March 11-12, 2016 – 2 Adar II 5776
Annual (Exodus 38:21-40:38): Etz Hayim p. 564; Hertz p. 385
Triennial (Exodus 39:22-40:38): Etz Hayim p. 567; Hertz p. 387
Haftarah (1 Kings 7:51-8:21): Etz Hayim, p. 580; Hertz p. 392
Welcome to the new “Torah Sparks” direct from the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem! The CY’s beautiful Beit Midrash is full of students learning Jewish texts and enhancing their relationships with Jewish prayer and the Jewish community. Torah Sparks brings you a taste of their enthusiasm for Judaism and Jewish text from Jerusalem every week.
A Blueprint for Life
Rabbi Elan Babchuck, Rabbi at Temple Emanu-El, Providence, Rhode Island and CY Alumnus
Growing up, I was taught that the Torah was written by Moses, the words given to him by God while they communed atop Mount Sinai. The imagery was evocative and dramatic: cracks of thunder, flashes of lightning, a nation waiting (impatiently) below, and the future of our people in the balance. As I grew older, however, I began to question this notion. Specifically, I couldn’t come to terms with the idea that Moses wrote the post-script to his own life (Deut. 34:5-12). It just didn’t make sense.
In our parashah Moses conveys the blueprint for the Tent of Meeting to the artist Bezalel, but – for some reason – he mixes up one set of instructions. Earlier in our text (Ex. 31:7-8), God lists for Moses those items to be built by Bezalel and his team: “the Tent of Meeting, the Ark of the Covenant, the cover upon it, the furnishings, etc”. But, according to the Talmud (Berachot 55a), Moses tells Bezalel to build the furnishings first, and then the Tent of Meeting. Bezalel – endowed with Divine spirit and a bit of chutzpah – corrects Moses and says: “Wouldn’t it make sense to build the house first and then fill it with furniture?” Moses replies: “Perhaps you were be-tzel El (“in the shadow of God,” a play on Bezalel’s name) when God spoke to me, because that’s precisely what God instructed me,” (Rashi, Ex. 38:22).
In short, Moses either misspoke while conveying the instructions to Bezalel, or he had some other motive to reorder the Divine commandment. Either way, Bezalel corrects him, and the text notes that Bezalel built “all that God had commanded Moses” (Exodus 38:22). In fact, the text repeats that phrase 18 times in this parashah. 18 times! One can easily imagine Moses, his patience wearing thin after many days atop Sinai transcribing Torah, losing his patience with these repetitions: “I get it! I was wrong, and Bezalel was right! Can we move on to Vayikra already?!”
One piece of Torah that my earliest teachers shared that did stick is that there are no superfluous words or letters in the Torah. Every one of them has a Divine purpose, and our job is to find it. If that’s the case, then these 18 repetitions must point to something important, something worthy of all that holy ink.
God’s instructions to Bezalel are a blueprint, and you don’t need to be an architect to know that every detail in a blueprint is essential. A deviation of even a fraction of an inch can be the difference between structural integrity and disaster. So, too, should we read all the words of Torah as a blueprint; not for how to erect a building, but for how to build our lives. And lest we get sloppy with the details, we receive the perfect number of reminders – 18, the numerical equivalent to “life” – to ensure that our spiritual lives perfectly mirror the construction of the Tent of Meeting: stable, mobile, and always welcoming of God’s Divine presence.
A Vort for Parashat Pekudei
By Rabbi Daniel Goldfarb, CY Faculty
Whereas the Divine columns of cloud and fire had gone before the people (Ex 13:21), visible, according to the Vilna Gaon, only to prophets and other special people, Sefer Shmot (Exodus) ends (40:38) with the Divine presence over the Tabernacle, “visible to all Israel throughout their journeys” (b’chol ma’aseyhem). Rashi says “journeys” also includes their stopping places; Yalkut Yehudah (R’ Yehuda Leib Ginzburg, Dvinsk, Latvia, early 20th C) explains that such places are only temporary, because we Jews are always either after one journey or before the next. God is with us, both during the good times (yomam, by day) and the bad (lila, night) (Avnei Ezel, R’ Alexander Zusia Friedman, Poland 1897 – 1943, died in the Shoah), if only we can see that.
By Vered Hollander-Goldfarb, CY Faculty
We are in the last Parasha of the book of Exodus. It is time to sum up and give an accounting of all that was donated and made to invite God’s presence is settled on the Mishkan (Tabernacle).
1) This Parasha opens with a clear and precise accounting of the precious metals that were used to build the Mishkan. Why do you think that Moshe gives an account of precisely what was received from the people and what was done with it? (38:20-31)
2) The silver used in the building of the Mishkan was not donated (38:25-28). Rather, it came from the half-Shekel tax used to count the people (see Exodus 30:11-16). Why do you think that part of the Mishkan had to be from an obligatory (for every adult) and equal payment, not from a donation?
3) The coat of the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) was decorated at the bottom with fabric pomegranates and gold bells (39:22-26). These are part of what is needed for him to serve. What do you think might be the reason for such a decoration for the garments of the Kohen Gadol?
4) God instructs Moshe to put together the Mishkan on the first day of the first month (in the beginning of the second year since leaving Egypt.) Why do you think this date was chosen? (40:1-2)
5) How is God’s presence manifested in the desert? What additional function did this have? (40:34-38)