FROM THE TORAH
In previous sedras, the Eternal imparted to Moses and through him, Israel, what shall be required in material and construction for the central religious institutions of the Children of Israel: the tabernacle and the priesthood. In Sedra Vayakhel, the call is issued for the people to supply the required sacred gifts (terumah), for Bezalel and Oholiav to organize and direct the artisans and to commence and complete the construction of the tabernacle and the equipping of Aaron and his sons, the priests. In Sedra Pekudey, there is an accounting in review of the work done and its cost, and finally we are given the layout of the various components of the tabernacle complex.
Implementation of Sacred Design
TERUMAH FOR TABERNACLE AND PRIEST
Moses assembles (Vayakhel) all the congregation of the Children of Israel and says to them: These are the matters which the Eternal has commanded to be observed.
Work may be done for six days. But the seventh day shall be holy, a Sabbath of solemn rest for the Eternal. Whoever does work on it shall be put to death. Do not kindle fire on it in your habitations. (Cf. 31:12-17)
Take from among you, everyone who is willing, as a sacred offering (terumah) to the Eternal, gold, silver and brass, blue, purple and crimson, fine linen and goats’ hair, reddened ram’s skins, tachash skins, and acacia wood, oil for lighting, spices for anointing oil and for the aromatic incense, shoham stones and stones for setting for the ephod and for the breastplate. (Cf. 25:3-7)
Let every capable one among you come and execute all that the Eternal has commanded: the tabernacle and its tent and its covering, its clasps and its boards, its bars and its pillars and its sockets, the ark and its rods and its propitiatory, and the dividing curtain for the screen, the table and its rods and all of its implements and the showbread, the menorah of lighting and its implements and its lamps, and the oil for lighting, and the incense altar and its rods, and the oil of anointing, the aromatic incense, the entrance screen for the entrance of the tabernacle, the altar of burnt offering and its copper grating, its rods and all of its implements, the laver and its base, the curtains of the courtyard and its pillars and its sockets, the screen of the gate of the courtyard, and the pegs of the tabernacle and the pegs of the courtyard and their cords, the plaited garments for sacred service, the sacred garments for Aaron the priest, and the garments of his sons to serve as priests. (Cf. 25:10-30:38)
All of the congregation then leaves the presence of Moses, and everyone whose heart is willing and whose spirit is generous brings the terumah of the Eternal from the specified materials in their possession for the work of the tent of meeting and for its service and for the sacred vestments. The men prevail upon the women, so that everyone who is sufficiently generous brings a nose-ring or an earring or a signet or any other golden ornament, and a man would make a wave offering of gold to the Eternal. Women who can spin produce cloths of blue, purple and crimson, fine linen and goats’ hair. Princes of the people bring the various stones for the ephod and the breastplate and spice for the lighting oil and anointing oil and the aromatic incense.
BEZALEL AND OHOLIAV TAKE CHARGE
Moses announces to the Children of Israel that the Eternal has appointed Bezalel son of Uri son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, to execute the work of the graver and designer and weaver. The Eternal is filling him with the divine spirit, with wisdom and understanding and knowledge, and with all aspects of workmanship, to devise plans for doing work in gold, silver and copper, for the cutting of stones to be set in place, and for the carving of wood to be done with all manner of workmanship. He makes it his will to instruct others as well, he and Oholiav son of Achisamach of the tribe of Dan, whom the Eternal has inspired and qualified to work alongside Bezalel with similar responsibilities. (Cf. 31:1-11)
Bezalel and Oholiav and everyone divinely-qualified to participate in the work of the sacred service carry out the commandments of the Eternal at the call of Moses. They take from Moses all of the terumah which the Children of Israel have brought and continue to bring every morning. The artisans report to Moses that the people have brought more than enough gifts of terumah. So Moses causes a notice to be circulated among the people to cease bringing materials, and they cease.
CONSTRUCTION OF THE TABERNACLE
All of the artisans construct the tabernacle (mishkan) of 10 sheets of twisted fine linen and of blue and purple and crimson yarns, with cherubs as the creation of a designer. The length of each sheet is 28 cubits, and the width 4 cubits. Five of them are joined to each other, and the other five are joined to each other. Fifty loops of blue thread are made on the edge of the outermost sheet of each of the two sets. The loops of the two sets are arranged opposite each other. Fifty gold clasps are made, and the outermost sheets of the two sets are attached one to the other with the clasps so that the tabernacle is one. (Cf. 26:1-6)
Eleven sheets of goats’ hair are made for a tent (ohel) over the tabernacle. The length of each sheet is 30 cubits, and the width 4 cubits. Five of the sheets are joined as a set, and the other six are joined as a separate set. Fifty loops are made on the edge of the one outermost sheet of the one set, and fifty are made on the edge of the sheet of the other set. Fifty copper clasps are made and inserted into the loops, then the two parts of the tent are connected into one. (Cf. 26:7-13)
A covering (michseh) for the tent of reddened ram skins and tachash skins is made from above. (Cf. 26:14)
Vertical boards (kerashim) of acacia wood are made for the tabernacle. The height of each board is 10 cubits, and the width a cubit-and-a-half. Each board has two parallel tenons. Twenty such boards are made for both the south side and the north side of the tabernacle, each, and 40 silver sockets are made for the 20 boards of each side, two silver sockets for the two tenons of each board.
Six boards are made for the rear of the tabernacle, on the west, and another two boards for the two corners. They are made flush with each other from bottom to top, where every two contiguous boards are joined by a ring connector, and this applies as well to the additional two boards for the two corners, which are similarly connected to the westernmost boards of the southern and northern sides of the tabernacle, respectively. So, at the western end there are 8 boards in all and 16 silver sockets, two sockets under each board.
