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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Inspiring Our Institutions

Inspiring Our Institutions

Mar 17, 2007 By Steven Brown | Commentary | Pekudei | Vayak-hel

The detailed description of the completion of the Mishkan in all its splendor can overwhelm us with a plethora of information, blinding us to the power and importance of this week’s double parashah concluding the book of Exodus.

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A Holy Inventory

A Holy Inventory

Mar 20, 2004 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Pekudei | Vayak-hel | Shabbat Rosh Hodesh

In the ever-fertile imagination of the Rabbis there are no arid texts. The most prosaic can readily become the occasion for an insight of great consequence. By way of example, I will focus on a narrative fragment tucked away in the middle of the lists that make up the bulk of the final two parashot of Exodus. The lesson derived from it is one that has lost none of its moral force.

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A Nation Comes Together

A Nation Comes Together

Mar 20, 2004 By Lewis Warshauer | Commentary | Pekudei | Vayak-hel

The Torah is the epic of the founding of the Israelite nation. The Book of Genesis charts the development of the Abraham-Isaac-Jacob family into a small clan; the Book of Exodus shows the development of that clan into a nation. At the end of Genesis, Jacob calls to his sons together to hear his final words:

Come together and hearken, O sons of Jacob
Hearken, O sons of Israel (Genesis 49:2)

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A Life of Self-Restraint

A Life of Self-Restraint

Mar 8, 2003 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Pekudei

Midrash is the art of keeping an ancient sacred text alive. The Rabbis were masters of drawing water from stone, of transforming the most mundane passages of Torah into luminous nuggets of spirituality. Our parashah offers a provocative example of their creative touch.

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After the Revelation

After the Revelation

Mar 8, 2003 By Lewis Warshauer | Commentary | Pekudei

The Book of Exodus begins with God hidden. Not until the children of Israel are enslaved for some time, and cry out in their suffering, does God hear them. Only then does God’s presence become increasingly manifest as the plagues of Egypt come to their fatal conclusion and afterwards God drowns the Egyptian army in the Sea of Reeds. The Israelites receive their most intense experience of God on Sinai, where, as the Torah relates, they see and hear God. To paraphrase Heschel, what they see and hear is not clear; that they see and hear something, is.

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From Behind a Cloud

From Behind a Cloud

Mar 9, 2002 By Lewis Warshauer | Commentary | Pekudei | Vayak-hel | Purim

The Book of Exodus ends on a note of triumph. The liberation from Egypt was followed by the giving of Torah and the building and dedication of the Tabernacle. God forgives the Israelites for their sin with the golden calf — and, in the closing lines of the book, God’s presence, in the form of a cloud, comes to rest upon the Tabernacle. Nahmanides, in his closing comment on this, the second book of the Torah, gives it the title: the book of redemption.

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One Signal, Many Prophets

One Signal, Many Prophets

Mar 2, 2002 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Pekudei | Vayak-hel

This week’s double parashah brings the book of Exodus to a triumphant close. No sooner is the Tabernacle erected (on the first of Nisan, the start of a new year), than it is graced by God’s presence. “When Moses had finished the work, the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting and the Presence of the Lord filled the Tabernacle. Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting, because the cloud had settled upon it and the Presence of the Lord filled the Tabernacle” (40:33-35). The repetition serves to highlight the fact that God had taken up residence in the sanctuary to which all of Israel had contributed. God’s favor was visibly certifiable. The nation would not journey unaccompanied.

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Lovers of Books

Lovers of Books

Mar 11, 2000 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Pekudei

In my office hangs a haunting painting (courtesy of the Jewish Museum) by the immigrant artist Moses Soyer. Done in 1934, the painting bears the name “The Lover of Books” and consists of a full length portrait of a smallish, elderly and shabbily dressed man with a large book under his left arm. It could well be a tribute to Soyer’s father who in Russia had been a maskil, a purveyor of Jewish and general culture in Hebrew. The bust on the bookcase in the background suggests a man of broad horizons, though quintessentially Jewish in appearance. The dark shades of the painting and the contrast between the sturdy tome and the fragile figure convey not only a sense of precariousness, but also the power of the book. Love of learning holds the key to the mystery of Jewish survival. What finer emblem could there be to the mission of the Seminary than Soyer’s evocative work!

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Why a Temple?

Why a Temple?

Mar 21, 1998 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Pekudei | Vayak-hel

The final two readings this week, which close the book of Exodus, tell of the actual construction of the Tabernacle. In a leap year, with its additional month, we would have devoted one Shabbat to each parasha and read for the haftara a selection pertaining to Solomon’s construction of the First Temple. In fact, the two haftarot are sequential: I Kings 7:40-50 for Vayakhel and I Kings 7:51-8:21 for Pekuday. Thus the synagogue naturally associated the completion of Moses’s mobile sanctuary with the completion of Solomon’s permanent Temple in Jerusalem.

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A New Ark of the Covenant

A New Ark of the Covenant

Mar 4, 1995 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Pekudei

The heart of Israel’s ornate Tabernacle in the wilderness was the Ark of the Covenant. From above the extended wings of the two cherubim affixed on top of the Ark, God’s voice would emanate to address Moses. It constituted the holiest spot in the Tabernacle, and was approached by the High Priest but once a year on Yom Kippur. Moreover, the Ark was the first part of the sanctuary that Moses was instructed to build. After inviting Israel to make “Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them (Exodus 25:8),” God immediately continues, “They shall make an ark of acacia wood… (Exodus 25:10).”

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Taming the Beast of Extremism

Taming the Beast of Extremism

Mar 12, 1994 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Pekudei | Purim | Shabbat Hahodesh

Bred in the hothouse of militant Orthodox Zionism, Dr. Baruch Goldstein knew the sacred texts of Judaism. His premeditated murder of dozens of Palestinian men kneeling in prayer in the Hebron mosque on the Friday of Purim was clearly triggered by the scriptural readings of the festival. On the sabbath before, Shabbat Zakhor, he had heard in the synagogue once again the ancient injunction never to forget what Amalek did to Israel in the wilderness (Deut. 25:17-19). The haftarah for the day (I Sam. 15) vividly recalls the failure of Saul, Israel’s first king, to follow up his victory over Amalek with total destruction. His indecision in the face of popular demand for the spoils of war cost him God’s confidence and eventually his throne. The imprecation of the prophet Samuel as he belatedly executed Agag, Amalek’s captured king, must have continued to ring in Goldstein’s ear: “As your sword has bereaved women, so shall your mother be bereaved among women (15:33).”

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Pekudei

Pekudei

Jan 1, 1980

51 When all the work that King Solomon had done in the House of the Lord was completed, Solomon brought in the sacred donations of his father David — the silver, the gold, and the vessels — and deposited them in the treasury of the House of the Lord.

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Pekudei

Pekudei

Jan 1, 1980

21 These are the records of the Tabernacle, the Tabernacle of the Pact, which were drawn up at Moses’ bidding — the work of the Levites under the direction of Ithamar son of Aaron the priest.

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Vayak-hel-Pekudei

Vayak-hel-Pekudei

Jan 1, 1980

1 Moses then convoked the whole Israelite community and said to them:

These are the things that the Lord has commanded you to do: 2 On six days work may be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a sabbath of complete rest, holy to the Lord; whoever does any work on it shall be put to death.

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