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Home » Pekudi, Vayakhel

Vayakhel Pekudei: The Bottom Line

Submitted by on February 27, 2011 – 2:46 amNo Comment | 2,705 views

The Generous Economizer

When you see a miser spending money in generous amounts you can assume that something out of the ordinary is afoot. It might be a simcha, such as an upcoming wedding, perhaps a tragedy or an illness. Whatever it is, you would certainly assume an exception before assuming that your frugal friend experienced a change of heart.

When the Torah, usually highly economical with its words, suddenly devotes two entire portions to essentially repeat what has been already been delineated we don’t assume that G-d has changed His style. Rather we assume there is a message therein. You see, G-d does not always make His lessons obvious. He often leaves clues and wants us to search. When we see an exception we immediately clue in to a hidden message and begin to search for it.

In our case the Torah devotes two entire portions to describe the actual building of the tabernacle after already having devoted two entire portions to G-d’s precise instructions thereof to Moses. This seems highly repetitive and invites us to seek an explanation.

On High

Our sages taught that everything in the physical world evolves from a spiritual counterpart in the celestial worlds. (1) Of the tabernacle it is written that there was a parallel tabernacle in the celestial sphere, the design of which was perfectly replicated in the physical tabernacle our ancestors built. (2)

The Midrash tells us that when G-d instructed Moses to build the tabernacle He illustrated the blueprint with red, green, black and white flames. Moses asked, “How can I build a tabernacle of fire?” G-d replied, “Build according to the image that I have shown you, but use materials such as turquoise, purple and crimson wool as well as twisted fine linen. If your people replicate this celestial design on the physical plane, I shall abandon my celestial tabernacle, descend below, and compress my infinite expanse [to dwell] among them.” (3)

This account is highly instructive. The design of the terrestrial tabernacle precisely mirrored that of its celestial counterpart. The Midrash recounts that the beams of the tabernacle’s walls stood upright rather than horizontal because the walls of the celestial temple are comprised of angels that stand upright. As it was with the walls so it was with each of the artifacts that Moses was instructed to build.

G-d showed Moses the celestial tabernacle and Moses translated it for the Jews in physical terms. When G-d spoke of acacia wood, Moses saw angels, whose posture and image mirrored the properties of acacia wood. But when he descended and explained his vision to the people he gave them the bottom line by speaking of simple acacia rather than angels. It was in this way that Moses succeeded in building a complete replicate below of the tabernacle above.

Two Portions

We can now appreciate that both portions are crucial. A tabernacle built of physical materials can only become a home for G-d if it is built to Divine specification. To get it right, to get tot he bottom line, Moses had to see the celestial version. the bottom line - innerstreamThen again, seeing the celestial version alone does not a physical tabernacle build and G-d wanted a physical tabernacle.

This reminds me of the engineer who was called in to fix an engine. After inspecting the entire engine he tightened a single screw and the engine purred to life. His fee was twenty-thousand dollars. When he was challenged on the exorbitant fee to tighten a screw he explained that tightening the screw costs only two dollars, but knowing which screw to tighten costs nineteen-thousand-nine-hundred-ninety-nine dollars.

Moses is the engineer who spent forty days figuring out just how to tighten the screw and make it an effective abode for the Divine. That alone deserves two entire portions. Then again, notwithstanding the clarity and spiritual transcendence that Moses enjoyed on the mountaintop, prophecy, meditation and study do not a physical tabernacle produce. For that Moses had to translate the celestial image into physical language and recruit architects to build it physically. This deserves two new portions.

It would not have been sufficient to simply write that the Jews built what Moses had seen because they didn’t. What Moses saw the Jews could not build and what the Jews built Moses could not see, at least not while standing on the mountaintop’s celestial plane. Each is its own subject and each deserves its own portion.

The Lesson

A Jew might sometimes wonder why each commandment must be performed precisely according to its Halachic specifications. What happens if we change it a little? Could Shabbat not be observed on Sunday and could Chanukah candles not be kindled on Thanksgiving? What if we mix our milk and meat or affix our Mezuzah to the wrong side of the door? If our hearts are in the right place, why is the rest important?

We must remember that the tabernacle was tailored to fit the precise specifications of the celestial tabernacle so that it would fuse seamlessly and channel G-d’s presence downward. The same is true of every Mitzvah. Each Mitzvah is designed to channel a specific formula of Divine energy downwards and must therefore replicate the formula of this energy in detail. And though the specifications we are given are physical, they mirror the celestial specifications perfectly.

However, one might wonder whether we do in fact forge Divine connections through our Mitzvot considering that we are completely oblivious to this intrinsic and spiritual dynamic. The Torah provides for this question as well. By dividing the two parts of this story into two separate sets of portions the Torah teaches that even a mortal Jew, residing on planet earth, absorbed by physical cravings and desires and divorced from the transcendental mindset of Sinai’s mountaintop can achieve a transcendental connection through the ordinary action of a Mitzvah.

On the surface it might seem that eating Matzah on Pesach is no different from eating it at a summer barbecue, but underneath, on the bottom line, there is a world of difference. So long as we fulfill the commandments in accordance with Moses’ instructions and so long as we do so with passion, we too, mortal and unholy as we are, can open channels of connection between our soul and G-d. (4)


  1. Bereshit Rabbah 10: 7.
  2. Bamidbar Rabbah 12: 12
  3. Bamidbar Rabbah 12: 8.
  4. Likutei Sichos v. 1 p. 187.
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