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Torah Commentary
Vayak’heil/P’kudei (March 10, 2018)

And when Moses saw that they had performed all the tasks — as the Lord had commanded,
so they had done — Moses blessed them.
— Exodus 39:43

Bettijane Eisenpreis

“Moses blessed them.” Wait a minute! I thought only God had the power to bless human beings. I know the Children of Israel have just finished building the Tabernacle, which will house the Ark of the Covenant and accompany the people throughout their 40 years in the desert. I could understand if it said, “Moses called down God’s blessing upon them.” But Moses blessed them himself! Where does he get the authority to do that?

The Torah: A Women’s Commentary (Women of Reform Judaism, New York, 2008, p. 554) provides us with one insight on this startling passage. It points out that the account of the construction of the Tabernacle echoes the story of the Creation in Genesis. Just as God blessed the completed work on the Seventh Day, so Moses blessed the Tabernacle when it was finished. An even simpler explanation is that Moses asked for God's blessing. Moses certainly had God’s ear, and that is worth something.

These are certainly excellent explanations. I have another. We refer to the people as the Children of Israel, but in this long, harrowing tale of their wanderings, they often seem to be the children of Moses. Moses has been their leader, their advocate with God, their teacher, and also their angry father and firm disciplinarian. The children certainly have not always been good! Moses got so angry with them when he came down from Mount Sinai and found them worshiping the Golden Calf that he broke the Tablets of the Law and had to go back up the Mountain for another 40 days and take Divine dictation all over again. You might say Moses had been through hell with these kids!

But, when all is said and done, Moses never gave up on the children for long. When God threatened to destroy them and start all over, Moses pleaded for the people and saved them from extinction. They may have seen him as firm disciplinarian and resident scold, but he was always on their side.

There is a lot of repetition in Vayak’heil/P’kudei because all the instructions that God gave Moses in T’rumah are carried out here. Reading these chapters can become tedious. Even if we remember to “Turn it and turn it, for everything is in it,” we want to cry “Enough already!” But now we almost have come to the end. The Tabernacle has been built, and the people have done their work diligently. Moses, too, has done nobly. Like a strict but loving father, he has guided the children in the completion of the work. He has earned the right to bless the people. Of course, the spirit of God must be in the blessing — or it wouldn’t be a blessing. Just as we bless our children on Friday evening, so Moses blessed the Children of Israel — in the name of God.

Bettijane Eisenpreis, a freelance writer, is a long-time member of Temple Emanu-El
and a regular participant in our Saturday morning Torah study group.

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