Five bars of acacia wood are made for each of the two side walls of the tabernacle and its rear wall to the west. The middle bar of each of the three walls passes through the boards from end to end. The boards are overlaid with gold. Their rings, which serve as housing for the bars, are made of gold, and the bars are overlaid with gold. (Cf. 26:15-30)
A dividing curtain (parochet) is made of blue, purple and crimson yarns, twisted fine linen, with a designer’s work rendering cherubs, hung upon four posts of acacia wood overlaid with gold, their hooks of gold upon four sockets of silver. (Cf. 26:31-35)
Screen for the Entrance of the Tent
A screen for the entrance of the tent (masach lefetach ha-ohel) is made, of blue, purple and crimson yarns, twisted fine linen, the work of a weaver, with its five columns and their hooks, their tops and their connecting rings overlaid with gold, and their five sockets of copper. (Cf. 26:36-37)
Bezalel makes the ark (aron) of acacia wood, two-and-a-half cubits long, one-and-a-half cubits wide, one-and-a-half cubits high. He overlays it, inside and out, with pure gold, and makes around it at its top a border of gold. He casts for it four gold rings on its four feet and two rings on each of its sides. He makes rods of acacia wood overlaid with gold and inserts one through the rings on each side of the ark, to be used for carrying the ark. (Cf. 25:10-16)
He makes a propitiatory (kaporet) of pure gold, two-and-a-half cubits long, one-and-a-half cubits wide, and from the gold of the propitiatory he makes, as one with it, two cherubs at opposite ends. He makes them of hammered work. They face each other but look toward the propitiatory, wings spread out above, shielding the propitiatory. (Cf. 25:17-22)
He makes a table (shulchan) of acacia wood, two cubits long, one cubit wide, one-and-a-half cubits high. He overlays it with pure gold and makes around it a border of gold. He makes a rim of a hand’s breadth around it and makes a border of gold around its rim. He makes for it four gold rings, and he attaches the rings to the four corners of its four legs, close by the rim. The rings are the housing of rods to lift the table. He makes the rods of acacia wood and overlays them with gold. He makes the implements that are upon the table: libation dishes, pans, bowls, and jars, of pure gold. (Cf. 25:23-30)
He makes the lampstand (menorah) of pure gold, of hammered work: its base, shaft, cups, knobs, and buds, all of one piece with it. Out of each of the two sides come three branches. On each of the total of six branches there are three cups shaped like almond blossoms, each with a knob and a bud. On the menorah itself there are four cups shaped like almond blossoms with its knobs and buds. Of one piece with it there is a knob under each of the three pairs of branches. All of it is a single hammered piece of pure gold. He makes its seven lamps and its tongs and its fire-holders of pure gold. From a talent of pure gold does he make it and all of its implements. (Cf. 25:31-40; 27:20-21)
Altar of Incense
He makes an altar for the burning of incense (mizbach haketoret) out of acacia wood. It is one cubit square and two cubits in height. Its horns are of one piece with it. He overlays all of it with pure gold and makes around it a border of gold. He makes for it two rings of gold under the border on two of its sides to house the poles by which it is carried. He makes the poles of acacia wood and overlays them with gold. He makes the holy anointing oil and the pure aromatic incense, the work of a compounder. (Cf. 30:1-10; 30:34-38)
Altar of Burnt Offering
He makes the altar (mizbach ha-olah) of burnt offering of acacia wood, five cubits square and three cubits high. He makes its horns, on its four corners, of one piece with it, and he overlays it with copper. He makes all of its implements of copper: the pots, the shovels, the basins, the forks, and the fire-holders. He makes for the altar a grating, network of copper, under its rim extending halfway below. He casts four rings for the four ends of the copper grating to serve as housings for the poles. He makes the poles of acacia wood and overlays them with copper. He inserts the poles into the rings on the sides of the altar in order to carry it by means of them. He makes it hollow, of boards. (Cf. 27:1-8; 29:37-46)
He makes the laver (kiyur) and its base of copper from mirrors of the women who attended in large number at the tent of meeting. (Cf. 30:17-21)
He makes the courtyard (chatzer). Along its south side and along its north side each, there are 100 cubits of curtains with 20 posts and their 20 copper sockets and their silver hooks and bands. Along its western side are 50 cubits of curtains with 10 posts and their 10 copper sockets and their silver hooks and bands. Along its eastern side are 50 cubits: 15 cubits of curtains on either side of the courtyard gate, each with their 3 posts and their 3 copper sockets, respectively. The curtains on all sides are of twisted fine linen. The tops of the posts are overlaid with silver, and they are all banded with silver. (Cf. 27:9-19)
Screen for the Gate of the Courtyard
The screen at the gate of the courtyard (masach sha’ar hechatzer) is of blue, purple and crimson yarns, twisted fine linen, the work of a weaver. Its length is 20 cubits, and it stands by its width at 5 cubits in correspondence with the curtains of the courtyard. There are 4 posts with their 4 copper sockets and their silver hooks. The posts are overlaid with silver, and they are banded with silver.
The pegs (yeteydot) of the tabernacle and of the courtyard around it are of copper. (Cf. 27:19b)
ACCOUNT OF THE WORK
These are the accounts of (Pekudey) the tabernacle, the tabernacle of the testimony, which were authorized by order of Moses, the work of the Levites under the direction of Ithamar son of Aaron the priest:
Bezalel and Oholiav
Bezalel son of Uri son of Hur of the tribe of Judah executed all that the Eternal commanded Moses. His associate was Oholiav son of Achisamach of the tribe of Dan, graver and designer, weaver in blue, purple and crimson yarns, and in fine linen.
The value of all precious metals used in the work of the sanctuary is as follows:
Gold subjected to the wave offering is 29 talents and 730 sanctuary shekels.
Silver of those recorded of the congregation is 100 talents and 1,775 sanctuary shekels, half of a sanctuary shekel per person for everyone who is counted from the age of 20 years and upward, the total of which is 603,550.
The cost of casting the sockets of the sanctuary and of the dividing curtain is 100 talents of silver, one talent per socket. The remainder of 1,775 shekels is expended for the hooks of the posts, the overlay of their tops, and their bands.
