Aliya-by-Aliya Parashat P’kudei 5760

Numbers in [square brackets] are the mitzva-count of the Sefer HaChinuch.

Kohen – First Aliya – 12 p’sukim – 38:21-39:1

The sedra begins with an accounting of the materials collected for use in the construction of the Mishkan, its furnishings, and the garments of the Kohanim.

[SDT] We are taught from the fact that Moshe Rabeinu gave a voluntary accounting of the materials he collected, that a person in the position of collecting monies for the community must conduct himself in such a way that he will always be above suspicion. Even if the individual is completely trustworthy, he should takemeasures to avoid the possibility of appearing improper. We learn similarly from the episode of the two and a half tribes that one must behave in such a way that he will be “clean before G-d AND Israel”. The Talmud tells us that the family of Kohanim that was in charge of compounding the Ketoret (incense) did not allow its women to use perfume, lest someone suspect them of taking from the sacred ingredients of the Ketoret. Similarly, the bakers of the Lechem HaPanim did not eat fine bread, so that no one should even get an idea that they were taking the special flour of the Mikdash for their own use.

[SDT] In the opening pasuk of the sedra, we find the word Mishkan twice in a row – …HaMishkan, Mishkan HaEidut. Rashi says that this is an allusion to the two Batei HaMikdash. Chatam Sofer adds that the HEI of the first Mishkan is “missing” from the second. This alludes to the 5 special items missing in the second BeitHaMikdash – the ARON, the Holy Fire, the Divine Presence, the Holy Spirit, and the Urim V’Tumim.

[SDT] Rashi teaches us that the description of the Mishkan as EIDUT, a Testimony, attests to the fact that G-d had forgiven us for the Sin of the Golden Calf. This is so because the SH’CHINA rested among us, in the Mishkan.

The work of assembling and dismantling the Mishkan throughout the years of wandering in the Wilderness was the domain of the tribe of Levi, under the supervision and leadership of Itamar b. Aharon HaKohen. The chief artisans of the Mishkan, the Torah reminds us, were Bezalel from Yehuda and Aholiav from Dan.

The Torah next details the amounts of gold, silver, and copper which was collected for the Mishkan and its vessels. The Torah also lists the uses of the different metals.

Then the Torah mentions the different dyed wools (sky-blue, purple, red – the shades of color are debated – e.g. sky-blue? At what time of day?) that were used in the making of the sacred garments of the Kohen Gadol, and for the cloths that covered (and protected?) the sacred items of the Mishkan during the traveling from place to place in the Midbar.

Comment of the Baal HaTurim, shared with you in honor of Mrs. Leah Globe on the occasion of her 100th birthday. The Mishkan was supported on a foundation of 100 silver ADANIM. So too are our daily lives as Jews supported by 100 silver foundation sockets – the 100 Brachot which we strive to recite every day.

Levi – Second Aliya -20 p’sukim – 39:2-21

This Aliya contains a detailed description of the Eifod and the Choshen of the Kohen Gadol. Both were woven from the same kind of weave and the two were attached firmly to each other when worn. Two onyx stones (Avnei Shoham) were attached to the shoulder straps of the Eifod. The names of the 12 tribes (actually, it was the 12 sons of Yaakov) were engraved on the stones, six on each stone. How the names were divided is the subject of dispute among our various sources. One opinion is that the emblems of the tribes were engraved on the stones alongside the names. Rambam says that Yosef was written as Y’HOSEF (a spelling that appears in T’hilim), resulting in a symmetrical 25 letters on each stone. The 50 letters of the names were supplemented by 22 letters of the names of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov, and the words SHIVTEI Y’SHURUN on the Choshen. This brought the total number of letters to 72, corresponding to the SHEIM HA’M’FORASH. The arrangement of names and letters resulted in 6 per stone. In addition to the fabric of these two garments, there were gold settings for the stones, gold rings and chains for attaching Choshen & Eifod.

