Rabbi Ari Enkin

By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel

This week’s Torah portion is Pekudei, (Exodus 38:21- 40:30) meaning “calculations” or “instructions.” It is the last portion in the Book of Exodus and one of the shortest portions in the entire Torah. It consists of 4,432 Hebrew letters, 1,182 Hebrew words and 92 verses, and it occupies 159 lines in a Torah scroll. (Thanks Wikipedia!)

Pekudei is the final reading in which we discuss the construction of the Mishkan (Tabernacle), along with a review and tally of all the materials used and the donations  given. There are two interesting verses that appear in reference to the completion of the Mishkan:

“Just as God commanded Moses, the Children of Israel did all of the work. And Moses saw all the work, and he saw that they had done it in accordance with what God had commanded –  so they did, and Moses blessed them.”

The commentators note that these verses seem repetitive. Why so many words just to tell us that they completed the work?

It is explained that there are two words for “work” in Hebrew that are used in these verses: melacha and avoda. The former generally refers to work done with the hands, while the latter refers to motivation and intention – even when no action is performed. Hence, the verse is teaching us that Moses was pleased not only with their performance in the actual construction of the Mishkan, but also with their motivation and efforts.

But wait a second! If avoda refers to the motivations and intentions of the heart, how did Moses know what was in their hearts? How did he know that everyone gave their wholehearted efforts in the construction of the Mishkan? He was not known to be a mind reader!

Perhaps the answer is in the verse itself:

“And Moses saw all the work, and he saw that they had done it in accordance with what God had commanded – so they did.”

What the verse is actually telling us is that Moses saw that the work had been done to perfection, without any shortcuts, omissions or defects. Thus it was obvious that the people clearly gave it their best, putting their hearts and souls into the project, just as God had wanted.

If they weren’t sincere, the result might have included broken hinges on the doors, cheap materials poorly sewn together, flimsy piping, a rough chiseling job on the gold components and – you get the idea. It would not have been the glorious final product that it was.  It is for this, as the verse concludes, that “Moses blessed them.”

There are two ways to do anything in life – you can give it your best, or you can do it “half-baked.” God blesses those who give it their best. God does not miraculously intervene in our daily lives; he expects us to put it together ourselves. But once we get started, God indeed joins in to help. As the saying goes, “God helps those who help themselves.” How much more so when a person takes on a project for the honor of God – not necessarily the construction of the Mishkan, but even a good deed or charitable project. God joins in and blesses such work. This is especially true when a person does something for the benefit of others, not seeking personal recognition, glory or honor – just like the building of the Mishkan.

This is the message of Pekudei, and the message of Moses’s blessing. Everything we do in life should be Mishkan-like: wholehearted, with the best of effort and for the benefit of everyone around us – not just for ourselves. If this is how we approach everything from simple chores to major projects, we can be sure that God will be there to deliver His blessing!

Author: Rabbi Ari Enkin
Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
Feb. 27, 2014

Click below to read more Living Torah articles on this week’s Torah portion:

1. Living Torah: The Holiness of Human Activities

2. Living Torah: Use Your Gold & Gems for Good!