Weekly Reading Insights: Pekudei
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Overview of the Torah Reading

To be read on Shabbat Pekudei, 2 Adar II 5779/March 9, 2019

Torah: Exodus - Ex 38:21-40:38; Haftorah: Kings II 12:1-17 (money gifts for the sanctuary, because of Shabbat Shekalim)
Pekudei is the 11th Reading out of 11 in Exodus and it contains 4432 letters, in 1182 words, in 92 verses.

Pekudei opens with an accounting of all materials used in making the Tabernacle. Then described are the methods used in making the priestsí clothing. All the labor was carried out as G-d commanded, and Moshe blessed the workers. G-d commanded Moshe how and when to assemble the Tabernacle and dress the priests. When this was completed, G-dís cloud of glory came and rested on the Tabernacle for all to see. When the cloud would rise, it was a signal for the Jews to travel.


An Essay from
Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, Director of Ascent

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Everyone admits that it is best to be organized and to do things in an orderly way. Chassidic lifestyle lauds the idea that a Chassid must be organized. The Lubavitcher Rebbe was known to tell people that if you want the day to go especially well, begin it with your daily Torah study session (known as 'Chitas'), rather than 'making time' for them later in the day. However, some of the most satisfying moments are when a person acts against the flow.

This week's parsha, Pekudei, closes a topic that the last several portions discussed regarding the Sanctuary and its contents. Following a week when Moshe assembled and then disassembled the Sanctuary, it was finally dedicated by Moshe on the 8th day. On this 8th day, Moshe again assembled the Sanctuary and performed all of the different acts of divine service. Only afterwards did Aharon and his sons begin to act as Kohanim, priests.

Something very interesting becomes apparent when we examine the order of what Moshe did. First, he put all of the different elements of the Sanctuary in their places, and did the service that was appropriate for each one. For example, Moshe brought in the table, and put the showbread on it; he placed the menorah and lit its lights; he put in the golden altar and offered a spice offering. Only afterwards did he complete the construction of the Sanctuary. Even the main daily offerings were brought first before the final enclosure was put in place.

It is the way of the world that, first you build the house and only after do you put in all of the furnishings. Once the house is furnished, you begin all of the household activities. So it was when G-d created the world (He first created the environment step by step and then placed in it all types of plants and creatures). And so it was even when the Levites would move the Sanctuary from place to place in the desert-first they would put up the compound of the Sanctuary, and only afterwards would they bring in the vessels. Why did Moshe change this order and begin the service before the construction was complete?

The answer is that the inauguration day was not a regular day. The Torah used this watershed day to emphasize a basic principle in how we go about serving G-d (and which applies to our daily lives too). Sometimes we need to work not according to the normal order, but rather, 'above' order and the usual procedures.

In general we can divide our work efforts into two categories. First, there is proceeding in an orderly way, each appropriate step preceding the step that follows. You move from the general to the specific, moving slowly up the ladder of holiness. Even so, and even at its best, such work has its limitations. Sometimes you need to break out. The Talmud (Eruvin 54a) describes this style as 'snatching'.

We see in our own lives and in the history of the Jewish people that sometime it is impossible to do things step by step. Sometimes it is imperative to snatch whatever comes to hand. Chassidut explains that we are now in a world where this latter type of orientation is primary. Our era is referred to as 'the Heels of the Mashiach', the time immediately before the redemption. A person has to be ready to push limits. He can not be stuck on what was the normal order.

The inauguration of the Sanctuary was an archetype event that gives strength to each person in every generation. Moshe could have moved in an orderly way but he chose not to. He chose to skip normal running procedures and do each mitzvah as it came to hand. Through this, Moshe set the precedent for all of us to also be able to serve G-d not according to the normal order. No question there is a certain risk. But the potential for result is greatly increased. It is through this potential that we will succeed in hastening the final redemption, through Mashiach (Likutei Sichos 31/218, Lubavitcher Rebbe).

Shabbat Shalom , Shaul.

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For last year's essay by Rabbi Leiter on this week's Reading, see the archive.


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The Real Count

From the Ohr HaChaim commentary by Rabbi Chaim (ben Moshe) ibn Attar

The only true count on earth was of the components which comprised the Holy Tabernacle. Normally, G-d objects to a headcount. In this instance G-d did not object; on the contrary - every single component contributed and accounted for increased the amount of blessings G-d bestowed on the Holy Tabernacle.

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