In this week’s Torah portion, Pekudei, (Ex. 38:21 - 40:38) the last portion of the book of Exodus, the work of the Mishkan is finally finished. In the last few weeks, we have heard God describe the work to Moses, Moses describe the work to the Israelites, and now the work is finally done, and Moses blesses the people for what they have accomplished.
In a wonderful essay on this portion published in the current edition of The Jewish Week, Dr. Erin Leib Smokler brings ancient and modern sources to prove a point that Moses, when he blesses the people (Ex.39:43), is subtly reminding them that all their work has been for one purpose: to make a place for God to dwell among them.
One wouldn’t think that they would need that reminder. After all, they have spent all this time, effort and expense doing God’s will to exact specifications in the building of the Tabernacle. How could they forget it?
A number of years ago, when I was a Hillel director, I attended a national conference. At a dinner, one of the people seated at my table was the director of a very prominent Hillel foundation which had just completed a brand new, large and beautiful building to house its programs. “How do you like the new building?” someone asked him, “Thank God that it’s all over,” he said, “For the last two years, I’ve been a fundraiser, an architect, and a building supervisor. Now I finally feel like a rabbi again.”
When working on a project, it is easy to get caught up in the details, and lose sight of the overall goal. The children of Israel had Moses to remind them of their ultimate goal, and we have Dr. Smokler’s incisive commentary, which you may find at http://www.thejewishweek.com/editorial-opinion/sabbath-week/inviting-god-gods-house. I borrow her final sentence: “May we all be blessed not to lose God in our pursuits of God.”