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Parashat P’kudei (Exodus 38:21-40:38)

“And when Moses that they had performed all the tasks-as the Lord had commanded, so they had done-Moses blessed them” (Exodus 39:43).

Parashat P’kudei provides an accounting of all the materials used to build the mishkan, or Tabernacle, and describes, again, the priestly garments. Then Moses blesses the Israelites and sets up the mishkan, closing the book of Exodus. The attention to detail is overwhelming but the essence of the parasha, or portion, is found by reading P’kudei within the larger context of Exodus.

In the beginning of Exodus, the Israelites are slaves to Pharaoh, forced to build immobile cities to store material goods (Ex. 1:11). This requires no skill or imagination and they must scavenge the construction materials (Ex. 5:7). They are given no rest from their avodah, or work (Ex. 5:4, 5).

By the end of Exodus, though, the Israelites are free from slavery and any building they do is voluntary and requires skill and artistry (Ex. 35:10). The portable “city” they build is designed for spiritual needs (Ex. 25: 8) and they donate willingly of their own possessions—so much so, they give more than is needed (Ex. 35:5). They are required to interrupt their m’lacha, or labor, to observe Shabbat (Ex. 35:2). What a difference a book makes!

In the beginning of Exodus, the Israelites are stuck and cannot hope for or even imagine a change in their lives. At the end of Exodus, they are on the move and aspire to become mamlechet kohanim v’goy kadosh, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Ex. 19:6). The trek has been both physical and external, through the desert, and spiritual and internal, through the soul. It is not accidental P’kudei’s (and Exodus’) last word is mas’eihem, journeys.

Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom

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