Holy Bling

Holy Bling

Mar 12, 2021 By Amy Kalmanofsky | Commentary | Pekudei | Vayak-hel

I loved rummaging through my grandmother’s jewelry. To my child’s eye, her jewelry box was a treasure chest filled with sparkling gems, pearls, and gold. All “paste,” I learned, but to me they were the crown jewels.

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Those Whose Hearts Lift Them

Those Whose Hearts Lift Them

Mar 18, 2020 By Nicole Wilson-Spiro | Commentary | Pekudei | Vayak-hel

When I lived in South Philly, I fell in love with the Mummers, an annual parade and show on New Year’s Day and part of the fabric of the neighborhood throughout the year. Mummers dress in elaborate costumes and “strut” down Broad Street, while playing music and handing out beaded necklaces and New Year’s greetings to enthusiastic crowds. While some Mummers merely enjoy the opportunity to cavort in silly costumes in various stages of drunkenness, other Mummers clubs are intensely competitive, guarding the secret of their yearly themes with a vengeance and working throughout the year to prepare a spectacle.

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Entering the Clouds of Glory

Entering the Clouds of Glory

Mar 8, 2019 By Daniel Nevins | Commentary | Pekudei

“What do you mean, Rabbi? The clouds are mysterious—it’s like being on Sinai!” This statement by a rabbinical student consoled me several years ago on the summit of Giant Mountain in the Adirondacks. Each fall I take a minyan or so of students hiking for the weekend, and on that day, we had spent many hours climbing this enormous peak. On the way up, we enjoyed stunning views—of an alpine lake called “the Giant’s Washbowl” and the Great Range looming across the valley to our south. But when we reached the top of Giant a thick cloud had parked itself on the summit and would not budge. Visibility was limited to about ten feet, and wisps of mist skimmed between us.

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The Give and Take of Strength

The Give and Take of Strength

Mar 9, 2018 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Commentary | Pekudei | Vayak-hel

Rituals of closure are common in both the secular and religious realms. An example of the first is the sounding of retreat and the lowering of the flag marking the end of the official duty day on military installations. An instance of the second is the siyyum, a liturgical ritual and festive meal that is occasioned by the completion of the study of a Talmudic tractate. Closure rituals relate not only to the past but to the future as well. On the one hand, the temporal demarcation of a past event facilitates the emergence of its distinct identity, internal coherence, and significance, thereby providing insight, understanding, and, at times, a sense of accomplishment. At the same time, by declaring an end, a closure ritual creates space in which one can—and must—begin anew; the past is to be neither prison nor refuge.

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Wonderment and Order: A Path to the Heart

Wonderment and Order: A Path to the Heart

Mar 24, 2017 By Arnold M. Eisen | Commentary | Pekudei | Vayak-hel

The Baal Shem Tov posed a question about Parashat Pekudei that I too find most puzzling. Why are we told over and over again—10 times in the course of Exodus chapters 39–40, by my count, in addition to a declaration at the start of Parashat Vayak-hel (35:4)—that the Israelites did all they did for the Tabernacle, gave what they gave, built what they built, “as the Lord had commanded Moses.” Why not just tell us once, at the end of the account, that all they did was done in this way, for this purpose? 

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The Sanctuary and the Bomb

The Sanctuary and the Bomb

Mar 24, 2017 By Marcus Mordecai Schwartz | Commentary | Pekudei | Vayak-hel

The US gave the codename “Ivy Mike” to its first full-scale experimental thermonuclear device. Designed by of two the century’s most significant nuclear scientists, Stanisław Ulam and Edward Teller, Mike’s design was a strangely beautiful one. As historian Richard Rhodes wrote in Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb: “Steel, lead, waxy polyethylene, purple-black uranium, gold leaf, copper, stainless steel, plutonium, a breath of tritium, silvery deuterium effervescent as a sea wake: Mike was a temple, tragically solomonic, invoking the powers that fire the sun.”

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Creating I-Thou Moments That Strengthen Relationships, and Communities

Creating I-Thou Moments That Strengthen Relationships, and Communities

Mar 18, 2016 By Stephanie Ruskay | Commentary | Pekudei

Semikhah, ordaining of clergy, is on my mind these days as we move closer to my first JTS ordination as an associate dean. No longer the person receiving semikhah, this time I am privileged to help ordain new clergy.

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The Call to Find a Mentor and to Mentor Others

The Call to Find a Mentor and to Mentor Others

Mar 11, 2016 By Mark Young | Commentary | Pekudei

In parashat Pekudei, the Israelites are on a journey to a new life, having escaped the Egyptians, experienced the revelation at Sinai, and completed the building of the Tabernacle. They are now in the wilderness, sometimes unclear about their direction, sometimes filled with fear, and in need of guidance. However, they had mentors to guide them. They had the cloud that indicated the Presence of God, and they had Moses on their side.

