|Some general background on the "Haftarot"
The Haftarah of Parshat Pekudei is taken, as is the regular Haftarah of Parshat Vayakhel, not the one we read last week because Vayakhel coincided with Parshat "Shekalim," from the section of the "Tanach"/Bible dealing with "Shlomo HaMelech" (King Solomon)'s construction of the First Temple. These chapters are chapters 5-8 in the Book of "Melachim"/Kings I.
Not for the first time, and not for the last, the Sefardic and Ashkenazic customs as to what the Haftarah is, differs. The Sefardim read from Melachim I, from "Perek"/Chapter 7, "Passuk"/Verse 7 through Perek 7, Passuk 26. The Ashkenazim read from 7:51 through 8:21.
Sefardic Version (Melachim I, 7:7 - 7:26):
A common feature in all of them is the prevalence of cedar wood, from the forests of the Levanon.
From the observation in the text that Chiram was taught by his father and followed in his father's profession, RADAK cites the inference drawn by CHAZAL in the Talmud that a person should follow in the profession of his (nowadays, "her" as well) father (nowadays, "mother" as well). Of course, there are many exceptions, perhaps the majority of cases are exceptions; however, by reasons of nature and/or nurture, an individual may find that he/she is best suited to the profession of one of his/her parents.
Some of the material below (in italics) is a bit technical, and may be skipped by younger readers:
Ashkenazic Version (Melachim I, 7:51 - 8:21):
At the conclusion of the work of the Temple, Shlomo gathered the elders of Israel (the "Sanhedrin," the High Court) and the Tribal elders, for the ceremony of restoring the "Aron," the Holy Ark, to its rightful place in the Holy of Holies in the Temple. The walls and curtains, and the vessels that had been used in the Mishkan were also to be brought, some to be used in the new Temple, possibly with additional vessels made specifically for the Temple, and others to be stored in its upper chambers.
The entire congregation of Israel also joined the procession, in order to show honor to Hashem.
The ceremony was held in the "Yerach Ha-Etanim," meaning the "Month of Strength," the Month of Tishrei. Tishrei is given this name for several reasons, mentioned by the RADAK. One is the fact that "Tishrei," in the Fall, is the Harvest time of fruits and vegetables, which form the nutritional support and give strength to the human being.
Another is that this is the month that the "Avot," the Founding Fathers of the Jewish People, were born and they are called the "Eitanei Olam," the Strong Ones, the pillars, who support the world.
Yet another is the fact that so many "Mitzvot" are available to be done in this month: Shofar, Lulav and Etrog, Sukkah, etc. etc., allowing a person to store up spiritual merit, or strength, for a good part of the year.
And finally, because Tishrei was originally considered the "first of the months," because the Creation of the World took place in Tishrei, until Hashem took the Jewish People out of Egypt in the Month of Nisan, and told Moshe "This month should be considered by you the First of the Months," ("Shemot"/Exodus 12:2) because it represented the physical birth of the Jewish People."
Passuk Melachim I (8:6) says that the "Aron" was placed underneath the "K'ruvim." This, the commentators explain, refers to the large K'ruvim built by Shlomo, which stood on the ground of the "Kodesh Ha-Kodoshim," the "Holy of Holies," in the Beit HaMikdash, and not to those K'ruvim that stood on top of the "Aron" itself, on its "Kapporet," its "Cover," which was the location of the "K'ruvim" made by Bezalel for the Aron in the MIshkan.
RADAK lists several questions that have the same answer:
Why did Shlomo make different K'ruvim?
Why didn't he make a new "Aron?"
Why did he make new Altars, new Menorot, new Tables, and other new Vessels, some to be used together with their counterparts in the Mishkan, others to replace the older versions?
The answer to all those questions is that he had received instructions from his father, David, who had received them all through Prophecy from Hashem.
What was in the "Aron"?
We don't have to rely upon the "Raiders of the Lost Ark" for an answer to this question. Verse Melachim I, 8:9 informs us that there was nothing in it but the Tablets put into it by Moshe at Mt. Sinai, containing the Ten Commandments, not the set broken by Moshe, nor the complete "Sefer Torah," the Scroll of the Torah given by Moshe to the People of Israel, before his death.
What Happened at the Ceremony?
The "Kohanim," the Priests, were carrying the "Aron" and the "Leviim," the Levites, were carrying the Mishkan from Givon, which had been its last resting place.
Rabbi Moshe Weissman describes the scene, based on the Gemara.
A choir of "Leviim" were chanting Psalms of praise to Hashem, while their orchestra was playing music composed by David HaMelech on their varied instruments: cymbals, flutes and harps. One hundred twenty "Kohanim" blew their silver trumpets.
But when the "Kohanim" were about to place the "Aron" into the Holy of Holies, its gates closed firmly. No way could be found to open the gates.
Shlomo uttered twenty-four songs of praise to Hashem in order to persuade the gates to open, but they remained closed. He began to entreat them, "O gates, raise your heads, and let your everlasting doors be lifted, so that the King of Glory may enter" ("Tehilim"/Psalms 24:7).
Shlomo then clarified his prayer, "Hashem of hosts, He is the King of Glory forever" ("Tehilim"/Psalms 24:10).
Still the gates did not open. Then Shlomo entreated Hashem, "Please, Hashem, do not ignore my prayer! Remember the acts of kindness performed by my father, Your servant, David!"
Mention of his father's name was the magic-word. The gates swung wide open, and the "Aron" was brought into the "Kodesh HaKodoshim."
Melachim I (8:14) reads as follows: "And the king turned his face about and blessed all the Congregation of Israel, and all the Congregation of Israel stood."
RADAK points out that Shlomo's blessing of the People is not presented here, but only after his prayers to Hashem. This appears to follow the structure of the "Shemoneh Esray," the "Eighteen" - Blessing Prayer that constitutes the core of each of the daily Prayers: Morning, Afternoon and Evening. In this prayer, there are three blessings of praise, followed by twelve blessings in which personal needs are placed before the One Who has the power to fulfill them, and the Prayer is closed by three additional blessings which basically say "Thank You." This is merely the structure of common courtesy, which is certainly called for when one appears before the King of Kings.
RALBAG (Rabbi Levi ben Gershon) remarks that we learn from Shlomo's turning of his face towards the People when he blessed them that when "Kohanim" bless the People on the Holidays in the Diaspora and everyday in the Land of Israel, they should face the congregation.
RALBAG also cites this verse as the source of the prohibition against anyone but a King of the Dynasty of David sitting in the Courtyard of the Temple, since apparently Shlomo sat at this time while, according to the verse cited, the "Congregation of Israel stood."
Fire from Heaven
The parallel text in "Divrei HaYamim"/Chronicles II, 7:1teaches us that here, at the inauguration of the First Temple, as some one hundred fifty years later, when Eliyahu HaNavi faced the prophets of Baal before the entire People of Israel, when Shlomo HaMelech concluded his prayer, a fire came down from Heaven and consumed the sacrifices on the Altar. When the People saw this, they bowed down before G-d, exclaiming "gratitude to Hashem, Whose Kindness is forever."
Connections - Comparisons and Contrasts Between the Parshah and the Haftarah
Rabbi Pinchas Frankel
Rabbi Frankel is an Educational Coordinator at the OU