Shlishi – Third Aliya – 11 p’sukim – 39:22-32

The ME’IL (different opinions – cloak, cape, poncho-like garment) was woven completely of T’CHEILET wool. Its neck-hole was reinforced to prevent tearing. This is the second time that the Torah emphasizes the prohibition of tearing the ME’IL (or allowing it to be torn). None of the garments may be torn; precautions were taken to avoid tearing. Yet the Torah presents the rule specifically with the ME’IL. The hem of the ME’IL was fringed with alternating bells of gold and pompoms of colored wools and linen. Here are two opinions as to how the PA’AMONIM & RIMONIM were attached to the bottom of the ME’IL.

The KUTONET, a long-sleeved, floor-length garment was woven of white linen. Some say that the sleeves were woven together with the body of the garment, rather than made separately and then sewn together. All Kohanim wore a KUTONET. Each had it custom-fitted, since it is forbidden to due AVODA in the Mikdash if the garment was either two long or too short, or frayed or soiled.

A turban of linen was worn by the Kohen Gadol in one style, to accommodate the TZITZ. Regular Kohanim wore their turban in a different style.

The belt or sash, called AVNEIT, was woven from the three colors of wool and from linen. It was unusually long (32 AMOT, approx. 15 meters, about 50 feet long) and therefore needed to be wound around the kohein’s waist many times. (Some say that the AVNEIT was worn above the waist.) The winding produced a prominent bulge aound his waist which he felt whenever his hands were at his sides. This served as a constant reminder to the Kohein of the seriousness of the service in the Beit HaMikdash. The AVNEIT was Shaatnez, as was the Choshen, Eifod, and Me’il. There are different opinions as to whether the regular kohen wore an AVNEIT of pure linen or of the same mixed weave of the Kohein Gadol’s AVNEIT.

Next comes the TZITZ, a.k.a. NEZER HAKODESH, made of pure gold and fastened around the KG’s head with ribbons of T’cheilet wool. The TZITZ was embossed with the words KODESH TO HASHEM. There are many different opinions as to how the words were formed from the gold of the Tzitz, and in what order and orientation relative to each other. The TZITZ was like a royal crown for the Kohein Gadol, yet it was also meant to humble him greatly.

Thus, all the work of the parts of the Mishkan and the garments of the Kohanim came to an end. (All that remained was to put everything together and in its right place.

Quick – who was Bezalel’s great grandmother? The answer is MIRIAM, mother of CHUR, grandfather of Bezalel.

[SDT] Talmud Yerushalmi notes that the phrase, “as G-d had commanded Moshe” appears 18 times in P’kudei. Correspondingly, we have 18 brachot in our weekday Amida (the connection between Service in the Mikdash and Davening is obvious, or should be). Thus says Sh’muel b. Nachmani in the name of Rabbi Yochanan. This does not include the first time the phrase is used: And Bezalel… did all the G-d had commanded Moshe. There are differences between the context of the phrase with Bezalel and contexts of all the other uses of the phrase that justify its not being counted together with the rest. On the other hand, our Amida does have a 19thbracha, so the “extra” phrase is accounted for. Interestingly, there are other “origins” for the 18 brachot of the Amida, and they too have a slightly different number 19, so that the “expansion” of the Amida is covered by them, too. For example, G-d’s name is mentioned 18 times in Psalm 29, Mizmor L’David, Havu LaShem…which we say in Kabbalat Shabbat and when we put the Torah away on Shabbat morning. There is a 19th, but different Name of G-d, KEIL. (Among the 18 AZKAROT are 7 KOL HASHEM, corresponding to the 7 brachot of the Shabbat and Yom Tov Amida.

R’vi’i – fourth Aliya – 11 p’sukim – 39:33-43

All the components of the Mishkan, its vessels, and the sacred garments were brought to Moshe following the completion of the work by many men and women who voluntarily contributed their talents to the Mishkan. Moshe inspected all of the work and found it to be consistent with what G-d had commanded to be done. Moshe blessed the people: “May it be G-d’s will that He will cause His Presence to settle upon your handiwork.” (Rashi)

The Torah once again enumerates all of the components of the Mishkan. And repeats over and over again that the People did everything that G-d had commanded Moshe.

