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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Pkudei

Parashat Pekudei

Inclusiveness vs. Exclusiveness

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Our parasha’s first pasuk has been explained in several, symbolic ways. Let’s first translate it the simple way before learning lessons from other explanantions. "These are the countings [of the collected material] of the Mishkan (Tabernacle), the Mishkan of Testimony, which was counted based on Moshe’s instructions, the work of the Levi’im, by the hand of Itamar son of Aharon the Kohen" (Shemot 38:21).

Rashi, citing Midrash Tanchuma, makes use of the word, mishkan’s similarity to the word for collateral, saying that the two Temples were taken away as collateral (i.e. destroyed) when Bnei Yisrael sinned. Based on the word, p’kudei’s double meaning as countings and being missing, the Chatam Sofer says that the lacking, which was responsible for the Temple’s destruction, was the fact that Moshe was missing. Had Moshe done all of the preparations for the Mishkan himself, it would not have been destroyed. If that is so, why didn’t Moshe indeed do everything himself? (Hashem commanded Moshe to involve Betzalel and Ohaliav (ibid. 31:1-6) so one cannot say that Moshe erred in this matter).

Before attempting to answer, let us deal with another question. The Gur Aryeh asks why Rashi waited to mention the double meaning of the word, mishkan, with its hint of the Mishkan’s vulnerability, until almost the end of the Torah’s discussion of the Mishkan. He answers that it was the counting of the donations that put the Temple in danger. Indeed, he says, whenever things are counted, the evil eye has the ability to ruin them. The same was true about the public giving of the Torah. We can ask again: so why count if it is so dangerous?

One answer can solve both related problems. Moshe could have done everything himself secretly, and then the Mishkan could have survived. But what would have been had Moshe done so and not gotten others, representing wider circles of Bnei Yisrael, involved in its construction? What if not everyone had given half a shekel, which needed to be counted? Apparently, we would have had a stable Mishkan, which would have enabled the spiritual elite to bring sacrifices and worship. But under those circumstances, Klal Yisrael, the nation whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts, would not have been involved and connected. The part of the "simple person," who may have much greater significance than meets the eye, would have been missing. Only when Bnei Yisrael as a whole donate and are involved in constructing the Sanctuary can the Divine Presence dwell in each and every one (see Shemot 25: 1-8).

Painful as the trade-off is, it is better to have a vulnerable Temple for all, than a solid ivory tower.

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