P’Kudei (Accounts) Sh’mot (Exodus) 38:21-40:38

1.In Sh’mot 38:21 we read, “The tabernacle, the tabernacle of testimony.” Usually when the Torah makes double use of a word it is making a deeper point. I think the Torah is speaking of the earthly Tabernacle as being a shadow of the heavenly. This sounds really similar to Hebrews chapters 8-9, Hebrews 8:4 and 9:24. This brings us to the common argument used by many to say the Torah is finished and of little value to us as believers.

Look at Hebrews verses 8:7 and 8:13. You will notice that the word covenant is in italics. What does this mean?  What are these verses saying will pass away?

 If a word is in italics it was added in. Therefore the word covenant does not appear in the original Greek. In the Greek it only says first and second. So given that, we have to look at context in the chapters. Most Christian Theologians understand these verses to be saying the Torah has passed away and been replaced by a better one.

Two things to look at: first in Jeremiah 31:31-40 we read where the days are coming when G-d will make a new covenant with the house of Israel. Notice this new covenant is the only New Covenant in the Bible and it is with the house of Israel.  We, as gentiles, when we come to faith in the Messiah can be grafted in to this New Covenant. This new covenant was not made with the Church. It was made with Israel

This New covenant does not stand in opposition to Torah but builds on it and incorporates it. This second covenant was needed because the first was flawed according to most translations of Hebrews 8:7. 

Problem is, the word covenant does not appear right? So, read Hebrews 8:7-8 with just first and second and not with the word covenant (which is not in the original text). So, what is he talking about – Torah or the people? In Hebrews 8:9 the people did not continue, they did not keep the laws of the first covenant given to their fathers in the Sinai. So the issue is us, not the Torah. The problem is this creation. 

So through Messiah G-d recreates us (new man) this is the second. This new covenant is important it brings forgiveness of sin. It brings G-d’s Law into the heart and mind. So now, Heb. 8:13 does not say Torah is obsolete and vanishing. It says this present world is obsolete and vanishing and will be replaced by the coming new creation – new Jerusalem. Remember for these first century believers there was no Messianic Scripture. They had the Torah, prophets and the writings. They contained the new covenant we read of in Jeremiah.

So, this present world is what is vanishing (9:9) Our short comings will disappear in the world to come. Rev. 21:22 tells us that in the coming age there will be no need for sacrifices or priesthood. Until then this present world will continue.

2. In Exodus 40:33-38 G-d filled the Mishkan or Tabernacle at its dedication and also later in history. In II Chron. 7:1-2 the glory of G-d filled the First Temple in Jerusalem that Solomon built. When the glory of G-d filled the Mishkan it was so powerful Moses could not enter. 

However, in Ezra 3:10-13 we read of the laying of the foundation of the Second Temple and then in Ezra 6:15-22 we read of the completion and the dedication. But there was no mention in scripture of a cloud of glory appearing. Why?

This cloud of G-d served as a guide for the people on their way through the wilderness. This cloud was a representation of the cloud that hovered over Mt. Sinai when G-d spoke with all the people.

Here in Exodus it fell when the nation of Israel came together to cooperate in the construction of the Mishkan. Even at Solomon’s Temple the entire nation was part of the construction, each tribe sent men to work on the Temple.

However, in Ezra 3:10-13 we read of the laying of the foundation of the Second Temple and then in Ezra 6:15-22 we read of the completion and the dedication. But there was no cloud of glory that appeared. Why?

In Ezra 3 we read of a hint. At the laying of the foundation there was both joy and sorrow. Why was there sorrow? Historically it is said that only a small percentage of the people returned from Babylon. Most of the people stayed in the dispersion or Galut. We might say they had lost their way. They were not able to break out of the assimilation in which they had been living. They did not take account of who they were and what G-d had done for them. Also they had forgotten what they said in Exodus 24:7, “All that the L-rd has said we will do and be obedient.” Instead of returning to Israel they stayed in Babylon. No cloud appeared because they were not united as a people. For the most part they had lost the vision G-d had given them and they chose not to-return to Israel until 1950 when they were driven back to Israel as refugees. It is important that we not lose our way. G-d has a plan, it has not changed. Each of us has a part to fulfill in His plan.

