There is a fascinating gemara in Maseches Shabbos concerning the melachah (creative act forbidden on Shabbos) of soiser (also known as kilkul, or destroying). Now, min hatorah, a purely destructive act is not prohibited on Shabbos. The problem arises when we have soiser ‘al menas libnos mimkomo’ (destruction ‘in order to build in its place’). If a house is demolished in order to build another in its place, this is a clear act of soiser – and this is specifically what the Torah prohibits*.
As with all melachos, we learn the melachah of soiser from the construction (or in this case, demolition) of the mishkan. As klal yisroel moved from camp to camp in the wilderness, they would dismantle the mishkan, and then rebuild it upon arriving at their next destination.
Here, we run into a problem. We are supposed to learn from here the specific prohibition against soiser al menas libnos mimkomo, but we are lacking one detail: mimkomo! Every time the mishkan was dismantled, it was rebuild in a different location. It was never dismantled in order to make room for another building in the same place. How is it that we can learn the detail of mimkomo from the mishkan, when the mishkan itself was constantly on the move and so lacked this distinctive feature?!
The answer, it seems, is that although bnei yisroel were physically travelling, they remained in the same place in a spiritual sense. The journey was undertaken in accordance with Hashem’s instructions, and as a result He remained with them.
Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz demonstrates this point with the moshel (parable) of a young baby held in his mother’s arms. The mother may travel to the shops and run various errands, but the baby nevertheless remains in the mother’s arms. From the baby’s perspective, he has not changed location. So too with klal yisroel in the midbar: we were constantly in different physical locations, but always remained with Hashem – and in this sense, we really were mimkomo.
There is an important lesson for us here. Many of us travel for work. For some, this may take the form of commuting into a city where our office is located. For others, it may involve business trips further afield. We are certainly moving around a lot in the physical sense.
But what about in the spiritual sense? If we are able to listen to a shiur on the train to work, or read a sefer on a journey abroad, or even engage in a conversation with a stranger and effect a kiddush Hashem, then we achieve something significant: a constant connection with Hashem. Even as we move through life and work, He remains by our side.
We have spoken many times before about Torah hashkafos in the workplace: becoming the so-called ‘Workplace Rabbi’. Watching our levels of kashrus. Being careful what comes out our mouth. Acting honestly and truthfully at all times. Through our efforts in this area, may we merit to carry our yiddishkeit wherever we go, in a very real way.
The Working Jew
*Much of the above is based on a parsha shiur by Rabbi Avi Wiesenfeld.