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Parashat Vayakhel-P’kudei (Exodus 35:1-40:38)

“The cloud covered the Tent of Meeting and the
glory of Adonai filled the Tabernacle.” (Exodus 40:34)

Parashat P’kudei completes the description of the construction and assembly of the mishkan, or Tabernacle, the primary focus of the last five parashot, or portions. It also is the last parasha in Exodus.

P’kudei’s last words are, “For the cloud of Adonai would be on the mishkan by day, and fire would be on it at night, before the eyes of all the house of Israel through their journeys.” (Exodus 40:38) This image of God’s visible presence stands in contrast to the situation at the beginning of the Exodus saga: the Israelites are enslaved and for hundreds of years, God is nowhere to be seen. Nachmanides (1194–1270; 13th century Spanish commentator) explains the descent into slavery in Egypt is the first of four ordained exiles. Only when the mishkan is established and filled with God’s presence and glory (and not merely when the Israelites leave Egypt) is the exile over. Nachmanides understands the exile is a spiritual as well as physical phenomenon.

Nachmanides bases this view on the use of the word masa, or journey in P’kudei’s closing verses. When the cloud of God’s glory lifts from the mishkan, the Israelites embark on masa-eihem, their journeys (Ex. 40:36). But verse 38, quoted above, also describes their situation when the cloud of God’s glory fills the mishkan and the Israelites stay put as masa-eihem, their journeys. These journeys are internal. Nachmanides reads the Book of Exodus describes an internal as well as an external journey. The exile ends only when the Israelites regain the spiritual legacy of their ancestors (Genesis Rabbah 47:8).

Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom

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