PEKUDEI (Exodus 38:21-40:38) — “You have to PRAY Attention!”

The final Portion of the Book of Exodus opens with a detailed inventory of collections for the Tabernacle.  The total of contributed gold was 29 talents, 730 shekels.  Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, in his translation, Living Torah, explains that since a talent is three thousand shekels, the total came to 87,730 shekels, or 4386.5 pounds of gold.)  They also collected 100 talents, 1775 shekels (15,088.75 pounds) of silver, and 70 talents, 2400 shekels (10,620 pounds) of copper.

The reason for the detailed accounting, according to the Midrash, is that Moses wanted to avoid any appearance of impropriety.  He wanted to make sure no one could accuse him of “skimming off the top.”  He therefore provided a meticulous accounting of every penny.

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IF YOU PUT ON TEFILLIN WHILE THINKING ABOUT TREES FALLING IN THE FOREST WHERE NO ONE CAN HEAR THEM FALL, DID YOU PUT ON TEFILLIN???

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There is a phrase that is repeated numerous times in this week’s Portion: “… as G-d had commanded Moses.”  After every description of the various components in the Tabernacle, the Torah tells us that it was as G-d had commanded Moses.  The special clothes for the High Priest were made as G-d had commanded Moses. (Exodus, 39:2) The manufacture of the High Priest’s Ephod, or apron, was as G-d had commanded Moses. (Ibid. verse 5)  The Breastplate (verse 21), the robe (verse 27), the head-plate (verse 32), and the clothes of all the priests (verse 29) were each as G-d had commanded Moses.  The Torah goes on to describe many of the different building materials and furnishings of the Tabernacle, and tells us that each one was as G-d had commanded Moses.

What is the Torah telling us?  We have been reading for weeks about the Tabernacle and the clothing for the Priests. G-d commanded, Moses collected, and the Israelites donated the materials.  Why does the Torah continue to emphasize that what they did was as G-d had commanded Moses?  How else would they do it?  Wasn’t it obvious?

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There is a difference of opinion in the Talmud as to whether “Mitzvahs require intent.”  Is it sufficient to put on Tefillin or enter a Sukkah without thinking about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it?  Or is one required to have specific intent to fulfill the Mitzvah?

One could argue: “I’m not supposed to eat pork, and I don’t. G-d wants me to sit in the Sukkah on Sukkos, and I do.  What difference does it make what I’m thinking about at the time?!”

Every act of building and supplying the Tabernacle had to be done with the conscious effort to fulfill G-d’s commandments.  There is more to fulfilling Mitzvahs than just going through the motions.  We should not act like robots, mindlessly moving our bodies based upon an earlier programming.  A Torah way of life requires one to recognize that there is a Creator who requires us to follow His ways.  We should maintain the awareness that He is in charge, and expects us to live our lives as G-d had commanded Moses.

Mitzvah fulfillment that is not CONSCIOUSLY as G-d had commanded Moses is very difficult to maintain.  Many Jews from shtetels in Europe were very observant of Shabbos and Kashrus as they were growing up.  But in many situations, that observance was a rote, uneducated habit that quickly fell away due to the challanges of living in a secular America.

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A religion that is carried out as an unthinking force of habit is no religion at all.

I have a friend who started out non-observant.  He dated a young lady who was somewhat “religious.”  During one of their dates at McDonald’s, she ate her (non-Kosher) hamburger without the bun because it was Passover!!  After they got married, he saw her lighting candles on Friday and asked why.  She didn’t know.  He said to her, “If you’re going to do something, you should at least know why!”

That challenge led the two of them to study and eventually commit themselves to a Torah lifestyle.  They have dedicated their careers to Torah education, and raised their children to a life of Torah-true Judaism.

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Every family has its own private jokes.  One of ours is “Delicious Soup.”

