Parshat Pekudei gives an account of all the donations to the construction of the Mishkan and how they were used. It tells us about the making of the priestly garments that the Kohanim were to wear when they were to do the service, the inauguration of the vessels, how they began the service, and finally, "the glory of G‑d filled the Mishkan."1

Nothing in the Torah is arbitrary, not even the division of the portions or their names. One shouldn't think that in order to complete the Torah within a year, they had no choice but to divide it this way, rather the Zohar2 says that there are "53 sidrot3 of the Torah," meaning that there are 53 different themes that the portions represent. The Shaloh Hakadosh tells us4 that the parshah of the week is connected to the time of the year that it falls.

This is the final parshah of the Book of Shemot, which our sages call the “Book of Geula,” (redemption), and the world therefore calls it Exodus. That means that parshat Pekudei represents the culmination of redemption, in which we see the ultimate purpose of the Exodus from Egypt, and it is a lesson for the final redemption, which we are waiting for.

Most years Vayakhel and Pekudei are read together. They have two unique themes and two important messages. However since in most years Vayakhel and Pekudei are read together, and we have a rule that "we follow the majority," even in a year that they are separate, we must learn a lesson from the two themes coming together. In other words, even though there are two weeks, in a way, we see it as one long week.

What are the themes of Vayakhel and Pekudei? What is their connection? And what is the link to the time of the year?

Vayakhel tells us how Moses gathered all the Jewish people. He told them the commandment of building the Mishkan and they donated to and built the Mishkan and its vessels. Its theme is the effort of the Jewish people in the service of G‑d, as the people served G‑d with everything they had: their money, their bodies, and their souls. Their money: everyone donated gold, silver, copper, etc. Their bodies: the men and women toiled to do everything necessary to build it. Their souls: they all gave from their hearts, and used their talents, which are from the soul, to build a home for G‑d's Presence.

The message to us is that we should use all that we have—our money, body and soul—to build our personal Mishkan. We must make our bodies, our homes, our place in the world and our synagogues into a home for G‑d.

Pekudei talks about the finalization of the Mishkan, which became complete with the anointing of the vessels and doing the service with them. And of course, that brought to the main point: "The glory of G‑d filled the Mishkan." The theme is that when we complete our work, G‑d's Presence dwells with us, and it is infinitely greater than all the work we put in.

Although the work in Vayakhel, making everything for the Mishkan, also drew G‑dliness, as all service to G‑d draws G‑dliness, however you can't compare what is drawn by the work of people, who are limited, to the completion of the Mishkan, when G‑d of His own will, filled the Mishkan, which is infinite.

So the four parshas that speak about the Mishkan—Terumah, Tetzaveh, Vayakhel and Pekudei—are in the order of how the Divine Presence is drawn into the world. Terumah and Tetzaveh is the command from G‑d that gives us the ability to make a home for Him in the physical. Terumah teaches us about the vessels of the Mishkan, and Tetzaveh teaches us about the garments of the Kohanim, which they wore when they did the service in the Mishkan. Vayakhel is us putting in the effort to make a home for G‑d, the way He wants it. And Pekudei is G‑d's Presence filling our Mishkan.

First there is the enabling from above. Then there is our effort, doing what we can below, and when our work is complete, then G‑d's infinite Presence, beyond anything that we could achieve on our own, fills our Mishkan. It is a true home for G‑d.

You may ask: Parshat Pekudei speaks about how they made the garments of the Kohanim. Isn't that part of making the Mishkan?

According to the Rambam,5 it isn't a mitzvah to make the garments and it is possible that wearing them is also not a mitzvah.6 It is only that in order to do the service in the Mishkan, the Kohanim had to wear the proper vestments. It is a prerequisite for a mitzvah, not a mitzvah in itself. In other words, it is not part of making the Mishkan, but part of finalizing it and allowing for the Divine Presence to dwell there. That is the theme of Pekudei, so it fits in perfectly.

Vayakhel is our work within the confines of nature and Pekudei is G‑d's infinite Presence filling our Mishkan. It is experiencing that which is beyond nature. When Vayakhel and Pekudei come together, it is the ultimate Jewish experience, where nature and beyond nature, infinite and finite, come together.

And that is what the Mishkan is all about: G‑d, who is infinite, dwelling in the Mishkan, which is finite. And that is the idea of the redemption, G‑d, Who is beyond the natural, dwelling openly in this physical world.

Usually, Vayakhel and Pekudei are read in the month of Adar. Adar is the month of Purim, which is always on a regular weekday, the epitome of finite. Yet, at the same time, we are meant to reach the state of ad d'lo yada, which is beyond the natural.

Since this Shabbat is my birthday, and there is a tefillin and Shabbat candle campaign in honor of my birthday, I will connect the ideas of a birthday, Tefillin and Shabbat candles, to parshas Pekudei.

On a birthday, you celebrate the day you were born, which is the day that G‑d gave you life. It is the day that you began your mission to bring redemption to your part of the world, to make it into a home for G‑d.

Pekudei tells us that Moses took an exact accounting of everything that went into the Mishkan and how it was used. In other words, in order to be able to accomplish the mission, in order to have G‑d dwell in the Mishkan, there must be an accounting.

On your birthday, you should take an account of where you stand in your mission. Have you given your money, body (your effort), and soul (your heart and talents), to make a Mishkan, a home for G‑d? Have you studied Torah, done mitzvot, treated others properly and used your talents, possessions and time for G‑d?

Tefillin go on the arm next to the heart and on the head over the brain. They are tied, symbolizing the subjugation of our hearts and minds to G‑d. And when we do that, G‑d dwells upon us, as it says, "And all the nations of the land will see that the name of G‑d is called upon you and they will be in awe of you."7 And our sages say that this refers to the tefillin that goes on the head.8 This is akin to "The glory of G‑d filled the Mishkan."

Shabbat and Yom Tov candles are lit after the entire effort of the mundane week and after all the preparations, shopping, cooking, cleaning, etc. And when everything is complete, women and girls light the candles, filling the home with G‑d's light and blessing. They complete their home into a home for G‑d. This is probably the closest we come to "the glory of G‑d filled the Mishkan."

May we merit to see the Third Temple, and the glory of G‑d fill it. Then we will see how it was our efforts that made it all possible, and Moshiach will be here. May it happen soon. The time has come.9