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As Hashem Commanded

By: Rav Avigdor Meyerowitz

Parshat Pekudei is the last Parsha in Chumash Shmot and describes the carrying out of some of the orders given to Moshe regarding the building of the Mishkan.

Among all the details in the Parsha, there is an exact phrase that repeats itself no less than fifteen times: '  - As Hashem commanded.

In addition, that phrase is mentioned with a slight difference another four times, either as '  - As all Hashem commanded, or '  - All that Hashem commanded. So all in all, the idea that these orders were carried out exactly as Hashem had commanded is repeated nineteen times!

Would it not suffice to simply conclude the whole erection of the Mishkan with the general statement that everything was done in accordance with the commandments of Hashem?

The Beit Halevi, Rabbi Yosef Dov Ber Soloveichik, explains[1] that the repetition of the pesukim implying the careful adherence of Bnei Yisrael to the mitzvot of Hashem should be understood in the context of the Mishkan being atonement for Chet Ha'egel, the sin of the Golden Calf. According to many Midrashim, the commandment to build the Mishkan was given as a result of Chet Ha'egel – an opinion that is taken up by Rashi as well. The Beit Halevi says that the sin of the Golden Calf shouldn't be over simplified by saying that Am Yisrael went from the extreme of Divine revelation on the one hand to base idol-worship on the other hand. After all, how does one explain that the "Dor De'ah" - "The generation of knowledge" violated within forty days the second of the Ten Commandments?

Rather, Am Yisrael thought that in the absence of Moshe, it was possible for them to create a substitute entity that would serve as a place of holiness amongst them. This thought was not unthinkable for in fact that's what the Mishkan became afterwards. In order to accomplish this they rightfully turned to Aharon who they believed had the deepest understanding of how such a task could be performed.

However, their mistake was that the power of their actions stemmed from it being a fulfillment of a Mitzvah that comes from Hashem and not a product of the human intellect. Their sin was one of personal human initiative instead of waiting to hear and do the will of Hashem.

This is why in our parsha, with the building of the Mishkan which is the tikun, rectifying of Chet Ha'egel, the Torah repeatedly mentions that everything, each and every detail was done exactly just as Hashem had commanded – '.

I would like to suggest an additional explanation.

When Hahsem first sent Moshe to Bnei Yisrael to inform them of His will to give them Torah, Am Yisrael responded:

' ""

"And the nation responded all together and said: All that Hashem has spoken we will do."[2]

The language of the verse seems unnecessarily long. It could have just said ' – And the nation responded: All that Hashem has spoken we will do. What is the intention of the words  - all the nation together?

The first idea that comes to mind is that this is another expression of the unity amongst Am Yisrael at Matan Torah. The Meshech Chochma[3] however has a penetrating understanding of this verse. He points out that the Mitzvot of the Torah in their entirety cannot be fulfilled by one particular individual. Some are for Cohanim, some for Levi'im and some for Yisra'elim; some for those who own land, some for the king or the Sanhedrin, some for men and some for women. The Torah in its wholeness can only be kept through Am Yisrael, the collective whole. He quotes the verse in the Navi which says:

"֥ ֛ ֥ ֖ ֣ ֑"

"And you are My flocks, the flocks of My pasture, you are man"

The nation as a whole is one entity, comparable to one person. Just like a person has different parts that comprise their being: heart, head, arms, legs, etc. and in order for them to function properly, each one of their parts has to do their particular thing, so too in the  “person Yisrael”, each individual person has their specific role. That is what Am Yisrael responded to Hashem. They responded all together and said, all that Hashem has said, each one of us will do their unique part and obligation, and thereby we will all together be able to do the will of Hashem.

According to this understanding, the correct perspective and approach to mitzvot, is not necessarily to try and do all the mitzvot, but rather to be aware of where one's duty and responsibility lies and fully doing their part.

The erection of the Mishkan succeeded in bringing the Shechina to dwell amongst Am Yisrael. The Mishkan however was made up of many different parts. The success of the Mishkan functioning was dependent on the appreciation of the importance of each of its parts. One could think that the main part of the Mishkan was where the Aron and the Keruvim were, which might be true, but they would not function properly without all the other elements of the Mishkan being in place.

This is why the Torah does not use the expression " " ' – "as Hashem commanded" only at the end of the Parsha with the final erection of the Mishkan. It is mentioned over and over again at many of the intermediate and sometimes apparently insignificant stages of the preparation of the Mishkan in order to bring home the message that serving Hashem is not about doing everything; it's about doing your part, and doing it properly. If we succeed in that, we have done ' – as Hashem has commanded.

 

[1] Beit Halevi on the Torah, Shmot 31:13.

[2] Shmot 19:8.

[3] Meshech Chochma, Shmot 19:8.

 

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