There seems to be a consistent, curious phenomenon in the pesukim about the Mishkan. And that is a persistent seeming repetition—again, and again, and again…
Let’s start with Parshas Terumah, which teaches us about the klei hamishkan—Hashem commanding to Moshe Rabbeinu how the Mishkan should look, how its vessels should be made, and where they should be placed. And that is repeated in this week’s leining, in Parshas Vayakhel. (In other words, Shemos 25:1-40, 26:37, and 27:1-19 is pretty much retold in Shemos 35:4-35, 36:1- 38, 37:1-29, and 38:1-20.)
And Parshas Tetzaveh, the first part of which deals with the bigdei kehunah (Shemos 28:1-43), is reiterated in Parshas Pekudei (Shemos 39:2-32).
Did you notice that the second half of Parshas Tetzaveh, concerning the korbonos to be brought at the inauguration of the Mishkan (Shemos 29:1-37), is basically stated again in Vayikrah, Parshas Tzav, Vayikrah 8:1–36?
And what about the repetitions in Parshas Pekudei itself? Look at Shemos 40:1-16, and then go learn Shemos 40:17-33. Do you notice that the pesukim echo each other? Do we need a better specimen of recapitulation than the pesukim in Parshas Nasso telling how the nesi’im brought their korbanos during the first days of Nissan (which we are about to experience—the minhag cited by the Mishnah Berurah (429:8) concerning reading about the nesi’im the first days of Nissan, leading us into Pesach, is not as widespread, to say the least, as it used to be)? Now look at Bamidbar, Parshas Nasso, 7:12-17, 18-23, 24-29, and so on, until the last nassi is accounted for, in 7:78-83.
What in the world is going on? Every word, every letter in the Torah represents worlds and universes beyond our comprehension. Ramban writes that they are different permutations of Shem Hashem. And the Torah is usually extremely sparse in its descriptions, words, and pesukim. What is it that calls for this uncharacteristic, seemingly incomprehensible restatement after restatement after restatement?
A pattern that we see in the Terumah-Tetzaveh-VaYakhel-Pekudei recurrences is that Hashem issues a command, and instead of a simple “And Moshe, or B’nei Yisrael, did as Hashem commanded,” we get a complete rundown of exactly what was done, echoing the command, almost word for word, phrase for phrase, posuk for posuk. For what purpose?
Sefer Chovohs Halevavos, in Sha’ar Avodas Elokim, points out that while on the one hand the Torah’s mitzvos are made up of required ritual, our main avodas Hashem is to be found in the lev—in our hearts, minds, and souls. The point of Shabbos, for example, is not to mindlessly refrain from doing any melachah. That is of course essential. But to stop at that point misses the point! The value of a mitzvah is its soul, its lesson, the value that it teaches! What is Shabbos? Shabbos reminds us that there is a Creator (Who created the world, and ceased creating on Shabbos—luchos rishonos, Parshas Yisro). It reminds us that we should not be slaves to our work, that there is more to life than muddling through it (luchs achranos, in Parshas Va’eschannan). It reminds us of middas bitachon, how Hashem provides without our efforts, and thus is the provider even when our efforts are demanded [by Him] (parshas Hamon—Parshas Beshalach).The point of matzah, of tefillin, of mezuzah, is so much more than the obedience aspect of keeping the mitzvoss, essential as that is. The essence of these mitzvos is the bonding with Hashem, the bonding with our spiritual nature which they engender.
One of the points Chovos Halevavos makes when he expounds upon this point is how, although in the actual command there is a universalistic aspect (everyone must keep Shabbos; everyone must eat matzah, all men must wear tefiilin, everyone must have a mezuzah), your personal growth and benefit from the mitzvah is the degree to which you relate and understand what you are doing. How does this make me a better person? How does this make me a better Jew? How does this bring me closer to Hashem?
If you do not know, if you actually have no idea, if these words sound strange to you, if you are rolling your eyes in your head and wondering if you’ve stumbled onto a Breslover blogsite…..
Go learn! Learn Chinuch, learn Ramban, learn Hirsch, learn Maharal, learn any of the literally hundreds of sefarim that are out there, filling the shelves of so many sefarim store. Just make sure you pick ones that you will learn, and that will teach you what you want to know. Don’t sit there and wish that the mitzvos be would be more meaningful to you and your children—do something about it!
And that’s the lesson of the repetition. We are all a Mishkan Hashem. Our neshamos have the ability to contain spirituality. Hashem, though, can only tell us which actions can contain those forces. If “all” we do is— “…and they so did,” then we’d be missing the point, as the Chovos Halevavos writes throughout the sefer. The repetition in setting up and inaugurating the Mishkan teaches that we will extract from a Mishkan—or, with its absence, Torah and mitzvos—what we choose to put into it.