Chapter “Pekudei”

This week’s Parsha, Parshas Pekudei is the last torah portion in Sefer Shemos, The Book of Exodus. The parsha, and consequently the entire sefer, conclude with the erection of the mishkan (tabernacle), the resting place of God’s “glory”. The Ramban at the end of our parsha calls Shemos the Book of Redemption, the completion of the mishkan being the point where the Jews had finally reached a state of redemption. But wait, wasn’t the exodus, the Jews departure from Egypt, the end of the Galus (exile) that they were in?

Nahmanides explains that Jacob’s children going down to Egypt was the beginning of the first Jewish exile, an exile that did could not end until the Jews had reached the same spiritual level that their forefathers had been on. In other words there are two aspects to exile, one physical and one spiritual. So while leaving Egypt may have alleviated some symptoms of the they were in exile, namely the physical ones, it was not until they completed the Mishkan that they were truly out of galus. But why the mishkan in particuair? Why didn’t the receiving of the Ten Commandments suffice in bringing them up to the spiritual level of their forefathers and consequently taking them out of galus?

Everything in this world has potential; potential to either sanctify God’s name, or to desecrate it. Judaism isn’t an aesthetic religion, and rabbis aren’t Buddhist monks. Judaism is all about infusing the spiritual into the physical. That is why our sages teach us that when one eats something without making a blessing on it, it is as though he is stealing from God. The reason is that he wasted the potential that item of food had. He could have infused it with spirituality by using it to sanctify god’s name (i.e. make a blessing over it), but instead he just ate, he took it away from this world without allowing it to reach its holy potential. Our forefathers realized this and were able to infuse everything they did with spirituality.

As we mentioned above, the Ramban explains that for the Jews to truly get out of exile they had to reach the same level that their forefathers were one. This level was that of being able to turn the physical into the spiritual. The mishkan was a physical structure that was made holy because God’s “glory” rested in it. It was a place where animals were made holy by being sacrificed to God.

So now it is clear why the mishkan had to be completed before the Jews were to be truly considered out of exile. For only when the mishkan was finally built could the Jews truly reach the level of their forefathers, the level of being able to infuse the physical with holiness. We should all try to do the same in our daily lives, be it through reciting blessings over food, or giving money to charity. That was we may god willing merit to bring moshiach and end the this third and final exile that we are currently in.

– Alex Likhtenstein