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What’s In a Name?   Pekudei and Vayakhel

03/07/2019 01:04:06 PM


Parshayot Pekudei and Vayakhel are often read together. This year we read them separately because it is a Jewish leap year – a year with two months of Adar. These two sections of Torah are linked by more than just proximity. As a matter of fact, some commentators suggest that the two names seem to have switched places!


Parshat Vayakhel reviews each of the individual parts of the Mishkan – and Parshat Pekudei reviews how they should be assembled. However, the word Vayakhel means “community or assembly” and Pekudei can be understood to mean “itemization or individual!” Although the parshayot are speaking of physical objects, Chassidic commentators expand on this to see a lesson about human nature.


The late Lubavitcher Rebbe felt these two parshayot express the conflict, interaction and paradox of these two components of the human soul: a) our need and desire to bond together in a communal identity; b) our need and desire for an individual identity distinct and unique from our fellows. Life is seen as a constant balancing act between the two. The question is raised, if this is so, why don’t we always read these parshayot together? Chassidic wisdom recognizes that sometimes, wholeness comes from blending these two principles, and at other times, from the perspective that comes when one gets some distance from one or the other of these human imperatives. The elements of the Mishkan are created and assembled by an incredible team of skilled artisans recruited and supervised by the chief artist/architect, Bezalel, whose name means “In the Shadow of God”. Bezalel is held up as an example of someone with great heart-wisdom as well as skill. He is the paradigm of someone who can bring disparate people together into a productive community.


At the end of Parshat Pekudei, God’s Presence, in the form of a cloud, rests on the Mishkan. The cloud guides the people through their journey. When it is time to travel, the cloud lifts and shows them the way to go. If the cloud does not lift, it means they must stay where they are. We do not have this miraculous, visible spiritual guidance in our world. But, the Torah gives us clues to how we should conduct our personal and communal lives so that we, too can rest “In the Shadow of God.”

Sun, July 5 2020 13 Tammuz 5780