Translation by Yehoshua Siskin
Professor Dan Arieli once wrote about the "Ikea effect": if we ourselves assemble something that we bought, we are more attached to it because of our personal involvement. A product that we take right out of the box that is already put together simply cannot create a similar feeling.
This week we finish reading the Book of Exodus with the Vayak'hel and Pekudei Torah portions that describe the building of the MIshkan (portable desert sanctuary). Rabbi Jonathan Sacks explained that just as we speak of the "Ikea effect," we must also speak of the "Mishkan effect." We are called upon to contribute, to act, to participate in a construction project -- to build a spiritual center that will accompany us in the desert. But what is this really all about? After all, G-d can split the Red Sea and bring the ten plagues, so why does he make us work so hard? The answer is that this is how to make us more active and caring. Not just to wait for miracles to come down from heaven, but to act on our own in the world. In the course of the Book of Exodus, miracles or acts of God are ultimately exchanged for the actions of people.
Children whose parents do not do their homework for them, but are persuaded to work hard on their own will feel more connected to what they learn. Children who help clean the house for Pesach will feel more connected to the Seder. There are
countless similar examples of how getting involved increases connectedness, and we can all find them if we search for them in our own lives.
The Torah portions that end the Book of Exodus remind us: the greatest present that can be given to another person is not a present, but a meaningful mission that demands personal involvement.