Torah Weekly

For the week ending 16 March 2024 / 6 Adar Bet 5784

Parshat Pekudei

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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The Book of Shemot concludes with this Torah portion. After finishing all the different parts, vessels and garments used in the Mishkan, Moshe gives a complete accounting and enumeration of all the contributions and of the various clothing and vessels that had been fashioned. Bnei Yisrael bring everything to Moshe. He inspects the handiwork and notes that everything was made according to G-d’s specifications. Moshe blesses the people. G-d speaks to Moshe and tells him that the Mishkan should be set up on the first day of the first month, i.e., Nissan. He also tells Moshe the order of assembly for the Mishkan and its vessels. Moshe does everything in the prescribed manner. When the Mishkan is finally complete with every vessel in its place, a cloud descends upon it, indicating that G-d's glory was resting there. Whenever the cloud moved away from the Mishkan, Bnei Yisrael would follow it. At night the cloud was replaced by a pillar of fire.


Plain-Clothes Jew

“…and they made the holy vestments for Aharon” (39:1)

There’s much talk about the rise of antisemitism at the moment. Actually, I don’t think there is a rise in antisemitism. Jew haters are always out there and their numbers don’t change. What changes is their confidence in showing their hatred openly, whether verbally or physically.

I just got back from visiting my mother, who will be 100, G-d willing, in two weeks. My mother lives in St Johns Wood, an upscale suburb just north of London’s Regent’s Park. It’s not exactly Oxford Street on a Saturday, where you could expect ten thousand pro-Palestine protesters, chic-ly clad with their keffiyehs around their necks, screaming “From the river to the sea,” but I still weighed up whether I should wear my standard outfit of dark suit and fedora, or put on a baseball cap and become a plain-clothes, undercover Jew.

In the event, I decided to stand up and be counted, and I discovered something very interesting: There are Jew-lovers out there! Now, I’m not going to say they are as many or as vocal as Jew-haters, but they are out there. In St. John’s Wood High Street, there was this big black traffic cop giving out tickets, who looked up at me, gave me a big smile and said, “Me and my mates, we’re behind the Jews one hundred and ten percent!” and then he went back to giving out parking tickets. On Friday night as I made my way back from St. John’s Wood Synagogue, I turned into a rather dark side street, and saw a taxi driver getting into his cab. He looked at me. I couldn’t tell exactly what his attitude was, so I said, “Good Evening!” “Good Shabbos!” he shot back at me. I still wasn’t sure whether he was being sarcastic or not, but as he drove past me, he wound down his window, gave me a big thumbs-up and shouted: “Israel Forever! Long Live Israel.”

The Koran explicitly warns Muslims not to make the same mistakes as the Jews did, by not keeping G-d’s commandments. They understand this led G-d to reject the Jewish People. There’s a similar theme in the Christian scriptures that depicts the “Wandering Jew” outcast from the Promised Land because of the failure to keep G-d’s ‘testament’. This is remarkably similar to our reason for sitting on the ground and fasting every Ninth of Av. We too understand that through our many sins, we were exiled from the land of Israel. However, our belief is that G-d will never revoke His Covenant with the Jewish People, nor will He take to Himself another nation.

The Midrash tells us that when Hashem gave the Jewish People the Torah on Mount Sinai, the kings of the East and the West were aware that something cataclysmic had happened that could destabilize their power. They felt the shaking of the earth beneath their feet. They feared another global flood and so asked the Gentile prophet Bilaam what caused this disturbance of the natural order. Bilaam said that there would be no flood, nor would a deluge of fire envelop the world. Rather, the world was responding to the momentous event of the giving of the Torah on Sinai – “Hashem Oz L’Amo Yiten.” To which they responded, “May Hashem bless His people with peace.”

That’s the default reaction of the nations of the world: “May Hashem bless His people with peace.” But, when we lose our connection to Torah, then they see in us no spirituality, no “chosen people.” They see us as a choker around their necks, stifling their enjoyment of this world. They see us as a gang of killjoys, for we have lost the ability to be the light to the nations, which is G-d’s role for His people. However, when we exemplify our true heritage, the nations will finally say, “May Hashem bless His people with peace!”

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