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.

Read More
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.

Read More
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!

Read More
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.

Read More
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.

Read More
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.

Read More
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.

Read More
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.

Read More