A few months after I got married, I learned a lesson about putting my foot in my mouth.  I walked into the kitchen where my wife was preparing a meal.  The newlywed bride wanted to know what her husband thought of what she was cooking.  I absent-mindedly leaned over the pot, took a sniff, and exclaimed a safe, non-committal, “smells like delicious soup!”

She looked at me, and burst out laughing.  The “soup” was, in reality, a pot of meatballs! I hadn’t been paying attention, and she knew it!  I sniffed without paying attention, and spoke without paying attention.  The compliment I had paid her was, at best, worthless.

If I wake up in the morning, and automatically mumble, “Modeh AniI thank You, living and everlasting King, for generously returning my soul to me…” without paying attention to what I am saying, DID I THANK HIM AT ALL?!

Think of the fellow who cut you off on the road, not even realizing that he almost crashed into you.  Don’t you wish he’d put down the cell phone and pay attention to the road?!!

G-d has given us a wonderful world and a wonderful Torah.  The least we can do is pay attention.

Have a great Shabbos.

Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz

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FROM THE ARCHIVES

Some years the two Torah Portions of Vayakheil and Pekudei are  read together, and some years they are read on two separate Sabbaths.  For your convenience.  For your convenience, I present both Portions:

 

Links to this week’s first Torah Portion:

“Mirror, Mirror In The Sink…” (2010)

 … Moses had a dilemma.

Donations were coming in for the Tabernacle…The problem was that women had donated their polished copper mirrors.  They wanted to have their mirrors melted down and made into a copper sink.

Moses was repulsed.  How could he accept these mirrors?  The Tabernacle was to be a holy place filled with holy vessels! These mirrors represented vanity.  Women would sit in front of these mirrors for hours on end preening and painting and brushing themselves…What could be more secular and unG-dly than a woman trying to make herself beautiful? How could Moses permit such vanity in G-d’s house? …

Read more.

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“The Architect” (2008) 

The donations were pouring in.  Moses had put out the word that he was accepting contributions of precious items for the construction of the Tabernacle…

It was a massive project.  There were plenty of good-hearted people willing to help.  What was still needed was someone to pull it all together…

Now the Tabernacle crew had a foreman.  Bezalel, the head architect and his assistant Oholiav, were given their mandate:  Coordinate the volunteers into a cohesive, organized work force, and build the House of G-d.

… the Torah uses a very unusual terminology:  “Observe that G-d has selected Bezalel…”

What did Moses mean by “Observe…”?  What is there to observe?  …

Rabbi Feinstein answered that Bezalel’s assignment should have been obvious…

Read more.

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 “The King’s Day Off” (2006) 

What’s wrong with driving on Saturday?  If G-d doesn’t want me to work, fine, I’ll take off from work.  I’ll spend a pleasant day with the family.  We’ll drive to the local orchard and pick apples.  Then go to the park and have a barbeque, maybe take in a movie.  Then we’ll go home and I’ll help my son build a tree house.  What could be more relaxing?

Read more.

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 “(Madison Square) Garden of Eden” (2005)

… Lublin, Poland.  Once a center of Jewish life, it was one of the first Polish cities that the Nazis succeeded in declaring Judenrein… The Nazis derived great pleasure in burning the library of Yeshiva Chachmei Lublin in 1939.  There were so many books that the dastardly deed took twenty hours to complete.  But in their perverted sense of values, twenty hours were a small investment to pay for the dividend of destroying Rabbi Shapiro’s work and silencing the voice of Torah study.  Jewish Lublin was dead.  The Rabbi of Lublin’s dream was crushed and destroyed, never to rise again.

Or, perhaps not…

Read more.

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“Missing Yud = Missing YID!” (2003)

… the High Priest… wore an Ephod, a type of apron that had two jewels on the shoulder strap, and a breastplate that had twelve stones.  These 14 stones were donated by the Nesi’im, the Princes of each tribe.

