Free translation from a talk of the Rebbe, Shabbat Parshat Vayakhel-Pekudei, Parshat HaChodesh, Mevarchim Chodesh Nissan, 5740 (1980), (excerpt)

This year Parshas HaChodesh is read on Shabbos Vayakhel Pekudei. On the surface, these two Parshiyos represent two totally different concepts. Vayakhel means to gather together. Furthermore, it has a unique and specific connotation. Generally in similar instances, the Torah would use the word ‘Vayosef’ or ‘Vayikabetz.’ In most instances, the word ‘Vayakhel’ is connected with undesirable occasions; only twice throughout the Tanach, in the present instance and in the description of King Solomon’s dedication of the Temple, was it used in a positive context. The other terms connote a collection of separate entities. Vayakhel denotes a fusion of individual beings into one community.

In contrast, Pekudei means “a counting,” i.e. the consideration of each person as an individual. Rather than look at each person as part of a whole, it emphasizes each individual’s personal identity. Hence, the two Parshas appear to be contradictory — Vayakhel stresses unity. Pekudei individuality. Nevertheless, this week they are read as one Parshah, fused together into a single entity.

(In the personal sense) both the service of Vayakhel and Pekudei are inspired by Moshe Rabbeinu (and in the individual sense, by the spark of Moshe which we possess in our souls). How was Moshe able to gather together the entire Jewish people and fuse them into one single entity? Moshe’s level was complete self-nullification, as evident from his statement “what are we.” [Trans. note: Particularly according to Chassidus this expression emphasizes the quality of self-nullification. The Hebrew word for ‘what’ — Mah — refers to the ultimate level of self-transcendence.) Because there is a spark of Moshe in every Jew, each Jew possesses the ability for self-transcendence and hence can unite together with the entire Jewish people as a single entity. The “heads of the tribes” come together with “the choppers of wood and drawers of water” as one, “before the L‑rd, your G‑d.”

On the other hand, Pekudei emphasizes the dearness and importance of each Jew in his own right. This quality is also brought out by Moshe. For it is Moshe who can understand each Jew’s individual importance. Thus Pekudei brings out the statement of the Mishnah “Each person is obligated to say ‘the world was created for me’.” (The Rambam, in his introduction to Mishnayos, writes that other men were created to serve a Talmid Chochom — a tailor, a farmer, etc. — and to provide for his needs; thus enabling the sage to study. The Mishnah goes even further than that. It states that every individual, not only a Talmid Chochom, should say “the world was created for me.”)

A similar concept is expressed in prayer “and grant us our portion in Your Torah.” Each individual has a specific “letter” (aspect) of the Torah that is relevant to him. He has the power to bring out unique innovations in Torah. Surely the innovation must be based on the general principles and elements that are present in Torah, however, there is a particular “place where one’s fathers (and teachers) left for him to become great.” Each Jew has an aspect of Torah that is intrinsically related to him which he must reveal and expose. In regard to this quality all others, even his teachers, must receive from him. Hence, to this degree the entire world was created for him. This is the lesson from Pekudei — to stress the unique individual aspects of each person.

As mentioned before, both aspects, Vayakhel and Pekudei, are accomplished through Moshe Rabbeinu. Likewise, it is the unique nature of Moshe that allows us to fuse both seemingly contradictory services together. Moshe was the one who stood “between G‑d and you.” He brought the Jews close to G‑d, serving as an “intermediary that connects” rather than an “intermediary that divides.” Just as G‑d’s essence can combine two opposites, so too, Moshe allows for the possibility of combining two opposite services.