Telephone Torah Study: The End of Exodus
Come join us this Thursday from 4-5pm as we complete the Book of Exodus with this week’s Torah portion, P’kudei (Ex. 35:1-38:20). To join in on the conference call, please dial 702-851-4044, when prompted punch in 2, then our pass code 22252#.
Last Mondat Trace and I went to one of the Lysistrata performances. Perhaps you went also? or at least heard that on Monday night in hundreds of cities around trhe world, people performed or read the ancient Greek play by Aristaphanes, called Lysistrata, in which the women go on a sex strike in order to get their men to stop fighting in wars (it was an anti Peloponesian Wards play – it didn’t, by the way, apparently succeed in stopping those wars either). Performing ancient plays may not go a long way toward stopping war, but somehow it felt significant – as art often does. Creating art, gathering together in a joint project like making art, it embodies what we ask for – peace. It makes a statement in a way that can touch deeply. And it feels I suppose like the opposite of making war – I feel a new bumper sticker coming on: make art, not war.
Tonight we are with Moses and the wandering Israelites as they set out to plan and finally build a sanctuary to God in the middle of the wilderness. We read in the surroundings of our own sanctuary, how our ancestors began to formalize their worship of God and heed the call when God said, “Let them build me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them.” We see how this first place of worship for our people was not even rooted to the ground, but was a portable construction best suited for the wanderings that the Israelites were to endure before reaching the Promised Land.
P’kudei , the final parashah in the Book of Exodus, concludes with the completion of the Mishkan.
When Moses had finished the work, the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the Presence of the Eternal filled the Tabernacle. Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting, because the cloud had settled upon it and the Presence of the Eternal filled the Tabernacle. When the cloud lifted from the Tabernacle, the Israelites would set out, on their various journeys; but if the cloud did not lift, they would not set out until such time as it did lift. For over the Tabernacle a cloud of the Eternal rested by day, and fire would appear in it by night, in the view of all the house of Israel throughout their journeys. (Exodus 40:33-38)
The Hebrew for the opening line of this concluding section is Vay’chal Mosheh et ham’lachah. This immediately calls to mind the familiar phrase from Genesis 2:2, Vay’chal Elohim bayom hash’vi’-i m’lachto asher asah, “On the seventh day, God had completed the work that had been done.” The completion of Creation and the completion of the sanctuary are inexorably linked. Commentators have suggested that the Mishkan, which was built from a divine pattern, could be understood as the world written small. According to B’reishit Rabbah 1:1, the architectural drawings of the world (and, possibly, of the Mishkan) may be found in the preexistent Torah. God completes Creation of the world as the dwelling place for human beings and Moses completes the Mishkan so God may dwell with the Israelites. Both the world and the Mishkan are sacred space. At the end of the story of Creation we are told:
Completed now were heaven and earth and all their host. On the seventh day, God completed the work that had been done, ceasing then on the seventh day from all the work that [God] had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, and ceased from all the creative work that God [had chosen] to do. (Genesis 2:1-3)
1. Thus was completed all the work of the Tabernacle of the Tent of Meeting. The Israelites did so; just as Adonai had commanded Moses, so they did. (Ex. 39:32)
2. And when Moses saw that they had performed all the tasks–as Adonai had commanded, so they had done—Moses blessed them. (Ex. 39:43)
3. For over the Tabernacle a cloud of Adonai rested by day, and fire would appear in it by night, in the view of all the house of Israel throughout their journeys. (Ex.40:38)