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Pekudei: More Redemption from Exodus
I’ve been sitting on this week’s Parshat, Pekudei, for a few days trying to think about what I will write about it. In my opinion, it didn’t have the same meaty content that I could cut into like the past few weeks have had. That was till this morning when it suddenly hit me that while through the book of Exodus we hear a story of redemption and that story is G-d redeeming the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. Over the past few portions we have seen a different story of redemption, and that is the Israelites redeeming themselves after the creation of the Golden Calf.
These past two portions are focused on everyone working together to build the Mishkan (tabernacle,) last week we heard about the gathering of supplies, and how successful it was. This week we learn of the construction of the Mishkan and the anointment of Aaron and his sons into the priesthood.
It seems like any problems that occurred for the Israelites are the right problems – too many supplies have been brought, we must stop bringing supplies. This is in direct contrast to the Golden Calf problem we read about a few weeks ago where the people deliberately went against what they should be doing and made an idol. Aaron was the point person supervising the Israelites during the Golden Calf fiasco, and from my camp experiences I know that there is always the potential for things to get out of hand, but that doesn’t change how bad the Golden Calf was.
It isn’t explicitly stated in the text, but I think that is a purpose for this portion, to show redemption for both Aaron and the Israelites as a whole. It is an ongoing theme in the text that bad things can happen, and a single mistake shouldn’t always define a person’s identity. Both Aaron and the Israelites made some bad decisions with regard to a certain precious metal bovine (I felt like I was over using the title and I love synonyms) but in the past two portions we have seen a cooperative effort to complete the holy work of building the Mishkan and as a result of that the Israelites are given the gift of the cloudy presence of G-d (Exodus 40: 34-38) and Aaron and his sons are given the responsibility and privilege of serving as the priests.
If any of you are repeat readers you might be crying foul because this D’var has a lot of the same redemption themes that I discussed before. You’re right, it does, because I think that the ability to make up for mistakes in a fair way is something that we as a people should be parading around. It is very novel (in a historical perspective) for a people to look at bad choices in a redemptive prospective instead of a punishment perspective. This is one of the reasons why at camp we are always striving to create consequences that are fair and make sense. A good example of a consequence that I can think of is something that I had to do as a camper: We as a cabin had been disrespectful to a Jewish educator, so we as a cabin had to write an apology letter to that educator during our free time. This scenario makes sense, we behaved badly and needed to do something to make up for our transgression. This is my bit of brain food for this week: if someone does something wrong, help them to make up for it not just to punish them, but to help show them the right way to handle things.