Copper subjected to the wave offering is 70 talents and 2,400 shekels.
With the copper are made sockets for the entrance of the tent of meeting and the copper altar and its copper grating and all of the implements of the altar, and the sockets of the courtyard all around and the sockets of its entrance, and all the pegs of the tabernacle and all of the pegs of the courtyard around it.
From the blue, purple and crimson yarns are made plaited garments for service in the sanctuary and holy garments for Aaron as the Eternal commanded Moses.
The ephod is made of gold threads that are worked into the blue, purple and crimson yarns, and twisted fine linen, the work of a designer. They made for it two shoulder pieces attached at their ends. The decorated band upon it is like it and of one piece with it, as the Eternal commanded Moses. Shoham stones, bordered by plaited work of gold, are placed upon them and engraved with seal engravings of the names of the Children of Israel, as stones of remembrance for them, as the Eternal commanded Moses.
The breastplate (choshen) is made like the work of the ephod, from the same materials, the work of a designer. It is a handbreadth square and folded. Different specified stones are set in four rows, three stones in each row. The stones are mounted in borders of plaited gold. The names of the Children of Israel are engraved, each one upon one of the stones, for the twelve tribes.
Two rings of gold are made and placed upon the two ends of the breastplate. Two braided, interwoven chains of pure gold are made for the breastplate and attached to the rings. Two frames of gold are made, and the other ends of the two braided, interwoven chains of pure gold are attached to them. The gold frames are attached to the front of the shoulder pieces of the ephod.
Another two rings of gold are made and attached to the edges of the inner side of the two respective ends of the breastplate, facing the ephod. Yet another two rings of gold are made and fastened to the lower part of the two shoulder pieces of the ephod yet above the design work upon it. Through these two sets of rings, the breastplate is attached to the ephod by blue thread so that the breastplate rests upon the design work of the ephod and is not displaced, as the Eternal commanded Moses.
The robe (me’il) of the ephod is made entirely of blue, the work of a weaver. In the middle is an opening for the head with a binding around it so that it does not tear. Along the hem of the robe there are bells of pure gold alternating with ornamentation resembling pomegranates. The robe thus described is for officiating, as the Eternal commanded Moses.
Other Priestly Furnishings
The tunics (kotnot) of fine linen, the work of a weaver, are made for Aaron and his sons, also the headdress (mitznefet) of fine linen, the adorned turbans (migba’ot) of fine linen, the linen underpants (michnesey vad) of twisted fine linen, and the sash (avnet) of twisted fine linen and blue, purple and crimson yarn, the work of a weaver, as the Eternal commanded Moses.
“Holy to the Eternal”
A consecration plate (tzitz nezer hakodesh) of pure gold is made, and upon it is engraved, in the manner of seal engravings, “Holy to the Eternal.” It is suspended on a blue thread on the front of the headdress, as the Eternal commanded Moses.
Blessing of Moses
This completes all of the work of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting, the Children of Israel having done all that the Eternal commanded Moses. Then the tabernacle is brought to Moses along with all of its specified accessories and consumables, including the vestments of Aaron and his sons, as described above, in accordance with all that the Eternal commanded Moses. When Moses sees all of the work thus done, he blesses the Children of Israel.
ARRANGEMENT OF THE TABERNACLE
The Eternal gives Moses instruction as to the arrangement and anointing of the tabernacle and its appurtenances:
Set up the tabernacle of the tent of meeting on the first day of the first month. Put there the ark of the testimony, and screen it off with the dividing curtain. Bring the table and arrange its setting. Bring in the menorah and light its lamps. Place the golden altar for incense in front of the ark of the testimony, and place the screen of the entrance to the tabernacle.
Position the altar of burnt offering outside of the entrance of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting, but place the laver between the tent of meeting and the altar and supply it with water. Then enclose the courtyard around and install the screen of the gate of the courtyard.
Use the anointing oil to anoint the tabernacle and all that is in it to make them holy. Then anoint the altar of burnt offering and its implements to make it most holy. Anoint the laver and its base to make it holy.
Bring Aaron and his sons near to the entrance of the tent of meeting. Wash them with water. Upon Aaron put the holy garments and anoint him to be holy and My priest. Upon his sons put the tunics and anoint them as you anointed their father to be My priests. Their anointing shall validate their priesthood forever.
Moses acts in accordance with all that the Eternal commanded him. So it was that on the first day of the first month of the second year, the tabernacle is set up by Moses with its sockets, its boards, its poles, and its pillars. He spreads the tent over the tabernacle and places the covering of the tent over it from above, as the Eternal commanded Moses.
He puts the testimony into the ark and positions the poles on the ark. He puts the propitiatory upon the ark from above. He brings the ark into the tabernacle and positions the dividing curtain to screen off the ark of the testimony, as the Eternal commanded Moses.
He places the table in the tent of meeting on the north side of the tabernacle outside of the dividing curtain. He duly arranges the setting of bread before the Eternal, as the Eternal commanded Moses. He places the menorah in the tent of meeting opposite the table, on the south side of the tabernacle. He kindles the lamps before the Eternal, as the Eternal commanded Moses. He places the golden altar in the tent of meeting before the dividing curtain. He burns aromatic incense on it, as the Eternal commanded Moses. Then he sets up the screen of the entrance to the tabernacle.
He places the altar of burnt offering at the entrance of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting, and he offers upon it the burnt offering and the meal offering, as the Eternal commanded Moses. He sets up the laver between the tent of meeting and the altar and supplies it with water for washing. Moses and Aaron and Aaron’s sons would wash from it their hands and their feet when they came to the tent of meeting and when they drew near to the altar, as the Eternal commanded Moses.
He sets up the courtyard surrounding the tabernacle and the altar, and he installs the screen at the entrance of the courtyard.
Moses has completed the work.
