General Overview: In this week's portion, Vayakhel-Pekudei, Moses gathers the Jews and relays to them all the details regarding the construction of the Tabernacle, its vessels, and the priestly garments. The actual construction and assembly is also described. This portion repeats many of the details described in the portions of Terumah and Tetzaveh, wherein G‑d instructed Moses regarding the assembly of all these objects. The Tabernacle is erected, and G‑d's presence dwells therein.
First Aliyah: On the day after Moses descended from Mount Sinai with the Second Tablets, after successfully securing atonement for the sin of the Golden Calf, he gathered all the Jewish people. The primary purpose of this assembly was to inform the Jews of G‑d's desire for a Sanctuary to be constructed. He began, however, with a brief reminder regarding the observance of the Shabbat. This was followed by a description of the materials needed to construct the Tabernacle, and a list of the vessels, Tabernacle parts, and priestly garments which were to be produced. The men and women came forward and generously donated all the materials which Moses enumerated.
Second Aliyah: Moses announces G‑d's choice of Bezalel and Oholiab to serve as foremen of the Tabernacle construction project, and he transfers to them all the donated materials. The people, however, continued donating generously, until the craftspeople report to Moses that they have more than enough materials to complete their task, causing Moses to issue a proclamation requesting everyone to cease donating materials. The craftspeople began their work. The tapestries which covered the Tabernacle were assembled, and the craftspeople construct the Tabernacle wall panels, their sockets, the curtains which covered the entrance to the sanctuary and which separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the sanctuary, the Ark, and the Showbread Table.
Third Aliyah: This aliyah describes the construction of the menorah (candelabra) and the Incense Altar. The anointing oil and the incense are also prepared.
Fourth Aliyah: The Tabernacle's construction is capped off with the construction of the Outer Altar, the copper wash basin, the mesh curtains which surrounded the Tabernacle courtyard, and the beams and hooks which anchored them. The Torah then gives an exact accounting of the amounts of gold, silver and copper donated for the construction of the Tabernacle, as well as the vessels and building materials constructed with these supplies.
Fifth Aliyah: The High Priest's ephod -- a reversed apron which covered the back -- and its precious-stone-studded shoulder straps were made. The High Priest's Choshen Mishpat ("Breastplate of Judgment") was assembled. It contained four rows of precious stones, each row containing three stones. Artisans engraved the names of the Twelve Tribes of Israel upon these twelve stones. The Choshen Misphat was then secured by straps which connected it to the ephod.
Sixth Aliyah: The rest of the priestly garments were completed: The High Priest's me'il (blue robe adorned with golden bells and cloth "pomegranates") and tzitz (a golden band worn on the forehead, which was engraved with the words "Holy to G‑d"); and the four garments worn by both the High Priest and the regular priests: tunics, turbans, sashes and pants. With this, the construction of the Tabernacle and all its vessels and accoutrement were finished. The craftspeople brought their finished products to Moses. Moses saw that all the work had been done exactly to G‑d's specifications, and he blessed the workers.
Seventh Aliyah: G‑d instructed Moses to erect the Tabernacle on the first of Nissan. G‑d also instructed Moses to place all the Tabernacle's vessels in their proper places, and to anoint all of the items with the anointing oil, thus sanctifying them. Moses is also directed to dress Aaron and his sons in the priestly garments, and to anoint them, too. When Moses finished this task a Cloud of Glory and the Divine Presence filled the Tabernacle. This cloud also served as the Jews' guide throughout their desert sojourn: when the cloud lifted, the people would travel, following the cloud until it rested, where they would set up camp until the cloud would lift again.