Sometimes Instructions are Not Enough

Sharing is good

In this week’s Torah portion, called “T’rumah” (literally “gifts”), the Children of Israel are called to donate gifts for the building of the desert Tabernacle, that G-d might “dwell among them.” Pretty detailed building plans are laid out by G-d from which Moses would build.

The Menorah

I focused on the details of the menorah (yes, menorah; a hanukiah is what is used during Hanukkah) outlined in Exodus 25:31-37. The complexities around the making of all the other object are similar.

I was thinking that making a sketchnote of a menorah would be straightforward. Not so much. The description of the construction and method of construction handed to Moses by G-d are hard to read, too specific in places, and too vague in others.

Understanding Complexity

How often this has happened in your work or home life? Often, instructions don’t allow for creativity, or have the goal of creating something exacting or complex. When this happens in the Agile world we would take a retrospective moment and work with the Product Owner and team to break down the instruction, make them simpler, and gain a shared vision of the product.

So why didn’t this happen regarding the creation of the menorah?

  • First of all, it was the Creator providing the instructions. There was no opportunity for negotiations with the ultimate Product Manager.
  • Secondly, the instructions were given only to Moses for him to convey to the Israelites to build. So the “team” heard about this second hand through Moses.
  • Third, the language was a bit ambiguous.Where were flowers to be placed? Were bulbs, flowers, and cups separated from each other or part of a single feature?
  • Fourth, this creation was not an iterative process. The menorah was to be made from a single piece of hammered gold. This didn’t make it easy for multiple skilled people to work on it at the same time. It also meant that the entire work was delivered or nothing was delivered.

Justifiably, this was a hard sketchnote for me to figure out.

I found a midrash that said that the method of construction was so difficult for Moses to comprehend that G-d showed him a picture. and when Moses still couldn’t figure it out, G-d went ahead and created it herself.

So I guess I’m in good company.