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Torah Sparks

Parashat Vayakhel-Pekudei (Shabbat HaHodesh)
March 13, 2010 – 27 Adar 5770

Annual (Ex. 35:1-40:38): Etz Hayim p. 552; Hertz p. 373
Triennial (Ex. 39:22-40:38): Etz Hayim p. 567; Hertz p. 387
Maftir (Ex. 12:1-20): Etz Hayim p. 380; Hertz p. 253
Haftarah (Ezekiel 45:16-46:18 [A]; 45:18-46:15 [S]): Etz Hayim p. 1291; Hertz p. 1001

Prepared by Rabbi Joyce Newmark
Teaneck, NJ

Hazak, hazak, v’nithazek!

Torah Portion Summary

Moses assembles the entire Israelite community and again instructs them to observe Shabbat. He asks them to bring their gifts of materials to build the Mishkan; and those who have the skills to come forward to perform the work. The artisans come together under the leadership of Bezalel and Oholiav, they report to Moses that the people are bringing more materials than are necessary. Moses announces that no one should bring any more gifts for the Mishkan.

The Torah describes the making of the cloth walls, roof, planks, and bars of the Mishkan, the curtain for the Holy of Holies, and the screen for the entrance. Bezalel makes the ark and its cover, the table, the menorah, the altars for incense and for burnt offerings, the anointing oil, and the incense.

Moses instructs Aaron’s son Itamar to conduct an accounting of the materials used for the building of the Mishkan. The making of the priestly vestments is described. Once all of the work has been completed, the Mishkan and its furnishing are brought to Moses and he blesses the people who made them. God instructs Moses to set up the Mishkan, to anoint it and its contents, and to consecrate Aaron and his sons. The cloud representing God’s presence fills the Mishkan, lifting up from it when it is time for the Israelites to set out on their journeys.

1. Your Presence Is Requested

Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting, because the cloud had settled upon it and the Presence of the Lord filled the Tabernacle. (Exodus 40:35)

  1. But another passage (Numbers 7:89) says: “When Moses went into the Tent of Meeting.” There comes a third verse and reconciles (the difference) between them: “Because the cloud had settled upon it.” Hence you may say: as long as the cloud was upon it he was not able to enter; when the cloud departed (Moses) entered and He spoke with him. (Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaki), 1040-1105, France)
  2. Even to the door, because the cloud covered it, and he was not permitted to come into the cloud. Moreover, “the Presence of the Lord filled the Tabernacle,” so how could he enter it? The reason for this was so that Moses should not go in without permission, but instead God would call him and then he was to come into the midst of the cloud just as He had done at Mount Sinai. (Ramban (Rabbi Moses ben Nachman), 1194-1270, Spain)
  3. The commentators observe that Moses was like a household member in God’s home. Nevertheless the cloud of glory determined his entry into the sanctuary. If it was hovering overhead, he was unable to enter. When it was lifted he could then go in. How come Moses had restricted passage? Surely a household member has constant access enabling him to come and go as he pleases? What is quite apparent from the whole book of Shemot and beyond is how Moses turns to God every time he is confronted with a problem. Each time he is faced with an awkward people in emotional turmoil he seeks God’s guidance. He never seems to try to resolve the difficulties on his own. The Jewish people, by extension, experiencing this, typically were always turning to him with their problems, without ever trying to work out the issues on their own. But God has no problems, only plans. Thus Moses, much like the rest of us, had to learn that not every problem is really as difficult as it may at first appear. By restricting Moses’ access, God is in effect teaching him how to look at the broader picture, reflect upon the predicament in context, and deal with it himself. In so doing, he could demonstrate the same to the Jewish people as well. (Rabbi Yitzchok Schochet, Rabbinical Council of the United Synagogue (Orthodox), London, 2005)
  4. Pray as if everything depended on God and work as if everything depended on man. (Francis Cardinal Spellman)

Sparks for Discussion

Rashi points out that when our verse says that Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting, it was only because the cloud representing God’s presence was upon it. What does Ramban add? Rabbi Schochet offers an explanation for why God restricted Moses’ access. Does this make sense to you? What lesson did God want Moses and, by extension all of us to learn? How does this help to shape your understanding of brit (covenant)?

2. This Too Shall Pass

For over the Tabernacle a cloud of the Lord rested by day, and fire would appear in it by night, in the view of all the house of Israel through their journeys. (Exodus 40:38)

  1. This is a lesson for every person. Each person is considered to be like a sanctuary in his own right, and when good fortune shines on him he should always be aware of the cloud that can come and darken his life. On the other hand, when things are bad and everything is dark around him, he should not despair, because the sun will yet shine for him. (Yalkut Eliezer (Rabbi Eliezer Zusman Sofer), 1828-1902, Hungary)
  2. A Roman matron asked Rabbi Yose ben Halafta: In how many days did the Holy One create His world? Rabbi Yose replied: In six days, for it is written (Shemot 20:11) “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth.” She asked: And what has He been doing since? Rabbi Yose replied: He has been busy making ladders, having this one ascend and that one descend, making this one rich and that one poor. (Tanhuma, Vayishlach 10)
  3. “For God it is who gives judgment; He brings down one man, He lifts up another” (Tehillim 75:8). To what may this world be compared? To a garden’s waterwheel: its clay dippers below come up full, and those above go down empty. So, too, not everyone who is rich today will be rich tomorrow, and not everyone who is poor today will be poor tomorrow, for the world is a wheel. (Shemot Rabbah 31:3)
  4. A Jewish legend tells that King Solomon once approached a jeweler with an unusual request. He asked that the man design a ring on which would be inscribed words that would be true and appropriate at all times and in all situations. The jeweler brought the king a ring on which was inscribed, “This too shall pass.” In times of pain, the king looked at the ring and was reassured. In times of joy and exultation the king looked at the ring and felt sobered. (Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, Uncommon Sense: The World’s Fullest Compendium of Wisdom, p. 236)

Sparks for Discussion

Our commentators teach that is important to remember that things always change. Do you think this is true? Do you think this uncertainty helps a person live a better life? Does knowing this affect how you relate to other people? It’s easy to understand why we need this awareness to fight depression, but what’s wrong with being happy?


 
 
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