Vayak’hel-Pekudei (Ex. 35:1:-40:38), Shabbat Parah (Num. 19:1-22)

This is the third of the special Sabbaths before Pesach, namely, Shabbat Parah. The reading from the second scroll concerns the red heifer (parah adumah) and ritual cleanliness, while the special Haftarah (Ezekiel 36:16-38) concerns spiritual cleanliness. This is to help us get into the mood for Pesach preparation – a reminder that Pesach is less than a month away. (AAAAAAARRRRGGGGH!!!!!)

With this week’s double portion, we close out the book of Exodus. The reading starts with yet another reminder of the importance of observing the Sabbath. This is followed by the description of the tasks required for constructing the Tabernacle. From the juxtaposition of these two items, Rashi and other commentators inferred that (1) observing the Sabbath trumps even building the Tabernacle (or later, the Temple) and (2) tasks involved in that construction are not allowed on the Sabbath. More specifically, creating something is not allowed, in the same way that the Lord rested after Creation. The rabbis identified 39 such types of forbidden creative “work” (“work” is really a misnomer, since the degree of effort is not determining). Anyhow, Moses asks for donations of the required building and decorating materials and the people respond so enthusiastically that he has to tell them to stop (sounds like a bedtime fairy tale for fund raisers: “And they all gave so much to the building fund that the little fund raiser had so much more than he needed, that he was able to end the drive two weeks early…”). Led by master craftsman Bezalel and his assistant Oholiab, the people carry out their assigned tasks of cutting planks and carving wood, tanning hides, metal working, spinning, weaving, dyeing, embroidering and making incense and oil, each person according to his or her own special talent, a talent acknowledged here as bestowed by the Lord. Moses keeps very careful accounts of all the gold, silver, and copper donated and used. The priestly vestments are made. The Tabernacle is ready to be assembled, and the Lord gives instructions concerning its consecration and the ordination of the priests. The consecration of the Tabernacle takes place on the first of Nisan, shortly before the first anniversary of the Exodus from Egypt. A cloud covers it by day, a fire by night, their movement indicating when it is time to decamp and move on.

You may be forgiven for a sense of déjà vu upon reading Vayak’hel and Pekudei. Yes, we read all these details just a few weeks ago. We are taught that nothing is repeated in the Torah without a reason, so naturally many commentators have scratched their heads over the meaning of so much repetition here. To Yehoshua Ibn Shoav, the repetition is simply to show that the work was done as instructed. Nachmanides (1194-1270) and Or Ha-Hayyim (1696-1743) explained that the description was something precious to the Lord, whence the lingering over details and their repetition. Ralbag (1288-1344) suggested that this was a stylistic literary device (i.e., “that’s how they told stories back then”). Interestingly, this view has become more popular more recently in the light of literary historical scholarship. Mendelssohn (1729-1786 – no, not that Mendelssohn, but his grandfather Moses) proposed that the listing and repetition of specific skills needed was to emphasis that such skills should indeed be used but within constraints, not overindulged. (Sources: Nehama Leibowitz, New Studies in Shemot, pp. 644-653 and A Daily Dose of Torah, Y. A. Weiss (ed.), vol. 6, p. 146) My own feeling is that the description is repeated, but the mood is entirely different. Words of instruction have had life breathed into them, as if we’ve gone from a black & white TV to color (I’m dating myself). The people’s joy and sense of purpose are palpable. They have been forgiven for their recent transgressions, they have something tangible to work on, and they are doing the Lord’s bidding. And what they create is magnificent. Who wouldn’t linger over all the details of such a wonderful assignment?

Shabbat shalom,

Oldie but goodie…

World Ideologies as Explained by Reference to COWS! [Excerpts. These are examples of the humor genre that I believe began by using cows to explain economic ideologies like communism, capitalism, etc.]

“If it can not be described metaphorically using cows, then it can not exist.”
-Geoff Johnson

ATHEISM Cows do not exist.

AGNOSTICISM You aren’t sure if cows exist or not.

JUDAISM You have one cow, it is the only cow, it will have a calf sometime in the future.

CHRISTIANITY (GENERAL) You have one cow, it is the only cow, and it had a calf about 2,000 years ago.

CATHOLICISM You have one cow, it is the only cow, it had a calf about 2,000 years ago, a guy in a white hat tells you what your cow wants, and you must give 10% of the milk to the church.

MISSOURI SYNOD You have one cow, it is the only cow, it had a calf about 2,000 years ago, you are the only ones who can raise the cow properly, and all other people (and their cows) are going to the really hot slaughterhouse underground.

CREATIONISM You have no cows. God creates two cows. You have two cows.

BIG BANG THEORY You have no cows. Billions of dust particles collide. BANG! You have two cows.

DARWINISM You have two cows. One is not fit to survive and dies. The other one is fit and survives to breed.

EVOLUTION You have two cows. Both cows are very distant cousins of yours.

PARANOIA Two cows are watching you.

Deja Vu

Right now I’m having amnesia and deja vu at the same time. I think I’ve forgotten this before.
– Steven Wright

I went to a fancy French restaurant called “Deja Vu.” The headwaiter said, “Don’t I know you?”
— NOT a Steven Wright joke (a Rod Schmidt look-alike)

Accountant and Accounting Jokes

Did you hear about the cannibal CPA?
She charges an arm and a leg.

A farmer sends his accounting sheepdog, Spot, off to gather in his 8 sheep.
On returning the farmer is astonished to find he now has 10 animals in his pen and asks the dog to explain.
“Woof! You asked me to round them up, woof”, barks Spot.


Church fund-raising

The church choir was putting on a car wash to raise money to pay their expenses for a special trip.

They made a large sign, CAR WASH FOR CHOIR TRIP, and on the given Saturday business was very good.
But by two o’clock the skies clouded and the rain poured and there were hardly any customers.
Finally, one of the girl washers had an idea. She printed a very large poster which said,
WE WASH (then an arrow pointing skyward) GOD RINSES.

Business boomed!
Art Appreciation
Thursday, April 19th, 2007

Pablo Picasso visited his local cabinetmaker to commission a mahogany wardrobe for his chateau. To illustrate the shape and dimensions he required, he drew a hasty sketch on a sheet of paper and handed it to the craftsman. “How much will it cost?” he asked.

“Nothing at all,” replied the cabinetmaker. “Just sign the sketch.”
————————- Construction Whodunnit
A workman was killed at a construction site. The police began questioning a number of the other workers.

Based with past brushes with the law, many of these workers were considered prime suspects. They were a motley crew:

The electrician was suspected of wiretapping once but was never charged.
The carpenter thought he was a stud. He tried to frame another man one time.
The glazier went to great panes to conceal his past. He still claims that he didn’t do anything; that he was framed.
The painter had a brush with the law several years ago.
The heating, ventilation and air conditioning contractor was known to pack heat. He was arrested once but duct the charges.
The mason was suspect because he gets stoned regularly.
The cabinet maker is an accomplished counter fitter.

The autopsy led the police to arrest the carpenter, who subsequently confessed. The evidence against him was irrefutable, because it was found that the workman, when he died, was hammered.

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