Torah Fax    

Friday - Shabbat, March 4 - 5 Parshat Pekudei 

Torah Reading: Pekudei (Exodus 38:21 - 40:38) 
Candle Lighting  5:32 PM
Shabbat ends 6:32 PM 

Shabbat Chazak - Shabbat Shekalim - Shabbat Mevarchim - Erev Rosh Chodesh  

Model Craftsmen  

Three Axioms

This week, the Torah concludes a lengthy description of the construction of the Mishkan, the portable Sanctuary in the desert. Indeed, this one narrative spans five consecutive Torah portions!

It is axiomatic in Judaism that there is no superfluous word in the Torah. It is also axiomatic that every detail of Torah must provide us with guidance and direction in our lives. And a third axiom is that the previous two premises are even more pronounced with respect to the conclusion of a theme or Torah book, as the Talmud states: “everything follows the conclusion.”

The conclusion of the Book of Exodus is this week’s parsha entitled Pikudei, which provides a summation of and accounting for all the resources and actions that went into the construction of the Mishkan. It is therefore also the parsha that concludes the Mishkan narrative.  

Moses’ Reaction

After all had been completed, the Torah records Moses’ reaction to the achievements of the builders of the Mishkan:

“The children of Israel did all the work in accordance with everything which G‑d had commanded Moses. Moses saw the entire work, and behold, they had done it as G‑d had commanded. They had done it, and Moses then blessed them.”

Rashi reveals to us that the blessing Moses gave was: “May it be the will [of G‑d] that the Divine presence rests in your handiwork.”

What so impressed Moses about their compliance with G‑d’s will that he was moved to bless them? And why did Moses choose this specific blessing?       

Two Models of Craftsmanship

The following is an explanation that is based on the book, Divrei Sha’arei Chaim by the nineteenth century Hungarian Rabbi Chaim Sofer, (the author of the Responsa Machane Chaim) with additional elucidation based on the teachings of Chabad Chassidut:

There are two models of craftsmanship. There is the artisan who shapes and molds different materials to produce a piece of art. And though the finished product has a function for which it will be purchased and used, the artisan’s primary focus is on the degree to which his handiwork enables him to express his creativity and artistic prowess. Even if the artist never gets to use his handiwork his sense of satisfaction is not diminished. His work is all about revealing his own creative potential.

There is a totally different, utilitarian model of craftsmanship where self-expression and self-actualization is not the goal. The overriding concern of this craftsman is to create something that will serve its function. If the artist is an architect his objective is not focused on his own need for self-expression but, rather, to provide a decent home or building for someone. 

And herein lies the uniqueness of the craftsmen who designed and built the Mishkan and its vessels. To the secular mind which values the world of aesthetics—and certainly to the spiritually inclined—the first approach to creative craftsmanship is by far a superior model. Our society—both secular and religious—is conditioned to think that life is about personal achievement. These approaches vary only as to the definition of personal growth and achievement. To the more sophisticated, achievement is measured not by utilitarian benefits that one provides but by the aesthetic pleasure that one’s work engenders.

To be sure, Judaism values the aesthetic and the world of spirituality. Judaism, especially as it has been articulated in its mystical literature, emphasizes the role of the soul and the spiritual journey it follows from the time it enters the body and beyond. Judaism recognizes the need for the person to grow spiritually through the practice of the Mitzvot, Torah study, and prayer. Yet Judaism asserts that the ultimate goal of our actions is not self-actualization. Rather, the objective is to create a dwelling place for G‑d by constructing a Sanctuary for Him.      


The craftsmen who designed and built the Mishkan were undoubtedly brilliant artists who exhibited great creativity. But they were single-minded about their goal—to fulfill G‑d’s desire to have a place where His presence will be felt and channeled to the entire world.    

When Moses beheld the finished product he realized two things: First that they had performed their work admirably, faithfully complying with all the instructions he had given them in G‑d’s name. But there was a second realization that impressed Moses even more. Their work was devoid of personal ambition and self expression. They had one exclusive thought that permeated their work: to create a Sanctuary for G‑d. The Torah thus exclaims: “Moses saw the entire work, and behold, they had done it as G‑d had commanded.” The term “behold” implies that he was not only impressed but that he was surprised with the result. The surprise was the extent to which they suppressed their own egos and agendas—even positive and noble ones—to allow for G‑d’s agenda to prevail.

