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Parashat Vayakhel-Pekudei

General Overview: In this week's portion, Vayakhel-Pekudei, Moses gathers the Jews and relays to them all the details regarding the construction of the Tabernacle, its vessels, and the priestly garments. The actual construction and assembly is also described. This portion repeats many of the details described in the portions of Terumah and Tetzaveh, wherein G‑d instructed Moses regarding the assembly of all these objects. The Tabernacle is erected, and G‑d's presence dwells therein.

First Aliyah: On the day after Moses descended from Mount Sinai with the Second Tablets, after successfully securing atonement for the sin of the Golden Calf, he gathered all the Jewish people. The primary purpose of this assembly was to inform the Jews of G‑d's desire for a Sanctuary to be constructed. He began, however, with a brief reminder regarding the observance of the Shabbat. This was followed by a description of the materials needed to construct the Tabernacle, and a list of the vessels, Tabernacle parts, and priestly garments which were to be produced. The men and women came forward and generously donated all the materials which Moses enumerated.

Second Aliyah: Moses announces G‑d's choice of Bezalel and Oholiab to serve as foremen of the Tabernacle construction project, and he transfers to them all the donated materials. The people, however, continued donating generously, until the craftspeople report to Moses that they have more than enough materials to complete their task, causing Moses to issue a proclamation requesting everyone to cease donating materials. The craftspeople began their work. The tapestries which covered the Tabernacle were assembled, and the craftspeople construct the Tabernacle wall panels, their sockets, the curtains which covered the entrance to the sanctuary and which separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the sanctuary, the Ark, and the Showbread Table.

Third Aliyah: This aliyah describes the construction of the menorah (candelabra) and the Incense Altar. The anointing oil and the incense are also prepared.

Fourth Aliyah: The Tabernacle's construction is capped off with the construction of the Outer Altar, the copper wash basin, the mesh curtains which surrounded the Tabernacle courtyard, and the beams and hooks which anchored them. The Torah then gives an exact accounting of the amounts of gold, silver and copper donated for the construction of the Tabernacle, as well as the vessels and building materials constructed with these supplies.

Fifth Aliyah: The High Priest's ephod — a reversed apron which covered the back — and its precious-stone-studded shoulder straps were made. The High Priest's Choshen Mishpat ("Breastplate of Judgment") was assembled. It contained four rows of precious stones, each row containing three stones. Artisans engraved the names of the Twelve Tribes of Israel upon these twelve stones. The Choshen Misphat was then secured by straps which connected it to the ephod.

Sixth Aliyah: The rest of the priestly garments were completed: The High Priest's me'il (blue robe adorned with golden bells and cloth "pomegranates") and tzitz (a golden band worn on the forehead, which was engraved with the words "Holy to G‑d"); and the four garments worn by both the High Priest and the regular priests: tunics, turbans, sashes and pants. With this, the construction of the Tabernacle and all its vessels and accoutrement were finished. The craftspeople brought their finished products to Moses. Moses saw that all the work had been done exactly to G‑d's specifications, and he blessed the workers.

Seventh Aliyah: G‑d instructed Moses to erect the Tabernacle on the first of Nissan. G‑d also instructed Moses to place all the Tabernacle's vessels in their proper places, and to anoint all of the items with the anointing oil, thus sanctifying them. Moses is also directed to dress Aaron and his sons in the priestly garments, and to anoint them, too. When Moses finished this task a Cloud of Glory and the Divine Presence filled the Tabernacle. This cloud also served as the Jews' guide throughout their desert sojourn: when the cloud lifted, the people would travel, following the cloud until it rested, where they would set up camp until the cloud would lift again.

Parashat Ki Tissa

General Overview: The portion discusses the census of the Israelites, the washbasin of the Tabernacle, the anointing oils for the priests and kings, the incense offering, and the Sabbath. The Torah then relates the story of the Golden Calf, G‑d's anger at the Jewish nation, Moses successfully arguing for Divine forgiveness for the sin, the subsequent breaking of the tablets, and the giving of the second tablets.

