Adapted from
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXI, p. 250ff;
Sefer HaSichos 5749, p. 313ff;
Sichos Shabbos Parshas Pekudei, 5743;
Sichos Shabbos Parshas Vayakhel, 5752

Contrast and Concord

What is the true importance of an individual? On one hand, our society often exaggerates the importance of personal gratification. In actual life, however, many people feel dwarfed by their surroundings, insignificant before the raging sea of experience to which contemporary life exposes us.

These concepts receive focus in Parshas Pekudei. The word pekudei means “reckoning,” and refers to the tallying of the gold, silver, and brass donated for the Sanctuary, and the inventory of all its utensils and services.1

Any reckoning involves an interplay of antithetical concepts. The fact that a reckoning is required presumes the existence of a multitude of elements. The focus of a reckoning, however, is not the multitude, but rather the individual entities which comprise it. And yet the ultimate importance of each individual element stems from the fact that it exists as a part of a whole.

On one hand, the Sanctuary is dependent on its individual elements. If one of those elements, no matter how tiny, is lacking, the Sanctuary as a whole is incomplete, and unfit to serve as G‑d’s resting place.

Simultaneously, the whole which is forged by the combination of these elements is far more than the sum of its parts. When brought together, the different elements of the Sanctuary are granted a measure of importance that surpasses their individual value. By being a part of the Sanctuary, each element fosters the revelation of G‑d’s Presence.

True Accomplishment

Every person’s heart is described as “a sanctuary in microcosm,”2 and every act of worship in the Sanctuary is reflected in our Divine service.3 Similarly, with regard to the above concepts, every individual must appreciate that he is far greater than his individual self. He contains the potential to serve as part of klal Yisrael, the Jewish people as a whole the medium for the revelation of G‑d’s Presence within our world.

How is this potential realized? When a person a) develops his own abilities to the utmost, shouldering all the responsibility that he has been given. And when b) he joins together with others engaged in the same task, thus becoming part of a greater whole.

The importance of the latter step is also highlighted in Parshas Vayakhel.4 Thus it is more than coincidence that these two Torah portions are often read together. On one hand, their messages may appear contradictory: Vayakhel emphasizes the fusion of individuals into a spiritual collective, while Pekudei underscores the personal contribution of every individual. But a collective will be incomplete unless it includes every individual,5 and unless it allows each of those individuals to fully developed himself. Simultaneously, each individual must realize that he will not reach his full potential until he joins with others.6

What Lies At the Core

The possibility exists of forging a unified whole from divergent parts only because each of these components already shares a fundamental connection. Every person’s soul is “an actual part of G‑d.”7 Therefore, despite the differences between individuals, they are bound together by a basic commonalty. Similarly, in the world at large, every particle of existence is maintained by G‑d’s creative energy, and this common ground generates the potential for unity.

Keeping One’s Balance Sheet

As mentioned, the reckoning of Parshas Pekudei includes “the account of the sums of gold, silver, and brass donated for the Sanctuary, and the account of all its utensils and its services.” First, an inventory was taken of the resources available, and then a reckoning was made as to how these resources were used.

These concepts are also relevant in our Divine service. First, a person must take inventory; he must know who he is and what he can do. Afterwards, from time to time, he must determine how well these abilities are being employed, and what he has accomplished with them. The sequence is also significant; awareness of the existence of one’s potential serves as a prod, spurring its realization.

The Catalyst For Personal Development

The Torah reading begins:8 “This is the reckoning of the Sanctuary… which was calculated by Moshe,” i.e., the reckoning of the different elements of the Sanctuary and correspondingly, the reckoning of the abilities of every individual is dependent on the input of Moshe Rabbeinu. It is Moshe Rabbeinu who arouses the inner G‑dly potential that every individual possesses.

And after all the elements of the Sanctuary were complete, it was Moshe who actually erected it and inaugurated its service. For it is Moshe’s leadership which stimulates the expression of each individual’s inner potential and encourages its synergistic interaction with that of others.

No End to Growth

Parshas Pekudei does not conclude with the construction of the Sanctuary, but mentions two further points:

a) That “the cloud rested upon it, and the glory of G‑d filled the Sanctuary,”9 i.e., the Sanctuary had become a resting place for the Divine Presence, and

b) “When the cloud arose… the children of Israel set forth on all their journeys”10 that our Divine service requires constant progress.

These two points are fundamental to the reckoning that every person must make. Each must know that the ultimate goal is the revelation of G‑d’s Presence. And each must realize that it is impossible to rest on one’s laurels; the ongoing revelation of G‑d’s Presence involves continual advancement.

Ultimately, as we “proceed from strength to strength,”11 we will “appear before G‑d in Zion,” in the Third Beis HaMikdash with the coming of the Redemption.