Parshat Pekudei

by Ariel Resnikoff, Jewish Studies Teacher

we are voyagers, discoverers/ of the not-known// the unrecorded;/ we have no map;// possibly we will reach haven…

My family and I recently moved back to the Bay Area after three years living in Jerusalem as visiting artists, and this reverse “exodus” across the world with our 4-year-old was quite trying to say the 

least. We spent several days in transit, on planes and in airports, followed by two weeks staying with my in-laws in New York, before we arrived with all our luggage in Berkeley. Still, we did not move into our new house immediately but sojourned for close to six weeks with my parents–a sweet if also challenging stint of errant wandering and experience of being out of home. No matter where we were dwelling in transit, however, we tried to make the place more welcoming, to fill it with books, art, flowers, and other objects that signify a comfortable and hospitable habitation for us. Rivka, my partner, calls this very necessary act of home initiation on the go “nomadic nesting.” 

In this week’s Torah Portion, Pekudei–which in English roughly translates to “amounts of”–we are presented with an in-depth description of the Israelites’ ritual nomadic nesting rites: an accounting of the gold, silver, and copper, which they donate for the construction of the Tabernacle (Mishkan). Additionally, the Torah tells us that a team of Israelite artists including Bezalel, Aholiav & their artisan assistants create the priestly garments–the apron, breastplate (choshen), cloak, crown, hat, tunic, sash, and breeches–as mandated by Moses. The Tabernacle is completed and Moses anoints it with oil and inaugurates his brother Aaron along with Aaron’s four sons into the priesthood. Finally, a cloud appears over the Tabernacle–a sign that G-D is dwelling within it. 

In the midst of their errantry, we find that the Israelites are commanded to build a dwelling place for G-D, a space in which G-D’s presence will be felt despite the Israelites’ ongoing wandering. The 16th-century Kabbalistic Master and mystic, Rabbi Isaac Luria (Ha’ari), teaches that G-D created the world in order for there to be a material space for G-D’s goodness to be received by all. G-D created the earth in these terms as a home for all G-D’s creations, and the Israelites subsequently create the Tabernacle as a dynamic and movable home for G-D within the otherwise inhospitable desert.

As my 12th-graders wrap up their Senior Theses this week, I’m reminded that they will soon be making exoduses of their own, away from JCHS and onto whatever life is calling them toward in the coming year and years to come. I want to bless the class of 2024 this week then–and all of us at JCHS, in fact–to build Tabernacles for ourselves like the Israelites wandering in the desert: nomadic nesting nooks where the spiritual and metaphysical senses can dwell in peace and communal devotion for the duration of our many variable voyages and beyond.