Parshas Pekudei begins with a reckoning of all the materials used in the Sanctuary. This is a lesson for each of us. For we have all been given gifts that we must make a reckoning of. When a person has been given potentials, be it wealth, intelligence, or other gifts, it is for a reason: to increase the good there is in the world.

This is not merely a general concept; it applies in a very particular and individual way. A person must be “a master of accounts,” realizing that he has been given a fixed number of days, no more and no less. Every day, every hour, and every moment are creations, brought into being by G‑d for specific purpose: that we should use them for His service by studying Torah, doing good for others, and performing mitzvos. A person must be busy, fulfilling his mission in this world.

It’s not like you can cram for this one. If you can accomplish so much good today, then that’s what today was intended for; it’s not making up for yesterday. When a person learns to count his moments, he makes every moment count.

Parshas Pekudei is usually read together with the previous reading, Parshas Vayakhel. Only in a leap year are they singled out and read separately. The themes of these Torah readings appear opposite. Vayakhel means “he gathered together,” focusing the creation of a communal identity. Pekudei, by contrast, as explained above, places the emphasis on an individual reckoning.

These two themes are general thrusts motivating our conduct. On one hand, we seek transcendence. We want to be part of something bigger than ourselves, to be included in a greater whole in which our individual identity is eclipsed. Conversely, we want to be ourselves and express the unique qualities and gifts that were granted to us individually.

Judaism highlights the truth that is present in each of these motifs. There is a dimension of G‑dliness that transcends all existence. From the standpoint of this level of G‑dly light, there is no difference between great and small. In terms of our personal relationships, it makes no difference how intelligent you are, how attractive you are, that you possess wealth, skills, or other resources, for when we speak in relation to G‑d’s infinity, these are of no consequence whatsoever.

The concept is reflected in contemporary mathematics. Regardless of the number that infinity is divided by, the sum is the same. Or to illustrate by analogy, we have a comprehensive “I,” that takes in all the different limbs and organs in our bodies as one. The head, the heart, and the hand are all part of the same organism. In Kabbalah, this aspect of light is referred to as Ein Sof, the infinite, and sovev kol almin, “encompassing all the worlds,” for this perspective envelopes all existence as one. Parshas Vayakhel heightens our awareness of this collective dimension and inspires us to identify with it.

Conversely, there is another aspect of G‑dly light that lowers itself and brings into being every element of existence according to its own level. Just as in our bodies, the head is different from the heart and both are different from the hands, so too, every individual has a unique and different personality. This is not accidental. Quite the contrary, a person’s character is a unique gift from G‑d that no one else in the world possesses. Every person has a unique individual nature and a unique mission to accomplish. That nature and that mission are vitally important. If they are not brought to fulfillment, G‑d’s plan for the world is lacking, as it were. Parshas Pekudei highlights this approach, teaching each of us how important it is to use our individual gifts in G‑d’s service.

Parshas Vayakhel precedes Parshas Pekudei, because although both of these dimensions of expression are important, it is preferable to begin with Parshas Vayakhel. Were we to begin with Parshas Pekudei, we might remain totally absorbed in ourselves and never appreciate anything beyond. Beginning with Vayakhel enables harmony to be established between the two thrusts. Then our individual expression is introduced by the selflessness inspired by a collective identity.

Looking to the Horizon

The Torah readings of Vayakhel and Pekudei are the final phases of the narrative describing the construction of the Sanctuary, the structure in which the Divine Presence rested during the Jews’ journey through the wilderness. That journey has been interpreted as an analogy for the more than two-thousand year journey of the Jewish people through the wilderness of exile. The ark where G‑d’s presence was manifest throughout the journey through the desert ultimately became the fundamental element of the Temple in Jerusalem. Similarly, the spiritual motif associated with these themes of these two Torah readings will nurture our people through their experience in exile and will then blossom into complete expression in the era of Mashiach. Then it will be revealed how the entire world is a dwelling for G‑d.

At that time, every element of existence will express the G‑dly purpose for which it was created. Simultaneously, there will be a general and all-encompassing awareness of G‑d that will permeate all existence.