This week’s portion is often read together with the previous portion, Vayakhel. Besides the mathematical inevitability of some years having an extra Saturday, Jewish tradition prescribes a leap month be added seven times over a 19-year cycle so that Passover always falls in the spring. On shorter years, certain Torah portions are traditionally grouped together, while on longer years, they are read separately.
The two portions together deal with the fulfillment of the instructions from the last three portions. Pekudei describes the preparation of the Priests’ clothing, the assembly of the Tabernacle and the descent of God’s glory.
Inventory of Materials Donated
This section describes the inventory of materials that were donated by the Israelites for the construction of the Tabernacle. The passage lists the amounts of gold, silver, and bronze that were used to make the various elements of the Tabernacle, such as the altar, the basin, and the pegs. It also notes the source of the materials, which were primarily from the contributions of the people, and the role of Bezalel and Oholiab in overseeing the construction of the Tabernacle. This passage provides a detailed account of the resources that were required for the construction of the Tabernacle, emphasizing the importance of the Israelites’ generosity and the skilled craftsmanship of the workers involved.
Clothing for the Priests
This section begins with detailing, step-by-step, the creation of Aaron’s garments as High Priest. First the Ephod is made, then the breastplate, then the robe. Three verses quickly tell us about the four garments common to both the High Priest and the ordinary priests — the tunic, turban, breeches and sash — then the Torah returns to Aaron’s special garments with the preparation of the headplate.
With the priestly garments, the work on the Tabernacle is complete. The people bring all the pieces to Moses for inspection, and he deems it correctly made. He blesses the congregation for its work.
Following as it does upon the heels of the sin of the golden calf, it was vitally important that the Children of Israel complete the Tabernacle exactly as instructed. As the Israel Bible points out, this demonstrates they have learned that serving God is meant to be done precisely as commanded, and not in accordance with their own interpretations. Moses is overjoyed to see the people have learned their lesson and is moved to bless them.
Points to Ponder
As we were initially told in the portion of Tetzaveh, the High Priest’s robe is to be hemmed with pomegranates and bells so that he makes a sound when he enters and leaves the “holy place” and thereby “that he die not”. Why do you think he needs to make a sound as he comes and goes?
Assembly of the Tabernacle
Our portion — and indeed, the book of Exodus — ends with the assembly and consecration of the Tabernacle for the first time. God commands Moses to erect the Tabernacle on the first day of the first month, one year from the day He commanded Moses regarding the Exodus itself. God instructs Moses on the precise placement of all the vessels within the Tabernacle and its courtyard, and tells Moses to anoint and consecrate everything. He likewise instructs Moses to immerse Aaron and his sons in water, dress and anoint them, consecrating them and their future descendents as priests for all eternity.
When the work is completed, a cloud descends upon the Tabernacle and God’s glory fills the structure. The Torah tells us Moses could not enter the Tabernacle while God’s glory was present. We are also told that when the cloud would lift off the Tabernacle, the Children of Israel would continue their travels, resting when the cloud rested. At night, the cloud would appear as a fire. These are the same cloud and fire that accompanied Israel out of Egypt. The Israel Bible reminds us that when King Solomon builds the First Temple, in the book of Kings (I Kings 8:10-11), God’s glory also descends in the form of a cloud, while in the account in Chronicles (II Chronicles 7:1), His glory appears as fire from heaven. God’s presence is manifest.
Points to Ponder
If this book is called Exodus, and that is its overarching theme, why do you think it includes everything from receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai to the Tabernacle, ending specifically with the manifestation of God’s glory there?