Making sense of the sedra: It’s the thought that counts

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Making sense of the sedra: It’s the thought that counts

In our thought-provoking new series, rabbis and rebbetzen relate the week’s parsha to the way we live today

The old saying, ‘It’s the thought that counts’, really might be true! Nicholas Epley, a behavioural science professor at Chicago University, proposes that we, as gift givers, feel closer to the recipient when we have made an effort in selecting their gift. A relationship is enhanced with a thoughtfully considered gift, based on what the recipient genuinely needs and desires. Admittedly, this is not always an easy task and, contrary to general opinion, research suggests that perhaps we are better off just asking what the recipient would like.

Parshat Pekudei deals with the construction of the Tabernacle and the priestly vestments. You will notice that after every directive, the phrase ka’asher tzivah Hashem et Moshe (just as God commanded Moses) appears. Why this constant repetition?

One suggestion is that the Tabernacle was a tikkun (atonement) for the sin of the Golden Calf and, with this insight, we can learn something significant about creating and maintaining good relationships.

A superficial reading of the text indicates that we created an idol to serve as our new deity. However, we had just been redeemed from Egypt and witnessed earth-shattering miracles. Had we not heard directly from God Himself just six weeks earlier: “You shall not make for yourself any graven images”?

Many commentators maintain that we did indeed trust God, knowing that we would ultimately receive the Torah, but there was a delay, and we felt something should be done meanwhile to serve God, to make Him happier with us and improve our divine connection.

The Israelites reasoned that since Moses hadn’t returned, they now needed a new intermediary to connect with God – and this was the Golden Calf. But they failed to consider what God would desire from them to create such connection, and therein lay their sin.

It now becomes easier to understand the repetitive ka’asher tzivah Hashem after each directive, because this Tabernacle was meant to be built exactly according to God’s wishes, to enable us to connect with Him through His chosen method, not ours.

A fine line exists between the construction of the Tabernacle and that of the Golden Calf. Both were acts of love on the Israelites’ part in their endeavour to get close to God, but one accorded with His will and the other with theirs. Bearing this in mind should help us improve all our interpersonal relationships, by giving not exclusively on our terms, but by taking other people’s wishes and aspirations into account too.



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