PROFOUND PRESENCE OF THE ETERNAL
Now the cloud covers the tent of meeting, and the profound presence of the Eternal fills the tabernacle. Moses is thereby prevented from entering the tent of meeting. When the cloud is lifted from the tabernacle, then the Children of Israel can proceed in their journeying. Otherwise they have to wait for the cloud to be lifted. The cloud of the Eternal is over the tabernacle by day, and fire, by night, in the sight of all the House of Israel throughout their journeys.
Chazak! Chazak! Venitchazek!
Be strong! Be strong! Let us be strong!
HACHODESH: The Fourth of the Four Special Parashiyot
The Eternal explains to Moses and to Aaron in the land of Egypt, that “this month is your beginning of months, numbered first for you of the months of the year.” (12:2) Direct all of the congregation of Israel to take, on the tenth of this month, a lamb for each father’s house, a male without blemish, a yearling from the sheep or from the goats. If the household be too small for a lamb, then let two neighbors in close proximity share in the cost of one lamb for their two households. Calculate the proportionate cost, taking into account what each household member consumes.
Keep watch over the lamb until the fourteenth day of this month, then all the community of the congregation of Israel shall slaughter their lambs at dusk. They shall put some of the blood on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they will eat the lamb that night—its head, legs and entrails—roasted, not cooked in any way with water. They shall eat it fire-roasted with unleavened bread over bitter herbs, careful not to leave any of it overnight until the morning, either by consuming it or by burning it up with fire before the morning.
In this manner shall you eat it: your loins girded, your sandals upon your feet, and your staff in your hand. Eat it anxiously; it is Pesach to the Eternal. Now on that night I shall pass through the land of Egypt and strike down every firstborn of man and beast, and I shall execute judgments against all the gods of Egypt, I the Eternal. The blood that you put upon your houses shall serve as a sign that you are there, such that when I see the blood, “I shall pass over you so that my plague of destruction throughout the land of Egypt will not affect you.” (12:13)
Celebrate this day as your remembrance, the Festival of Unleavened Bread, a festival to the Eternal throughout your generations, a statute for all time, for on this very day I shall have brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt. For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, beginning on the fourteenth day of the month in the evening and concluding on the twenty-first day of the month in the evening. By the first day remove leaven from your homes. The person who eats anything leavened during these seven days shall be cut off from Israel. In addition, the first day and the seventh day shall be holy convocations for you on which no work shall be done, except for the preparation of food.
FROM THE PROPHETS
Haftarah for Shabbat Hachodesh
Procedures for the Nasi and Offerings
Role of the Nasi
All of the populace shall provide the specified terumah (sacred gift) for the Nasi (elevated leader). The Nasi will then have the responsibility for providing the burnt offerings, the meal offering, and the libation, for all of the Sabbaths, New Moons and Festivals, also the sin offering and the peace offerings, to seek atonement on behalf of the House of Israel.
The Pesach and the Festival
Thus declares the Lord God: On the first day of the first month, purify the Sanctuary with a sin offering, a bull of the herd without blemish. Put some of its blood upon the doorpost of the House and upon the four corners of the ledge of the Altar and upon the doorpost of the gate of the inner court. Repeat this on the seventh day for those who might have erred or did not understand, thereby gaining atonement for the House.
Then on the fourteenth day you shall have the Pesach, a seven-day festival during which unleavened bread shall be eaten. On that day the Nasi shall prepare for himself and for all of the people of the Land a bull of sin offering. For each of the seven days of the festival he shall make a burnt offering to the Eternal—seven bulls and seven rams without blemish—and a sin offering of a male goat each day and a meal offering of an ephah for each bull and an ephah for each ram, and of oil a hin for each ephah. In the seventh month on the fifteenth day of the month, on the Festival, he shall do the same for seven days: for the sin offering, for the burnt offering, for the meal offering, and for the oil.
The Nasi and the Offerings
Thus declares the Lord God: The gate of the inner court that faces east shall be closed during the six days of work, but it shall be opened on the Sabbath day and on the New Moon day. The Nasi shall enter by way of the vestibule and stop at the doorpost of the gate. The priests shall perform his burnt offering and his peace offerings, he shall prostrate himself upon the threshold, then he shall depart. The gate shall not be closed until the evening. The people also shall prostrate themselves at the entrance of the same gate on Sabbaths and on New Moons before the Eternal.
The burnt offering of the Nasi on the Sabbath day shall consist of six lambs and a ram, all without blemish, and the meal offering, an ephah for the ram and as much as he chooses for the lambs, and of oil a hin for each ephah. On the New Moon day it shall consist of a bull of the herd and six lambs and a ram, all without blemish, and the meal offering, an ephah for the bull, an ephah for the ram, and as much as he can afford for the lambs, and of oil a hin for each ephah. On the Festivals and the Appointed Days the meal offering shall consist of an ephah for the bull, an ephah for the ram, and as much as he chooses for the lambs, and of oil a hin for each ephah. On a Day you shall make a burnt offering of a lamb, a year old, without blemish, every morning, and along with it a meal offering, a sixth of an ephah of fine flour and a third of a hin of oil to moisten the fine flour. These are everlasting statutes to be performed regularly. Offer the lamb and the meal offering and the oil every morning as a continual burnt offering (tamid).
On the Sabbath day and on the New Moon day, the Nasi enters by way of the vestibule of the gate, and he departs by the same way. On the Appointed Days, when the people come before the Eternal, whether they enter by way of the north gate or the south gate to worship, they should continue on the same course and depart by the opposite gate. This includes the Nasi, when he enters with them: he should enter and depart in the midst of the people by the same course that they follow.
If the Nasi should elect to make a burnt offering or peace offerings on a weekday, the gate facing east shall be opened for him and the procedure should be followed as on the Sabbath day, except that when he departs, the gate should be closed behind him.
The Nasi and Property
Thus declares the Lord God: The Nasi may transfer his own property to his sons. However, if he seeks to transfer property to his servants, that property returns to the Nasi with the year of release (cf. Leviticus 25:10ff.). The Nasi may not appropriate the property of the people.
