Parshat Pekudei: Exodus 38:21 - 40:38 -                                                       

This week’s parasha, Pekudei, begins: “And these are the records (pekudei) of the mishkan …” It gives a very careful accounting of how much gold, silver and copper were used in the construction of the mishkanand its furnishings. Chapter 39 provides us with some added details about how the gold was worked into the embroidered fabrics, how Aaron’'s ephod, the breastplate, and the robe were made. Everyone brought all of the completed work to Moses, who saw that everything was exactly as God had commanded him. In chapter 40, “on the first day of the first month,” Moses, following God’s command, sets everything up. He anoints everything. He offers incense, lights the lamps, places the showbreads on the table, and then offers burnt offerings. He sets up the laver; from it Moses and Aaron and his sons wash their hands and feet. The portion and the Book of Exodus ends with the Glory of God filling the Tabernacle. After the dedication, the people know that God is dwelling inside the mishkan whenever a cloud hovers above the Tent of Meeting. If the cloud lifts, it is a sign that the Israelites should follow it and continue on their journey towards Eretz Yisrael


In most years, Pekudei is read as a double portion with Va-yakhel. The Jewish calendar, is based on a lunar cycle of 354 days, or 50 weeks a year. Since there are 54 weekly Torah readings, plus special readings for major holidays that fall on Shabbat, it is necessary to double seven weekly portions so that the whole cycle of Torah readings is completed in a year. In a leap year, when an extra month is added to the Jewish calendar, there are four more Shabbatot; in such years, Va-yakhel and Pekudei are read as separate portions. 

Some Thoughts and Questions 

1.     Which ritual objects described as part of the Mishkan can you find in a contemporary synagogue?

2.     The Midrash tells us that with the completion of the Mishkan, God forgave the Israelites for the sin of the Golden Calf. In his commentary, Nahum Sarna suggests that the cloud allowed the Israelites to constantly feel “a visible, tangible symbol of God’s ever-abiding Presence in their midst.” Do you agree that the Mishkan was created as a counterbalance to the incident of the Golden Calf? How might the cloud of the Shechinah have been a source of reassurance to our ancestors? Is there any symbol or ritual that makes you feel that way today? Is it important to you to have miraculous evidence of God’s existence in order to believe in a Higher Power? What “evidence” is there for you of God’s existence? Where can we teach our children to look for God’s presence?

3.     Rashi explains that the “records” of this parasha provide an accounting of the metals used in the construction of the mishkan. A midrash suggests out that Moses overheard some people speculate that he had derived financial benefit from the donations by misusing his role as treasurer. Moses called for the accounting to prove that he had not profitted from the people’s contributions. Based on this midrash, our rabbis derived that we must not appoint fewer than two people with control over the finances of a city or a community.

4.     In Pesikta Rabbati 5 and 9 we read that when the Israelites grumbled, God asked them to build the mishkan. Thus, they would be too busy to complain. When it was done, the rabbis imagined God’'s exclaiming: “Woe is Me! It is finished!” What does this midrash tell us about human nature? What happens to you on a rainy day when you have to stay indoors? How do you use your spare time?