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Parashat Pekudei 5779 — 02/09/2019

Parashat Pekudei 5779 — 02/09/2019

Shemot 38:21-40:38

Reading the last five parshiyot of Exodus one is struck by the degree of repetition in the account of the building of the Mishkan. Often, when the Torah appears to repeat itself, the differences in the two narratives give us greater food for thought (and grist for the commentator’s mill) than the similarities. There is a very major difference between the description of Moses’ sequence of commands in Terumah and the actual sequence in which the Mishkan is actually built in Vayakhel and Pekudei. In the former, the Ark is described first, then the other major appurtenances of the Mishkan (Menorah, Table, Altar), and only afterwards the structure itself. In the latter, the structure is built first, then its contents.

R. Goldin reviews several approaches to this anomaly:

The Maharal, for example, suggests that Moshe views the construction of the Mishkan from a spiritual vantage point while Betzalel [RAR: the master craftsman whom Gd selects to direct the construction project] sees the project in technical terms. From Moshe’s perspective, the sanctified utensils take precedence over the Mishkan, which he views simply as the structure for their housing. Betzalel, ever the artisan, however, gives precedence to the creation of the structure which, on a practical level, must precede the fashioning of the components.
   Numerous Chassidic sources offer a fascinating mystical approach to the dialogue between Moshe and Betzalel. Moshe desires, through the construction of the Mishkan, to return the world to its original state – before Adam and Chava sinned through the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. In that earliest condition, content took precedence over form. Moshe, therefore, commands the fashioning of the “content” (the Aron and utensils) before the creation of the “form”‘ (the Mishkan). Betzalel recognizes, however, that after the sin of the golden calf, such a return is impossible. He therefore insists that the Mishkan be created first as a “Protection” for the Aron and utensils.

Note that the idea that the Mishkan serves as a protection or the outer form for the inner spiritual content is itself reflected in the Adam and Eve story, as, after the sin, Gd fashions for them “garments of skin” – i.e. an outer form that clothes and hides their inner, spiritual nature. These “garments of skin” (our own skin?) are only necessary after the sin, when our spiritual and physical natures are mixed up. Before that we needed no such protection.

R. Goldin concludes with a profound insight of his own:

Let us assume that the Mishkan represents the overall structure of Jewish observance while the various utensils represent the details of that observance. The text then indicates that both the general structure and the details of Jewish practice are equally important.
   To live Jewishly, on the one hand, we must be consistently aware of our tradition’s overall goals. We cannot allow ourselves to be blinded by the intricacies of observance to the extent that our vision of the people that Gd wants us to be is lost. At all times, we must remember that our task on this earth is to sanctify Gd’s name through our actions. How we observe the mitzvot – and how that observance affects those around us – is, therefore, often as important as the mitzvot themselves.
   At the same time, however, the details of Jewish practice are absolutely essential. Attention to detail demonstrates a conscious, concrete commitment to Gd; infuses every aspect of our lives with connection to the divine; and creates the practical system of ritual that has maintained our identity as a people throughout our turbulent history.
   The Mishkan would have been empty without its components, while the utensils would have been meaningless without the Mishkan. So, too, only by maintaining both detail and overall structure in our personal and communal lives will we succeed in fulfilling Gd’s will.

I think we can expand and generalize this thought. The Mishkan represents the wholeness of life. The utensils represent the various aspects of manifest creation – the parts of life. The entire structure, then, represents the relationship of the whole to the parts. We have analyzed in weeks past that all of physical creation is a manifestation, a complex, rich, self-interacting pattern of vibration of one unified field. Thus, the wholeness gives rise to the parts out of its own nature, its own virtual structure.

This is remarkably similar to the way our Kabbalistic tradition describes Gd’s creation of the universe. Gd “contracts within Himself” (a kind of self-interaction) and radiates (vibrations) into the “space” left by His contraction all the forms and phenomena of creation. In other words, everything we see about us in the manifest creation is nothing other than Gd, the wholeness (“the Holy One Blessed is He”) of life, manifesting Himself. And I think R. Goldin hits the nail right on the head when he implicitly answers the question, “Why did Gd create?” The Mishkan would have been empty without its components.

The ocean is flat until it rises in waves. The Unified Field is quiescent until it begins to vibrate. Gd is Alone until He creates. The ocean together with its waves form a whole which is greater than the sum of its parts. The Unified Field and the physical world form a whole which is more than the sum of its parts. The Mishkan was empty until its vessels were put into it – then they, too, formed a whole which was greater than the sum of its parts. Gd, who is completely full, unified, self-sufficient, nonetheless apparently wanted a bigger wholeness, so He created the creation, and especially human beings to be His partners in that creation.


Commentary by Steve Sufian

Parashat Pekudei

Those who Gd has filled with wisdom create the parts of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, and they bring them to Moses who assembles them into a Whole: Gd’s Presence fills the Tabernacle.

We may have wisdom and a vision of the Whole that allows us to create each part according to the plan, human or divine. but to assemble the parts into a whole, a Whole, we must have a higher level of wisdom, a higher level of harmony with our self, with our surroundings, with Gd, so that we assemble from a level of Wholeness.

“Moses” is a quality of Wholeness, connectedness, that is within each of us, within everybody.

Through our innocence, our faith, our service this level of Wholeness becomes more and more functional in our lives; we gain the Support of Nature, of Gd, to complete our tasks in a way that is lasting. Our personalities, bodies, homes become Tabernacles, Temples within which Gd’s Presence is experienced as the Eternal Reality.

How fortunate we are, to be innocent, to trust, to serve and to be blessed and blessed so that Gd’s Presence becomes more and more and soon! fully visible to all of us, to everyone!

How fortunate we are!

Baruch HaShem