We can now understand why Moses’ blessing to the craftsmen was: “May it be the will [of G‑d] that the Divine Presence rests in your handiwork.” His blessing was more than a “pat on the back” to them for a job well done. He was acknowledging how they understood the import of their task; it was not about them but about G‑d dwelling in their handiwork. And the greatest blessing for an altruistic person is that his or her efforts will bear fruit.

The above will also serve to answer another question that has been raised as to the need for this entire verse. A few verses earlier (Exodus 39:32) the Torah stated virtually the same thing: “All the work of the Mishkan was completed. The children of Israel had done everything that G‑d had commanded Moses. They did it.” Why does the Torah have to repeat (in verse 43) the fact that “they did all the work in accordance with everything which G‑d had commanded Moses?”

The answer is that the initial mention of the completion of their work deals with the integrity of the project itself. The second mention of the completeness of their work deals with the integrity of their thoughts and objectives. They had succeeded in producing an impeccable product with impeccable intentions as well.       

The Ultimate Objective of Our Mitzvot

The above applies to us, particularly in this present day and age. We have been commissioned by G‑d to be the architects of a world that conforms to G‑d’s specifications. In complying with His will there are two imperatives:

First we must see to it that we do all that we have been commanded to do precisely as we were told. For example, we cannot change the shape of the Tefillin that we wear. They must be square and consist of four sections. The way we rest on the Sabbath must conform precisely to the requirements of the Torah, not to our own subjective notion of rest. The same is true with all of the Mitzvot; they must all conform to G‑d’s will and be performed meticulously.

Second we must make our Mitzvah observance revolve around G‑d and not around ourselves. To be sure, the Talmud teaches that one should perform a Mitzvah even if it is for ulterior motives. But we must also know what the ultimate goal is. Our Judaism should not bet ego-centric but “G‑d-centric.”

Now the definition of G‑d centric can also be understood on two levels: one may think of our Mitzvah observance as a way to get closer to G‑d, and that is fine. A Mitzvah is a means for expressing the latent spiritual energies of our soul and bringing the sol to a higher spiritual place. A higher level, however, is to do the Mitzvah thinking about how to fulfill G‑d’s desire for a dwelling place in our world. In the former approach, the focus is still on our own ambitions, albeit noble and lofty ambitions to get closer to G‑d. In the latter, the focus is on G‑d’s “ambition.”

In truth, the two forms of completeness are intertwined. When a person seeks personal gain, even if it is spiritual in nature, the desire for self-gratification gets in the way of executing the Mitzvah with perfection. Invariably self-interest and ego will consciously or subconsciously alter one small detail of the Mitzvah to conform to one’s nature and desire.

When, however, the sole preoccupation is to fulfill G‑d's will and to conform to His plan we will not deviate one iota from the instructions He gave us.

One of the major achievements of the Messianic Age is that, as we say in our prayers, we will observe the Mitzvot “in accordance with Your will.” What does that mean? Surely we perform many of the Mitzvot properly even today.

However the point is that in the Messianic Age our observance of the Mitzvot will follow the model of the craftsmen of the Mishkan: our observance of the Mitzvot will be motivated by an abiding desire to conform to G‑d’s will to make the world a dwelling place for G‑d.

When we ask G‑d to bring Moshiach and the final Redemption, it is not just about universal peace. It is about allowing for G‑d’s plan—the construction of a world which is in its entirety a Sanctuary for G‑d—to be realized by our actions.

In truth, we do not have to wait for the Redemption to follow the higher model for the observance of the Mitzvot. As we stand on the threshold of Redemption, our focus should be to complete the process of transforming the entire world into a Sanctuary for G‑d. In earlier periods of exile our Mitzvot may have focused less on the ultimate goal and more on subjective goals. In times of exile, there might be other considerations for the observance of the Mitzvot that were geared to help us cope with a specific need that arose due to exile conditions. Mitzvah observance in exile thus, by definition, is lacking in perfection. 

Now that we are on the very cusp of the Redemption we must redirect our energies and concentrate on the ultimate goal. By doing so we imbue our Mitzvot with perfection, and we begin to experience the sublime energies associated with the Messianic Age in these last moments of exile.

Moshiach Matters 
One of the characteristics of Moshiach is that he will be a “poor person, riding on a donkey” (Zachariah 9:9). This implies that even those that laughed at Moshiach and didn’t believe in his coming will be atoned for by Moshiach and (instead of being punished....) they will be redeemed together with everyone else... (Pesikta on the above verse)

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