Skip to content

Parshiyyot Vayakhel-Pekudei 5780 — 03/21/2020

Parshiyyot Vayakhel-Pekudei 5780 — 03/21/2020

Vayakhel: Shemot 35:1-38:20

Pekudei: Shemot 38:21-40:38

These are the things that Hashem has commanded, to do them. Six days shall work be done but the seventh day shall be a holy day of rest for you, a Sabbath of Gd; anyone who does work on it will die. (35:1-2)

The instructions to begin construction of the Mishkan famously begin with an exhortation to keep the Sabbath. The Rabbis of the Talmud derive from this juxtaposition that the definition of “work” in our verse is “whatever needed to be done to build and/or operate the Mishkan.” This would include shearing to get wool for the priestly clothing and the hangings, slaughtering an animal (to get the hides for the covering of the Tabernacle itself), sorting, combing wool, baking and cooking, carrying in public, etc. This juxtaposition is the basis for the great bulk of the laws of Shabbat.

Or haChaim takes a much more comprehensive approach to the issue. First, let me begin by pointing out that there is a difference of opinion as to the order of events surrounding the building of the Mishkan / Tabernacle and the golden calf incident. Most commentators, including Or haChaim, take the commandments to build the Mishkan and their execution as following the making of the golden calf by a minority of people, and their execution. That is, parshiyyot Terumah and Tetzaveh rightfully belong after parashat Ki Tisa and before our parshiyyot. The chronological sequence would then be: golden calf; Moshe gets Gd to forgive the people; Gd commands the Jewish people to build the Mishkan; Jewish people comply with great enthusiasm; Gd’s Presence rests on the nation (again).

Or haChaim takes the entire Mishkan project to be an atonement for the golden calf. The thread that holds together the Shabbat and the golden calf is that they are equivalent to the entire Torah. The rectification that observance of Shabbat effects on the spiritual damage done by the golden calf allows the Mishkan to fulfill its function of allowing Gd to dwell among the Jewish people.

In truth, this can be explained based on the words of [our Sages] of blessed memory who say (Horayot 8a) regarding the verse (Bamidbar / Numbers 15:22) If you err [and do not perform all these commandments], that anyone who believes in idolatry it is as if he has denied the entire Torah. Now it emerges that all the Jewish people needed to repair all of the 613 mitzvot [i.e. all the mitzvot of Torah] since they had blemished all of them [by the golden calf]. But this is beyond any one person’s ability. [Artscroll notes that there are some commandments that apply only to men, or to kohanim, or to women or to non-kohanim.] Hashem therefore gave them this command, that they should meticulously observe the mitzvah of Shabbat …, which is equivalent to all of the Torah.

Idolatry is the denial of the absolute Unity of Gd, which is the basis of everything that the Torah teaches, and the basis of everything the Torah is trying to accomplish. In fact, it seems logical that there must be some kind of unity at the basis of diversity, for there is always some more abstract principle that unites any set of diverse phenomena. Thus if there are many “basic” principles (“gods”), there must be some unifying principle that unites them all (“Gd”?). I might point out that the history of physics bears this logic out. In all cases where systems interact, they are found to be two aspects of a deeper, underlying, more unified level of description. The ultimate level of unification is the Unified Field, which is actually all that there is, at least on the physical level – everything that we see about us, the entire universe, is nothing other than a rich pattern of vibration of this Unified Field. Space and time themselves are derivable from the Unified Field, which is transcendental to both.

It is exactly this view of life that Torah both espouses, and gives us techniques to make a living reality on the level of our individual awareness. Shabbat is one such technique. On the surface level, Shabbat is a testament to the fact that Gd created the world, as related at the very beginning of Torah. On a deeper level, by ceasing creative activity, we recognize that action belongs to the world of nature, not to our essential Self.

I think on the deepest level, what happens is this. The root meaning of the word Shabbat is “to cease” or “to be silent.” The ultimate Shabbat occurs when the activity of the mind and body settle down to a state of complete, transcendental silence (mind) and minimal metabolic activity (body). Repeated alternation between this state of silence and regular activity cultures the mind and the body to maintain transcendental awareness along with daily activity. This direct experience of the unified, transcendental level of life is the perfect antidote for the error of thinking that there is no ultimate, unified reality – it is direct knowledge of this ultimate reality on the level of experience, as clear as we can see our hand in front of our face.