… there was something lacking in their donation.  When Moses let the word out that he was accepting contributions for building the Tabernacle, the twelve Tribal Princes, men of great wealth, offered to underwrite the project.  They committed themselves to make up whatever shortfall there might be in communal donations.  There was no shortfall.  The Nation of Israel responded to the call, and in two days, Moses had more than he needed.  There was nothing left for the Princes to donate except for the 14 stones.

Why are the Nesi’im criticized?  Shouldn’t they be praised for taking the initiative to insure that everything would be provided? …

Read more.

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Links to this week’s second Torah Portion:

“Four-tenths of an Ounce of Prevention…” (2008)

…Haman hated Jews.  He wanted, more than anything, to destroy them.  Being a superstitious man, he decided to draw lots (“Purim” in Hebrew) to see when would be a good time to wipe out his enemies.  He drew the month of Adar.  Haman was thrilled.  Well-versed in Jewish history as he was, he knew that Adar was the month during which Moses died.  Obviously, Adar must be a bad month for Jews.  His mistake was that Moses was also BORN during Adar, a particularly auspicious event for the People of Israel.

…Haman hated us so much that he was even willing to pay the bill for our slaughter.  And the king, no lover of Jews himself, told Haman he could keep the money.  The extermination would be “on the house.”

Miscalculating the significance of the month of Adar was not Haman’s only mistake…

Read more.

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 “Wasting Shekels and Wasting TALENTS” (2005)

Beware the Ides of April!

With tax time little more than a month away, we must to remember to do it right.  Make sure you have receipts for all your donations and business expenses.  After all, what will happen if the IRS calls you in for an audit?

On the Jewish calendar, this week is tax time AND audit time. …

Moses feared the appearance of impropriety.  First, he collects precious stones, metals and other materials for the Tabernacle.  Suddenly, he’s driving a Lexus!  Now, how does that look?  He ordered an audit in order to demonstrate that everything collected was used for the Tabernacle.  Nothing was “skimmed off the top.”…

“That’s it?!” I asked out loud in my passenger-less car.  THAT eyesore is what two intelligent people spent twenty-one million dollars of their own money on?! …

Read more.

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 “I Saw the Face of G-d!” (2004) 

…”The cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and G-d’s glory filled the Tabernacle.”  (Ibid. 40:34)

G-d allowed the Shechina, His Divine Presence, to be apparent for all the world to see.  The Tabernacle, and later, the Temple in Jerusalem, was a place where miracles were a daily event.  One could not spend the day in this place and deny the existence of G-d.

Sadly, this Divine Presence is much harder to perceive than it used to be.  Even in the Second Temple, many of the blatantly obvious miracles no longer took place.  G-d is no longer so easy to find.

Or is He?…

Read more.

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“You have to PRAY Attention!” (2003)

… IF YOU PUT ON TEFILLIN WHILE THINKING ABOUT TREES FALLING IN THE FOREST WHERE NO ONE CAN HEAR THEM FALL, DID YOU PUT ON TEFILLIN???

… Every family has its own private jokes. One of ours is “Delicious Soup.”…

Read more.

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“Sure, You’ve Got the Keys, But Who’s Really Driving?”  (2001)

…The entire Nation of Israel worked together — weavers, embroiderers, silversmiths — craftsmen of many disciplines performed this labor of love to build a House of G-d… the people brought all the parts to Moses because they weren’t able to put it all together due to the weight of the beams.  Now Moses was expected to do it for them!

How, wondered Moses, would any human be able to put those massive timbers together?!  …

Read more.

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 This is the weekly message at www.torahtalk.org.   Copyright © 2000-2011 by Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz.  May be reprinted. Please include copyright information.

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Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz is a Mohel (www.Brisrabbi.com)  and chaplain in Monsey, New York. For information about scheduling a Bris or a lecture, or just to say hello, call (800) 83MOHEL.

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Published in: on March 6, 2003 at 8:37 am  Leave a Comment  

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