First Aliyah: G‑d commands Moses to take a census of the Jewish adult male population by collecting an atonement offering of half a silver shekel from each individual. The collected silver was melted down, and was made into sockets for the beams of the Tabernacle. G‑d instructs Moses to make a copper washstand for the Tabernacle. The priests would use this laver to wash their hands and feet before their service. G‑d tells Moses the recipe for making holy "anointing oil." This oil, which was prepared with various aromatic herbs and fine spices, was used to anoint and sanctify the Tabernacle, its vessels, and Aaron and his sons. The remainder of the oil was put aside, and was used to anoint kings and high priests of future generations. G‑d also gives Moses the formula for the incense which was offered twice-daily in the Tabernacle. The duplication of the anointing oil or incense for personal use is prohibited. G‑d imbues Bezalel with wisdom, and appoints him to be the chief craftsman of the Tabernacle and its contents. G‑d appoints Oholiab as his assistant. This lengthy aliyah concludes with G‑d telling the Jewish people to observe the Shabbat, the eternal sign between Him and the Children of Israel.

Second Aliyah: After G‑d revealed Himself to the entire nation at Mount Sinai and told them the Ten Commandments, Moses ascended the mountain where he remained for forty days. There he was to study the Torah and receive the Tablets. The Jews miscalculate when Moses is supposed to return, and when he doesn't appear on the day when they anticipate him, they grow impatient and demand of Aaron to make for them a new god. Aaron cooperates, all along intending to postpone and buy time until Moses' return, but despite his efforts, a Golden Calf emerges from the flames. The festivities and sacrifices start early next morning. Moses pleads with an incensed G‑d to forgive the Jews' sin. G‑d acquiesces and relents from His plan to annihilate the Jews. Moses comes down with the Tablets, sees the idolatrous revelry, and breaks the Tablets. Moses enlists the Tribe of Levi to punish the primary offenders. Three thousand idol worshippers are executed on that day. Moses ascends Mount Sinai again, in an attempt to gain complete atonement for the sin. G‑d tells Moses to lead the Jews towards the Promised Land, but insists that He won't be leading them personally; instead an angel will be dispatched to lead them. Seeing G‑d's displeasure with the Jews, Moses takes his own tent and pitches it outside the Israelite encampment. This tent becomes the center of study and spirituality until the Tabernacle is inaugurated.

Third Aliyah: Moses asks G‑d to reconsider the matter of the angel leading them. G‑d reconsiders, and agrees to lead them Himself again. Moses then requests that G‑d's presence never manifest itself on any other nation other than the Jews.

Fourth Aliyah: G‑d's agrees to Moses' request that His presence only dwell amongst the Jews. Moses requests to be shown G‑d's glory. G‑d agrees, but informs Moses that he will only be shown G‑d's "back," not G‑d's "face."

Fifth Aliyah: G‑d tells Moses to carve new tablets upon which G‑d will engrave the Ten Commandments. Moses takes the new tablets up to Mt. Sinai, where G‑d reveals His glory to Moses while proclaiming His Thirteen Attributes of Mercy.

Sixth Aliyah: G‑d seals a covenant with Moses, assuring him again that His presence will only dwell with the Jews. G‑d informs the Jewish people that He will drive the Canaanites from before them. He instructs them to destroy all vestiges of idolatry from the land, and to refrain from making any covenants with its current inhabitants. The Jews are then commanded not to make molten gods, to observe the three festivals, not to eat chametz on Passover, to sanctify male firstborn humans and cattle, and not to cook meat together with milk.

Seventh Aliyah: Moses descends Mount Sinai with the second tablets, and unbeknownst to him beams of light were projecting off his face. Aaron and the people are originally afraid of him. Moses teaches the people the Torah he studied on the mountain. Moses wears a veil on his face from that time on, but removes it when speaking to G‑d and when repeating G‑d's words to the people.

Parashat Tetzaveh

General Overview: In last week's Torah reading, Terumah, we read the details of the construction of the Tabernacle, the sanctuary in the desert. This week's Parshah, Tetzaveh, we discover the special garments worn by the priests and high priest when serving in the Tabernacle. Following that, we read G‑d's instructions to Moses regarding the seven-day inauguration for the Tabernacle. The portion concludes with a description of one of the vessels of the Tabernacle—the Incense Altar.

First Aliyah: G‑d commands the Jews to use the purest of olive oils for the daily kindling of the Menorah. Moses is instructed to consecrate Aaron and his sons by dressing them in special priestly garments. The Torah describes the making of the High Priest's ephod — a reversed apron which covered the back — and its precious-stone-studded shoulder straps.

