By Charlotte Gendler
This week’s Torah portion, Pekudey, concludes Exodus, the second book of the Torah. If we were at services together when the last sentences are read, there would be a spontaneous rising of the congregation, as together we would chant, – “Chazak Chazak v’nit Chazek: Be strong, be strong and let us strengthen one another!” It’s the recitation all congregations say at the conclusion of the reading of each of the five books of the Torah. And now, after all the drama in Exodus, it is almost a relief that this Book comes to an end!
Pekudey is the fifth of five chapters in Exodus that describe the elaborate, detailed plans for the Tabernacle – including the physical blueprints, the precise materials to be used, the specific fabrics, colors, jewels, the priestly garments, and on and on. The repetition of these details between these chapters in Exodus might appear to be boring and even redundant as the detailed specifics of each item down to length, width, and depth of color is remarkably articulated. The question begs itself: why does G-d repeat and repeat the same text over and over again and why the endless detail? Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks (z”l), late Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom, posits “that there are only thirty-one verses in the Torah to describe the entirety of the act of creation by G-d, and yet, when it comes to describing the building of the Tabernacle, it goes on for hundreds of verses.”
As the plans unfolded for building the Tabernacle, everyone wanted to participate in some form or another. In the opening sentences of this portion, Moses not only reports on the weight of the various metals used, but he tabulates the shekels donated by each male. When it came to the jewels, the women donated their gold earrings and rings to the building. So, we see that everyone was invited and expected to be an active participant in this major project, building a holy Tabernacle for G-d.
And the Israelites, led by Bezalel and his team of craftsmen, found that there was work for all the people. The men were cutting wood and building pillars following Bezalel’s instructions; the women were creating the linens in blues, scarlets, and purples. This entire effort serves as an early blueprint for what we see, today, as real community building when we all share in the tasks at hand.
As we read about the plans to build the beautiful Tabernacle, we can easily liken this construction to that done within our own homes in which we want to create a space for G-d, not just in the physical aspect but more importantly a sense of G-dliness within each one of us. Rabbi Sacks suggests that the ordinary, mundane and repeated habits that we are instructed to maintain with our loved ones serves to reinforce that love. “The morning cup of coffee shared together each day” is symbolic of that simple, repetitive ritual that signals special affection between loved ones.
And so, because of the repetitiveness of Pekudey, we see an immense sense of love between G-d and Man. Nothing good happens overnight; we have to work hard at relationships in order for them to endure and become all the more meaningful. Indeed: Chazak Chazak v’nit Chazek.
Charlotte Gender is a member of Temple Beth Tzedek and the Chair of the Jewish Federation Cemetery Corporation.