Translation by Yehoshua Siskin
One of my favorite stories concerning self-motivation is appropriate to the construction of the Mishkan which we are presently reading about in the Torah. The story goes like this:
It was a sweltering day. Three men were working as stonecutters in a rock quarry. Each one wielded a heavy hammer as he shaped the stones.
The first one was asked, "What are you doing?" and he answered. "Me? I am cutting stones." In other words, he described in the simplest terms the nature of his work.
The second was asked the same question and answered: "I'm making a living." That is, he had a goal in mind. He was not just cutting stones but working in order to buy food, clothing, and whatever else he needed to live.
"And what are you doing?" the third one was asked. "Me?" he answered with a gleam in his eye. "I'm building a palace."
Each of the workers gave a correct answer, but only the third one saw the bigger picture, the higher purpose for which he was exerting himself. He understood the importance of each small cut in each stone, just as the builders of the Mishkan appreciated each detail of each mitzvah involved in its construction.
May the many small acts and mitzvot we perform throughout our lives contribute to the building of a palace of goodness, lovingkindness, and closeness to God.