FROM THE MIDRASH
Exodus Rabbah 48:1
A Good Name and the Day of Death
When Moses announces to the Children of Israel that the Eternal has appointed Bezalel to execute the work of the tabernacle components and the priestly garments, his words to the Children of Israel are:
“See, the Eternal has called by name
Bezalel son of Uri son of Hur
of the tribe of Judah.”
This relates to what is written:
“A good name is better than good oil,
and the day of death than the day of birth.”
How far does fragrant oil carry a person? From dressing room to banquet hall. A good name? From one end of the earth to the other, as was said: “The name of David became known in all the lands!” (I Chronicles 14:17) Good oil which falls upon the dead only deteriorates, as was said, “Perfumer’s oil is rendered putrid by flies on the dead.” (Ecclesiastes 10:1) But a good name which falls upon the dead in no way deteriorates, as was said, “[The prophet Elisha] lies down upon the [dead] boy…and the boy opens his eyes!” (II Kings 4:34-35)
Now, regarding the second half of the verse, “The day of death is better than the day of birth” (Ecclesiastes 7:1b), why would this be true? Because on the day that a person is born, no one knows what will be the quality of his deeds. But when he dies, his deeds are eulogized to the world! Rabbi Levi told of two sailing ships: one was departing the harbor while the other was entering it. On the departing ship everyone was celebrating, while on the entering ship there was no celebration. A thoughtful observer who was there said: I see things differently! On the ship departing the harbor, everyone should not be celebrating, because they do not know what lies ahead for them, what weather or conditions of the sea. While on the ship entering the harbor, all should be celebrating, because they do know that they went out to sea and returned from it safely! So it is with man: When he is born, the countdown is uncertain, as the year of his death is unknown to us; but when he dies, the count is certain, as the years of his life are known to us! Thus he says: “The day of death is better than the day of birth!” (Ecclesiastes 7:1b)
Getting back to the first half of the verse, “A good name is better than good oil” (Ecclesiastes 7:1a), better were the names of Chananiah, Mishael and Azariah, than the oil which anointed Nadav and Avihu! How was that true? Aaron’s sons Nadav and Avihu, priests anointed with oil, offered fire which the Eternal had not commanded and were burned to death (cf. Leviticus 10:1-2), while Chananiah, Mishael and Azariah, who because they would not bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s statue of gold, were thrown into the burning fiery furnace, yet emerged unharmed and unsinged (Daniel 1-3)! Thus: “A good name is better than good oil!” (Ecclesiastes 7:1)
So also, the name of Bezalel was better than good oil. How would that be shown? Other than Aaron, the names of his sons the priests are not given with respect to their anointing with oil. (Exodus 40:14-15) But: “Moses said to the Children of Israel, ‘See, the Eternal has called by name Bezalel…!’” (Exodus 35:30)
Exodus Rabbah 48:4
The Divine Spirit of Bezalel:
Wisdom, Understanding and Knowledge
“The Eternal is filling [Bezalel] with the divine spirit:
with wisdom and understanding and knowledge…”
With these same three things the world was created, as was said:
“The Eternal founded the earth by wisdom,
He established the heavens by understanding,
and by His knowledge the deeps were broken open
and the clouds dripped dew.”
With these three things was the Tabernacle made, as was said:
“I am filling it with the spirit of God:
with wisdom and with understanding and with knowledge…”
And with these same three things was the Temple built, as was said:
“King Solomon sent for Hiram from Tyre—
his mother was a widow from the tribe of Naphtali
and his father was a Tyrian coppersmith—
[Hiram] was filled with wisdom and understanding and knowledge…;
he came to King Solomon and executed all of his work.”
(I Kings 7:13-14)
And when the Holy One, blessed be He, shall arise to rebuild it in the future,
with these three things it shall be built, as is written:
“The House shall be built with wisdom and established by understanding,
and by knowledge shall its rooms be filled with all things precious and beautiful!”
The Source of all of these for Bezalel was the Almighty,
as the verse makes clear:
“The Eternal is filling him with the divine spirit…!”
“With wisdom”: that he would be learned in the Torah;
“With understanding”: that he would understand what the Halacha should be; and
“With knowledge”: that he would be full of knowledge of the Talmud!
Said the Holy One, blessed be He, to Israel:
In this world My “spirit” grants you wisdom,
but in the world to come My “spirit” is My breath,
as was said:
“I shall raise you from your graves, O My people,
and bring you to the Land of Israel…
and I shall put My breath in you
and you shall live!”
Exodus Rabbah 49:1
Transcendent Love between God and Israel
“All of the artisans construct the tabernacle (mishkan)
The significance of the words above can be found
in the following words of Scripture:
“Boundless waters cannot quench love,
nor can rivers overflow it;
if one were to offer all of his substance against love,
he would earn nothing but contempt.”
(Song of Songs 8:7)
“Boundless waters”: these are the idolators of the world, as was said,
“O roar of many peoples,
like the roar of the seas do they roar,
and the raging of nations
like the raging of many waters…”
—and if all the idolators were to march in
with the intention of destroying the love
between the Holy One, blessed be He, and Israel,
they could not succeed, because:
“Boundless waters cannot quench that love,” as was said:
“Is not Esau the brother of Jacob…
yet I loved Jacob!”
“Nor can rivers overflow it”: these are the Chaldeans, as was said:
“The Lord will raise upon them
the mighty, abundant waters of the river,
the king of Assyria and all of his multitude,
overflowing his channels,
inundating Judah, reaching up to its neck…”
—yet “if one were to offer all of his substance against that love,
he would earn nothing but contempt.”
So My children have made for Me
a sanctuary merely out of curtains,
and I have come down
and dwelled in their midst,
as was said:
“Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting,
as the cloud settled upon it,
and the profound presence of the Eternal
filled the tabernacle.”
