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Parshat Va-Yakhel/P'kudei

And so, with this double parsha, the magnificent Book of Exodus comes to a close.

Moses gathers "the whole Israelite community"--just forgiven by G-d for the sin of the golden calf--to reaffirm their holy obligations.

"'These are the things that the Lord has commanded you to do,'" Moses tells them.

'On six days work may be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a sabbath of complete rest, holy to the Lord; whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. You shall kindle no fire throughout your settlements on the sabbath day.'"

Moses reiterates the gifts that each person--"everyone whose heart so moves him"--must bring forth for the construction and decoration of the Tabernacle, and the Tent of Meeting, and for the making of the Kohanim's sacred vestments.

Bringing "...brooches, earrings, rings, and pendants-gold objects of all kinds" and ", purple, and crimson yarns, fine linen, goats' hair, tanned ram skins, and dolphin skins..." the people contribute all that is needed; and those with unique talents set to work.

"And all the skilled women spun with their own hands, and brought what they had spun..."

Bezalel son of Uri "endowed...with a divine spirit of skill, ability, and knowledge in every kind of craft" works his magic " gold, silver, and copper...and (gives) directions..." ; Oholiab, son of Ahisamach acts as Bezalel's lieutenant. "They took over from Moses all the gifts that the Israelites had brought" but these "freewill offerings" never seem to end, ultimately becoming an embarrassment of riches: "'Let no man or woman make further effort toward gifts for the sanctuary!'" Moses proclaims.

Bezalel fashions the holy ark "of acacia wood" and "(overlays) it with pure gold, inside and out; and he made a gold molding for it round about...He made a cover of pure gold...two cherubim of gold; he made them of hammered work, at the two ends of the cover...the cherubim had their wings spread out above, shielding the cover with their wings...". The exquisite detailed descriptions of the ark (see photo above) are followed by even more gorgeous word illustrations of "the lamp stand of pure gold" whose "three cups (are) shaped like almond-blossoms, each with calyx and petals..." and continue on with the copper washing cup ("the laver") and the copper stand that would be used by the Kohanim, made from "the mirrors of the women who performed tasks at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting".

In a case of good Biblical accounting we learn that the amount of gold used "in all of the work of the sanctuary...came to 29 talents and 730 shekels by the sanctuary weight. The silver of those of the community who were recorded came to 100 talents and 1775 shekels....the copper from the elevation offering came to 70 talents and 2400 shekels."

Then the Lord gets down to business, guiding Moses on exactly how to assemble and consecrate the holy spaces, with each sacred object set in its rightful place. As we already know, Moses is very, very good at following G-d's directions.

"In the first month of the second year, on the first of the month, the Tabernacle was set up...(Moses) spread the tent over the Tabernacle, placing the covering of the tent on top of it--just as the Lord had commanded Moses.

He took the Pact and placed it in the ark; he fixed the poles to the ark, placed the cover on top of the ark, and brought the ark inside the Tabernacle. Then he put up the curtain for screening, and screened off the Ark of the Pact--just as the Lord had commanded Moses..."

The list goes on and on. And finally, at the very end of P'Kudei, we get to the very heart of the matter (for those who lived in the miraculous Biblical times and those of us who live now). After much ado about the beautiful material aspects of the Mishkan, we are reminded in a beautiful passage that what truly matters is G-d's breathtaking presence in this holy space--and in our own lives.

"Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting, because the cloud had settled upon it and the Presence of the Lord filled the Tabernacle. When the cloud lifted from the Tabernacle, the Israelites would set out, on their various journeys; but if the cloud did not lift, they would not set out until such time as it did lift. For over the Tabernacle a cloud of the Lord rested by day, and fire would appear in it by night, in the view of all the house of Israel throughout their journeys."

Shabbat Shalom!

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