This week’s parshah, which concludes the Book of Exodus, commences with the following statement: “ These are the accounts of the tabernacle, the tabernacle of Testimony, which had been rendered by Moses. The service of the Levites was under the authority of Ittamar, son of Aaron the Kohen” (Exodus 38:21). Commentators pose many questions, such as the following ones that the Alshekh, in his Torah Moshe, poses: 1) Why didn’t the Torah just say ‘which Moses rendered’, instead of saying ‘which had been rendered by Moses’? 2) Why is the word tabernacle repeated? 3) What does the service of the Levites, something that would take place in the future – have to do in the accounting for the quantity of materials used in building of the Tabernacle? 4) Why does the Torah have to repeat who Betzalel and Oholiov were? 5) Why do we need the expression for all the holy work in verse 24? Surely the words all the gold, is comprehensive enough. The Alshekh gives the following explanation: We are told in the Midrash that Moses recorded the quantities to preclude such accusations. The answer lies in the words, which had been accounted for at the command of Moses. Moses had initiated this accounting, not waiting to be asked to do so. Since all these items would be handled by the Levites in the future – to prevent anyone claiming that some material had disappeared while under the care of the Levites – the exact amounts were announced so that they could be checked in case someone would claim that an item had disappeared or been replaced with a similar item of lesser weight or value. Had the accounting not been done by a single person, Ittamar the priest, there would not even have been room to speculate that an item had disappeared. At that time two people were appointed to make a public accounting unnecessary, since two people could not be suspected of stealing from the temple treasury. It is clear from the text that there had been no suspicion against the ‘ossey hamelachah’ – those who performed the work – i.e. Betzalel and Oholiov, and that is why their names are mentioned again, since there were two of them. Moses, who had first access to all these contributions, instituted the accounting, since he was only a single individual and could have been subject to suspicion. With regard to repeating the word ‘Tabernacle’ in the opening sentence, the Alshekh explains that this may be a hint that although it would have been easy to explain away any shortfall between the weight of the finished product and the weight of the raw material contributions – this did not happen. The TOTAL weight of the Tabernacle is testimony that NOTHING was lost in the transition from raw material to finished product. Moses demonstrated this by counting and weighing prior to construction, and again at the completion of the work. What had been received i.e. asher pukad, was precisely what became subject to ‘avodat ha’leviim’ – the service that the Levites would later perform. The quantity of silver available, and the number of sockets of one talent each which were poured is a prime example that though normally there is always shrinkage when you melt down metal, in this case this did not occur. When you weighed the 100 sockets, their weight equaled the 100 talents which had been available for casting (Exodus 38:27).
In Chapter 29:32, the Torah tells us: “All the work of the Tabernacle, the Tent of Meeting, was completed, and the Children of Israel had done everything that Hashem commanded Moses, so did they do.” Rabbi Chayyim Ben Attar discusses that the torah teaches that a person’s delegate is accounted as like the person who has delegated them. The Torah here credits all of the Israelites with having constructed the Holy Tabernacle although it was only Betzalel (and his helpers) who had actually performed all the work. While it is true that Betzalel had received his instructions from God and not from the Israelites, the fact that the Israelites had given their silent consent to Betzalel’s appointment meant that he acted as their delegate. It appears that the Torah is trying to teach us a general rule about how the way the Torah can be observed successfully by showing how the Israelites conferred merits one upon the other. The Torah is only capable of fulfillment by means of the entire Jewish nation. Every individual Jew is charged with the duty to perform those commandments that they are able to fulfill. This is the true meaning of Leviticus 19:18: “you shall love your fellow Jew as he is part of yourself.” Without the fellow Jew, no individual Jew would be able to function as a total Jew. Each Jew has a task to help another Jew to become a more fulfilled Jew by means of his fulfilling commandments, which the second Jew is unable to fulfill alone. As a result, the fellow Jew is not ‘acher’ – someone else, but is part of ‘kamocha’ – oneself. It is interesting to note, however, that we cannot fulfill all of the 613 commandments. The Or Hachayyim asks if we are to be at a permanent physical and spiritual disadvantage? He answers that clearly, Torah and its observance is not only a project for the individual but for the community. The Torah prove home this point by legislating laws which can be performed only by women, only be Levites, only by Priests, and in some instances, only by sinners, i.e. sinners who are anxious to rehabilitate themselves. Our verse teaches us this lesson. The reason that this was an appropriate time to teach us this lesson is that the 13 basic raw materials needed for the Tabernacle were as interdependent one upon the other as Jews are dependant upon each other in order to achieve the harmonious personality that God desires for each Jew to develop into by means of their good deeds. It makes perfect sense therefore, that the Torah considers every Jew as having contributed all 13 kinds of raw materials needed for the Tabernacle.
Prepared by Devorah Abenhaim