Weekly Reading Insights

Pekudei 5763


Overview of the Weekly Reading: Pekudei, Shabbat Chazak
To be read on 4 Adar Beit 5763 (March 8)

Torah: Ex. 38:21-40:38;
Haftorah: Kings I 7:51-8:21(description of Temple)
Stats: Pekudei 11th Reading out of 11 in Exodus and 23rd overall, contains 0 positive mitzvot and 0 prohibitive mitzvot. It is written on 159 lines in a parchment Torah scroll, 41st out of 54 in overall length.

Pikudei begins with an accounting of all materials used in making the Tabernacle. Then described are the methods used in making the priests' clothing. All the labor was carried out as G-d commanded, and Moshe blessed the workers. G-d commanded Moshe how and when to assemble the Tabernacle and dress the priests. When this was completed, G-d's cloud of glory came and rested on the Tabernacle for all to see. When the cloud would rise, it was a signal for the Jews to travel. Chazak chazak v'nit'chazek!



"These are the accounts of the Sanctuary which were calculated at Moses' order by the Levites under Ithamar, son of Aaron the priest" ( 38:21).

This was a big difference between the golden calf and the Sanctuary: at the construction of the Sanctuary every single cent was checked and counted; for the making of the golden calf, a lot of gold was collected but nobody asked for an accounting and nobody gave one.
On the side of holiness, everything is measured, weighed and accounted for.

(from Imrey Chen -translated from Sichat HaShavuah 117)




Selected with permission and adapted from the three-volume English edition of Shney Luchot HaBrit -- the Sh'lah, as translated, condensed, and annotated by Eliyahu Munk.
Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz (1565-1630), known as the 'Sh'lah' - an acronym of the title, was born in Prague. A scholar of outstanding reputation, he served as chief Rabbi of Cracow, and more famously, of Frankfort (1610-1620). After his first wife passed away, he remarried and moved to Israel in 1621, where he became the first Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Jerusalem. He later moved to Tiberias, where he is buried, near the tomb of the Rambam.

The Torah described the completion of the work of creation with the words "Heaven and earth were completed-vayechulu (Gen. 2:1) and the completion of the construction of the Tabernacle with the words "all the work of the Mishkan was completed-vatechal" (Ex. 39:32). In our parsha we are dealing with work-prohibitions that apply to the body. One needs to guard one's body not to transgress any of these commandments.

Both of the expressions vayivarech-and he shall bless, and vayikadesh-and he shall sanctify, which we find in connection with the Sabbath in Genesis and also with the blessing bestowed by Moses on the Tabernacle, relate to the hidden aspects of the soul, i.e. the formulation of thoughts and ideas before they have been articulated.

The principal realm of sanctity is found in one's thought processes (this subject is discussed in a book Reshit Chochma, in the chapter called Sha'ar HaKedusha). From a strictly halachic point of view, only the articulation of certain thoughts is prohibited on the Sabbath, not the actual thought itself; a person who strives for sanctity will do so by imposing on himself additional restrictions, "Sanctify yourself in what is permitted" (Yevamot 20), in this case by refraining from entertaining forbidden thoughts.

Whereas the abstention from work on the Sabbath is described as, "for on it He (G-d) rested", at the conclusion of the story of the creation, at the construction of the Tabernacle we find the sentence, "during six days work may be performed; this is deliberately phrased in the third person to underline the hidden aspect of the work performed by the body. In practical terms this means that in addition to a person being aware that with the arrival of the Sabbath he must cease forbidden activities, he should also consider all his unfinished work as having been completed prior to the onset of the Sabbath.

When we look at the Sabbath from this vantage point, we can understand the phrase, "Six days work shall be performed and on the seventh day shall be holy, a Sabbath of Sabbaths" (Ex. 35:2). If the meaning of this verse had been that the seventh day should serve as Sabbath, the Torah should have written, "Six days work shall be performed and the seventh day shall be holy, etc.," instead of "and on the seventh day, etc." As it is the Torah wishes to tell us that "on the seventh day everything, including unfinished tasks from the sixth day should be considered as completed."

