Gleanings from Pekudei

This week’s Thoughts are gleaned from Parasha Pekudei. However, before getting into the Torah portion, I want to call your attention to a particularity on this year’s calendar, at least on the Jewish calendar. This Friday, March 4, is the second day of the two-day Rosh Chodesh (New Month) celebration of Adar Bet (the second month of Adar). To understand why the Jewish calendar has an extra month, it is necessary to understand the difference between the Gregorian and the Jewish calendars. The Gregorian calendar is a solar calendar based upon the earth’s orbit around the sun. Every four years requires an extra day to stay in sync with astronomical seasons; hence, every fourth year is a leap year. On the other hand, the Jewish calendar is lunisolar. As such, it is approximately eleven days shorter than the solar year. This means that an additional month is added seven times during a 19-year Metonic cycle. Instead of an extra day added at the end of February, leap year on the Jewish calendars adds Adar Bet. Traditionally Adar Bet is an especially joyous month. 

The Mishna teaches that from when the month of Av begins, one decreases acts of rejoicing. Rav Yehuda, son of Rav Shmuel bar Sheilat, said in the name of Rav: Just as when Av begins one decreases rejoicing, so too when the month of Adar begins, one increases rejoicing.

Bavli, Taanit 29a1

This means that there is a double portion of rejoicing during the Jewish leap year, and lest one forgets, Purim, the commemoration of the deliverance of the Jews in the Persian empire as recorded in Megillat Esther (the book of Esther) is in the month of Adar. In a leap year, Purim is celebrated in Adar Bet.

Aside from getting an extra month every two to three years, there is another outcome of the Jewish leap year: six of the seven double portions in the yearly reading cycle are separated into two portions. (There is an extra cookie for those who know which one remains doubled.) And this brings us to this week’s reading, Pekudei, Exodus 38:21-40:38,2 which is usually paired with last week’s portion, Vayakhel. 

Pekudei begins, “These are the accounts of the Tabernacle of the Testimony, as they were recorded according to the commandment of Moses, by the service of the Levites, under the hand of Ithamar son of Aaron the kohen” (Exodus 38:21). Maybe a better understanding of this would be that Pekudei is a tally, or an inventory of the donations and materials collected and used in the construction of the Mishkan (Tabernacle). Though we are not told why such an inventory or accounting was taken, it may well have been included so that no charge of impropriety could be brought against Moses. Remember what Moses, in his anger, declared to HaShem during the encounter with Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, 

“Do not accept their offering. I haven’t taken from them a single donkey, nor have I wronged one of them!” (Numbers 16:15)

Or later, Samuel’s questioning of the people before he anointed Saul as king,

Here I am. Witness against me before ADONAI and before His anointed. Whose ox have I taken or whose donkey have I taken? Whom have I defrauded or whom have I oppressed? From whose hand have I taken a bribe to look the other way? I will restore it to you.” (1 Samuel 12:3)

While it is true of any leader, one who leads HaShem’s people, whether Bnei Israel or the community of Yeshua followers, must be beyond reproach. In recommending to Timothy the necessary characteristics of a leader, Shaul included things like being beyond criticism, clear-minded, respectable, able to teach (as well as being teachable), free from the love of money, and humble (see 1 Timothy 3:2-7 for a complete list). Therefore, the tally sheet recorded in Pekudei may well have been protection for Moses and Aaron as well as Bezalel and Oholiab that what they had been charged to do and what they had been given was accomplished, and everything was open for inspection.

While studying the week’s portion, I came across another thought-provoking observation from comments by Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski z”l. In his commentary, Twerski of Chumash,3 he questions why Exodus 39:32 was written as follows

So, all the work of the Tabernacle, the Tent of Meeting, was finished. Bnei-Yisrael did everything according to what ADONAI had commanded Moses—they did it just so.

Instead of 

The Children of Israel did everything that God commanded Moses, so did they do, and all the work of the Tabernacle, the Tent of Meeting, was completed.

“Why does the Torah tell us the Tabernacle was completed before it says that the Israelites did as they were commanded?” Rabbi Twerski asks. In answering his own question, he suggested that “the Tabernacle was actually completed by HaShem after the Israelites did as they were commanded. The Tabernacle was indeed the result of their effort, but their effort alone could not have done it.” He then elaborated how throughout our lives, virtually everything we do or even try to do is often impacted by factors and situations beyond our control. Thus, we are responsible for what we do, not necessarily for the outcome. As I considered this explanation, I immediately thought of three passages, the first from the Mishnah and then two from the Scriptures.

He [Rabbi Tarfon] used to say: You are not expected to complete the work, and yet you are not free to evade it.

Pirkei Avot 2:164
Commit whatever you do to ADONAI, and your plans will succeed. ADONAI works everything out for his own purpose—even the wicked for a day of disaster. (Proverbs 16:3-4)
…and aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, just as we directed you… (1 Thessalonians 4:11)

We cannot control the outcome of our activities, but as Rabbi Tarfon reminded us, the outcome is not necessarily up to us; rather, it is the doing of what we feel or know we should do that is our responsibility. And then, in the doing, we are to trust that while we are doing the work, Hashem will see to its competition. I suggest that if we keep our focus on HaShem, then if the work of our hands needs to be adjusted or refocused, the Ruach will be sure to lead us in the way we should go. 

Footnotes:

1 Tzvi Hersh Weinreb (EIC). The Noé Edition Koren Talmud Bavli: Volume 12: Tractate Ta’anit, Tractate Megilla. Jerusalem, Koren Publishers Jerusalem Ltd. 2014, p 174.

2 All Scripture references are from the Tree of Life (TLV) Translation of the Bible. Copyright © 2015 by The Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society.

3 Abraham J. Twerski. Twerski on Chumash. Brooklyn, Shaar Press, 2003, p 187-188.

4 Avrohom David (Selected and Translated). Pirkei Avos: The Wisdom of the Fathers. Brooklyn, Metzudah Publications, 1978, p 76.

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