Exodus Rabbah 50:1
Open with Light
“Bezalel makes the ark (aron)…”
Only for the making of the ark,
among all of the other implements of the tabernacle,
is Bezalel mentioned by name!
The reason for this may be discovered
through the following words of Scripture:
“The opening of Your deeds gives light;
it provides understanding to the simple.”
When the Holy One, blessed be He, created His world, there was no light at first, as was said, “Darkness was upon the face of the deep.” (Genesis 1:2) Rabbi Judah and Rabbi Nehemiah differed on when light was created.
Rabbi Judah taught that light was created first, and afterwards the world. This may be compared to a king building his palace in a dark place. First he lights candles and torches to determine where to put all the buildings. So this would illustrate how the light would be created first. (Cf. Genesis 1:3)
Rabbi Nehemiah taught that the world was created first. This may be compared to the king who builds his palace and then adorns it with lights. (Cf. Genesis 1:14)
But if light was created before the world, in accordance with Rabbi Judah, the following question was asked by Rabbi Shimon ben Yehotzadak of the haggadist Rabbi Samuel bar Nachman: From what was the light made (since heaven and earth were not yet created)? He answered: The Holy One, blessed be He, enwrapped Himself in a garment and lit up the world by means of His own brilliance from beginning to end, as is written, “You enwrap Yourself in light like a garment” (Psalms 104:2a) and then “spread out the heavens like a curtain” (Ibid. 2b)!
So we can see how “the opening of Your deeds gives light!” (Psalms 119:130a)
Now how does that teaching “provide understanding to the simple?” (Ibid. 130b)
It is a lesson for the righteous, who are “simple” in the sense of innocent and eager to learn: when they begin a new project, they should open with light!
Thus you find that when the Holy One, blessed be He, told Moses that Bezalel would make the tabernacle, and Bezalel wondered, “With which component should I begin?” he began with the ark, which contains the light of Torah. This is also confirmed by the verse in Sedra Terumah, “Let them make an ark…” (Exodus 25:10), positioned there at the beginning of the Eternal’s order of components to be made!
Exodus Rabbah 50:2
Instruction begets Wisdom
“Bezalel makes the ark (aron)…”
The significance of this achievement of Bezalel
may be discovered through
the following words of Scripture:
“Provide instruction to a wise man,
and he will find yet more wisdom…”
First consider Noah, whom the Holy One, blessed be He, instructed, “Take for yourself seven of every clean animal.” (Genesis 7:2) When he left the ark, he “built” an altar to the Eternal (Genesis 8:20). But the Hebrew root of “built” shares the same two consonants with the word that means “increased in understanding“: Noah reasoned from God’s instruction to take seven of every clean animal to the building of an altar. He understood that the Holy One, blessed be He, required the number of clean animals to exceed the number of unclean animals because He wanted offerings from them. So, “he took from all of the clean animals and all of the clean birds and offered up burnt offerings upon the altar.” (Genesis 8:20)
Noah, then, is an example of “Provide instruction to a wise man, and he will find yet more wisdom…” (Proverbs 9:9), as when a wise man is instructed, he fulfills what he has learned and adds to it.
Next consider Moses: “A wise man ascended to the place of the Mighty One and brought down its confident strength.” (Proverbs 21:22) That is to say, he learned Torah from the mouth of the Mighty One and improved Israel by transmitting it to them. The additional benefit that Moses provided thereby was the gift of life that comes from the Torah.
Moses, then, is an example of “Provide instruction to a wise man, and he will find yet more wisdom…” (Proverbs 9:9), as when a wise man is instructed, he fulfills what he has learned and adds to it.
Now consider Bezalel. You find that when the Holy One, blessed be He, instructed Moses to make the tabernacle, Moses carried the order to Bezalel. Bezalel asked: What is the purpose of this tabernacle? Moses explained: So that the Holy One, blessed be He, can install His Presence inside of it and thereby teach Torah to Israel. Bezalel asked: And where will the Torah be kept? Moses explained: After we make the tabernacle, we will make an ark for the Torah. But Bezalel objected: Rabbenu Moshe, that would not be respectful of the Torah. Instead, we should make the ark, and only after that, the tabernacle! It is for that reason that Bezalel’s name is associated explicitly with the making of the ark, as was said, “Bezalel makes the ark!” (37:1), and indeed: “Provide instruction to a wise man, and he will find yet more wisdom…” (Proverbs 9:9)
Tanchuma Pekudey 9
“He makes the laver (kiyur) and its base
of copper from mirrors of the women
who attended in large number
at the tent of meeting.”
When the Israelite men were enslaved with harsh labor in Egypt, Pharaoh forbade them from sleeping in their homes so that they could not be intimate with their wives. Said Rabbi Shimon bar Chalafta: What did the Israelite women do? They went down to draw water from the Nile. The Holy One, blessed be He, caused fish to end up in their buckets, some of which they cooked and some of which they sold. With the money they earned they purchased wine and prepared meals for their husbands which they brought to the fields, as is said, “Their lives were embittered…with all manner of work in the field…” (1:14).
There they ate and drank, and the women brought their mirrors, which they looked into together with their husbands, playfully building their desire for each other, which the Holy One, blessed be He, rewarded immediately with progeny exceeding what would have been normal, as is written, “The Children of Israel were fruitful…exceedingly, until the land was filled with them!” (1:7) “And the more that they oppressed them, the more that they multiplied and expanded…!” (1:12)
When the Children of Israel were instructed to bring terumah for the construction of the tabernacle and its components, they responded generously and promptly, bringing their silver, their gold, their copper, and their precious stones. The women, for their part, brought their copper mirrors to Moses. When Moses saw those mirrors, he rejected them for the tabernacle in consideration of how personal mirrors are used. He was so angry that he ordered that the women be punished.
But the Holy One, blessed be He, said to Moses: These you spurn? Their mirrors have made your numbers large in the land of Egypt! Accept them, and make them into the “laver of copper and its base” for the sanctification of the priests.