The repetition of the words 'Sabbath of Sabbaths' together with the emphasis on the word yom-day-also suggests that even if work is being performed the holy character of the Sabbath day itself does not cease.

(adapted from Torat Moshe - the 16th commentary of Rabbi Moshe Alshech of Zefat on the Torah, as translated and condensed in the English version of Eliyahu Munk)

An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

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(W:23-63 Pekudei)

More than half of parashat Pekudei is an accounting of materials donated for the Tabernacle and its service. There is a famous Talmudic dictum that a blessing only dwells on something hidden (Baba Metzia 42a). The Lubavitcher Rebbe says that although counting something interferes with its blessing, when the counting is done "according to Moses", the blessing is limitless. This is the reason that when counting something, even for a holy purpose, the custom is to assign each person a word from a Torah verse with a known number of words. Then this counting is also "according to Moses", and the blessing will be unbounded. The 10-word verse customarily used is Psalms 28:9: "Save your nation, and bless your portion, guard them and raise them forever". Why this verse? Because now, during the period just before Mashiach's arrival, when Jews meet, their first request is,
"G-d, Save your nation", by bringing the redemption immediately.

Concerning counting interfering with blessings, the Zohar states that since the Tabernacle was so holy, the blessings were unaffected. So what was the purpose of counting every detail of the Tabernacle? Rabbi Chaim Halberstam of Sanz explains that the details of the Tabernacle correspond to parts of the human body. Just as the Tabernacle was the dwelling place for G-d in that era, so too, the human body must be sanctified in our generation, so it can be a dwelling place for G-d. In addition to this, when something can be counted, it cannot lose its identity. Therefore, the elements of the Tabernacle had to be counted.

"These are the commands of the Tabernacle, Tabernacle of Testimony" (Ex. 38:21)
Why does the verse mention the word Tabernacle twice? Rebbe Michel of Zlochow always said that the key to understanding the answer to all questions about the Torah begins with accepting that the Torah is an eternal document whose purpose is to lead a person closer to G-d. Connecting to our spiritual Source can happen with each daily prayer. Yet, if this is really so, it should be apparent that we are spiritually ascending with each prayer. But we see that this is not the case. The problem is that after each prayer session, most of us return physically and intellectually to the attractions of this material world, and this immediately pulls us back to where we started. The solution is that even in our mundane activities, we must maintain our connection with G-d, contemplating our relationship with Him, and always following His path to accomplish every task in the most sanctified way.

In Hebrew the word for Tabernacle is "Mishkan", which comes from the root meaning "to dwell". From this we can understand the inner meaning of the verse, "commands of the Tabernacle, Tabernacle of Testimony": "If you want the Torah commands to truly dwell (mishkan) in you, you have to make yourself be a dwelling place (mishkan) for the testimony". How? By purifying and focusing your thoughts on the spiritual, as described above. Similarly, a person must examine him or herself to see if the commandments are being performed properly and without arrogance. If so, it is good for the health of our souls and bodies for now and the future, and through this will come the redemption.

Why was the Tabernacle called the "Tabernacle of testimony"? Rebbe Shimon, in the midrashic commentary called the Mechilta, says it is a testimony to the whole world that the Jews were forgiven for the sin of the Golden Calf. But why was "testimony" needed? The Mitamim writes that the only reason the Jews sinned was to teach future generations that it is possible to receive forgiveness even for a sin as serious as idol worship. The purpose of the Tabernacle is to remind us there is always a path back to G-d. [Both of these explanations are drawn from the text Otzar Chaim compiled by Chaim Yaakov Zuckerman (Hebrew).]

"And the children of Israel did all that G-d commanded Moses, and so they did" (Ex. 39:32)
The Kotzker Rebbe wrote that the above verse implies that if Moses was not the one who commanded the Jews, it would not have been possible for them to do what G-d required. Moses' intermediacy in the situation was absolutely necessary. So too, we must all connect to the Torah leader, the Moses of our generation, in order for our performance of the mitzvot.

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul Leiter

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