Pekudei ends the 2nd book of the Torah, Shemos (Exodus). This parsha is reminiscent of previous parshas, dealing mostly with the building of the Mishkan. And though there is plenty to talk about on a deeper level, it’s certainly above my pay grade. So I want to talk about Shemos as a whole. When one finishes anything (a book, a class, a milestone) it’s important to stop and reflect on what you’ve gone through. To understand what has transpired. So with that, let’s look at the book of Shemos with some perspective.
Shemos in brief.
At the end of Bereishis, Yaakov died and the family of his children lived prosperously in Egypt. Shemos begins with the Jews falling from their prosperity and being thrown into slavery. Eventually, God
answers their prays, appoints Moses to confront Pharaoh, sends 10 Plages, splits the Red Sea, and the Jews are finally on their way, wandering the desert. Some needs aren’t met and they complain. Eventually they make it to Mount Sinai and are given the 10 Commandments. Then just after a month, they mess up with the sin of the Golden Calf. Finally, they build the Mishkan.
It’s a lot to take in and most of you are thinking, how does it apply to me? So whenever you look at anything from a religious perspective, it’s helpful to remember to frame it in a relationship context. That’s really what religion is all about, one’s relationship with God. So with that in mind let’s take another look.
So Happy Together.
The Jews are in the desperate bondage of slavery. Then God comes, opening up whole new possibilities. (Think: Being single, then meeting the person of your dreams.) The Jews once again have hope. More and more wonderful things happen and the Jews leave their comfort zone (Egypt) and venture into the unknown with God as their guide. The nation and God do it together.
But as with any relationship, when it moves into a new phase it gets a little rocky. Problems arise and there’s a falling out. But soon enough, they will have the most earthshaking and intimate moment with their creator imaginable. Actually beyond imaginable. Far beyond imaginable. We were almost back to the Garden of Eden.
And then…..the Golden Calf. If Sinai was the Jew’s wedding night. The Golden Calf was the affair. A complete and total betrayal of the relationship. So damaging that it almost brought the whole thing to an end. So what do the Jews get as a consequence? The Mishkan. A holy place where they can feel the presence of God any time they want. That doesn’t seem like such a bad punishment.
And its really not. But it really is.
We were never meant to have a Temple. We were supposed to be a nation of Priests (Kohanim). You see, after Sinai the Jews were at a spiritual level that they could almost feel God’s presence. But after the Golden Calf, that presence would only be available within the Mishkan.
After an affair you can rebuild the relationship. There can be forgiveness. There can even be incredible closeness. But it will never be the relationship that didn’t have an affair. That will always be a reality and both people are changed because of it. The relationship is going to work differently now. The Mishkan was this new phase of the relationship. And the Jews would have to build it.
Reflecting back to Move Forward
For the next two books of the Torah, it’s going to be a lot laws and mitzvahs with a little story here and there. And the last book is pretty much just review. What the Jewish people ARE gets set in the book of Shemos. Their dynamic with God is going to be THIS established relationship until they enter Israel. So when you start this section again next year (or perhaps when you go into Passover which is pretty much a celebration of the book of Shemos) think of these events as those stages of development. As a progression. Because even though we’ve lost that Mishkan, one day we will rebuild it. And then eventually, we won’t need it. Because, God willing, we’ll have the quality of relationship with Him we were created for.