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The Pottery Barn Rule

Friday, 24 February, 2012 - 2:30 pm

Going shopping with young children can be challenging. I often find myself telling them – incessantly – about the Pottery Barn Rule, “You break it, you own it.”

But recently I had the tables turned on me. When my son’s toy broke and he could not find a way to fix it, he came to me with the desperate plea to repair it. I attempted but could not succeed. At that point he cleverly turned to me and said, “I’m giving it to you. Now it’s yours and it’s broken. You need to fix it.”


In this week’s parsha Terumah, G-d instructs the Jewish people to donate thirteen items for the construction of the Mishkan, the mobile Sanctuary. From gold and copper to wood and wool – the contributions were plentiful. G-d found a home amongst the Jewish people.

The Chassidic Masters note that the thirteen articles used to construct the Mishkan correspond to the thirteen requests – or blessings as they are commonly known – in the middle of the weekday Amidah

While the common number of thirteen might point to a corollary, what is the message of this relationship between the construction materials that the Jews provided for the Tabernacle and the requests for healing, livelihood or forgiveness in the Amidah?


The purpose of the Mishkan was not only to reserve a space for G-d. Nor was it simply to dedicate a central structure for Jews to worship Him.

Our Rabbis explain that the key function of the Mishkan was to transform the material into something spiritual. By consecrating silver, linen, skins and the like to Hashem, we ultimately are elevating the very purpose of their existence. Gold might be useful for jewelry on our own bodies, but its truest use – and destiny – is to glorify G-d.

Taken from this perspective, the Mishkan demonstrated and actualized man’s complete partnership with G-d. All of our worldly possessions are simply a means toward a more holy existence.

Perhaps this is the relationship between the Mishkan and our entreaties during prayer. If we are children begging our Father in Heaven for sustenance, wisdom and redemption – He may or may not grant it. But if we sanctify our minds, businesses and families to the Almighty – He may have no choice but to help Himself.

Sometimes, the best strategy is simply to share ownership of our lives with our Creator. When we realize that everything we have is really for His sake, certainly He will do what’s in His best interest.  And that’s our best interest too.

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