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Parshat Vayachel-Pekudei, Shabbat
HaChodesh: Exodus 35:1-40:38, Exodus
12:1-12:20; Ezekiel 45:16-46:18.
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his week's double Torah portion,
Vayachel and Pekudei, deals with
Moses' request for the people of
Israel to donate material and labor for the
construction of the Tabernacle so that the
Lord "may dwell in their midst" (Exodus
anathema to rational Judaism.
Secondly, it should be obvious that
God blesses all of His creation equally —
those who "do not keep His command-
ments" as well as those who attempt to
precisely observe what they perceive
to be "God's will." Those of us who are
Its construction is described in detail.
"Torah observant" do so because it is
In fact, to emphasize the pre-
our obligation as Jews and
cise fulfillment of the instruc-
the "right" thing to do, and
tions, the Torah tells us 18
not for any kind of ulterior
separate times that each part
motive or reward. God blesses
was made "just as the Lord
everyone, Jew and non-Jew,
observant and non-observant.
The clear lesson of these
What, then, is the connec-
verses is that if one wants
tion between the meticulous
"to bring God into their life
observance of the command-
one must follow precisely the
ments and our prayers: It
"blueprint" the Torah reveals.
seems to me that the midrash
In addition to this rather
is teaching us that the people
obvious lesson, the midrash
were eager to fulfill the com-
(Midrash HaGadol) states:
mandments with joyful love,
"Just as the Lord commanded Moses:
and this is the connection.
Eighteen commandments are stated
Just as the people were grateful to God
for providing for them in the wilder-
in the Torah, and all of them were ful-
ness (and, in fact, in life in general), and
filled with joyful love and eagerness.
Corresponding to these (18 verses), the
appreciated the opportunity to demon-
rabbis instituted 18 blessings in our
strate this gratitude by constructing the
`prayer' to teach you that 'prayer' takes
Tabernacle as a symbol of their loving
the place of the service of the Tabernacle:' relationship with God, so, too, is it with
Now, the "prayer" that the midrash
refers to is the so-called Amidah or
By asking for what we need, we are
Shemona-Esray (18) prayer, recited three
acknowledging our complete depen-
times a day. But the bulk of these bless-
dence upon God to meet our needs and
ings (now 19) are beseeching God to
our gratitude to God for fulfilling those
take care of our personal and communal
needs. Through our prayers we are,
needs. What could be the connection
essentially, reminding ourselves constant-
between the precise adherence to the
ly not to take anything for granted: not
instructions for the Tabernacle and our
our lives and not all that they contain.
prayer that God bestow upon us what we
From the very depths of our being, we
must be grateful for all that God gives us.
One might say that just as the people
This is the "service of the Tabernacle":
followed God's command in construct-
bringing to God the token of our love and
ing the Tabernacle, likewise, if we follow
God's other commandments, then He will
Eliezer Cohen is rabbi of Congregation Or
grant our prayerful requests.
Chadash in Oak Park/Huntington Woods and
However, firstly, such a notion is a
superstitious, "magical-thinking" attempt teaches at Yeshivat Akiva in Southfield.
to control an omnipotent God, which is
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• How many people treat prayer like some kind of "magical incantation" to
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• When we pray, do we really think that God will not fulfill our needs if we
don't say these words?
• How much more meaningful would our prayers (and our lives) be if we
emphasized our gratitude for what we have instead of our "need" for what
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