Said the Holy One, blessed be He to the women: In this world you have given freely for the tabernacle, that it may provide you with atonement. In the world to come, I shall offer you atonement and love you freely, as was said: “I shall heal their backsliding, I shall love them freely” (Hosea 14:5). They may also say: We have no tabernacle, we have no sanctuary; may the prayers that we utter be as a gift for the tabernacle, for thus said David: “Accept, O Eternal, the gifts of my mouth…!” (Psalms 119:108)
Exodus Rabbah 51:1
Actions of the Faithful
“These are the accounts of the tabernacle…
which were authorized by order of Moses…
by the hand of Ithamar son of Aaron the priest.”
Rabbi Tanchuma bar Abba opened his discourse
with these words:
“A man of faithfulness is abundant in blessings,
while one who hastens to grow rich
shall not be held guiltless.”
You will discover that whoever is faithful—the Holy One, blessed be He, brings blessing by means of his actions; while one who is not “shall not be held guiltless.” The one who is faithful is Moses, “trusted in all of My House” (Numbers 12:7): whichever projects he oversaw as treasurer were blessed, because he was faithful.
“While one who hastens to grow rich shall not be held guiltless”: This was Korach, who was a Levite, but sought to usurp the High Priesthood as well. What was his end? “The earth opened its mouth” (Numbers 16:32) and swallowed him!
Moreover, Moses was a “man of faithfulness” when he was made treasurer of the work of the tabernacle. Our Rabbis taught: There should be no less than two officers appointed to supervise matters involving money. Yet we find that Moses was appointed sole treasurer! How could this be? Although Moses was the sole treasurer of the precious materials that went into the construction of the tabernacle, he always called in others and depended upon their calculations, as was said: “These are the accounts of the tabernacle,” but not “which Moses (alone) performed”; rather, “which were authorized by order of Moses” and performed “by the hand of Ithamar….!”
Exodus Rabbah 51:4
The Tabernacle is Testimony of God’s Forgiveness
“These are the accounts of the tabernacle,
the tabernacle of the testimony…”
What is the meaning of “the testimony?”
Rabbi Shimon son of Rabbi Ishmael taught: It is testimony to all the inhabitants of the world that there is forgiveness for Israel! Mirkin Commentary: The tabernacle, where the Holy One, blessed be He, has placed His presence, testifies thereby to all the world that Israel is forgiven for the sin of the golden calf.
Moreover, it is testimony to all the world that the tabernacle was warranted by the Holy One, blessed be He. Mirkin Commentary: Solomon himself expressed the skeptical amazement of the world when he said, “But will God really dwell on earth? Even the heavens and the heavens of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this House that I have built?” (I Kings 8:27) Indeed the nations thought that Moses was making the tabernacle on his own accord! But when they saw that the Holy One, blessed be He, bestowed His presence in the tabernacle, this served as testimony supportive of Moses, that he had been mandated by the Holy One, blessed be He, to make the tabernacle.
Rabbi Isaac taught this as compared to a king who married a woman and loved her more than he should have. Eventually he became angry with her and left her, and her neighbors said to her: he is not coming back! But sometime later the king sent word to her: Prepare my palace, open the beds, for on such-and-such a day I shall return to you! On the appointed day the king arrived and was reconciled with her. He joined her in the palace and shared a meal with her. Her neighbors were in disbelief, except that the aroma of spices convinced them that the king was reconciled with her.
Similarly, the Holy One, blessed be He, loved Israel and brought them before Mount Sinai, gave them the Torah and called them “a nation of priests” (19:6). But after forty days they sinned, and the gentile nations said that He would never be reconciled with them again, as was said, “They shall say among the nations, ‘They shall sojourn here no more!’” (Lamentations 4:15) But when Moses went to plead for mercy on their behalf, immediately the Holy One, blessed be He, forgave them, as was said, “The Eternal said, ‘I forgive in accordance with your plea!’”
To this said Moses, “Master of the universe, I for my part am convinced that You have pardoned Israel, but make it evident in the sight of all the nations that You harbor no complaint against them!” Said the Holy One, blessed be He, to him: By your life, I place My presence in their midst, as was said, “Let them make for Me a sanctuary, and I shall dwell in their midst, announcing that I have pardoned them. Therefore was it called “the tabernacle of the testimony,” as testimony it is for Israel that the Holy One, blessed be He, has pardoned them.
Exodus Rabbah 51:5
Israel is Security for God and His Testimony
“These are the accounts of (Pekudey) the tabernacle (mishkan),
the tabernacle (mishkan) of the testimony…”
Said Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai: When Hadrian entered the Holy of Holies, he arrogantly blasphemed God. Said Rabbi Chiya bar Abba: This may be understood through the words of David, “It seemed as if they were wielding their axes upward in a thicket of trees” (Psalms 74:5): would You allow that if they could cut down cedars for ladders, they could reach You? But since they cannot so hope to reach You, as is written, “For they attempted evil against You, intending mischief which could not be accomplished” (Psalms 21:12), they attack us instead, as was said, “The nations have attacked Your inheritance, they have defiled Your holy temple, turning Jerusalem into a heap of ruins” (Psalms 79:1)! And why should they have been allowed to do this? Because we served as security in pledge for Him, as was said, “These are those entrusted for (Pekudey) the divine presence (mishkan)…”!
Rabbi Chiya bar Abba enriched his lesson by comparing the idolatrous nations to the king’s enemy who wishes to supplant him but cannot. What does he do? He finds a statue of the king which he would like to topple, but fears that the king would still kill him if he did topple it. So, instead, he digs under the base, intending to destabilize the footing of the statue in order to cause it to fall. So do the idolatrous nations wish to wage war against the Holy One, blessed be He, but cannot, so instead they come to wage war against Israel. This is what David said: “The kings of the earth stand up, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Eternal and against His anointed one” (Psalms 2:2), but since they cannot succeed, they wage war against Israel: “Let us tear away their cords” (ibid. 3): we shall uproot them from the world! When? When they have nothing more to secure, but for now the tabernacle of God’s presence (mishkan) is secured by them as its pledge; thus read it: “These are those entrusted for (Pekudey) the divine presence (mishkan), security (mashkon) for the testimony!”