Established in this experience, we can come out and build the Mishkan. Just as the Torah is a representation in sound of the basic vibratory structure of creation, so the Mishkan is a representation in physical form of that same underlying structure. The structure, its appurtenances and their placement, and the actions done in the Mishkan (primarily the various offerings), all work together to restructure and attune the minds and nervous systems of the participants and the onlookers with the internal, virtual structure of the transcendent. In this way Gd truly dwells “within” each one of us, in our minds and in our hearts, directing our activity to fulfill His Divine plan and to satisfy our own desires.

Chazak! Chazak! v’Nitchazeik!

Commentary by Steve Sufian

Parshiyyot Vayakhel-Pekudei

“Vayakhel” means “and he assembled.” This continues the theme we saw in Ki Tisa of revealing the detail in a group – as in taking a census which Gd commanded Moses to do — and in bringing parts together into a whole, as Gd did with assembling the essence of Torah as 613 mitvah (commandments) into two tablets. This theme is the theme of Teshuvah – return to Oneness in which we experience all details of existence as assembled, organized within our Self, the Self.

Moses repeats to the assembly many of the details of the construction of the Tabernacle that Gd gave to him earlier (Parshah Terumah). This illustrates our responsibility to share what we learn, what is revealed to us, with others, with everyone.

Before he does this, though, he reminds the assembly of the importance of Sabbath, the day of complete rest. This reminder is appropriate here because it makes clear that even in doing Gd’s work, as in building the Tabernacle, the priority is rest and we should not feel that any other commandment from Gd revokes it. The commandment to not kindle a fire on the Sabbath is given as an illustration: “fire” symbolizes action, energy, passion, desire and so it can serve as a general illustration that rest means rest in every way — rest in which Oneness of which all diversity is expression is revealed as is the Nature of Oneness as Joy and Love.

Moses repeats Gd’s command that every generous-hearted person shall bring an offering of materials for the Tabernacle and for the priestly garments and that every wise-hearted person shall participate in making the Tabernacle out of the offerings. Although it would seem that generosity and wisdom go hand-in-hand, in this parshah those making offerings are at least to some degree separate from those assembling the offerings into the parts of the Tabernacle and the priestly garments: the generous are so generous that they continue making offerings even when enough material has been gathered. Moses has to tell them to stop. This illustrates that in society and within our personality there needs to be communication so that everything is just right, not too much, not too little.

The detail and extent to which Gd goes in describing the construction of the Mishkan and the priestly garments (13 chapters whereas the construction of the Universe is only given one) suggests to many, including me, there is deep symbolism — I’ve found one source that connects the details with the mitzvot and another which connects them to quantum physics and quantum chemistry — but I haven’t found a source that connects the Mishkan to the Universe and to the human physiology and personality. Please alert me if you know of such a source.

Although I have not found such an account, reading the chapters and listening to the chapters can help us tune into the Harmony within Gd/One and Gd’s Expressions within Gd — Universe, humans, all and all.

This tuning in can help us open to the reality of One, to experience directly that we are One and to live in completeness, Completeness. Tuning into the Reality of One means experiencing it as an Assembly of Detail: All the stars, the people, the grains of sand….

A word here, a phrase there – soon! Complete Restoration of Awareness.

Parshat Vayakhel, all 13 parshahs detailing the Mishkan/Tabernacle/Sanctuary, all of Torah is available online, both in English and Hebrew and in written and audio form. is an example of their availability.

Let’s take advantage, as we can, of the great gift of Torah and our religion as aids in restoring our awareness to Full Awareness. One.

Parshat Pekudei

“Pekudei” means “amounts of.”  Aaron’s son, Ithamar, kept track of the half-shekels that were donated and those who Gd has filled with wisdom use them to create the parts of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle; they bring them to Moses who assembles them into a Whole: Gd’s Presence fills the Tabernacle.

We may have 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 harmony with ourselves and 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 visible and soon! fully visible to all of us, to everyone!

How fortunate we are!

Baruch HaShem