Pekudei 5765 – Gilayon #385

Shabbat Shalom The weekly parsha commentary – parshat

(link to original page)

Click here to
receive the weekly parsha by email each week.

Parshat Pekuday








(Shemot 30:12-15)


The Half-Shekel

This [they]… shall

pay – Not with the amount of what he actually does for the common good, but

with the symbolic expression of what he knows is his duty, has he to approach

God in the moment when he is to pass-over out of the ranks of the

uncounted into the circle of those counted… But the symbolic expression of

the duty to work for the common weal is a half-shekel per person. Objectively,

actually, even the most complete and most perfect work of any single individual

is never the whole of the work, can never accomplish everything, the work of

any single person will always remain a fragment, it requires an equally devoted

sacrifice on the part of his brother to establish a whole. No individual is

asked to do the whole, as it states in Avot 2:21, "It

is not for you to complete the work." But it must be a contribution to the

whole, weighed on the scales of the Sanctuary. The shekel must be one of twenty

geras, and that which the individual gives must be

ten, in itself, subjectively, a rounded whole. As far

as the giver is concerned, it must be a whole, his whole, conscientiously

weighed out. However small a fragment what he does may be, in relation to all

that has to be done, he may leave nothing out, no power, no ability, no

possessions, that could further the happiness of the whole may he keep back,

although "It is not for you to complete the work" nevertheless "and

neither are you free to disengage from it."

(R. S. R. Hirsch on Shemot

30:13, following Levi translation)



Did We


Yonatan Orich


final days of the Tabernacle's construction: Flushed with excitement, the Chosen

People turns its eyes to the House of its glory, its Holy of Holies, the home

of its God. The pomegranate-ornaments are set in their proper places, the tarps

wave in the wind – and Moses, the leader, arrives. The people stand before

Moses – the nation's material "father" – like a small child holding

out his first artistic work to his father, asking in its heart: "Did we

succeed? Did we understand, chisel, and cut in accordance with God's word?"

Moses perceives the beauty of the completed work, feels the people's excitement

and shares in it, turns to them and says: You have succeeded "May it be

God's will that the Divine Presence shall dwell in the product of your hands"

(Rashi, Shemot 39:43).


is his custom, Rabbi S. R. Hirsch delves between the lines of the leader's

speech, deriving great meaning from them that remains significant for today's

Jews, as it had been for those who stood by the Tabernacle. Verse 3 describes

the event: And Moses saw all of the work, and they had performed it as the

Lord had commanded, so they had performed it, and Moses blessed them. Moses

looks at the people and at their completed work, and finds two significant



They had performed it


does not view the completed Tabernacle merely as a physical house of God. He

does not look at the holy objects,

but rather looks into them. In those

vessels, Moses sees the days that led to their completion. He sees the people's

spirit of volunteerism, the contributions made by every Jewish heart, the team

work, and the solidarity of individuals working side by side towards the

realization of a shared goal. Moses sees

the nation. He sees its unity and strength, its devotion to purpose. In our

day, Moses looks down from above upon our army, and wants to see similar

qualities: unity, perseverance, readiness to volunteer and tremendous devotion.

In these days of calls to refuse to follow orders, which endanger the army,

democracy, the nation, and the state – we must remember and take care, and

persevere in our commitment to the shared goal. Our strength is in our unity,

our perseverance, our readiness to give. Let us all look towards the same goal,

let us unite the Jewish People, love the Jewish People, and know how to resolve

contentious issues through democratic means. In these days when the Land of

Israel is undergoing a difficult surgical operation to save its life and for

the sake of the hope of peace – we must increase love for fellow Jews. We must

love the settlers, understand their distress, see to their well-being, and pray

for them. God forbid that our authentic desire for peace with our neighbors

should give rise to hatred and war between Jewish brothers.


As the Lord had commanded, so they had performed it


with the above, and no less important – Moses sees absolute obedience to God's

will. No personal interests, no differential treatment, no desire for one Jew

to outshine his brothers. All are "as one man with one heart" with a

strong will to execute God's commands down to the slightest detail. That is the

Torah's purpose in giving us chapter after chapter of detailed description,

worthy of the technical plans for a new communications satellite. The Torah means

to show the reader that the Israelites did as they were commanded; that the

only interest they considered was the divine command.

That is meaning of being a servant of God. "Negate

your will before His will" (Avot 2:4) – so Rabban Gamliel tells us. As servants of God we must concentrate on

one goal – the will to uphold God's word, his commandments, statutes, and laws.