3. Pekudei, the title of this week’s portion has sometimes been called “The Accountant’s Parsha”, because it begins with the audited accounts of the money and materials donated to the Sanctuary. Why do you think this was important to do? Why did Moses do this?

This passage lists the exact amounts of gold, silver, and bronze collected, and the purposes to which it was put. Why did Moses do this? 

Moses issued a detailed reckoning to avoid coming under suspicion that he had personally appropriated some of the donated money. Note the emphasis that the accounting was undertaken not by Moses himself but “by the Levites under the direction of Ithamar,” in other words, by independent auditors.

Accusations of corruption and personal enrichment have often been leveled against leaders, with or without justification. We might think that since G-d sees all we do, this is enough to safeguard against wrongdoing. Yet Judaism does not say this. 

The Talmud records a scene at the deathbed of Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai, as the master lay surrounded by his disciples:

They said to him, “Our master, bless us.” 

He said to them, “May it be G-d’s will that the fear of heaven shall be as much upon you as the fear of flesh and blood.” 

His disciples asked, “Is that all?” 

He replied, “Would that you obtained no less than such fear! You can see for yourselves the truth of what I say: when a man is about to commit a transgression, he says, ‘I hope no man will see me.’”

Brachot 28b

When humans commit a sin they worry that other people might see them. They forget that G-d certainly sees them. Temptation befuddles the brain, and no one should believe they are immune to it.

Here the Torah teaches us the need for transparency. As believers we must be as transparent as possible in the way we live our life, the way we spend our money and places we go. We must avoid any appearance of evil. 

We need to be above board not only in what we do but how our actions look to those around us.

4. The book of Exodus began with the miseries of the children of Israel in Egypt.  It ends beautifully with Exodus 40:36-38.  “In all the travels of the Israelites, whenever the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle, they would set out;but if the cloud did not lift, they did not set out—until the day it lifted. So the cloud of the Lord was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the Israelites during all their travels.” What important message do you see in these verses for us today? How are we to follow the cloud?

The closing image of the presence of G-d is not of the stationary G-d but of a Divine presence leading the children of Israel to the Promise Land. 

Yeshua experienced that sense of movement while moving constantly towards His end goal. Matthew records His answer to a scribe who wanted to follow Him: “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Matthew 8:20 ).  He was always on the move, yet always heading in the same direction: “He went on His way through towns and villages, teaching and journeying toward Jerusalem” (Luke 13:22). When warned by some Pharisees to move on because Herod was trying to kill Him, He pointed to His larger calling: “I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem” (Luke 13:33).

Man is usually looking for stability and security, while by definition, G-d is always mobile. The children of Israel followed the spiritual cloud of G-d by day and by night. 

We as believers have that spirit abiding within us. So how are we to follow the cloud today? We can follow by observing the festivals throughout the year. The Israelites did this. This led them ahead in their journey to the promised land.  It also brought them back to the Glory of G-d in the Tabernacle for rest and renewal in order to continue the journey.” We are to find our way through the same means. 

The festivals tell us about Yeshua – who He is and what He has already done – while pointing us forward to His return. As we celebrate and rejoice, each week in the Shabbat and through the year in the appointed times of our Heavenly Father, we will be filled with the presence and power of Yeshua. It is that same presence of G-d who stirs or provokes us into movement. 

It does not go far to say that if we are not spiritually on the move, then we have lost sight of the pillar of cloud and fire – we have lost our way and His vision for our lives.

Hazak, Hazak, v’nit’chazek! 

Be strong, be strong,  and let us be strengthened!