Pekudei – Pegs and Pillars
This week’s Parsha, Pekudei, includes a tally of all income and expenses related to the Mishkan. The Torah goes into great detail reviewing the amounts of silver and gold that were collected and used for the work of the Mishkan. We can picture Moshe, confident that every penny could be tracked and that no administrative fees, and certainly no ‘protection’ monies had been paid out, ordered and audit to underscore the integrity that accompanied the work of the Mishkan.
The Midrash Yalkut Shimoni on this week’s Parsha, paragraph 415, indeed relates that Moshe called upon the children of Israel to make an accounting. He stated that thousands of shekels (a unit of weight) had been collected and thousands had been spent. “Let us confirm that all the monies have been appropriately used and that the accounting books match.” The Midrash states that the people gathered to watch Moshe’s audit and were all witness to a shortfall in the accounting. When Moshe completed the count, there was a discrepancy of 1,775 shekels of silver that he could not account for. Moshe was horrified! Until now he had been almost smug in his confidence, completely certain that there had been no embezzling or corruption in relation to the Mishkan. Until then the people also had complete faith in Moshe, but the results of the audit could not be ignored.
In desperation Moshe reviewed the audit, again and again. The Midrash states that the Lord enlightened Moshe and he discovered that he had overlooked the expense of a small item – the knobs fastening together the wooden beams of the walls. The wooden beams of the Mishkan walls, in addition to the poles that were used to bolt them together, and in addition to the settings in which they were placed, were also held together by little hooks that connected one to the other. These hooks are called vavey ha’amudim, the hooks of the pillars. The Midrash concludes that instantly the confidence of the people in Moshe was restored.
We know that the Midrash sometimes embellishes the facts in order to draw our attention to a lesson. Whether or not there was indeed a discrepancy in the initial accounting is not relevant. Regardless, the Midrash is drawing our attention to a small detail of the Mishkan, to little silver knobs.
Rabbi Jacob J Shachter, a brilliant teacher some of you may be familiar with, comments on this Midrash. These hooks, he writes, are easily overlooked, not taken into account. They are small and don’t appear to be very significant in the larger scheme of the Mishkan. However, these little hooks serve a crucial role – they are the connectors, the bonds that hold one piece of the wall to the next. Tiny as they are, without them the Mishkan would be a large heap of disjointed material. It is the hooks that allow it to become one whole.
The word used for this connector is vav. In modern Hebrew the word vav still means ‘hook.’ It is probably the simplest Hebrew word that exists, spelled simply with the letter vav twice in a row. The word vav is identical to the letter vav. The letter vav serves as a prefix to other Hebrew words, meaning ‘and.’ It is itself a connecting word. The letter thereby serves as a connector just as the word, sounding the same as the letter, describes a connector, an objects that hooks one item to another.
The Midrash is teaching us that we cannot ignore the little silver pieces which hold us together and make us one. Last week we discussed how the Mishkan was designed to be the ‘home’ of the Lord. We also discussed that the Torah finds a home in us. Is the Mishkan the home of the Lord or is His home in us? Indeed it is one and the same. We are the Mishkan of the Lord. But we serve as the Mishkan if we function as individuals. We cannot survive as a generation of Jews if we keep to ourselves. The common heritage and the common destiny that we share serves as the bond that makes us a community and ensures that we, as the Jewish people will continue and that we can continue to serve as a vehicle for the Almighty.
To conclude with a beautiful idea in this vein; the Ram’a in the laws of Sefer Torah (Y”D 273:6) writes that some scribes are careful to arrange the writing of the Torah scrolls in a manner which each column begins with the letter vav. It is astounding that many Torah scrolls today have been written according to these instructions. It is one of those things which escapes our notice unless we look for it. Just as the vavim of the Mishkan eluded Moshe’s initial audit, the vavim of the Torah are likewise elusive. But they are also vavei ha’amudim, the connectors of the columns. They connect each one column to the next just as the hooks connected one pillar of the wall to the next.