Parshas Pekudei

“And Moshe saw all the work, and behold, [the people] had done it [exactly] as Hashem commanded Moshe, so they did. And Moshe blessed them” (Shmos 39:43).

The construction of the Mishkan, a work of unparalleled beauty imbued with great Divine sanctity, was complete. The Jews in the desert had given generously to supply the gold, silver, and other costly materials used, and followed Hashem’s instructions to the letter concerning every step of the complicated labor involved. When Moshe saw the magnificent finished product, He blessed them.

The people had done their job, and Moshe acknowledged their efforts. This raises a question. Hashem had commanded them to build the Mishkan and its sacred Vessels. By obeying, they had only fulfilled their obligation. Why were the Jews deserving of any special recognition and acknowledgement?

Their Job, Our Gain:
An insight on this passuk from Rav Aharon Lewin (1879-1941), the rav of Reisha and president of the Agudas HaRabbanim of Poland, helps answer this question. He cites a Midrash: “Say to one who does a good job, ‘yasher kochacha’ (Shmos Rabbah 20:10).Apparently, even when someone simply does his job we should thank him, showing our appreciation by saying yashar kochacha (“well done”).

The Rashash derives this same principle from a Mishnah concerning the laws of Shemittah, the Sabbatical year in Eretz Yisrael. Every seventh year, we are commanded to allow the land of

Eretz Yisrael to lie fallow. The crops of the seventh “Shemittah” year are considered ownerless, and anyone is permitted to take them. The owner of a field has no choice in the matter – like it or not, he must leave his crops in the field for whoever wants to take them. Even so, those who take the produce are permitted to thank the owner of the field, without detracting from the fact that during Shemittah, the produce is not considered his (Sheviis 4:2).

The Rashash writes that this is the rationale behind the custom of wishing the Kohanim “yasher kochachem ” after Birkas Kohanim (the Priestly Blessing). In this instance too, the Kohanim are only doing their duty. The Torah commands them to bless the Jewish people. If they are present in a shul at the time for Birkas Kohanim, they are required by halachah to bless the congregation; it is no more than their job as Kohanim. And yet, we express gratitude and appreciation when they fulfill their obligation by blessing us (HaDerash V’HaIyun, Parshas Pekudei 314).

We all encounter many people who do us favors, help us, or provide us with a variety of services. It is easy and perhaps more comfortable to shrug off the value of such actions, saying, “But he was only doing his job,” or, “Isn’t that what he is paid for?” Our focus should not be on what they are required to give, but on what we have received. If we have benefited, thanks and appreciation are always in order.