Blog Pikudei Adar II 2nd 5779 בלוג פְקוּדֵי, ב’ אדר ב’ תשע”ט

This portion Pikudei finishes the book of Exodus. Looking back, we see that Exodus began after the eleven brothers and their families moved to Egypt, the twelfth brother Joseph being there already. Together the brothers formed a nation that would flourish and be protected in that land until a new pharaoh arose who did not know Joseph; that’s when their trouble began. We see the emergence of another leader, Moshe who was saved as a baby and grew up in the high court of the Egyptians where he was instructed as a blue blood. He eventually stood up for his people who were suffering under the hands of this Pharaoh and was forced to flee into the desert, to Midian where he married and became a shepherd. At the age of 80, the Creator called him to serve as the leader of Israel, albeit a reluctant leader who constantly struggled with his calling.

Why did the Creator choose Moshe? We are all His creation and are all of equal value in His sight. Moshe had many leadership qualities due to his high upbringing and his experiences however one characteristic that is important to the Creator is “humility”. Another important quality for our service to Him is obedience. Moshe was both humble and obedient. There is one phrase that is repeated seven times in this portion… “They did everything exactly as the LORD had commanded Moshe.” “Moshe inspected all the work; they had indeed done it as the LORD had ordered and Moshe blessed them.” Ex. 39:43

The book of Exodus shows us that the Creator spent a lot of time to develop the process that would wean the people away from idolatry or in other words, adultery against God. They had changed the Truth for what was false. The Creator gave them the Mishkan in the desert where they would be able to “refocus” their attention upon Him. The glue of the Mishkan was the Shabbat where they would come together as community. Moshe was given a variety of materials: gold, silver, bronze, textiles, skins etc. all of which would be used to construct the Mishkan and all were accounted for in detail. They did not misuse anything.

The Creator was not going to have the people build a Mishkan at first, for He would dwell among them but after the sin of the golden calf, He used it to cover their sin and to be a focal point for the redirection of their attention toward Him. They would regain their perspective of the true God and leave the false gods of Egypt behind. Today we do not have a Mishkan although there are those who want to build a third Temple. They have missed the most important teaching of the Torah – that you and I are all part of the Mishkan that God created. He dwells within us – “build me a place where I will dwell IN them” Ex. 25:8.

How are you making an account of the materials in your personal Mishkan? Each of us has been given gifts and talents. How have we used these gifts to serve others? That is true service. If, however you say, “what gifts has God given me, I am good for nothing”, you are really saying that He made a mistake creating you. You are almost cursing the Name of God. Can you say that that you are doing exactly what the LORD is asking you to do as we read seven times in this portion? … “They did everything exactly as the LORD had commanded Moshe?”

I cannot reiterate enough how important it is when studying the Torah, that we take into account the historical period, its context and to whom it was written. Then we step back to see how its “principles – its “essential oils” can be applied to our lives today. Just as the Israelites had so much difficulty understanding the God of Israel who they could not see, having been blinded by the grandiosity of the gods of Egypt, we too today struggle to have a relationship with the Creator because the religions of the world are so much more attractive than the invisible God. These ancient people had been assimilated into the life of Egypt and it would be an extremely difficult and long process to extract all the idolatry from their heads. Little by little the people would have to be purged. Like the ancient Israelites, religion gets stuck in our heads making it very difficult to get free from all the ideas that have been implanted in our brains. There are payoffs to belonging to certain religious groups.

The last parashah of Exodus entreats us to be accountable for what the Creator has given us. Are we being responsible enough to use the talents with which He has endowed us or are we throwing them away, misusing or abusing them? Religion is big business today, selling their gods in a variety of packages which is why it is more important than ever to know in Whom we trust. The Torah teaches us beautiful moral principles for us to apply to our daily lives, but we are rapidly losing these in a society that is entrenched in immoral behavior. Anyone with moral values is put down and stamped upon. We have a great challenge today.

To make an account of our lives means to be responsible and the first person to whom we need to be responsible is to ourselves. Instead we usually pass the buck and blame someone else for our situations. Do you blame your parents, your teachers or someone who stopped you from doing what you want? It is time to stop making excuses and get on with your life. The Creator was telling Moshe at the end, “well done, the people did it!” They suddenly realized that the Creator was so merciful to them after having been confronted, they acknowledged their sin and were given a second chance. That is such an important message for us today… “Our God is the God of Beginning Again”. The Holy of Holies contained the Aron, the Ark which contained the Tablets, the Ten Commandments (not the 613). They are the solution for the ailments of this world.