P’kudie – Exodus 38:21 to 40:18 –
After five weeks of Torah portions, the Tabernacle is finally complete. All this Torah content demonstrates the importance of this structure. In fact, it is more than a building; by its construction it affirms the Israelites’ commitment to God and God’s laws. Through these laws, the Israelites will work in partnership with the Eternal to create a better world.
This week’s parsha begins; “These are the records of the Tabernacle, the Tabernacle of the Pact, which were drawn up at Moses’s bidding – the work of the Levites under the direction of Ithamar son of Aaron, the priest. Now Bezalel, son of Uri son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, had made all that the Eternal had commanded Moses ….” (Ex. 38:21-22)
After many weeks of Torah text, totally fifteen chapters, the Tabernacle is finally completed. This week’s parsha lists, in great detail, all the materials used in the construction of the Tabernacle and the objects within it. This detail demonstrates the significant attention to detail, and the grand scope of this project.
As I have stated in my commentaries over the past few weeks, many commentators have questioned whether the Tabernacle ever existed in the form described in Torah. It has been pointed out that many of the materials would have been difficult, if not impossible, to find in the desert wilderness. Also, the structure would have been extremely difficult to move from place to place.
Maybe the scope of the Tabernacle became more magnificent over the ages as the story of its creation was told and retold…. Another theory states that it never existed and its existence was used as a justification for the Temple in Jerusalem.
…. Or maybe, the Tabernacle can be seen as a symbol for a larger concept. But what is the message? … What does the Tabernacle represent?
From the statements in Torah we see that the Tabernacle represents many of the basic concepts of the Israelites new faith:
1) All the people follow the ways of the Eternal: After the listing of all the materials we read: “Thus was complete all the work of the Tabernacle of the Tent of Meeting. The Israelites did so, just as the Eternal had commanded Moses, so they did.” (Ex. 39:32)
As the Torah states “The Israelites did so” … all the people built this structure. They donated the materials, they built the parts, and they assembled the structure. This participation demonstrated the commitment of the Israelites to God and God’s laws.
2) The Tabernacle is a representation of a world created by mankind: The Tabernacle was constructed with minerals, fabrics made from plants, and animal skins. By using representative minerals, plants, and animals we see that this building contains all the materials of the world. In Genesis, God created a world in which mankind could live…. Now men (and women) are creating a structure … a representative world on earth … in which God can live. The people are creating, just as the Eternal created. Only God and man have the ability to create on the scale that is needed to build structures like the Tabernacle.
3) God and the Israelites are working in a partnership: God created the world … a home for mankind. Now mankind is acting to create a home for God. So, by building this Tabernacle, the Israelites are affirming a new covenant and acting in partnership with God to create a better world.
4) The Israelites followed the instructions of God in building the structure: The Israelites are building to the exact directions and specifications of God. The idea that all the laws and instructions of God must be followed without change is restated many times in future Torah text.
And so, the book of Exodus ends. Beginning next week, we will start Leviticus and learn how the Israelites can further demonstrate their commitment to God. From this point forward, the Israelites a no longer a group of former slaves…. They become God’s people on earth… acting in partnership with God to improve the world created by God…. This, I believe, is the message that the Tabernacle is presenting to us.
And with these thoughts, we end our study of the Book of Exodus …. And, as usual, at the end of each book of Torah we say … Chazak, Chazak, Venitchazak: From strength to strength we strengthen each other. May we continue to find strength and friendship through our study of Torah.