Torah Fax
Friday, March 7, 2003 - 3 Adar II, 5763

Torah Reading:  Pekudei (Exodus 38:21 - 40:38)
Candle Lighting Time: 5:35 PM
Shabbat Ends: 6:36 PM

Telescope - Microscope

Pikudei, the last parsha of the Book of Exodus, discusses the accounting given by Moses for all of the materials that were used in the construction of the Mishkan, the portable Sanctuary. Indeed, the word Pikudei means "the accounting." According to the general principle in the Talmud that "Every thing follows the conclusion," It follows that Pikudei -the parsha and the word- encapsulates the idea of the Exodus, the main themeof this book of the Torah.

When we reflect on the concept of an exodus from slavery it suggests breaking out of those aspects of life that are limiting and pedantic. The more we focus on the distracting details of life, we seem to be getting farther away from freedom, not closer. Indeed, giving an accounting is a rather banal, if not frustrating, experience. And while we can appreciate the occasional need to give an accounting, we would hardly view it as the climax of an exodus and liberating experience. Why then does the Torah conclude the Book of Exodus on the note of accounting?

The word Pikudei can also be translated as a Mitzvah, a commandment, presumably because each commandment is one of a large number of specific instructions. Here too, the question can be asked, why do we designate a Mitzvah as something that is counted, thereby reducing an otherwise spiritual experience into a statistic; one of 613 commandments?

In truth, the term liberation must be understood properly. In certain situations, the obsession with detail can be seen as an impediment to freedom and liberation. A free spirit is often understood as someone who sees the bigger picture and doesn't get bogged down on minutiae. Those small matters a liberated spirit will delegate to other less sophisticated individuals. One way of describing the ability to see the big picture is to employ the metaphor of a telescope. Without the telescope, our vision is limited to our immediate surroundings. With the aid of this device we can even go beyond the limitations of our world and see entire galaxies. Thus, the telescope can help liberate us from the mindset that limits us to one small part of the vast expanse of the universe.

There is another type of situation where liberation can be understood in the opposite fashion. A human being's experiences no matter how enlightening and exhilarating are still products of an inherently limited human potential. When we look at an object with a telescope, we cannot see its true composition and nature. We lack the appreciation of all of its components and dimensions. Here another piece of technology is an appropriate metaphor: the microscope. When we apply a microscope to an object we expose ourselves to its other dimensions. Are eyes are opened to a world to which we were previously oblivious. We get closer to fathoming the very secrets of its existence; we approach its very essence. In other words, just as one who focuses on some minor detail is denied access to the larger picture, similarly, one who sees the general picture is also limited in that they do not appreciate all the dimensions of the object or concept. Just as one cannot see the forest because of the trees, so too, one can not see the trees because of the forest.

Because we are essentially finite beings, we see things either telescopically or microscopically. We cannot have both simultaneously. Only G‑d can simultaneously see the entire picture, while never losing sight of its nuances and deeper dimensions. The only way we can get a taste of that Divine approach to matters is to perform a Mitzvah, because the Mitzvah has both characteristics, that of the telescope and that of the microscope.
To explain, every Mitzvah, as a G‑dly ordained act, connects us to G‑d and enables us to experience things from His perspective. All the Mitzvot share this feature of connecting to the Divine regardless of the particular nature of the mitzvah. From this broad perspective we see the world from a spiritually panoramic view. However, when we perform a specific mitzvah and focus our attention on its particulars, we open our eyes to a new and more penetrating view of the world. The Mitzvah becomes a spiritual "microscope" that enables us to see and internalize the most profound and essential levels of existence.

This is what liberation is all about: to be able to access all the dimensions of existence. To truly break out of our finite and limited parameters-liberation-we need both the broad and sweeping revelation at Sinai, followed by the detailed instructions and precise accounting that accompanied the building of the Sanctuary. These two themes form the bulk of the Book of Exodus.

When the Torah was given at Sinai, the heavens were opened, affording all the Jews a telescopic view of the spiritual worlds. By building a Mishkan, with all of the emphasis on its details, the Jews were also given the ability to penetrate the secret of every nuance of G‑d's existence. Indeed, our Sages declared that the Mishkan was a microcosm of creation. By concluding the Book of Exodus with the theme of counting, the Torah wishes to convey the message that the ultimate Redemption and exodus from exile will bring a reenactment of both themes. On the one hand, the sweeping revelation of Sinai, which enabled us to see the highest of heavens, will once more become a reality for all. In addition, every Jew will be able to look at any aspect of nature and see the Divine essence that gives it its existence.


Moshiach Matters

Just as the Jews in the desert counted the days from the Exodus until they received the Torah at Mt. Sinai, and looked forward to that event with baited breath - so too must we count the years and centuries that we have been in exile and call out to G‑d to bring Moshiach. (The Rebbe, 25 Iyar, 1990)

Moshiach - Its a Jewish issue. For more info, visit

© 2001- 2005 Chabad of the West Side