Here’s a thought…

The emphasis upon the people doing as commanded stands in harsh contrast to the Golden Calf, which was not at all what G-d had commanded. We can see a rebuke every time the point is made that, “this time we listened, but what happened a couple of months ago…” (To be sure, it is complimentary, that we did as commanded, but we can also see an implied rebuke.)

Chamishi – fifth Aliya – 16 p’sukim – 40:1-16

G-d instructs Moshe to erect the Mishkan on Rosh Chodesh Nissan. After the structure of the Mishkan is in place, Moshe is to bring in the Aron and hang the PAROCHET which is to separate the Holy of holies from the main part of the Mishkan. Then the Shulchan and Menora were put in their places, followed by the Golden Mizbei’ach. The MASACH was then hung from the posts at the entrance to the Mishkan. The Copper Mizbeiach was then place in front of the Mishkan, opposite its entrance. The KIYOR and its base were then placed between the Mishkan and the Mizbei’ach, slightly to the side. The courtyard curtains were then hung from their posts.

Following all this, Moshe was to anoint all the components of the Mishkan and sanctify them. Then the Mizbei’ach and its vessels were anointed, and the Laver as well.

Then the Kohanim were brought forward. After proper ablutions, they were clothed in their sacred garments and anointed.

Note that Aharon’s sons were also anointed. Regular kohanim are not; they were exceptions. It gave them a status of Kohen Gadol. That’s why Elazar and Itamar were not able to tend to the bodies of their brothers Nadav and Avihu and cousins were called in to take care of things. Aharon’s sons needed to be anointed, because they weren’t kohanim by birth.

Shishi – sixth Aliya – 11 p’sukim – 40:17-27

And it came to pass that on the first day of Nissan in the year out of Egypt, the Mishkan was completed. That is a bit less than a year out of Egypt. In this portion, the Torah spells out the step-by-step procedures of finally carrying out the commands of Parshiyot T’ruma, T’tzaveh, beginning of P’kudei, all of Vayaqhel.

Sh’vi’i – Seventh Aliya – 11 p’sukim – 40:28-38

Continuing from the last Aliya, the Torah describes the final stages of the whole job of constructing the Mishkan. When Moshe place the Mizbei’ach where it belongs, he brings the proper korbanot on it.

Imagine the mixed feelings that Moshe would have at this point. He has built the Mikdash and is basically serving as Kohen Gadol. But not for long. During the week-long inauguration of the Mishkan, Moshe did it all. See the mitzva of washing hands and feet before doing Avoda. The command goes to Moshe and Aharon and sons. Rashi says that on the 8th day of the dedication of the Mishkan, Moshe and Aharon were on equal status. But only on that day. After that, Moshe is “only” a Levi, and Aharon takes over the reins. It is said that Moshe would have been the Kohen Gadol, except for the way he spoke to G-d at the Burning Bush. It was then that G-d brought Aharon to Moshe, so to speak, to share the responsibilities and privileges of leadership.

In the final 5 p’sukim of Sh’mot, the Torah tells us that Moshe was not able to approach the Mishkan because it was “covered by a Cloud”. Only when the cloud lifted was Moshe able to approach.

The Cloud was also that which signaled the people to travel or to remain encamped. The Cloud was there by day and the Pillar of Fire by night.

Thus ends the Book of Sh’mot, with the stage set, so to speak, for the Book of Vayikra, Torat Kohanim.

In the course of the Book of Sh’mot, we started out as a family that was in Egypt, enslaved and oppressed there. We grew into a nation, were redeemed from Egypt, accompanied by great wonders and miracles. We received the Torah, and set up the two main aspects of our nationhood – the day-to-day rules of a Torah way of life and the building of the Mishkan to be the focus of our spiritual energies.

G-d’s plan for us is well underway. Everything is there except for our venue for Jewish Life at its richest – Eretz yisrael. But three books of the Chumash are still to come.

