Weekly Torah Commentary – Pekudei March 4, 2011

As the Mishkan is now completed, Moshe sees that all God’s instructions have been carried out precisely, and he blesses the people:

And Moshe looked upon all the work, and, behold, they had done it as God had commanded, so had they done it; and Moshe blessed them. (Shmot 39:43)

The purpose of the Tabernacle was to create a house of prayer, a ‘residence’ for the Shechina. It seems more than appropriate that Moshe would bless the people for this accomplishment.

But, have you ever wondered what Moshe actually said in his blessing?  Our Sage, Rashi, suggests that this prayer was preserved in our liturgy, and is familiar to us even today:

And Moshe blessed them: he said to them, “May it be [God’s] will that the Shechina rest on the work of your hands, and may the pleasantness of the Almighty our God be upon us…” (Tehilim/Psalm 90) This is one of the eleven Psalms attributed to Moshe in the Book of Psalms.

This particular psalm is an eloquent prayer that could be uttered by anyone on completing any project.   When we work hard and succeed in creating something worthwhile,  the spiritual response of a humble, honest person is a prayer that God bless the work of his hands.  However, there is much more in this Psalm than a general prayer for success.

A Prayer of Moshe the man of the Almighty. God, you have been our dwelling place in all generations… May the pleasantness of the Almighty our God be upon us; and establish the work of our hands upon us; O prosper it, the work of our hands. (Psalm 90)

Look how this Psalm speaks directly of the purpose of the just-completed Mishkan as a physical expression of God’s Presence among the People of Israel.  No wonder Rashi associated this Psalm with the prayer Moshe spoke upon seeing the completed Mishkan, the manifestation of the peoples’ precise and careful attention to God’s instructions.

It is difficult for our earthly minds to properly evaluate human achievements.  For example, think for a moment of the Tabernacle, the First Temple and the Second Temple.  Human reasoning would be inclined to think that the Second Temple was the greatest of the three structures for it contained the most gold by weight of all three.  The First Temple would come in second on the basis of this measurement and the Tabernacle would be third.

However, the Torah reality is that the Mishkan was more holy than the first Beit Hamikdash, which was, in turn, holier than the Second Temple. The quantity of gold had nothing to do with its spiritual value!  God measures value by the condition of the hearts of the people who stood behind the actual process of erecting each structure. The Mishkan was built by a man named Bezalel, a man whose entire being was permeated with the spirit of God; hence the edifice which he erected was infused with the spirit of God. The first Temple  was built by foreign workers commissioned for the project.  The Second Temple was built by Herod.

The Tabernacle was build by inspired men who focused exclusively on Hashem’s will to its minutest detail.  The holiness of their obedience permeated the finished structure.

Therefore, just as God blessed the world when Creation was complete, so Moshe blessed the Mishkan when it was complete.

As the book of Shmot comes to a close, as the Mishkan stands, ready to serve as a dwelling for God among us and as a place where every Jew can reconnect with the spirituality and love experienced at Sinai, Moshe blesses those who took part in the project, and, indirectly, all of us.

In Tune with Torah this week = May all of our thoughts, words, motivations and actions be imbued with holiness. May He who dwelt in the Mishkan, the Same One who has been our refuge throughout all generations, nourish the reality of community, love, peace and friendship among us; lead us into our final redemption and the rebuilding of God’s earthly Tabernacle, even in our days and say, Amen.

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