"We are closer to G-d when we are asking the questions, than when we think we have the answers" Heschel

Friday, March 12, 2010

FNQ Parsha Thought - VaYakhel Pekudei/HaChodesh

The Lubavitcher Rebbe was known for drawing incredibly valuable lessons simply from the names of the Parshiyos alone (see the introduction to the excellent Gutnick Chumash). He raised a difficulty with the coupling of the two names VaYakhel and Pekudei as being a contradiction; the first being a description of bringing together disparate parts in order to form a kehilla and the second being a description of counting or pointing out individual elements, each as his own unique entity. One can see the Rebbes wonderful explanation of this issue in the Gutnick Chumash, or even better go straight to Likkutei Sichos. Please allow me to present a mehalech.

Rashi at the very beginning of Parshas VaYakhel explains that the meaning of this word isn’t that Moshe merely gathered Klal Yisrael together. Instead Rashi explains that the grammatical form of VaYakhel is the causative, Moshe Rabbeinu caused Klal Yisrael to become gathered by their own accord. It is a well-known simple fact that when an achievement or accomplishment is a result of an internal drive or desire it will have much more longevity, value and depth than when it is forced from an external source. I was once taught by a brilliant school psychologist and educator a crucial klal in chinuch. When you get the student to say that which you are attempting to teach him, his memory of and relationship with the subject matter will be infinitely better. This is precisely what Moshe Rabbeinu achieved in the uniting of the Am.
The next half of our double-portion is Pekudei. Literally the meaning of this word is the countings or listings. The Ohr HaChayim HaKadosh in the beginning of our Parsha as well as the Sfas Emes in 5637 in Parshas VaYakhel raise a crucial question. Chazal (Bava Metziah 42a) teach that whenever things are counted a spiritual force which prevents bracha comes down upon the group at hand. This being the case, they ask, why is there such emphasis put on a detailed delineation of every minute element of every one of the keilim of the Mishkan? They both answer that this is only the result of one type of counting. If one is counting for the sake of separation, in order to disconnect each element from the next, then bracha will not rest on all of the disparate parts. But if the purpose of counting all of the pieces is in order to merge and unify them then the counting will not prevent bracha, to the contrary! All of the pieces will now come together and form a beautiful harmony of oneness, and bracha will surely fall upon this unity.
This then, is the incredible process of VaYakhel Pekudei. It is not a contradiction whatsoever. It is a perfect complete process. Moshe’s method of gathering Klal Yisrael together caused a deep desire on their behalf to unite, so too with the seemingly disconnected pieces of the Mishkan. They all came together to become a united structure. Just as Moshe was able to reveal this desire for unity from within the hearts of every Jew, so too was Betzalel able to see many many different building materials, vessels and textiles and use his unique spirit and create the Mishkan, a structure which through its entirety proclaims oneness.
One last point. Perhaps this is the same concept which underlies Parshas HaChodesh. The gift of a system of time, days, weeks, months and years, can be understood as a way of dividing and separating time into many different disconnected parts. But perhaps it is the exact opposite. The Jewish calendar is not a system which breaks down and severs one moment from another, on the contrary! “HaChodesh haze lachem” means that this system is for you to recognize and achieve one long unified process. Yesterday does not exist without tomorrow and tomorrow not without yesterday; the past needs the future and the future depends on the past. And they all converge on the stage of the present. It is incumbent upon us to transcend the mentalities and cultures which try to convince us that now is now and then was then and what will be will be. With the gift of time we can achieve VaYakhel Pekudei. Just as we must strive towards a communal unity and a unity in the world of space, we can and must find a synergy and a unity the great process time, within our lives and our history. Gut Shabbos! HaChodesh Hazeh Lachem!!!

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