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With God, It’s Complicated . . .

With God, It’s Complicated . . .

Mar 11, 2016 By Rami Schwartzer | Commentary | Pekudei

For a story that began with the promise of intimacy, I had hoped for a happier ending.

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The Artist’s Insight

The Artist’s Insight

Mar 13, 2015 By Lilly Kaufman | Commentary | Pekudei | Vayak-hel

From October of last year until mid-February, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, in collaboration with Tate Modern in London, featured a comprehensive exhibition entitled Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs. It was a reassessment of Matisse’s colored paper cut-outs, which, according to the program notes, “reflect…a renewed commitment to form and color, and . . . inventiveness”. Matisse himself said, “For me, a colour is a force. My pictures are made up of four or five colours that collide with one another, and the collision gives a sense of energy.” (Sooke, Henri Matisse: A Second Life, pp. 97-98.)

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Nediv Lev

Nediv Lev

Mar 13, 2015 By Michael R. Boino | Commentary | Pekudei | Vayak-hel

We often think of love as something comfortable, something comforting. The truth is, it can be the exact opposite. True, unbounded love from another source can cause us to confront parts of ourselves with which we are uncomfortable: our vulnerability, our self image, our passive role as the recipient of care rather than as a caregiver.

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The Power of Partnership and Positive Thinking

The Power of Partnership and Positive Thinking

Feb 26, 2014 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Pekudei

The raising of the Tabernacle was a daunting task for the Israelites.

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Offerings As Devotion and Redemption

Offerings As Devotion and Redemption

Feb 25, 2014 By Stephen A. Geller | Commentary | Pekudei

Parashat Pekudei ends with a tremendous scene, one of the highlights of the Bible: the divine Glory, the kavod, comes down from heaven and settles into the newly completed Tabernacle so that Moses cannot enter it.

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Meaning in Métier

Meaning in Métier

Mar 6, 2013 By Abigail Treu | Commentary | Pekudei | Vayak-hel

The midrash suggests that the building of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) was given not because God needed such a thing, but to show the world—Israelites included—that the Israelites had been forgiven for the sin of the Golden Calf. It is curious, though, that such a gesture would be given as a do-it-yourself assignment.

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Of Leadership and Investment: A People Engage

Of Leadership and Investment: A People Engage

Mar 6, 2013 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Pekudei | Vayak-hel

Parashat Vayak-hel-Pekudei continues the building of the Tabernacle—detailing the materials, craftsmanship, appurtenances, and its completion.

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How Now, Brown Cow?

How Now, Brown Cow?

Mar 17, 2012 By Leonard A. Sharzer | Commentary | Pekudei | Vayak-hel | Shabbat Parah

I would like to review several components of the Red Heifer ritual that I find most challenging and ask two questions: (1) Is there any way to understand this arcane ritual that has resonance in modern times?; and (2) Why do we read this passage shortly before Pesah?

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Consumption with Humility

Consumption with Humility

Mar 17, 2012 By Charlie Schwartz | Commentary | Text Study | Pekudei | Vayak-hel

“You are what you eat,” as the old adage goes—but according to this midrash, you are also what you build, or more precisely, you are how you build.

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Strengthening Ourselves

Strengthening Ourselves

Mar 5, 2011 By David Marcus | Commentary | Pekudei | Shabbat Shekalim

This Shabbat is one of beginnings and endings. It is a Shabbat of beginnings because it is the first of the four special Shabbatot preceding Pesah, and it is called Shabbat Shekalim. But this Shabbat is also a Shabbat of endings. The parashah for the week, Parashat Pekudei, describes the concluding stages of the construction of the Mishkan by the craftsman Bezalel and the entire band of Israelite workers. 

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Preparing Ourselves to Receive Shabbat

Preparing Ourselves to Receive Shabbat

Mar 20, 2009 By Eitan Fishbane | Commentary | Pekudei | Vayak-hel

“On six days work may be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a Sabbath of complete rest, holy to the Lord . . .”

So begins the speech of Moses to the Israelites in Parashat Va-yakhel. But the text almost immediately shifts to discuss the intricate details of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and its construction at great length, neglecting any elaboration on the opening commandment. This move leaves the reader wondering why Shabbat was mentioned here at all! Indeed, this strange juxtaposition is remarkably similar to last week’s parashah (Ki Tissa). In that case, the Shabbat commandment is placed after remarks about the Mishkan—though there too its mention is brief and seemingly out of place.

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Between the Fire and the Cloud

Between the Fire and the Cloud

Mar 2, 2008 By Marc Wolf | Commentary | Pekudei | Shabbat Shekalim

As we conclude the book of Exodus and wander further into the wilderness, I cannot help but wonder how different the children of Israel’s lives would have been if they had been equipped with GPS.

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