Va-Yakhel & Pekudei
For the week of March 25, 2006 / 25 Adar 5766
Torah: Shemot / Exodus 35:1 - 40:38; 12:1-20
Haftarah: 1 Melachim / 1 Kings 7:51 - 8:21
The Israelites had done all the work just as the LORD had commanded Moses. Moses inspected the work and saw that they had done it just as the LORD had commanded. So Moses blessed them. (Shemot / Exodus 39:42,43)
When most people read the Bible for the first time, it is common for them to approach it as they would a novel or history book. That is understandable since the Bible begins with "In the beginning...", which sounds a lot like "once upon a time...". From Bereshit (English: Genesis), the first book of the Bible, through the first nineteen chapters of the second book, Shemot (English: Exodus), the Bible does read more or less like a story. But at about the twentieth chapter of Shemot, attention is given to laws and other kinds of regulations.
It is not just new readers that have difficulty with the second half of Shemot and similar portions. Many regular Bible readers admit that they don't get too much out of these passages.
There are several reasons why we have difficulty with these passages. Primarily I think it is because we don't relate to them well. Since most of us don't understand a culture that includes animal sacrifice, let alone the centrality of religious rituals, we are not interested in long descriptions of such things.
But those of us who value the Bible, believing that it is inspired by God, need to accept that such things must have importance. This is underscored by the emphasis God, who directed the writing of Scripture, gave to them. Note that the Bible's record of the creation of the stars is but a few words: "He also made the stars" (Bereshit / Genesis 1:16). The Hebrew original is actually only two words. In contrast, the building of the Mishkan (English: Tabernacle) takes up about twelve chapters in Shemot alone, not to mention several other chapters elsewhere. It appears then that the issues relating to the Mishkan are far more important to God than issues relating to the great universe in which we live.
In order to truly understand the Bible properly, we need to learn more than just the lessons it contains. In order to know how to live out what it teaches, we need to also gain a sense of its priorities. Through the emphasis given to the Mishkan we see that the worship of God must be central in our lives. Anything else we do must arise from that great priority.
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