Second Aliyah: We now read about the High Priest's Choshen Mishpat ("Breastplate of Judgment"). It contained four rows of precious stones, each row containing three stones. Artisans engraved the names of the Twelve Tribes of Israel upon these twelve stones. This cloth breastplate contained a fold wherein the Urim v'Tumim, a parchment on which was written G‑d's Name, was inserted. The Choshen Misphat was then secured by straps which connected it to the ephod.

Third Aliyah: This aliyah describes the last two of the garments which were exclusive to the High Priest: the me'il and the tzitz. The me'il was a blue robe which was adorned with golden bells and cloth "pomegranates." The tzitz was a golden band worn on the forehead, which was engraved with the words "Holy to G‑d." The Torah then describes the four garments worn by both the High Priest and the regular priests: tunics, turbans, sashes and pants.

Fourth Aliyah: This aliyah prescribes the procedure for consecrating Aaron and his sons as priests. Aaron and his sons were brought to the door of the sanctuary, they immersed in a mikvah (ritual pool), and were dressed in the priestly garments. Moses then offered various inaugural sacrifices on their behalf.

Fifth Aliyah: The Torah continues describing the procedure for the offering, and the consumption of the inaugural sacrifices. G‑d commands Moses to repeat this inaugural service for a seven day period, after which the consecration will be complete. Also included in this section is a description of how future High Priests are to be inducted.

Sixth Aliyah: G‑d instructs the Jews to offer two burnt offerings daily for perpetuity; one lamb in the morning and one in the afternoon. G‑d promises to dwell in the Tabernacle.

Seventh Aliyah: This section describes the Incense Altar which stood in the sanctuary. The priests are commanded to burn incense upon this altar twice daily.

Parashat Terumah

General Overview: G‑d commands the Israelites to build a Tabernacle. He provides the exact details of how to construct it, and how to build the different instruments and vessels which were used therein.

First Aliyah: G‑d instructed Moses to accept contributions from the Israelites for the construction of a Tabernacle: "Let them make for Me a sanctuary, and I will dwell amongst them." The needed materials: precious metals, dyed wools and hides, flax, wood, olive oil, spices and gems. G‑d then gave detailed instructions regarding the construction and dimensions of the Tabernacle and its vessels—starting with the Ark that housed the Tablets. The Ark was to be made of gold-plated acacia wood. Rings were to be attached to the corners of the Ark, wherein were inserted the poles that were used to transport the Ark.

Second Aliyah: The Ark was to be covered with a slab of pure gold. Two golden, winged cherubs were to protrude from this cover. Next G‑d gave instructions for constructing the Table for the Showbread. This table was also to be made of gold-plated acacia wood, and also to contain rings for transportation poles.

Third Aliyah: The seven branched Menorah (candelabra) was next on G‑d's list. It was to be beaten out of a single block of pure gold, with decorative cups, knobs and flowers on its body. The Torah now turns its attention to the construction of the Tabernacle's sanctuary. The covering of the Sanctuary was to consist of several layers of tapestries. The first layer was to be a woven mixture of dyed wools and linen. The second layer was to be made of goat's hair. These two oversized coverings also covered the outsides of the Tabernacle's walls. The very top of the Tabernacle was then to be further covered by dyed ram skins and tachash hides.

Fourth Aliyah: The walls of the Tabernacle were to be upright beams made of gold-plated acacia wood. The bottom of each beam had two projections that were to be inserted into two silver sockets. The Tabernacle's front side (to the east) was to have no wall. Its northern and southern side were to have twenty beams each. Its western wall was to have eight. Altogether the inside of the sanctuary was 30 cubits (approx. 45 feet) by 10 cubits, and 10 cubits high. The beams were held together by several crossbars.

Fifth Aliyah: The Tabernacle's sanctuary was to consist of two sections: the innermost chamber was the Holy of Holies, wherein the Ark was to be placed; and the outer chamber was the Holy Chamber, which housed the Menorah and the Table (as well as the Golden Altar which will be described in next week's reading). Two curtains were to be woven of dyed wools and linen. One was to be placed between the Holy of Holies and the Holy Chamber, the other covered the eastern side of the Tabernacle—its entrance.

