In Parashat Pekudei, Betzaleil and his team finish building the Mishkan, Moshe erects it, and Hashem dwells among us once again. We learn many valuable concepts from this Parashah.
The Parashah begins, “Eileh Phekudei,” “These are the accountings” (38:31). The Midrash (Shemot Rabbah 51:8) explains that we made Hashem angry with the word “Eileh” (regarding Cheit HaEigel; see Shemot 32:4), and we appeased Hashem with the same word “Eileh” (here).
Continuing this theme, the word “Mishkan” appears twice in the first Pasuk. Rashi (ibid. s.v. HaMishkan Mishkan) comments that this is an allusion to the two Batei Mikdash. Hashem says that he forgives us for the Cheit HaEigel, but, if we sin, then we will be accountable for this sin (see Shemot 32:34). We have to make sure that the “Eileh” of building the Mishkan properly atones for the “Eileh” of Cheit HaEigel. In the end, unfortunately, we sinned, and the second Beit HaMikdash came down.
When we conduct a Siyum, we say, “We thank You, Hashem, for having placed our portion amongst those who sit in the Beit Midrash and not among those who sit idly in corners, for we work hard and receive reward, while they work hard and don’t receive reward.” Shouldn’t the people who work hard always receive reward? Chafeitz Chaim answers with a Mashal of a tailor who works hard and has many complaints. The tailor explains all of his hardships. At first, the customer is sympathetic, but when he finds out that the tailor wants more than the price they agreed upon, the customer gets angry and refuses to pay more than the arranged price. The value of the finished garment doesn’t change, so the price doesn’t change. It is clear that in the material realm, no matter how much effort one puts into something, its price or value is determined only by the finished project. In the spiritual realm, however, effort matters. Chafeitz Chaim offers an example of spiritual effort making a difference. He had a student who experienced personal problems at home. When he asked the student how many pages of Gemara he had learnt, the student honestly answered that he had finished only three pages. Chafetz Chaim was ecstatic and expressed great joy that the student had finished 103 pages. The student, being honest, corrected Chafeitz Chaim, noting that he had finished only three pages. Chafetz Chaim said that he had heard the student the first time, but in his situation, it was as if he had learnt 103 pages.
Thus, while those who sit in the Beit Midrash and those who sit idly in corners both work hard, the latter don’t receive any credit because they have no finished product to show, while the former receive credit because their effort matters in the spiritual realm. Upon finishing the work of the Mishkan, Moshe finds himself in a similar situation. He puts effort into the Mishkan; however, he cannot finish it without help from Hashem. Since he tried, he receives credit.
In Parashat Pekudei, Moshe has to take responsibility for and make an accounting of everything that goes on in the building of the Mishkan. We can learn from this that one must take responsibility for one’s actions, and that all of one’s actions will be accounted for in the end. Ramban writes that to complete the Sefer of Ge’ulah, Hashem enters our camp and returns us to the status of the Avot and Imahot. This can happen only if we take responsibility. In order to remain on a spiritual high, we must take responsibility for our actions.
Rav Berel Wein explains that the reason Hashem chooses Betzaleil and his team to build the Mishkan is to let them take responsibility. We must take actions, but we also must realize that we cannot accomplish our goals without Hashem. If the artisans were not to take responsibility and were to think that building the Mishkan would be a waste of time, then the construction of the Mishkan would be a sad moment in Judaism. However, when we apply our talents, we can achieve a beautiful Mishkan.
We learn from this Parashah about the process and responsibilities we must take in our endeavors. These are among the many important attributes we learn from Parashat Pekudei.