Sedra Shorts

Ideas and commentaries on the weekly Torah readings.

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Location: Bet Shemesh, Israel

I taught Tanach in Immanuel College, London and in Hartman, Jerusalem. I was also an ATID fellow for 2 years. At present, I work for the Lookstein Center for Jewish Education in the Diaspora, in Bar-Ilan University, Israel. The purpose of this blog is to provide "sedra-shorts", short interesting ideas on the weekly Torah reading. Please feel free to use them and to send me your comments.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Parshat VaYakehl-Pekudei

The Mishkan Again

We spent two weeks in Teruma and Tetzaveh, learning about the Mishkan. There the Torah discussed in detail, the precise measurements of its items.

This week we read another two parshiyot VaYakhel and Pekudei. It contains a repetition of the Mishkan – the difference being that the first two parshiyot are God's instructions to Moshe, while the second two is Moshe's instructions to the people and their fulfillment of that command.

These parshiyot are so repetitive that Rashi does not repeat his comments. So why are all the details repeated in such depth? This question is strengthened when we consider another issue.

The parsha begins with the commandment to keep the Shabbat. Now even though the commandment about Shabbat appears in a number of places throughout the Torah, the Torah does not actually provide many details as to what keeping the Shabbat entails. I does tell us that we must do any melacha, normally translated as work, however it does not actually define the term. In deed, it is left up to the Oral Law to describe in detail, the many different melachot that are forbidden on the Sabbath.

So, why does the Torah spend so much time describing the details of the Mishkan, when it would only ever be built once in history and which Judaism has survived for thousands of years without, while it is vague about Shabbat, which is kept week in week in week out?

Some commentaries have explained that the Torah wanted us to understand how much the building of the Mishkan was a labor of love for the whole people. However, surely the Sabbath is also a day of love and deserves its details.

The answer lies in the question itself. Judaism is passed on through the family. Most religious Jews know the laws of Shabbat, not because they have studied them in books, but because they keep them week in week out. The laws therefore, do not need to be recorded in detail. The Torah wants us to learn His ways through our parents and for us to pass it on to our children. And the Shabbat has survived.

Yet, the Mishkan is lost to us. No one has seen it since it was dismantled in Solomon's days. We even have no idea as to how Herod's Temple appeared from the inside.

Yet, that is not the case about the Mishkan. It has survived because it was so lovingly recorded in the Torah. Without all this detail, a major piece of ancient Israel would be lost for us; and when the time comes to re-build it, we would have no idea how to even begin.

Last year's Sedra Short on Parshat VaYakhel, entitled: " The People's Mishkan" appears at

Last year's Sedra Short on Parshat VaYakhel, entitled: "The Cost of the Mishkan" appears at

Another Sedra Short on Parshat Pekudei "Raising the Cash" appears at

Another Sedra Short on Parshat VaYakhel entitled: "The Builders of the Mishkan" appears at

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