Bar-Ilan University's Parashat Hashavua Study Center

Parashat Pekudey

Lectures on the weekly Torah reading by the faculty of Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel. A project of the Faculty of Jewish Studies, Paul and Helene Shulman Basic Jewish Studies Center, and the Office of the Campus Rabbi. Published on the Internet under the sponsorship of Bar-Ilan University's International Center for Jewish Identity.
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Parashat Pekudey 5760/2000

Completion of the Sanctuary and Tikkun Olam

Rabbi Jacob Charlop

Building the Mishkan and its implements takes up a good part of the Book of Exodus. Our parasha, the conclusion of this Humash, also caps the work on the Sanctuary and its furnishings: "Thus was completed all the work of the Tabernacle of the Tent of Meeting" (Ex.39:32).

The Book of Genesis began with the Creation of the world in seven days; Exodus concludes with the seventh day of the Days of Ordination (Milluim) during which the Sanctuary was raised and lowered several times. Bereshit opens with the novel and the new, with G-d's Presence residing in the universe. This auspicious beginning is followed by sin, Man's stumbling, and a general deterioration in the world. Sin causes the removal of the Shekhina, G-d's Presence; so teaches the Midrash.

Was not the principal abode of the Shekhina in the terrestrial regions?...When Adam sinned, the Shekhina betook itself to the first sky. When Cain sinned, it betook itself to the second sky, when the generation of Enosh sinned, it ascended to the third sky...As a counterpart to these, seven righteous men arose who brought the Shekhina down from the celestial to the terrestrial regions. Abraham brought it down from the seventh to the sixth,... When did the Shekhina rest on earth? On the day when the Tabernacle was erected; as it says, "Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle (Ex.40:34)

Midrash Rabba Numbers, XIII.2, Soncino ed., p.503

The Midrash shows that with Adam's sin the Shekhina receded in stages, until Abraham came along and by virtue of his good deeds began that Tikkun or correction which lasted for generations, reaching its apex with Moses. Moses erected the Sanctuary and enabled the Shekhina to once again "come down" and reside in the lower spheres: "The cloud covered the tent of Meeting and the Presence of the Lord filled the Tabernacle" (Ex.40:34).The book of Exodus brought about the necessary correction, which is why Nahmanides in his introduction to this book calls it Sefer Hagalut ve-Hageula, the book of Exile and Redemption, the full expression of redemption being the building of the Sanctuary.

But this tikkun, this righting of the wrong, was not dependent on the technicalities of construction alone, but rather on a change in people's hearts. The commandment to build the Mishkan was given to all of Israel, and its construction is also attributed to the entire community: "Moses said further to the whole community of Israelites... Take from among you gifts to the Lord" (Ex.35:4-5); "The Israelites did so; just as the Lord had commanded Moses, so they did" (39:32). The people of Israel and their agent, Bezalel, had to have the proper intentions for this project. Nahmanides stresses that not only the building had to be carried out with the right thoughts, but also those who brought the donations had to have the proper intent (see his commentary to 35:5, "And by way of truth").

Many commentators see in the Mishkan the world in microcosm. Abarbanel thought that each article therein symbolized a different aspect of existence: the Holy Ark, G-d's power and the spiritual; the Table, material bounty; the Candelabrum, wisdom. All of the implements together reflect our world as it is. The order of these articles is always maintained, says Abarbanel, to teach their relative significance. The Ark comes first, to teach, "that all good things in this world, whether material, as symbolized by the Table, or spiritual, as symbolized by the Menora, all of them actually flow from the Torah [symbolized by the Ark]" (commentary to Ex.25:10). Just as the world was created "through G-d's will and desire", so the Sanctuary has to be made "through the absolute will and desire" of Man (ibid., s.v. hamaqom).

With the Presence of G-d dwelling in the Sanctuary, the circle of the Book of Exodus is closed: "For behold the Exile will not be brought to a close until they [Israel] return to their place and to the spiritual level of their forefathers" (Nahmanides, Introduction to Exodus). But our Parasha also closes the circle begun in Genesis, as the Sanctuary completes the Creation and rectifies the wrongs imposed on Creation by mankind.

Midrash Bemidbar Rabbah (Naso) expresses this in the words of Rabbi Simeon bar Yohai:

Rabbi Simeon b. Yohai says, In the beginning the Presence of G-d dwelled in the lower spheres, as it says, "They heard the sound of the Lord G-d moving about in the garden at the breezy time of the day"(Gen.3:8). And when G-d's Presence left this world on account of Man's sins, it did not return until the erection of the Sanctuary. Therefore the Torah writes, "Vayehi- and it was [On the day that Moses finished setting up the Tabernacle]" (Num.7:1), something that already was, and ceased to be, and now returned to what it was [G-d's Presence].

With the completion of the Sanctuary, Tikkun Olam--the righting of the World, is accomplished, so too the spiritual redemption as described by Nahmanides, and the Shekhina returns to dwell amongst men.