roads.
But eventually, many stopped going altogether. Either they were too scared or found the back roads too wearying.
The problem is that when a mitzvah falls out of use – even for a legitimate reason, like fear of the Plishtim or the inconvenience of the back roads – the disuse becomes like a minhag, a custom.
So when Devorah Haneviah and Barak freed the main roads for the Pilgrimage, the people didn't take advantage of the re-opened opportunity. Either they were still too scared or it just didn't seem as important as it used to be.
When you get used to living without something, then its absence feels normal; you no longer feel its lack.
But Rav Miller, in the name of King Shlomo, offers us encouraging words (pg. 7):
So Shlomo Hamelech says, “Don’t scorn the Jewish people; don’t give up. The Jewish nation is never really old. We can always rejuvenate our people.”
And even though it seems to you at the moment that it’s a hopeless case, don’t give up.
With some effort you can always bring them back to the Torah again.
Elkanah the Enthusiast
Later, he would be the father of the great Shmuel Hanavi.
But at this point, Elkanah is "just" an enthusiastic Jew who gathers together as many of his hometown fellows as he can, then together they brave the roads to Mishkan Shilo, taking a different route each time so they can pass by all different villages and encourage their fellow Jews to join them.
There they would go, marching along and singing together, bringing their blemish-free cattle & sheep for offerings.
Later, in the merit of Elkanah's wife, Chana & her prayers, a son is born to Chana & Elkanah.
They call him Shmuel and when Chana weaned him, she brought him to the Beit Hamikdash to dedicate him to the service of Hashem.
And as Shmuel grew, he dedicated his life to Am Yisrael. And he was no distant influence. He traveled around, visiting different communities to see how he could help, where they were weak so he could strengthen them.
He was always there for them all the days of his life.
He took his father's enthusiasm and developed a whole life's mission from it, rising to levels of nevuah (prophecy) only a little bit less than that of Moshe Rabbeinu.
In those 20 years under Shmuel Hanavi's influence, the Jewish people grew beautifully in their emunah and avodat Hashem.
And then Shmuel Hanavi was led to the rejected redhead youngest of the family of Yishai & Nitzevet.
When Tehillim were the Catchy New Thing
And at that time of swelling enthusiasm, David introduced his Tehillim (Psalms) to the Jewish people.
They didn't have this before. David sang the heart-stirring words of Tehillim while playing his harp and it moved people.
It was new.
People hummed Tehillim as they worked in the fields and sang Tehillim at home.
Their enthusiasm for avodat Hashem swelled to such heights that David was able to call that generation: "This is the generation of those who seek Him, who seek Your Face, Hashem."
Elkanah's Unexpected Apex
When it was finally completed in the days of Shlomo Hamelech, the entire Jewish people – man, woman, and child – came to its dedication ceremony.
For the people, the Beit Hamikdash meant a place where they could really grow in their relationship with Hashem.
A visit to the Beit Hamikdash meant accessing the most heartfelt devotion to Hashem, something that each Jew could take home with him or her, and keep the fire alive in one's heart, transferring it to the home, until the next rejuvenating visit.
And it all started with one man from Mount Efrayim: Elkanah.
Elkanah's Secret to Success
How did he become so great?
How was he able to set in motion events that eventually culminated in the Beit Hamikdash in Yerushalayim?
(Hint: It's part of a running theme with many of the great personalities of Tanach.)
Elkanah started in the privacy of his home.
Rav Miller describes him like this initially (pg. 14):
Elkanah began in his house; nobody knew about him.
He wasn’t famous.
He didn’t have any great throngs of people coming to listen to him.
Rav Miller describes the processes:
But he didn’t have to wait until he had some “good opportunity” because he knew that his home was that opportunity.
And because he was a ben aliyah, he was the kind of man who didn’t stand still, so he jumped at that opportunity.
He inspired himself.
Elkanah started on himself, in the privacy of his own heart he came closer and closer to Hashem. In his home he was becoming greater and greater.
That’s how it all started; all of his excellence, all of his increase in stature was due only to his own efforts. kol iluyo lo haya ella mei’atzmo – it all started from himself.
So at first, he worked on himself and influenced his home.
Then his neighbors started recognizing his specialness.
Then he gained renown in his town.
Eventually, his fame spread throughout Am Yisrael.
And even though everyone was already observing the mitzvot, Elkanah influenced them toward even more passionate devotion.
How did he do it?
Rav Miller says he must have been a kind & sincere person – with a fiery passion for Hashem.
He spoke with people; he encouraged them.
But in the beginning, he started with just himself at home.
The Career of the Home (it's not just for the ladies)
And the career of the home is the most important of all, he says.
Not just for women. Everyone can use their home to elevate themselves, including men.
How can we do that?
Rav Miller goes into detail on page 16, but here is a summary:
- Say your own brachot out loud with enthusiasm.
- Make sure your children say brachot (and do netilat yadayim) properly too.
- Teach your children to think about Hashem & be grateful to Hashem.
- When talking to your spouse or children, talk about the kindness of Hashem.
- Teach your children to say, "We love You, Hashem!"
- Eat with gratitude.
- Say Birkat Hamazon with gratitude.
- Hang pictures of tzaddikim on your walls.
- Hang nature pictures on the wall & talk about what a wonderful job Hashem does creating nature.
- Praise yeshivah people, talmidei chachamim, tzaddikim, rabbanim, etc.
- Keep tzedakah boxes in your home that support both the poor and the yeshivahs.
Rav Miller also notes that a man sitting in yeshivah before an open Gemara and writing chiddushim can also complain that he's not feeling fulfilled, that he yearns to be more. Females dissatisfaction with female roles aren't so different than male dissatisfaction with male roles.
On pages 17-18, Rav Miller has creative things to say about the mother's role in the home.
For example, Rav Miller compares a small child to living Mesichta of Gemara (pg. 18):
Mesichta Berachos when he’s little, he’s a nuisance. And when he’s bigger, he’s a bigger nuisance.
Big boys are also nuisances. There’s always going to be trouble in the house when there are people around. But what wouldn’t you do for Mesichta Berachos?
But suppose it's not only Berachos – it's the whole Shas toddling around in your house. So even though he turns on the water in the bathroom and it floods the bathroom, for a Shas you do anything.
And your daughters, even better. Your daughters are going to be a whole lot of Shasim.
You’re creating tzadikim and tzidkoniyos in your home.
What is the True Measure of Success?
Once you internalize this message, it becomes both easier & more important to dedicate yourself to investing in your home & family — investing in yourself.