These same 5 p’sukim are reread for the Maftir. It is as if we are being told to pay special attention to this summary and update on Bnei Yisrael.

Haftara – 33 p’sukim – M’lachim Alef 7:40-8:21


This is a bit tricky. The official Haftara for Ashkenazim for Vayaqhel is 7:40-50 in M’lachim Alef. The one for P’kudei continues where Vayaqhel’s left off, 7:51 and then 8:1-21. Both of these Haftaras are never needed in the same year. When the sedras are combined, neither Haftara is read, because Vayaqhel-P’kudei will either be HaChodesh or Para. The Four Parshiyot have their own Haftaras which preempt the regularly scheduled Haftara. When they are read separately, one or the other is Parshat Sh’kalim and the other is “regular”. In which case, the Vayaqhel haftara is preferred, because that of P’kudei, except for the first two p’sukim, is the Haftara of the second day of Sukkot. Ah! Here’s where it gets tricky. We don’t have a Haftara on our second day of Sukkot. So the custom is to read the Haftaras of Vayaqhel and P’kudei (which are continuous portions of the Navi, on either Vayaqhel or P’kudei, whichever is not one of the Four Parshiyot. Still with me? There is also a rare year that Vayaqhel is Para and P’kudei is HaChodesh (and Machar Chodesh – but that’s another story).

Bottom line. Some shuls (in Eretz Yisrael) will read the whole 33 p’sukim. Others will read the Vayaqhel haftara plus the first two p’sukim of P’kudei’s haftara (which are not read on the second day of Sukkot.

Now with all that said, the obvious choice of this part of M’lachim Alef for the Haftara is the analogy: Moshe Rabeinu is to the Mishkan as Shlomo HaMelech is to the first Beit haMikdash. That’s the broad picture. When you look at detail, there are many similarities between the Haftaras and both Vayaqhel and P’kudei.

Piece of Pi, anyone?

The following really belongs to the Sfaradi haftara of Vayaqhel, but I don’t know if and when it is read for P’kudei’s situation this year. Irrelevant, because it’s all from the same part of M’lachim Alef. And as a math person, I cannot resist sharing this with you, again. The following is attributed to the Vilna Ga’on.

7:23 describes the Yam Shel Shlomo, a “molten sea” – a large vessel made of metal, round, measuring 10 Amot across and 5 Amot deep. It was a huge vessel capable of holding thousands of gallons of water. It was mounted on the backs of 12 bronze oxen. The pasuk gives its diameter as 10 Amot “from rim to rim”. It also gives the circumference by saying that a “line that surrounds it was 30 Amot long”. (The depth of 5 Amot is irrelevant to the discovery about to be revealed.) A circle that measures 10 Amot in diameter has a circumference “around” it of approx. 30 Amot. But not exactly. The ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter is PI, with a value near 3 and 1/7. First of all, this pasuk is considered to provide one of the earliest rough approximations of PI. As far as whole numbers go, 3 will do. It is only off about 4.5% from the actual value of PI.

And here is the GR”A’s discovery. The word in the pasuk for the circumference is KAV, a line (that goes around). In this particular context, the word KAV is written KUF-VAV-HEI, but pronounced as if it were spelled KUF-VAV. This is one of many KRI-K’TIVs in Tanach.

The numeric value of the word KAV as written is 100+6+5 = 111. Its value as pronounced is 106. Divide 111 by 106. You get 1.04717 (rounded to the 5th decimal place). The value in the pasuk for the circumference of a circle whose diameter is 10 Amot, is 30. Multiply 30 by the “adjustment factor” created by dividing the G’matriyas of the K’TIV and KRI and you get 31.4151. Dividing by 10 we get 3.14151 (rounded). This is extremely close to the value of PI and using it would produce an error of only 26 millionths.

We can say that the pasuk presents the round-to-a-whole number value for PI. This is fine to keep things simple. But the K’TIV & KRI give us the accurate values, without bothering the non-math people around us.