Home>Jewish Living

Torah Sparks

Parashat Pekudei - Shabbat Shekalim
March 1, 2014 – 29 Adar I 5774

Annual (Exodus 38:21-40:38): Etz Hayim p. 552; Hertz p. 373
Triennial (Exodus 38:21-39:21): Etz Hayim p. 552; Hertz p. 373
Maftir (Exodus 30:11-16): Etz Hayim p. 523; Hertz p. 352
Haftarah (II Kings 12:1-17): Etz Hayim p. 1277; Hertz p. 993

Prepared by Rabbi Adam Rosenbaum
Charleston, SC

We read an inventory of the metals used in the Mishkan’s construction. The Israelites set out to create the priestly clothing as described previously in Exodus. After Moses inspects the Mishkan’s many pieces, they are approved and assembled, in the precise manner God had commanded. Immediately after the final touches are applied, the Divine cloud fills the Mishkan. The cloud takes up so much room that Moses is unable to enter. The cloud fills the Mishkan by day, and fire glows in it by night.

Theme #1: Heavy Metal

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. (Exodus 38:21)

Among the luxurious materials used in the building of the Mishkan are precious metals.

When Moses came to Bezalel and saw the amount of material left over after the Tabernacle had been constructed, he said to God, “God of all the worlds, we have now made the Tabernacle and we have material left over; what shall we do with what is left over?” God replied, “Go and make with them a tabernacle of the pact.” -- Exodus Rabbah

It was calculated, for example, that according to the summations of Exodus 38:24-31, the erection of the Tabernacle would have required about one ton of gold, over three tons of silver, and about two and one-half tons of bronze. The Ark together with its solid-gold cover have been estimated to have weighed at least five tons. All these amounts, in turn, vastly complicate the problems of transportation … [but] the transportation of the various elements of the structure is explicitly said to have been facilitated by the use of wagons drawn by oxen. -- Nahum Sarna, Exploring Exodus

Why did Moses not render the same detailed accounting for the gold used in the making of the Sanctuary as he did for the silver? Because the gold was derived from voluntary donations
while the silver consisted of the half-shekels which every Israelite had been commanded to pay. Moses felt that some of those who had made the compulsory contribution might become suspicious and demand an exact accounting of what had been done with their money, but that generous individuals who had made voluntary donations of gold would not be so petty as to insist on such a report. -- Ahavat Yonatan

Questions for Discussion:

Exodus Rabbah claims that, even though Moses had asked for material donations for the Tabernacle to cease, there are still items left over. Rather than wasting them, God suggests that the Israelites use them for a different project. How do our Jewish communities repurpose our resources in a positive way? How can we do a better job of using all that we have? Why is putting all of our resources to efficient use an important Jewish value?

Sarna hypothesizes how the Mishkan could have been transported even though it was made with so much heavy material. What is the purpose of making a portable structure when moving it can be so difficult, albeit possible? When must we sacrifice ultimate convenience for the sake of making something the right way?

Ahavat Yonatan reminds us that while there are many who give generously and care little about how much others are giving, there are many others who are eager to compare giving histories. When is it appropriate for a fund-raising mechanism to publicize what people have given? When is it not appropriate? When a large donation is received, is it more important to keep the donation
quiet, or to go to great pains to thank those who donated?

Theme #2: “Because I Said So!”

Of the blue, purple, and crimson yarns they also made the service vestments for officiating in the sanctuary; they made Aaron’s sacral vestments -- as the Lord had commanded
(Exodus 39:1)

The penultimate chapter of the book of Exodus is marked by the completion of Tabernacle materials, punctuated by the refrain of “as the Lord had commanded Moses”.

Once a ritual has been triggered, structure is needed to visualize and achieve the desired result. … The literary structure of a text does not necessarily translate into ritual structure, although it may. Careful attention should be paid to the interaction between literary structure and ritual structure. … The primary organizational phrase motif of [Exodus 39] appears to be the sevenfold repetition of the completion formula “as YHWH had commanded.” It emphasizes the execution of a command given directly or indirectly by YHWH. -- Gerald A. Klingbeil, Bridging the Gap: Ritual and Ritual Texts in the Bible

The Holy One said: As long as My children were busy with the Tabernacle, they did not grumble against Me. [Once it was completed] they will begin to nag Me again.” -- Tanhuma Naso

Judah ben Tema said: Be fierce as a leopard, light as an eagle, swift as a gazelle, and strong as a lion to do the will of your Father in heaven. – Pirkei Avot 5:23

Questions for Discussion:

Klingbeil suggests that the Israelites are well aware that they are creating the Mishkan because it is commanded, not just because it may be a nice thing to do. Why should a command from God be more important than our own individual desire to be obedient? How does the concept of being commanded impact the nature of a given act? How does that make a mitzvah more than just a nice thing to do?

Tanhuma Naso argues that one of the fringe benefits of the Israelites creating the Mishkan is that it keeps them from complaining about their plight in the wilderness. Might this shed some light regarding why the section of the completion of the Mishkan (Exodus 35-40) takes place immediately after the episode and fallout of the Golden Calf incident (Exodus 32-34)? When we feel like complaining, why does a starting a straightforward task keep our minds off of our complaints, if only for a while?

Judah ben Tema uses animal imagery to describe how humans might best follow God. How is such imagery useful? Why would he use examples from the animal kingdom? Is there a level of devotion that some animals have that humans lack? Is there really something to the idea that a dog (or another pet) is “man’s best friend?”

Find a Kehilla USY Conservative Yeshiva Donate Careers Contact us
Copyright © 2017
United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
All rights reserved.
120 Broadway, Suite 1540
New York, NY 10271-0016