Thursday, March 15, 2012

Vayakhel-Pekudei


 
            This week’s Parashat, “Vayakhel/Pekudei” recounts the momentous occasion of the completion of the Tabernacle, detailing the courtyard and the Tabernacle before God’s entry.  It also describes the colorful vestments and ornate breastplate the priest is commanded to wear as he presents himself to God.  God expects that Aaron will not fulfill his priestly responsibilities wearing rags, but instead wearing flashy designer apparel.  At first glance, the emphasis on the priestly fashion seems unfitting, for holy tasks ought to value inner beauty and intention over whatever one has on the outside. In fact, according to the Rambam, one of the leading scholars of the Middle Ages, Moses, unlike typical rulers, was uninterested in the self-aggandizement of amassing treasures that would be at his disposal.[1]  Based on the story’s lesson, it is not hard to find the Torah’s emphasis on the priest’s garb somewhat off putting.  Our sages, however, provide the necessary context. Exodus 39:43 tells us: “And when Moses saw that they had performed all the tasks as the Eternal had commanded, so they had done, Moses blessed them.”  According to 11th Century Commentator, Rashi, Moses blessed the Israelites so that God’s presence would rest on their work[2].  In that blessing Moses did not just confirm the worth of all the Israelites work in laying out the pieces of the Mishkan and crafting the priests’ ornate outer wear, but also affirmed what the purpose of doing it all had been: to serve God.  What mattered more was not the final outcome, but the meticulousness of the Israelites’ efforts to reach it.  The Israelites only received Moses’ blessing because, unlike their indulgence during the Golden Calf episode, here the Israelites used their abundant resources to bring God into their midst as God asked.  Ultimately God wasn’t as concerned with Aaron’s breastplate as with why the Israelites were going to great lengths to beautify it.  Likewise, God doesn’t care what brand name we wear, but rather the attitude with which we wear it, and how else we live our lives

[1] Scherman, Rabbi Nosson. “The Chumash: The Stone Edition”.  Mesorah Publications. 2001.
[2] Ibid.

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