Purposeful Apportionment

As with all the concepts in the Torah, the division of the parshiyos is the result of precise and purposeful choice. Every Torah reading communicates a particular concept. It is not the size of the readings that determines their division, but rather their content. Similarly, the name of the Torah reading was not selected merely because it comes at the beginning of the reading. Instead, the name communicates the theme of the reading, and for that reason, it features at its beginning.

The Zohar1 says there are 53 (גן in Hebrew) Torah readings. This number is precise, and applies every year. Even in a year when certain Torah readings are coupled (as the reading Vayakhel and Pekudei often are), there are still 53 readings. For the parshiyos are divided by theme, and these themes are communicated every year. It is just that there are years when the themes of two parshiyos are read in separate weeks, and other years when two themes are communicated in the same week.

This concept applies with regard to the parshiyos Vayakhel and Pekudei. Even in the years when they are read on the same Shabbos, they communicate separate themes. Both speak about the construction of the Sanctuary and its utensils, but each has a different focus.

In this, these two parshiyos differ from the parshiyos Terumah and Tetzaveh. Terumah and Tetzaveh relate G‑d’s commands to build the Sanctuary. Vayakhel and Pekudei, by contrast, relate how those commands were fulfilled, and how the Sanctuary was actually built.2 Just as the parshiyos Terumah and Tetzaveh communicate two different themes, as reflected in the fact that they are always read on two separate Shabbosos , so too, Vayakhel and Pekudei communicate different themes, although they both relate to the same general subject, the construction of the Sanctuary.

Phases in a Sequence

The difference between the theme of Parshas Vayakhel and the theme of Parshas Pekudei can be explained as follows: Parshas Vayakhel relates how Moshe gathered the Jews together and told them of G‑d’s command to build the Sanctuary and its utensils. It also tells how the Jews willingly accepted this command and carried out G‑d’s will.

Parshas Pekudei relates how Moshe made a reckoning of how all the gold, silver, and other items donated toward the construction of the Sanctuary were to be used, how the Sanctuary and its utensils were to be anointed with the fragrant oil blended for this purpose, how the sacrifices were to be offered, and concludes by stating that these sacrifices aroused a response from above: “G‑d’s glory filled the Sanctuary.”3

Thus it can be explained that Parshas Vayakhel centers on man’s Divine service how the Jewish people dedicated their financial resources, labor, and souls to the construction of the Sanctuary. They donated thirteen4 (or according to other commentaries fifteen)5 kinds of substances for its construction. They labored tirelessly to build it, and, moreover, this labor was an expression of an inner commitment as reflected in the terms used to describe their efforts: “…whose heart motivated him… whose spirit inspired him to give,”6 and “…wise of heart.”7

But these endeavors, however great, represented merely the efforts of man. Parshas Pekudei introduces an infinitely higher dimension, the revelation of G‑d’s glory.8

The efforts of the Jewish people described in Parshas Vayakhel also brought about a revelation of G‑dliness from above for every one of our endeavors in Divine service evokes influence from above. Nevertheless, the Divine influence evoked by the activities described in Parshas Vayakhel cannot be compared to the revelation of G‑dliness drawn down by the Divine service of anointing the Sanctuary and offering the sacrifices described in Parshas Pekudei: “G‑d’s glory filled the Sanctuary.”

To cite a parallel in the realm of halachah: Our Sages teach:9 “Designation [of an article to be used for a mitzvah] is itself significant.” Nevertheless, the G‑dly influence drawn down by designating an entity cannot be compared to the influence drawn down by the actual observance of the mitzvah.10

This concept is reflected in the differences between the construction and the preparation of the utensils for the Sanctuary described in Parshas Vayakhel and the sanctification of those utensils through anointment or through use in the sacrificial worship.11 Certainly, the revelation from above which was generated by the preparation of the utensils cannot be compared to the revelation described in Parshas Pekudei, at which time the utensils were anointed and used.

On this basis, we can appreciate the sequence of the parshiyos which describe the Sanctuary and its utensils.12 Parshas Terumah mentions G‑d’s command to build the Sanctuary and its utensils an arousal from above which precedes and generates strength for the arousal from below. More particularly, this stage has two phases: the command to build the Sanctuary as recorded in Parshas Terumah, and the command to fashion the priestly garments, as recorded in Parshas Tetzaveh.13

Parshas Vayakhel relates Moshe’s instructions to the Jewish people, and describes how they were fulfilled, i.e., man’s endeavors and the concomitant arousal from below. And Parshas Pekudei refers to a higher level of arousal from above which comes after the arousal from below.14

Transcendence in Time

Although the Divine influence associated with Parshas Vayakhel cannot be compared to that associated with Parshas Pekudei, in most years, due to the pressures of time, the two parshiyos are coupled together. In one week, we must integrate spiritual influences which would ordinarily be expressed in two.15

This does not imply that we must rise above the concept of time entirely, for this would conflict with the purpose of the Sanctuary, which was intended to create a “dwelling [for G‑d] in the lower worlds.”16 Instead, the intent is to stretch those limits, so that within a world limited by time, it becomes possible to appreciate an influence which transcends time.

A Foretaste of the Future

This introduction of an element of temporal transcendence, i.e., fusing the higher realms with the lower realms, is expressed in the fusion of the parshiyos Vayakhel and Pekudei. The fundamental element of Parshas Vayakhel is the Divine service of man, while the fundamental element of Parshas Pekudei is the influence from above. Fusing the two serves as a foretaste and a preparation for the revelations of the Era of the Redemption, when “I will make your windows of rubies,”17 which our Rabbis say18 refers to a fusion of the influence from above with man’s Divine service.

(Adapted from Sichos Shabbos Parshas Vayakhel-Pekudei, 5721)

A Command and a Promise

There is another concept that can be derived from the combination of Parshas Vayakhel and Parshas Pekudei. In between G‑d’s command to Moshe to build the Sanctuary and its utensils (as related in the parshiyos Termuah and Tetzaveh) and the implementation of these commands (as related in the parshiyos Vayakhel and Pekudei), interruptions are possible (for example, the narrative of the Golden Calf, as related in Parshas Ki Sissa).19 But nothing comes between Moshe’s command to the Jewish people (Parshas Vayakhel) and their fulfillment of it (Parshas Pekudei). Indeed, the two are so closely connected that in most years the parshiyos are combined.

“We follow the majority”;20 even in the exceptional instances when Parshas Vayakhel and Parshas Pekudei are read separately, alluding to an involvement by the yetzer hora causing a delay of several days, the initiative will not be thwarted. Nothing will interpose, and ultimately, the intent will be brought to fruition. For a concept that is revealed by Moshe and also by “the extension of Moshe in every generation”21 will surely be accomplished.

For every one of Moshe’s commands to the Jewish people contains a promise that the command will be fulfilled.22 The Jews will surely respond with the appropriate Divine service, and this will cause “the glory of G‑d to fill the Sanctuary.”23

(Adapted from Sichos Shabbos Parshas Vayakhel-Pekudei, 5722)