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Parshah Overview: Vayakheil & Pekudei

by Rabbi Moshe Wisnefsky

  

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Vayakheil

The last two parashiot of the Book of Exodus, Vayakheil and Pekudei, relate how Moses and the people fulfilled G-d’s instructions to build the Tabernacle, furnish it, and make the garments for the priests who would officiate in it. In most years, these two parshiot are read together.

Specifically, parashat Vayakheil opens with Moses informing the people that working on the Tabernacle does not supersede the Sabbath. He then tells them what materials G-d has asked them to donate and calls for volunteers to do the work. The people bring their donations and the artisans begin their work. The Torah is essentially here repeating parashat Terumah, only changing the predominant verb from “you shall make” to “he made.” Similarly, much of parashat Pekudei is a repetition of the first half of parashat Tetzaveh with similar verb changes.

Rather than repeating so much of Terumah and Tetzaveh, the Torah could easily have summarized most of the action in Vayakheil and Pekudei in a few sentences. The fact that it does go into all the details means that there is a fundamental difference between the commands to build the Tabernacle and their implementation.

As we have seen, Moses was born with an innate, keen spiritual sensitivity. Besides this, he was granted a level of prophecy more sublime than that of any prophet before or after him. Finally, G-d gave Moses the commands to build the Tabernacle when he was on Mount Sinai and G-d had elevated him to a uniquely lofty spiritual level of existence. Clearly, then, Moses received and understood these commands in a very abstract, ethereal way. He “saw” the Tabernacle and its accoutrements in an extremely idealized form, even though he of course understood that they were meant to take on physical form as well.

In contrast, the Tabernacle described in these parashiot is consummately physical. The description of how the people donated the materials, tallied them, fashioned them into the various components and furnishings, brought them to Moses, and rested from work every Sabbath, leaves no doubt that a palpable, physical Tabernacle was being constructed—notwithstanding any coexistent spiritual dimension it might have possessed.

It is in order to highlight the difference between the abstract and the concrete Tabernacles that the Torah details the construction of the Tabernacle in these two parashiot. The difference is important because the “lower,” physical Tabernacle is the fulfillment of G-d’s will to make this world His home—not the abstract, idealized Tabernacle Moses envisioned on Mount Sinai.

The name of the parashah—Vayakheil—means “and he assembled,” referring to how Moses assembled the people when he came down from Mount Sinai to transmit G-d’s command to build the Tabernacle. The verb “to assemble” differs from synonyms that mean “to collect,” “to gather,” and so forth, in that it signifies bringing together disparate entities to form a collective whole.

This word aptly describes how Moses gathered the people when he transmitted these commands, since the people had to build the Tabernacle as a collective whole, not as individuals. The Tabernacle’s purpose was to enable G-d’s presence to dwell among the entirety of the Jewish people. In order to fulfill this role, the wealth and materials the people donated had to become “community wealth,” which meant that the people had to be “assembled” into a cohesive unit.


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RELATED CATEGORIES

Shabbat » Reading of the Torah » Torah Reading

Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Moses
[Hebrew pronunciation: Moshe] Greatest prophet to ever live. Led the Jews out of Egyptian bondage amidst awesome miracles; brought down the Tablets from Mount Sinai; and transmitted to us word-for-word the Torah he heard from G-d's mouth. Died in the year 1272 BCE.
Exodus
1. The miraculous departure of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage in 1312 BCE. 2. The second of the Five Books of Moses. This book describes the aforementioned Exodus, the giving of the Torah, and the erection of the Tabernacle.
Tabernacle
Mobile sanctuary which traveled with the Jews in the desert, containing the Ark with the Tablets, and the sacrificial altars. When the Jews entered Israel, it was erected in the city of Shiloh where it remained for more than 300 years. It was buried when the permanent Holy Temple was erected in Jerusalem.
Terumah
The tithe given to the priest (descendant of Aaron) from certain crops. The tithe was approximately 2% of the harvest.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.