Of course, God's word is sometimes ambiguous and dependent upon human

understanding. However, the written and oral Torah supply

us with enough criteria to distinguish in most cases between God's word and

personal interests.


conclusion, I shall touch upon Moses' blessing. Rashi's

comments cited above say that Moses blessed the people with the words, "May

it be God's will that the Divine Presence shall dwell in the product of your

hands: May the favor of the Lord, our God, be upon us; let the work of our

hands prosper, O prosper the work of our hands. (Tehillim 90:17)." Let us try to

find a deeper meaning in that verse from Tehillim, a

message that Moses relayed to the people on the day of the Tabernacle's



prays for the future of the Jewish People. Moses sees the path which combines

freedom with discipline as God's promise for happiness. To walk the tight-rope

between freedom and discipline – that is the goal of a servant of God – the

central message of Moses' blessing. Moses asks, let the work of our hands

prosper, O prosper the work of our hands. The work of

our hands – that is the freedom granted the Jew. O prosper

the work of our hands – that is the discipline, the commandments and laws. This

combination – the middle way – is the object of Moses' prayer. If only the Jewish

People would learn to combine divine discipline with this freedom, as Moses

hoped. On the one hand – the freedom granted us by God to develop. On the other

– we are certainly obligated by many laws and boundaries to be disciplined. It

would seem that to a secular person or to a Christian, this must appear to be

an enormous contradiction; how can one be both free and bound at the same time?


S.R. Hirsch speaks of how the tzitzit are

designed: Partially formed by knots, but ending in free and unencumbered

strings. So it is with us Jews: Only when we tie ourselves with commandments,

with statutes and laws, with the Jewish halakhah – only

then can we really be free. Free of physical enslavement, from the enslavement

of the day and from material enslavement. Then our souls "exit Egypt"

towards freedom.

Yonatan Orich is a high school student, and believes in God and in

Peace (Shalom), which is one of God's names.



But will God really dwell on the earth? Even the heavens to their

uttermost reaches cannot contain You, how much less

this House that I have built!

(I Kings 8:27)


One would say: "When

our love was strong, we could lay together on the flat of a sword; now that our

love is not strong – a bed of sixty cubits is not large enough for us." Rav Huna said: The things are

written in biblical verses – first it says and I will make myself known to

you there and I will speak to you from over the covering, and we learn from

a braita that the Ark was nine handbreadths high, and

the covering itself a single handbreadth, making a total of ten – in the

beginning when God loved Israel, the Divine Presence would reveal itself even

in such a cramped place! But regarding the Temple it is said: And the House

that Solomon built for the Lord was sixty cubits long and twenty wide and

thirty cubits tall. In the end, it is written: So spoke the Lord: The

sky is My throne and the earth My footstool; what

house shall you make for Me? When Israel sinned, the entire Temple was not

sufficiently spacious for the Divine Presence to dwell in it.

(Sanhedrin 7a)


The Tabernacle as a Divine "Concession" and Atonement for the

Sin of the Calf

And Moses blessed

them – how did he bless them? "May it be God's will that the Divine

Presence shall dwell in the product of your hands: May the favor of the

Lord, our God, be upon us(Tehillim 90:17)" Rabbeinu

Behayeiy explained: This is in accordance with that

which is said in the beginning of the Psalm: A prayer of Moses, the man of

God, etc. However, this is not enough to make the point if there is no

mention of the Tabernacle in the whole psalm. But I say that the beginning and

end of the psalm hint clearly at the building of the Tabernacle, for in the

beginning it says, Lord, you have been our refuge in every generation,

and this is in agreement with what Solomon said in his prayer at the Temple's

consecration: Even the heavens to their uttermost reaches cannot contain

You, how much less this House – that is in keeping with what is said, You

have been our refuge – You are the world's refuge, but the world is not Your

place and refuge. If so, how could it ever occur to anyone to say that they

would prepare a house for You to be located in? And he

proved it, since before the mountains were born and the land and earth

created throughout eternity You are God – if God

needed to occupy a space, which space did He occupy before creating the world? Rather,

the world is certainly not His place. Quite to the contrary, may He be blessed

is the place and refuge for the whole world. And how could it be that God

commanded him to build a house for Him, as if He was going to live there? Regarding

that, he said by means of an answer, You

return man to dust; You decreed, "Return you mortals!" God had to

concede His honor and make Himself a dwelling among the mortals in order to

absolve them for the sin of the calf, for according to the Sages the entire

Tabernacle was built as atonement for the calf (Tanhuma Pekudei 6).

(Keli Yakar on Shemot 39:43)


The Israelites were

commanded: Bring Me gifts, gifts of all that was needed for constructing

the Tabernacle. Afterwards, when the command was executed, we read that all

those whose heart moved them brought the gifts. The midrash reads this passage carefully, noting that

when a good cause is involved, e.g., building the Tabernacle – all those

whose heart moved them brought gifts. All those whose heart moved them

is not a collective name for all of the people, all of

the community, or all of the public. In contrast, when the people themselves

wanted to worship what they saw as a god – the calf – it is written: and all of the people removed

their golden nose-rings.

So: for the good – all those whose heart moved them,

for the bad – all of the people.

The worship of God does

not derive from an innate human drive. It requires that man make a

psychological effort to overcome his nature and accept the yoke of the kingdom

of heaven upon himself. However, people are naturally

driven to idolatry…

(Prof. Yeshayahu Leibowitz ztz"l, He'arot le'parashiyot ha'shavua, pp. 63-64)


The Half-Shekel

In the first of Adar,

the collection of shekalim is announced.

