שְׁמוֹת / shemos / shemot / Exodus 38:21-40:38
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This is a basic overview of the parsha story in a format adaptable for kids of any age. Sources include parsha text, commentaries and midrash, though when introducing midrash, I try to include the words “some people think” or something similar. I have not been using the Q&A format of earlier parshiyos; I find this is more natural and less “scripted,” though I may return to it where it is more appropriate.
This week’s parsha, Pekudei, has even more counting – in fact, the word Pekudei MEANS "counting"!
That’s because this parsha starts by counting up everything bnei Yisrael brought to build the Mishkan.
They had lots of gold, even more copper – and way more silver, plus wool, linen, jewels, wood and animal skins.
There was no vault or wagon full of precious materials – everything had to come from somewhere else!
Do you know where the silver came from?
In Parshas Ki Sisa, each of more than 600,000 men brought half a silver shekel each so that they could be counted.
Do you know where the copper came from?
Ancient mirrors were made out of flat shiny copper. The ladies melted their mirrors down to make the Mishkan.
Do you know where the gold came from?
Everybody gave personal jewellery. Earrings, rings; things they loved a lot – but they loved Hashem more.
What about the trees, the wood they used for all the Mishkan’s many wooden parts?
Some say that when Yaakov went to live in Goshen (in Mitzrayim), his family planted atzei Shittim – acacia trees.
Hundreds of years later, when bnei Yisrael left, they chopped down the big, strong trees to bring out with them.
Every single material had a different purpose: no two of them were used the same way!
Solid gold was used to make the menorah, the kapores (aron cover).
A thin layer of gold was used over the aron, the shulchan and the small mizbei’ach for spices.
Gold was even used as threads in fabric, like the clothes of the kohen gadol.
Silver made the top and bottom supports of the Mishkan – from far off, they looked like a silver base and a silver crown.
The copper was for the huge kiyor and many of the tools used by the kohanim.
Like the Mishkan building materials, Hashem has a special job for each of us to do.
This parsha tells us a lot about making the choshen mishpat – the kohen gadol’s breastplate.
It was made of woven fabric, but there were twelve stones set into it, one for each of the shevatim – tribes.
Do you know the names of all the shevatim? Sing them – to the tune of “1 little, 2 little…”:
Reuvain, Shimon, Levi, Yehudah, Yissachar, Zevulun, Dan, Naftali,
Gad, Asher, Yosef, Binyamin – these are the shivtei Yisra-el!)
When the kohen gadol had a very hard question to decide, he could ask the Urim and Tumim for an answer.
Betzalel and Oholiav supervised the skilled men and women.
They were all careful to build everything exactly the way Hashem had described it to Moshe.
How did they know exactly how to do it? Perhaps they concentrated very hard on doing exactly what Hashem wanted.
When it was all built, they brought everything to Moshe to check: it was all perfect!
What do you do when you get a brand-new toy? Maybe you look at it first in amazement, then untie all the little ties holding it in and pull it out of the box. Somebody reads the manual, checks all the parts, puts in the batteries… while the toy just lies there. Maybe you just want to start playing, but you have to wait until it’s ready. Finally, there is a moment when you can switch it on and everybody watches and waits to see if it will work.
That’s exactly what happened in the Mishkan! Moshe helped Aharon and his sons get dressed in their kohen clothing, wash their his hands and feet from the kiyor, burned ketores (incense) on the small mizbei’ach, lit the menorah, set up the special bread on the shulchan. Then, they waited to see if it would work. And it DID work!!!
A cloud filled the Mishkan, then settled above it: Hashem had come to live with the people He loved so much. That cloud remained the whole time bnei Yisrael was in the midbar, rising up when it was time to travel and lowering when Hashem wanted them to stay in one place. Eventually, that little Mishkan would be the heart of the Bais HaMikdash!
We are now finished reading Chumash Shemos, so we all stand up and say together:
חָזָק חָזָק וְנִתְחַזֵּק!
May learning Torah make us strong!