Parshat Vayakhel – Pekudei

Torah Reading for Week of March 7 – March 13, 2010

“Spring Cleaning”

by Rabbi Andrew Feig, ’07
School Rabbi, Sinai Hebrew Academy

Well, spring is on its way, and I am looking forward to some serious house cleaning in the next few weeks. I have finally joined the ranks of homeowners who plan ambitious spring projects to clean and repair neglected areas of the house. First, the easy part, I started to clear out some of my drawers and put aside clothes to give away. Then, my wife and I discussed weightier matters; a roof that longs for some repair, a chimney that harbors rodent vagabonds, and a garage, which could use an extreme makeover.

Of course, Pesach, fits perfectly into this plan; a thorough house cleaning and the removal of hametz is a must before the start of the holiday. Interestingly, this week’s Torah portion may add a greater depth of purpose to this yearly Pesach spring cleaning.

In this week’s double portion of Vayakhel and Pekudei, we find the continued detailed description of the wilderness Tabernacle (Mishkan) and its furnishings. In Exodus 38:22, it mentions that Bezalel, the chief architect of the Mishkan, “did all that G-d had commanded Moses.” Rashi, the eleventh century French commentator, clarifies the matter explaining that Bezalel knew things that even Moses did not share with him. Bezalel’s name, which literally means, “in the shadow of G-d,” is described as standing in G-d’s shadow on Mt. Sinai as G-d gave the Torah to Moses. Rashi then relates the following story from the Talmud:

When the Holy One, Blessed be He, said to Moses, “Go and tell Bezalel to make me a Tabernacle, Ark and vessels,” Moses went and reversed the order and said to [Bezalel], “Make an Ark, vessels and a Tabernacle.” [Bezalel] said to him, “Moses, our teacher! The practice of the world is that first a person builds a house and then he brings vessels into it. But you say, ‘Make for me an Ark, vessels and then a Tabernacle.’ Into what shall I put the vessels that I make?” (Berachot 55a)

Bezalel understands that the Tabernacle must be built first to house the sacred vessels. The importance of the house is secondary to that of the vessels and the Ark, the holy objects that give the Tabernacle its sacred nature.

The lesson seems clear: What exists inside of our homes is what is truly important, not the house itself. A house is only as valued as the people inside of it. When we take the time to clean our house, we allow for the opportunity not only to renew our investment, but to reinvest in ourselves. What is important to keep? What can we throw away? What needs fixing? Our Pesach spring cleaning is that chance to reevaluate our priorities, to help strip away the hametz, the leaven, that inflates our sense of self, and strip away the dirt that muddies up our relationships. With a proper cleaning, we can truly maintain the holiness of our home.

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