(Mishnah Shekalim



In the first of Adar,

the collection of shekalim is announced – So that Israel would bring the gift

of shekalim in Nisan, as it is written, in its

month [hodesh] of the months of the year do

something new [hadesh] and bring me an

offering from the new


 (Rashi on Mo'ed Katan 6a)


Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish said: It was revealed

and known to God that in the future, the wicked Haman

would weigh out shekalim in payment for Israel[‘s destruction]. Therefore, he had their shekalim precede his.

(Yalkut Shimoni

Ki-Tisa 386)


…and they would begin

to collect in the month of Adar and gave in the first of Nisan. And why do they

start in Adar and give in Nisan? In order not to pressure


(Tanhuma Ki

Tisa 1)


The rich shall not add

He said not to add or

detract – since it is a ransom of the soul.

 (Ibn Ezra 30:15)


So that the rich cannot

say, "My part is greater than yours."

(Da'at Zekeinim

Mi'Ba'alei Ha'Tosafot, loc



Just in this equality,

the symbolic nature of the fixed gift of half a shekel is expressed. As long as

the rich man and the poor man give, each all that he can, does the whole of

what he can do, then, as far as God and His Sanctuary are concerned, the pounds

of the rich weigh no more than the pennies and shillings of the poor, and the

pennies and shillings of the poor are quite equal to the pounds of the rich. The

rich man can do no more, and the poor man can do no less, than the half of a

whole shekel. God and the Sanctuary weigh, not the actual, but the relative

size of the contribution, they value what is given and what is done in relation

to the fortune and the abilities of the givers. Every one who uses the full

powers of the fortune and the abilities with which he

has been graced, in the service of God, in furthering the aims of the

Sanctuary, lays thereby his half shekel as his "symbolum"

on the Altar of God.

(Rabbi S. R. Hirsch on Shemot

30: 15, Levi translation)



An important message to our readers:

A foundation devoted to peace and

co-existence has generously offered to match all contributions made to Shabbat


Therefore: We request that you send in your

contributions as early as possible in order to ensure uninterrupted publication

and distribution. (We also accept pledges for future contributions)

Checks should be made out to "Oz V'Shalom"

(Please write "For Shabbat Shalom" on the back of the check) and sent


"Oz V'Shalom-Netivot Shalom"

P.O.B. 4433, Yerushalayim



Shabbat Shalom is available on our


If you wish to subscribe to the email English

editions of Shabbat Shalom, to print copies of it for distribution in your

synagogue, to inquire regarding the dedication of an edition in someone's honor

or memory, to find out about how to make tax-exempt donations, or to suggest

additional helpful ideas, please contact Miriam Fine at +97253920206 or at

With God's help and your own, we will

ascend ever higher.


Editorial Board of Shabbat Shalom


If you enjoy Shabbat Shalom,

please consider contributing towards its publication and distribution.

  • Hebrew

    edition distributed in Israel $700

  • English

    edition distributed via email $ 100

Issues may be dedicated in honor

of an event, person, simcha, etc. Requests must be

made 3-4 weeks in advance to appear in the Hebrew, 10 days in advance to appear

in the English email.

In Israel, checks made out

to Oz VeShalom may be sent to Oz VeShalom-P.O.B.

4433, Jerusalem 91043. Unfortunately there is no Israeli tax-exemption for

local donations.

US and British tax exempt contributions to Oz VeShalom may be made through the New Israel Fund.

Contributions should be marked

as donor-advised to OzVeShalom, the Shabbat Shalom




New Israel Fund, POB 91588,

Washington, DC 20090-1588, USA

New Israel Fund of Great Britain, 26 Enford

Street, London W1H 2DD, Great Britain


About us

Oz Veshalom-Netivot

Shalom is a movement dedicated to the advancement of a civil society in Israel.

It is committed to promoting the ideals of tolerance, pluralism, and justice,

concepts which have always been central to Jewish tradition and law.

Oz Veshalom-Netivot

Shalom shares a deep attachment to the land of Israel and it no less views

peace as a central religious value. It believes that Jews have both the

religious and the national obligation to support the pursuit of peace. It

maintains that Jewish law clearly requires us to create a fair and just

society, and that co-existence between Jews and Arabs is not an option but an


Oz Veshalom-Netivot

Shalom's programs include both educational and

protest activities. Seminars, lectures, workshops, conferences and weekend

programs are held for students, educators and families, as well as joint

seminars for Jews, Israeli Arabs and Palestinians. Protest activities focus on

issues of human rights, co-existence between Jews and Arabs, and responses to

issues of particular religious relevance.

5,000 copies of a 4 page peace

oriented commentary on the weekly Torah reading are written and published by Oz

VeShalom/Netivot Shalom and they are distributed to

over 350 synagogues in Israel and are sent overseas via email. Our web site is

Oz Veshalom-Netivot

Shalom's educational forums draw people of different

backgrounds, secular and religious, who are keen to deepen their Jewish

knowledge and to hear an alternative religious standpoint on the subjects of

peace and social issues.

Oz Veshalom-Netivot Shalom fills an

ideological vacuum in Israel's society. Committed both to Jewish tradition and

observance, and to the furthering of peace and coexistence, the movement is in

a unique position to engage in dialogue with the secular left and the religious

right, with Israeli Arabs and with Palestinians.