This week’s parsha, Pekudei, is the last of the book of Shemos (Exodus). We learn of God’s final instructions regarding the Mishkan (Tabernacle), details on the clothing of the priests, and the placement of the holy objects inside the Mishkan and its courtyard, such as the Altar, the Laver, the Table for the Showbread, and the Holy Ark. We also learn including how it is to be erected for the first time and the service for its inauguration.
When the Mishkan has been completed and the first service held, the symbol of God’s glory, the Shechinah, fills the Tabernacle. A cloud would be on the Mishkan by day, and fire by night, and the Israelites only traveled when the cloud rose up.
The great Rabbi Ovadiah ben Yaacov Sforno (Italy, c. 1470 to 1550) teaches in his commentary to this parasha that the Shechinah dwelled on the Mishkan because it was so special. The Sforno begins his explanation with first words of the parasha, “These are the reckonings of the Tabernacle …” because the first part of the Shechinah describes how the gifts the people gave – gold, silver and beautiful fabrics – were used in making the Mishkan. The “reckoning” (counting) of the objects used in creating the Mishkan was important because each individual object was very special, in four ways:
- The Holy Ark, the symbol of God’s covenant with Israel, was kept in the Mishkan.
- The Mishkan was built by Moses, the greatest of the prophets.
- The Mishkan was carried and constructed by the Tribe of Levi, who were commanded by Aaron’s son Ithmar, a very distinguished and worthy person.
- The chief artisan for the Mishkan, Bezalel, and his craftsmen were men of noble lineage.
We experience this same specialness in our own lives. The ancient brass candlesticks used at your home for Shabbat and festivals, with all their scars and marks, are precious because they belonged to a great grandmother who brought them from a land far away. The threadbare tallis yellowed with age makes a beautiful chuppah at family weddings because it has been handed down for generations. The character of the people who used these objects has infused the objects themselves, and the character they hold enriches our own characters.