Monday, March 7, 2011

Breaking my teeth on Parshat Pekudei

I often say that after all of the great stories and events of Sefer Bereshit and the first half of Shemot, once you hit Parshat Terumah, I am honestly not all that interested, as embarrassing as it may be for me to admit this. Except for, of course, the story of the Egel HaMasecha (you know, the Golden Calf) which is definitely provocative, interesting and provides many teaching opportunities, but… Really, how many times do I have to be reminded of the inventory of the furnishings, materials, amounts, colors, dividers, carrying rods, and the myriad of other details regarding the various elements of the Mishkan? Personally, I am much more interested in the people stuff and all the BIG LESSONS that come from so much drama, and clearly there is plenty of THAT throughout the Tanach. That being said, I never thought of this topic and these chapters as being part of that category.

So, you know how they say that in cartoons and animated cute little renditions of stories, the pictures are for the kids and the words are for the adults. One of my students in my fabulous Twelfth Grade Tanach class, which I just love, introduced all of us to a great set of tellings of the Parshat HaShavuah in this lovely little easy format… cute pictures, a few special effects, and well chosen and SIMPLE words. And thanks must be offered to the creator of these wonderful little video clips of G-dcast, Dov Weinstein. This particular Parsha video can be found at

So what did I learn? After basically glossing over all of the details of the Mishkan and its contents for several weeks (remember, that the last two Parshiot of Shemot are basically a repetition of earlier listings of all of the contents and furnishings of this special place), a statement caught me in this Parsha video. It is explained in this G-dcast production that we have to look at these Parshiot as evidence of the great love story between G-d and us. So the example that Mr. Weinstein used that really spoke to me was when a bride and a groom set up their first home or a couple, their dream home, and carefully pick out the tiling, the bedroom furnishings, the kitchen backsplash, the appliances, just the right color of paint…. Well you get the idea. So, this couple is more than happy to show all they know (and maybe even some wayward strangers walking by) their dream home and all of its carefully and LOVINGLY chosen contents.

This is the way it is with the MISHKAN, the special dwelling that brings G-d and the B’nai Yisrael together in their special and lovingly put together space. It is the chupah – that first special dwelling shared by G-d and the people of Israel. So, of course we want to go over the details again and again – exactly what is there, where everything is placed, how the space looks and so forth. This I get. I love to walk through our home in a quiet moment and look at each of the rooms that we have so carefully furnished and decorated, especially since I was and remain the decorator. THIS IS WHAT I AM SUPPOSED to feel when I read Parshat Pekudei and most of the text of the second half of Sefer Shemot.

Ironically enough, this same Shabbat of Parshat Pekudei, I decided that I have had enough of Kabbalat Shabbat deprivation and carted my son Brian along to a lovely Conservative synagogue in our community. (This is definitely one of those times that I feel that coincidences are simply G-d’s way of staying anonymous!) While I do very occasionally go to this particular synagogue (and am warmly welcomed, for which I am so grateful and appreciative) from time to time on Friday nights, I really had a need for a beautiful Kabbalat Shabbat this Friday night and got what I had come for. In addition, this was the first opportunity I had to spend any amount of time in the redone main sanctuary of this particular synagogue (Kabbalat Shabbat is usually in a smaller and also beautiful chapel) and was COMPLETELY TAKEN by the beauty of the new Aron and just the magnificent ATTENTION TO DETAIL that was obviously given to this important and meaningful makeover not so long ago.

Parshat Pekudei came to life for me, you might say, during this Kabbalat Shabbat, and now when I read it and remember Mr. Weinstein’s words about why we give such attention to the details of the Mishkan (and later to the Beit HaMikdash) I will indeed have a new and heightened level of appreciation for its meaning as emblematic of the loving relationship we have with G-d and how we want the home we share with
G-d to be completely representative of that loving relationship in every detailed way!

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