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Pekudei 5784

March 10, 2024

Rabbi Geier


BS"D || Rabbi Geier

Pekudei 5784

We are in the last portion of the book of Shemot, Exodus. Closing a book is somewhat like closing a chapter in the history of the People of Israel. After the formation as a People, after the inevitable recognition of the greatness of the Lord, it's the turn of the People to start committing themselves. The People must begin to "give back" to the Kadosh Baruch Hu after having received so much.

During the last few weeks, we have been reading about the instructions for building the Mishkan and then about how these instructions were actually implemented. It's time to get down to business.

Before that comes Pekudei, our portion, in which we read about the records and computations of everything donated and collected for the joint goal of building the Tabernacle. We might ask, what is the importance of these records?

The word Pekudei doesn't just mean records. It's connected with the concept of memory, of having a record of something that happened and even of redemption. Its root is used to narrate, for example, that God remembered Sarah to give her the miracle of conceiving Isaac at an advanced age. "Adonai took note of Sarah as promised, and did for Sarah what had been announced." (Genesis 21:1) It's a key word in the story of Joseph. "And let Pharaoh take steps to appoint overseers over the land, and organize the land of Egypt in the seven years of plenty." (Genesis 41:34). The text suggests that Pharaoh should "appoint a supervisor" (both words come from the same root as Pekudei), and that food should be stored as a "reserve".

In the story of the Exodus, we are told several times that God 'remembered' the people. In this case, the verb not only means a precise record of what happened to them, it means that God addressed their plight, cared for them, and took steps to redeem them from slavery in Egypt. This may be similar to the sense in which God "remembered" Sarah, remembered that she needed something and granted it to her.

The same root PKD appears in the Ten Commandments, where God is described as remembering the sin of the fathers unto the third and fourth generation. The idea of memory or record of things is linked both to punishment and redemption, and again, it's about taking stock of the situation to take appropriate action.

The Baal Haturim, a 13th-century Rabbi, author of one of the most important compendiums of Halachah, Jewish law, has a comment about creation and the Mishkan. Creation is a house that the Kadosh Baruch Hu built for the people of Israel and for the whole universe. As partners of the Lord in the continuation of improving this world and Creation in general, the Mishkan and then the Great Temple of Jerusalem, the Beit Hamikdash, were a way of giving back what He did for us and for all humanity by building Him a house so that He could reside among us, as the Torah text says. Once we recognize His supremacy and are grateful for it, He can be with us.

At 161 days from 7/10, with our memories filled with horror, broken and with all our senses focused on the clouds of hatred that continue to arise around us, we must have memory and record, to be grateful when appropriate, to take care of those we must take care of, and to recognize the good from the bad.

May we be able to compute, record, and remember this dark time, valuing those who are genuinely accompanying us, and addressing to do something to support Israel, and those suffering all around the world just for being Jewish or supporting the Jewish People.

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