Pekudei – A thought for the week by Michael Lewis

In the Sedra this week we see the completion of the Mishkan; the long story of whose construction had been set out in Terumah, Tetzevah, Vayakhel and Pekudei; described as God’s command to Moses.

וַיְכַ֥ס הֶֽעָנָ֖ן אֶת־אֹ֣הֶל מוֹעֵ֑ד וּכְב֣וֹד יְהֹוָ֔ה מָלֵ֖א אֶת־הַמִּשְׁכָּֽן:
And the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the Mishkan.

The next word in the Torah, after this final passage of Exodus is Vayikra, which is the title of the third Book of the Torah. The sequel to Exodus is not the romance that we read in Exodus it is Vayikra; it is about life’s day-to-day routine of rituals.

How did the people come to terms with what they had just built? The Tent of Meeting was covered in cloud and this would only rise up when it was time to move on. Was it a fear of the presence of God or was it awe? Generations later Solomon will dedicate the Temple, saying,

The Lord has chosen to abide in a thick cloud

In his book “God in Search of Man,” Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote

The meaning of awe is to realise that life takes place under wide horizons, horizons that range beyond the span of an individual life or even the life of a nation, a generation, or an era.

We are sometimes called “the People of the Book”. Over the generations the Mishkan has gone and so are both Temples. A book is far less vulnerable than a Temple. Its destruction is not the end of its contents. We always carried the Torah with us. Although we embraced printing, the Torah is still kept safely covered by a mantle, within an “Aron”, also covered with the curtains of the Parochet. It is always written by human hands.

Tradition tells us that Moses composed Psalm 90; ‘A Prayer for Moses’

Establish thou the work of our hands

Immediately after the final verse of Shemot, the book of Exodus, is read we will call out to the reader, “Hazak, hazak, venit-hazek”, translated as,

Be strong, be strong, and we will take strength from you

Bereishit began with an act of divine creation. Sefer Shemot ends with an act of human creation. The challenge we face is to pass all this on.

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