In Parashat Pekudei, the Mishkan’s construction is completed (Shemot 39:32). Afterwards, the Pesukim relate, “VaYavi’u Et HaMishkan El Moshe Et HaOhel VeEt Kol Keilav Kerasav Kerashav Berichav VeAmudav VaAdanav,”“And they brought the Mishkan to Moshe, the tent and all its furniture, its clasps, its planks, its bars and its pillars and its sockets” (39:33). However, later on in the Parashah we are told, “VaYakem Moshe Et HaMishkan VaYitein Et Adanav VaYasem Et Kerashav VaYitein Et Berichav VaYakem Et Amudav,” “Moshe set up the Mishkan, placed its sockets, put up its planks, put in its bars, and set up its pillars” (40:18). Why does the Torah write that Moshe built the Mishkan on his own, if only a few Pesukim prior it wrote that the construction was a joint effort between Moshe and the Jewish people?
The answer is that Moshe and the Jewish people built the Mishkan using the system that God put in place for them. This is evident from the fact that the words “KaAsher Tzivah Hashem,” “As Hashem commanded,” appear more than a dozen times in the Parashah. Moshe and the Jewish people couldn’t possibly build the Mishkan on their own, for they had no perception or understanding of how to construct the proper dwelling for God. Therefore, God provided the schematics for the various components of the Mishkan to put Moshe and the Jewish people in the correct building mindset. This caused the Jewish people first to construct and bring the components of the Mishkan to Moshe, and only then was Moshe able to “set up” the Mishkan in its entirety.
While this answer may be satisfying, there certainly is a deeper meaning to be learned from it. Last week, we substituted Parashat Shekalim for the usual Maftir. Parashat Shekalim is read on the week preceding Rosh Chodesh Adar, or in the case of a leap year, such as this year, Rosh Chodesh Adar Sheini. In this special Torah portion, we read the census process that the entire Jewish nation went through just before Matan Torah at Har Sinai: each adult male was to produce a half Shekel to count for himself and his household (30:13). Perhaps, the half shekel signified that every Jew is incomplete – half – without his fellow Jew.
While it oftentimes appears that some people are important and others aren’t, the Pesukim are teaching us that we all serve our own role. So long as we all contribute to society, as highlighted by the fact that everybodycontributed equally to the construction of the Mishkan (30:15), we are important. The leaders of society would not be able to run a functioning society without the contributions of everyone else. Similarly, the average people of society would not be able to support themselves and would not enjoy a foundation to lean upon if not for the strong leaders of society. At the hierarchy of this web is Hashem. Without Hashem’s commanding us how to build the Mishkan, we wouldn’t even know where to start. On the other hand, the Mishkan would not have been built if not for everybody’s contributions and efforts. The half Shekel represents the special bond between God and the Jewish people. Just as people need God to create a functioning world, people need to keep the world functioning by adhering to God’s Will.
This approach also answers why Moshe is given credit for God’s work. Since Moshe asked God for His wisdom and used it properly and efficiently, he caused the results to be successful. This is why the entire endeavor of building the Mishkan ends with, “VaYa’as Moshe KeChol Asher Tzivah Hashem Oto Kein Asah,” “Thus Moshe did according to all that Hashem had commanded him, so he did” (40:16). Parashiyot Pekudei and Shekalim teach us that each of us serves an important role in society. Like the Ba’al Shem Tov taught, our bodies are the systems that this world interacts with to create things. Without God constantly maintaining and creating the world, we wouldn’t be able to carry out everyday tasks. But we need to meet God halfway in this holy team by being active and involved in maintaining and creating the world ourselves.