Pekudei – Panic Today, Joy Tomorrow

The parallel in wordings between the Torah’s account of the universe’s creation and of the building of the Mishkan has been noted by commentaries. I won’t cite examples here but they abound.

The late British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks well phrased the upshot of that parallel, writing that “Genesis begins with G-d creating the universe as a home for humankind. Exodus ends with human beings, the Israelites, creating the Sanctuary as a home for G-d.”

A little-known Midrash, I believe, also adds to the parallel.  The Midrash Hagadol, on the parsha’s final pasuk (Shemos 40:38) – which states that “For the cloud of Hashem was upon the Mishkan by day, and there was fire within it at night, before the eyes of the entire house of Israel…” – recounts the following:

“When the Jews saw the cloud resting on the Mishkan, they rejoiced… [but] when night came and fire surrounded the Mishkan, they were anguished and cried ‘All our work was for naught!’ When they awoke the next morning and saw the cloud enveloping the Mishkan again, they rejoiced an even greater rejoicing…”

That account is strongly reminiscent of the Gemara (Avodah Zara 8a) that tells of how:

“On the day that Adam Harishon was created, when the sun set upon him, he said: ‘Woe is me, as because I sinned, the world is becoming dark around me, and the world will return to the primordial state of chaos and disorder. And this is the death that was sentenced upon me from Heaven.’ He spent all night fasting and crying, with Chava crying opposite him. Once dawn broke, though, he said: ‘Evidently, the sun sets and night arrives, and this is the order of the world.’ He arose and offered a sacrifice…”

Both  accounts illustrate that, even when it seems that all is lost, that the world is bearing down and no hope is in sight, reason to rejoice may lie around the corner.

Living as we are in precarious times and headed toward Purim, when we will read of how a seemingly dire, threatening situation was turned on its head, it is a timely and trenchant message.

© 2024 Rabbi Avi Shafran

My most recent Ami Magazine column, “Flaco and Freedom,” can be read here.

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