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ויערך עליו ערך לחם לפני ד' כאשר צוה ד' את משה

He prepared on it the setting of bread before Hashem, as Hashem commanded Moshe. (40:23)

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Everything in the Mishkan was carried out precisely as Hashem had commanded Moshe Rabbeinu – no more – no less – no infusion of self. Their personal zeal and enthusiasm in every aspect of their work were completely subordinated to the commands of Hashem. None of the craftsmen made any attempt to inject their own ideas or their own individuality to the construction of the Mishkan. They executed their mission obediently, with scrupulous care and precision, with unabashed joy at having been able to serve Hashem. By doing this, they achieved the sublime moral perfection which characterizes an eved, servant, of Hashem.

B’diyuk, precisely, expressly, rigorously: all these terms describe what it means to carry out a mitzvah/mission in accordance with Hashem’s command. By performing exactly as Hashem instructs us, we become totally devoted to Him as avadim, slaves. The concept of precisely following instructions is underscored through the two following vignettes (related in Nachalas Tzvi). When Horav Avraham Yitzchak Zimmerman, zl, was called to become Rav of Kremenchuk (Central Ukraine), his son-in-law, Horav Baruch Ber Leibowitz, zl (Bircas Shmuel), was asked to fill his position in Halusk. His appointment did not sit well with the members of the chassidic community who preferred one of their own, a Rebbe who had chassidic leanings. Rav Baruch Ber might have been one of the most brilliant Torah minds in Europe, but he was not chassidic. While they respected his knowledge and piety, they insisted that one of their own guide them. Therefore, they hired their own Rav.

The city of Halusk now had two rabbanim, a situation that caused the lay leaders of the community some angst. As a result, tensions in the community reached tinderbox level. The parnesai ha’ir, lay leaders of the community, had commissioned Rav Baruch Ber, and, as a result, were prepared to enter the fray and create a serious controversy over this. Rav Baruch Ber turned to his supporters and declared, “My Rebbe instructed me to accept the rabbanus, rabbinic position. He did not instruct me to enter into a machlokes, dispute, over it.”

Rav Baruch Ber understood and acted upon his Rebbe’s words verbatim. If his Rebbe would have acquiesced to his entering into a dispute over the position, he would have said so. He did not. Thus, Rav Baruch Ber said he would rather leave than quarrel.

The Brisker Rav was an individual who not only lived and served Hashem in a precise manner, but he also trained his family and students to act likewise. It was not an issue of chumra, stringency. It was about executing Hashem’s command precisely, to the full letter of the law. The Brisker Rav once asked his son to go to the butcher store to see whether an apple was there. His son returned a few minutes later and said, “Yes, an apple is there.” The Brisker Rav said, “If this is the case, go and bring it to me.” His son returned to the butcher, purchased an apple and returned home. A few minutes passed, and the Brisker Rav once again asked his son to go to the butcher shop and see whether the shop had an apple. The son returned to the shop and then came home to inform his father that, indeed, the shop had an apple. The Rav told him to return and purchase the apple.

A student who had been observing the scene remarked, “I now understand the level of Kibbud Av, honoring a father, that one should achieve. First, the Brisker Rav asked his son to see – not to buy. Had he wanted him to purchase an apple the first time he went to the store, he would have said so. He did not. Afterwards, he instructed his son to purchase an apple – which he did. He went through the same ritual a second time. This was the Rav’s way of training his son to a) listen, and b) follow instructions in accordance with the tone, vernacular and manner that they were given.

The legacy of Brisk is not about being machmir, looking for opportunities to act stringently. Brisk is about being medakdek, precise, to fulfill the halachah to perfection. This is not chumra, this is performing halachah correctly.

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