PEKUDEI (Exodus, 38:21‑40:38) — “I Saw the Face of G-d!”

Moses’ fund-raising efforts paid off.  The nation had responded generously to his call for contributions for the Tabernacle.  The structure was complete.  

This was a fulfillment of G-d’s command, “They will build for Me a Sanctuary, and I will dwell among them.”  (Exodus, 25:8)  Israel had fulfilled their side of the bargain; they had built the Sanctuary.  Now it was time for G-d to do His part: 

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?

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Benny was born twenty-two years ago in Tucson, Arizona.  My wife and I met his newlywed parents a few weeks before he was born.  They eagerly awaited the perfect little bundle of joy that was on the way.  As it turned out, their anticipated definition of “perfect” was not the one G-d had in mind.  Benny was born with Down Syndrome.

I remember one Shabbos when Benny was a few years old.  I was holding him while his parents recounted the early hours of his life.  The “doctor,” considering the various health issues that often surround Down Syndrome babies, suggested that if less-than-heroic measures would be taken to save their child’s life, their “problem” would go away.

As I listened to the story, Benny was giving me the most delicious hug!  We expressed our shock that anyone, especially a doctor, could discount the value of such a precious little life.  (And to think that this suggestion was made by a man who had taken the Hippocratic Oath!)

My wife and I have stayed in touch with Benny’s family.  Benny has grown into a young man.  His parents have invested over two decades of love and devotion into him, educating him to meet his potentials.  He is, to be sure, considerably limited.  He will never achieve the educational accomplishments of a “regular” person.  But, in many ways, he has accomplished so much more.

This week, I attended Benny’s sister’s wedding.  It was a beautiful event, with lively music and spirited dancing.  As is the case at all religious weddings, the ladies danced with the bride on one side of the hall, while the men danced with the groom on the other.

Benny, his father, and I formed our own little circle while everyone else danced around the groom.  We slowly tried to break through the rapidly moving circle to approach the middle.  Finally, we were able to get to the groom.  That’s when it happened:

The cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and G-d’s glory filled the Tabernacle.” 

I wish I could describe to you what I saw in that circle.  Benny’s new brother-in-law took his hands and the two danced together.  If only you could see the look of absolute ecstasy on the face of that beautiful young man as he celebrated his sister’s Simcha.  G-d was surely resting his Divine Presence in our midst!

The Torah tells us that man is created in G-d’s image.  Nowhere does it say that IQ or number of chromosomes should mitigate that image.  In fact, I’d like to suggest just the opposite.   When we allow jealousy, pettiness, and hatred to cloud our senses, we obscure the Image of G-d that we each possess.   But a pure Neshomah, an untainted soul that is unpolluted by these “benefits,” allows the brightness of G-d’s Presence to shine through for all to see.

We sometimes look at people whose abilities seem fewer than our own and fail to recognize their greatness.  (And WE call THEM handicapped!!!) 

That look of joy on Benny’s face brought me back twenty years to that delicious hug he gave me back in Tucson.  He was a baby back then.  Today he is a man.  A man of G-d.

 Mazel Tov, Benny.  May G-d continue to shine His Light upon you and your wonderful family.  May you be well and bring continued Nachas to your beloved parents.

 I love you, Benny.  Have a great Shabbos.

“Uncle” Yerachmiel

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P.S. After I wrote this, I emailed it to his father.  He called me and said, “You couldn’t have known this, but if you had looked over on the other side of the room, you would have seen a pretty little girl celebrating the Simcha. That little princess, who has Down Syndrome, is the groom’s sister. “

Mazel Tov, Sweetheart.

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FOLLOW-UP TO THIS ARTICLE, WRITTEN 3 YEARS LATER:

This past Monday, I went to a wedding in New York.  Another one of Benny’s sisters got married.  I am now the proud owner of a video, taken with my cell phone, of Benny, his Dad, and myself dancing together once again.  What a beautiful young man with a beautiful smile!  Next time you see me, ask me to show you the video.  You too can see the face of G-d.  Or better yet, look around your own community.  You are sure to find Him if you look for Him!)

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 18, 2004 at 8:31 am  Leave a Comment  

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