Exodus Rabbah 15:11-12
The Month of Redemption
“This month is for you the beginning of months,
it shall be for you the first of the months of the year.”
This is elucidated in:
“By the word of the Eternal were the heavens made,
and by the breath of His mouth, all of their array…
Happy is the nation whose God is the Eternal,
the people whom He has chosen to be His inheritance!”
When the Holy One, blessed be He, chose His world, He established its months and years—“God said: Let there be lights in the expanse of heaven to distinguish between day and night, serving as signs for the set times, for days, and for years” (Genesis 1:14)—and, similarly, when He chose Jacob and his sons to be redeemed, He established his beginning month of redemption—“This month is for you the beginning of months…”(12:2a)—the month in which the Israelites were redeemed from Egypt.
Moreover, “…it shall be for you the first of the months of the year” (12:2b), suggests that for Israel it is the prime month for redemption. It was the month in which Isaac was born, the month in which Isaac was bound, and the month in which Jacob received the blessing of his father Isaac. It is the same month in which Israel’s descendants would be redeemed in the future, as the prophet said, “I shall show him wonders as in the days of your going out from the land of Egypt!” (Micah 7:15)
This may be compared to a king who liberates his son from prison and thereupon declares: “Make this day a holiday for all time, for on this day my son went out from darkness to light, from the iron yoke to life, from slavery to freedom, and from servitude to redemption!” Thusly the Holy One, blessed be He, liberated Israel from prison, as was said, “God brings home the lonely, liberates the imprisoned to security…” (Psalms 68:7), from deathly darkness, as was said, “He brought them out from darkness and the shadow of death…” (Psalms 107:14), from the yoke of iron to the yoke of Torah, from slavery to freedom, as was said, “You are children of the Eternal your God…” (Deuteronomy 14:1), from servitude to redemption, as was said, “All of their captors held them in their grasp, they refused to release them, [but] mighty is their Redeemer, the Eternal of hosts is His name, He champions their cause…” (Jeremiah 50:33-34)!
Fittingly, He gave them cause to rejoice, wreaking vengeance upon their enemies, as was said, “For I, the Eternal, am your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior, I have made Egypt your ransom, Ethiopia and Saba in exchange for you, because you are precious in My sight, you are honored and I love you, I give men in exchange for you, and other nations in place of your life” (Isaiah 43:3-4)!
Rabbi Meir taught: It was a redemption not only “for you” (12:2a) but also, redundantly, “for You” (12:2b), that is, for Me! This is as if to say, “I (God) was redeemed with you!” This is supported by the words of King David: “Who is like Your people Israel, a nation unique on the earth…which You redeemed for Yourself from Egypt, nation and God” (II Samuel 7:23)! So establish this month both for yourselves and for Me!
Pesikta d’Rav Kahana 5:13
Israel declares the Appointed Days of the Eternal
“The Eternal says to Moses and to Aaron
in the land of Egypt:
This month is to you
the beginning of months,
numbered first for you
of the months of the year.”
“This month (chodesh) is to you…” (12:2): The New Moon (chodesh) is handed over to you to determine and sanctify every month! “These are the Appointed Days of the Eternal, holy convocations, which you shall declare in their appointed time” (23:4)—Rabbi Krispa in the name of Rabbi Yochanan: In the past, “These are the Appointed Days of the Eternal,” but for now and in the future, “which you shall declare!” In other words, if you declare them, they are My Appointed Days, but if not, they are not My Appointed Days!
Rabbi Pinchas, Rabbi Hezekiah in the name of Rabbi Simon: All of the ministering angels gathered near the Holy One, blessed be He, and asked Him: Master of the universe, when is Rosh Hashanah? He said: Me you ask? Let Me and you ask the terrestrial Beit Din, which determines the New Moon, as the verse reflects, “Blow the shofar on the New Moon, even though it is concealed (cf. Talmud Betzah 16a, Pirkey d’Rabbi Eliezer 7 end, and Talmud Rosh Hashanah 19b regarding the invariability of Elul), for our feast day; if it is a statute for Israel (if it is determined by the terrestrial Beit Din), then it is a law for the God of Jacob.” (Psalms 81:4-5) [Even though it is not yet observable], when it is a statute for Israel, it is a law for the God of Jacob; and if it is not a statute for Israel, it is not, as it were, a law for the God of Jacob!
“For who is a great nation to whom God is as close as the Eternal our God is to us whenever we we call to Him!” (Deuteronomy 4:7) What do we call to Him? We declare to Him the Appointed Days!
Pesikta d’Rav Kahana 5:14
Light of Large, Light of Small
“This moon is for you…”
You use the moon for counting, while the other nations do not.
Rabbi Levi in the name of Rabbi Yose bar La’i: It is natural for the large to count by the large and for the small to count by the small. Esau, who is large, counts by the sun, which is large, while Jacob, who is small, counts by the moon, which is small.
Said Rav Nachman: This constitutes a good sign. Just as the large rules over the day and does not rule over the night [the sun can be seen only during the day and never during the night], thus is Esau the wicked ascendant in this world but he is not ascendant in the world to come. Just as the small rules over the day and over the night [the moon can be seen both during the day and during the night], thus is Jacob ascendant both in this world and in the world to come!
Rabbi Nachman explained: As long as the light of the large one shines in the world, light of the small one is not noticed. But when the light of the large one sets, then the light of the small one is noticed. Similarly, for as long as the light of Esau the wicked shines forth in the world, the light of Jacob is not noticed. But when the light of Esau the wicked sets, the light of Jacob shall be seen, as the prophet can be understood: “Arise, O My light, for your light has set; now the presence of the Eternal shines forth over you!” (Isaiah 60:1)