Thursday, March 10, 2005

II-11 Pekudei Bride''s Homecoming

10 March II-11 Pekudei Bride''s Homecoming

Torah: Ex 38:21-40:38

Haftorah: 1 Kgs 7:51-8:21


1. Ex 38:21-39:1
2. Ex 39:2-21
3. Ex 39:22-32
4. Ex 39:33-43
5. Ex 40:1-16
6. Ex 40:17-27
7. Ex 40:28-40:38


Pekudei closes Exodus with the accounting of materials used for the Mishkan. The Torah is parsimonious, but the Mishkan and its construction takes up nearly five parashas in comparison to the very short section in Yisro for the the Ten Commandments or its applications in Mishpatim. "Why?" ask the rabbis, "why the repitition?" Consider if you planned and built a house from raw materials that you gathered together or collected from donations. Would it just be a five minute comment to your co-workers? "Oh, incidentally, we built our house.." or does every detail count? How many times does a company proof the prototype of a new airplane before placing it into production? Does it celebrate the first one off the line? Is it held accountable for ever screw and seam that makes it fly? "Oh, George, we forgot the screws in the carbines..." Does it really that the communication systems and auto-pilot function?


"These are the records of the Tabernacle, the Tabernacle of the Pact, which were drawn up at Moses' bidding--the work of the Levites under the direction of Ithamar son of Aaron the priest... The silver of those of the community who were recorded came to 100 talents and 1,775 shekels by the sanctuary weight: a half-shekel a head, half a shekel by the sanctuary weight, for each one who was entered in the records, from the age of twenty years up, 603,550 men. " Ex 38:21, 25-26

"Just as the Lord had commanded Moses, so the Israelites had done all the work. And when Moses saw that they had performed all the tasks--as the Lord had commanded, so they had done--Moses blessed them." Ex 39:42-43

When Moses had finished the work, the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the Presence of the Lord filled the Tabernacle. Ex 40:34

The Bride's Homecoming

Pekudei seems repeat the previous parashas, but with small differences. When the Mishkan was finished, Moses gave a public accounting of all the donations. Consider all the organizations in this world where the money goes in, but never given public accounting. The latest inflationary presidential budget giving little or no benefit to its citizens. Moses learned quickly about the grumblings and discontent of a people fresh out of an oppressive government. They gave, he took. In return they need not only to see the completed Mishkan, but also how their contributions were utilized.

How often have you given something to watch it disappear? Later, you ask timorously, "Whatever happened to that scarf..." "What scarf? Oh that scarf. You know I never did like it and so one day, I gave it to the women's bazaar." The sinking feeling lands like the high speed elevator in your toenails: nothing worse than giving an unappreciated gift or finding it parked in the garbage outside a week later.

The Israelites, too, wanted to see their gifts appreciated and utilized. Each thing they gave, they gave a part of themselves, anticipating the day the building would be standing in its splendor according to the building plans. They stopped by the workshops, inspecting the various preparations for months now, they sniffed with curiosity whether the completed project would somewhat resemble the original instructions. Does the cake on the table resemble the one in Julia Child's cookbook?

The Mishkan was a special: a dwelling place for God's Pressence among them. Each person invested in it through donations or assisting in weaving and spinning or other forms of craftsmanship. It wasn't a prefab dwelling or something rented on borrowed money where the bathtub was falling through the floor and blackrot on the walls. It was the first community project made from heartfelt donations. Like any major construction site, the public had its critics and inspectors daily investigating its progress. The various bits scattered about the camp were nearly like putting together a three dimensional puzzle.

Beyond that, the Mishkan was a portable palace for the Shekinah, the bride of Shabbat, the Divine Presence of God. In rural villages, weddings are big events. Marriage isn't made in an hour under the canopy or before the altar, but requires long-term commitment. Once, a young man loved a lass, so he went to ask the father's permission. Being a small community, naturally many people knew of his intent and their romance. He wasn't rich, but came from a hard-working family. The future father-in-law's stern temperament had a reputation for the strict upbringing of his family. They were plain folks living in the back dingles of the town with their own cow. The young man, put together his courage in his pocket and went to to plead his cause. Shortly thereafter he reappeared relatively glum. Curiosity asks even when it shouldn't, particularly from the young and impertinent, "Well," we said, "What happened?" John looked up, face filled with darkness, "He said Jacob labored seven years for Rachel and received Leah, but he was more honest than that. If I would wait seven years, then I could have my bride."

Seven years seems an eternity, but maybe the father-in-law knew something that we didn't. A test, but seemingly a cruel one. In those seven years, the young man had many things to do. He needed gainful employment to provide for his wife; he needed a house and the things to go in it. More than stardust in the eyes and warm feelings over hot chocolate, the real preparations for the wedding aren't all the frills of a dress or the gilded invitations to guests, but the work involved in building a new home. Everything counts for a bride—the gifts have to be opened, the inventory made, the letters of gratitude sent and a place to put everything when the door finally opens. The community floods in to inspect it and sound their approval.

Years later, couples still remember their wedding day. They take out the photographs, tell their grandkids of their first house and remember how amazing it was when the house rose out of the sawn timber and scattered nails: the home made from love.

The Mishkan became the unifying force of the community, belonging to each of them. As they stood before it, they knew that the bride had arrived. A thick cloud of God's glory covered it. In awe they awaited the Shekinah to descend and dwell with them.

And the final product – well, it came out better than the cake.

"Khazak, Khazak, V'Nitkhazek!"

to say upon the closing of a book of Torah: from strength to strength, let us be strengthened (let us strengthen one another)


"The man, meanwhile, stood gazing at her, silently wondering whether the Lord had made his errand successful or not. When the camels had finished drinking, the man took a gold nose-ring weighing a half-shekel, and two gold bands for her arms, ten shekels in weight." I-5 Sora: Gn 24: 21-22 on Rebekah's betrothal

Rabbi Aron Tendler, Rabbi's Notebook, Vayakhel: Vayakhel & Shekalim - Intent Speaks Louder Than Action

Rabbi Ismar Schorsch, JTS, Terumah 5765 2005

on the Shekhinah

Yanki Tauber, Terumah Good Morning

"The Lord went before them in a pillar of cloud by day, to guide them along the way, and in a pillar of fire by night, to give them light, that they might travel day and night. The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people." II-4 Beshelach: Ex 13:21

"And when Moses entered the Tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the Tent, while He spoke with Moses." II-9 Ki Thisa: Ex 33:9


Tanki Tauber, Vayakhel Partner

Yanki Tauber, Community, Individuality, and Why It's Frustrating to Have a Brain

Irwin Kula, Pekudei: Role of Tabernacle
two drash regarding purpose of Tabernacle

Rabbi Aron Tendler, Rabbi's Notebook, Pekudei 5760: Mirror of God

Gilah Langner, Pekudei: Keeping Accounts
Gilah Langner is a consultant and mother living in Washington, D.C. She is co-editor of Kerem: Creative Explorations in Judaism.

Rabbi Ismar Schorsch, JTSA, Pekudei 5763

Rabbi Label Lam, Dvar Torah, Pekudei 5763 An Original Thought

Yanki Tauber, What was the Holy Temple

Lisa Lieberman Barzilai, Pekudei: Experiencing God In The Dark And The Light
from UAHC

The Holy Temple An Anthology


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