Sixth Aliyah: G‑d then gave instructions for the construction of the Outdoor Altar. This altar was to be made of copper-plated acacia wood, and it was to have four "horns," vertical projections, protruding from its uppermost corners. The altar, too, was equipped with rings and transportation poles.

Seventh Aliyah: The Tabernacle courtyard was to be 100 cubits (approx. 150 feet) by 50 cubits, and enclosed by mesh linen curtains. The entrance to the courtyard was to be on its eastern side, and the entrance was to be covered by a curtain woven of dyed wools and linen.

Parashat Mishpatim

General Overview: This week's reading, Mishpatim, details many laws, including laws related to slaves, personal injury, loans, usury, and property damage. The end of the portion speaks of the preparations the Israelites made before receiving the Torah at Mt. Sinai.

First Aliyah: This section discusses laws pertaining to the Israelite servant, his mandatory release after six years of service, and the procedure followed when a servant expresses his desire to remain in his master's service. The Torah continues with the laws of the Israelite maidservant, and her terms of release. Other laws contained in this section: a husband's obligations towards his wife; punishments for murder, manslaughter, kidnapping and abusing parents; and the penalties accrued by a person who injures another.

Second Aliyah: This section continues with laws of personal injury: the punishment for one who kills or injures his servant and for one who causes a woman to miscarry. The Torah then shifts its focus to a person's liabilities for damages caused by his possessions, such as an ox that gores; or his actions, such as leaving an open pit uncovered. A person who steals is liable to pay the capital plus punitive damages. The section concludes with a person's right to self-defense when facing a marauding thief.

Third Aliyah: An arsonist is liable for damages caused by fires he ignites. The Torah then details the potential liabilities of an individual who undertakes to be a guardian of another's possessions, a borrower, and a renter. More laws: the punishment for seducing a young woman, sorcery, bestiality and offering an idolatrous sacrifice; prohibitions against harassing a foreigner, widow, or orphan; the mitzvah of lending money to the poor and the prohibition against lending with interest.

Fourth Aliyah: This section, too, introduces us to many new mitzvot: the prohibitions against cursing a judge or leader, consuming meat that was not ritually slaughtered, offering a sacrifice before the animal is eight days old, perjury, and judicial corruption; the commandments to separate all agricultural tithes in their proper order, sanctify the first-born son, return a lost animal to its owner, and help unload an overburdened animal.

Fifth Aliyah: We are commanded not to lie or take a bribe. The mitzvah of the Shemitah (Sabbatical year) is introduced: six years we work and harvest the land, and on the seventh year we allow the land to rest. Similarly, on a weekly basis, six days we work and on the seventh day we – and our cattle and servants – must rest. We are forbidden to mention the name of other gods. We are commanded to celebrate the three festivals — Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot – and to make pilgrimages to the Holy Temple on these occasions. Finally, we are told not to cook meat in (its mother's) milk.

Sixth Aliyah: G‑d informed the Israelites that He would dispatch an angel to lead them into Canaan. This angel would not tolerate disobedience. If, however, the Israelites would hearken to the angel, and eradicate idolatry from the Promised Land, then they will be greatly rewarded. Their Canaanite enemies will fall before them and G‑d "will bless your food and your drink, and will remove illness from your midst."

Seventh Aliyah: This section continues describing the blessings the Israelites will receive if they faithfully serve G‑d: no miscarriages or barren women, longevity, wide spacious borders and supernatural assistance in their quest to conquer the Holy Land. G‑d warns the Israelites against entering into treaties with the Canaanite natives or allowing them to remain in the land after the Israelite invasion. The Torah now relates some of the events that occurred in the days immediately prior to the giving of the Torah. Moses went up the mountain and received a message from G‑d which he communicated to the people. The Israelites enthusiastically committed themselves to following all of G‑d's laws. Moses transcribed the "Book of the Covenant" and read it to the people. Then, together with the Israelite firstborn, Moses offered sacrifices and sprinkled the blood on the people, bringing them into a covenant with G‑d. This section concludes with G‑d summoning Moses – after the giving of the Torah – to ascend the mountain where he would remain for forty days and nights, and would then be given the Tablets.

Tue, March 31 2020 6 Nisan 5780