This week we read the final portion of Exodus, a book which began with the Jewish people enslaved to Pharaoh in Egypt and now ends with the completion of the construction of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) in the desert. Exodus is known as ‘the Book of Redemption’; redemption was achieved not only through our escape from slavery, but also through receiving the Torah on Mt. Sinai which gave purpose to that freedom. The climax of that salvation was when G-d rested His presence amongst the Jewish nation when the Mishkan was completed.
Parshas Vayakhel (Exodus 35:1 — 38:20) begins with Moses assembling the entire nation of Israel to transmit the details of the construction and fabrication of the Mishkan as described in the three previous Torah portions. However, Moses first cautions them about the fundamental mitzvah to observe Shabbat. The nation is reminded that although the construction of the Mishkan is of transcendent importance, it does not take precedence over the weekly observance of Shabbat. The portion describes that the Jewish people came forward with their generous contributions for the Mishkan’s construction, producing a surplus of supplies. The craftsmen are selected and the building begins.
Parshas Pekudei (Exodus 38:21 — 40:38) begins with a complete accounting of the gold, silver and copper contributed by the people for use in the Mishkan. Following Moses’ inspection and approval of the many utensils and unassembled parts, Moses sets up the Mishkan on Rosh Chodesh Nissan as each part is anointed and arranged in its proper location. And as G-d promised, His glory fills the Mishkan.