Sefer - Sh'mot
"The Book of Exodus forms a coherent unit, moving ever upward, from slavery to freedom, from biography to history, from legal and political levels of meaning to esthetic and ethical planes, from the intercession of the man Moses to the abiding involvement of God" (Hallo in Plaut, 377).
Parashat Pikudei begins with an inventory of the Tabernacle. All of the materials used for the building of the Mishkan and its contents are listed, including the donations from the Israelites. As the building of the structure and its holy objects are completed, Moses blesses all of the people who took part in its creation. On the first day of the first month (Nisan), God instructs Moses to set up the Mishkan. Moses completes this task, and anoints the priests, the altar, the utensils, and furnishings. When God's presence is within the Mishkan, a cloud is above it by day and a pillar of fire by night.
Aliyah - Seventh aliyah: Exodus 40:28-38
The seventh aliyah describes what happens after the Mishkan is completed and how it functioned in the community.
For over the Tabernacle a cloud of the Eternal rested by day, and fire would appear in it by night, in the view of all the house of Israel throughout their journeys (40:38).
Throughout the Book of Exodus, the Israelites expressed doubt in God. They cried out for signs of water and manna in the dessert, and they rebelled against God and Moses by building the Golden Calf. They were not believers. But when it came time to construct the Mishkan, the Children of Israel brought lavish and plentiful donations. In Parashat Pikudei, God was given a space, and God's presence within it was indicated by visible signs-fire and fog.
Why did God require the building of the Tabernacle? The community effort in creating a space for God within the community was essential for developing relationship between God and the children of Israel. Rabbi Harold Schulweis explains that miracles and signs are not purely acts of God; they require a human openness to receiving them. "Sign-miracles are results of human and nonhuman interaction. They entail the appropriate cooperation of will, intelligence, and care, which themselves are manifestations of the divine and the potentialities given for us to transform" ( For Those Who Can't Believe, 59). It was not until the Israelites pitched in as a community to build a place for God that the signs would be revealed to them in the camp. In order to receive protection and guidance from God, they needed to give of themselves to God as well. God is the source of our human ability to perceive God and willingness to be in relationship.
The completion of the Mishkan epitomized the moment in which the Israelites entered into a perpetual relationship with God as a community, having completed a process of hearing God, obeying, and then creating a space in which to serve God. God completed Creation in Genesis with Shabbat, a palace in time, and the Israelites completed creation in Exodus with the Mishkan, a palace in space. This imitation and intimation of the divine are invoked whenever we dedicate a communal space to God. In the sanctuary, we aspire to echo Moses as we meet each other and together meet God. We need to create both sacred time and sacred space in our communities of Jewish learning and living. Our challenge today is to continue the work Moses initiated by creating a space for God in our lives. If we succeed, we will not just be reading Torah, we will be living Torah.
- The people needed to come together in a joint effort in order to establish a foundation for an ongoing relationship with God. When have you had to put forth an effort in order to really feel part of something?
- How do you make room for God in your life? How do you find evidence of God in your life?
- Pikudei is the last parashah in the book of Exodus. In your opinion, is this a good way to end this book? Is it a good segue into Leviticus where we will learn about God's laws? Why?
For further learning
When we finish reading each of the Five Books of Moses, we say the words, chazak, chazak, v'nitchazek, which literally means "Strength, strength and be strengthened." Often times it is rendered as "May you go from strength to strength to strength." Why would this be said at the end of a book in the Torah? What about reading the Book of Exodus has made you grow stronger this year?
P’kudei, Exodus 38:21-40:38
The Torah: A Modern Commentary, pp. 680-690; Revised Edition, pp. 627-636;
The Torah: A Women's Commentary, pp. 545-566