Parshios Vayakhel & Pekudei
Simple and Obvious
Let me tell you a secret. When G-d said to Avraham (Ber.21:12) “Whatever
Sarah tells you, listen to her,” G-d was revealing the secret for a
lasting and productive relationship.
This Shabbos we will complete the Sefer (book of) Shemos (Exodus). Sefer
Shemos is the record of G-d’s coming out from behind the veil of nature.
As Rav Hirsch explains, Shemos is where G-d revealed His expectations for
Taking center stage was Matan Torah (giving of the Ten Commandments). All
the events that preceded and the events that followed were to frame that
singularly most unique moment in history. Creation, the Avos (patriarchs),
and the descent into Egypt were the prelude to the Bnai Yisroel becoming a
nation. 210 years of estrangement, enslavement, and persecution forced
separation on the Jews and gave them cause to follow Moshe into the
wilderness without water or protection. The 10 plagues, Yetziat Mitzrayim
(exodus), Kriyas Yam Suf (parting of the sea), singing Shira (song), food
from heaven, water from rocks, clouds of glory, doubts and more miracles,
brought them to the foot of Mt. Sinai. Then, as a single entity, the
descendents of the Avos and Imahos (matriarchs) greeted the dawn of
Revelation and collectively trembled at the power of G-d’s voice.
Elevated to heights impossible to sustain they crashed after a mere forty
days and nights. Confusion, questions, fears, and the ever emerging ego,
created a golden mirror that reflected the latent animal within them.
Given the choice, most humans choose to live docile lives of burden
working from meal to meal with little desire for nobility or sanctity.
They believe that there is nothing more and that to aspire to greatness is
at best delusional and foolish. The notion of an eternity of elevated
service, meaning, and purpose is foreign to them as it would be to the
beasts in the field. Yet, G-d persisted.
“Build Me a Mishkan (tabernacle) and I will dwell among them!” If you wish
Me to be close to you, if you desire that I forgive your human foolishness
and dwell among you, make room for Me in your hearts. Proclaim out loud so
that your children can hear, “In my heart I will build a sanctuary to the
glory of His honor…” Gather gold, silver, and other fine metals and
materials and fashion for Me a Mishkan wherein I will dwell, wherein you
will always know where to find Me. No longer will I overtly reveal Myself
to the public eye. Instead, I reside behind the raised curtains and walls
of the Tabernacle. At times I will invite you to My home and expect you to
arrive in time for dinner. At all other times My door is wide open;
however, you will have to follow the rules of My home in the manner that
you prepare to enter and in the manner that you greet Me.
Appointed to maintain My residence and facilitate our relationship is the
same man you chose amidst your confusion and questions. Clearly, you
trusted him; otherwise, why did you turn to him? Aharon and his children
will be the Kohanim (priests) and their tribe, the Leviyim (Levites), will
aid in the upkeep and teaching. However, you will have to listen to the
rules or else there will be dire consequences. That is the only thing that
I ask. I demand that you listen to My rules. I do not expect perfection
and I am prepared in most instances to extend forgiveness and opportunity;
however, you must desire to have a relationship with Me. You must desire
to grow and become more that you presently are. If you seek Me out you
will find Me. “
G-d is very consistent. In all of history He never once changed His
expectations for humanity. With Adam and Chava He made it really simple.
Do whatever you wish, go wherever you like, just do not eat from the Tree
of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Simply put, just listen to what I say
to you and all will be better than good, All will be perfect. They did not
listen; yet, He forgave them.
To Adam, Chava, and the rest of humanity G-d then gave the seven Mitzvos.
Most of the seven involved not doing something and only one demanded that
they do something; and that something – the establishment of a court
system – was solely for their sake. All told it was pretty simple;
nevertheless, they did not listen. This time He did not forgive most of
Noach emerged with his family, humbled and determined to serve the world
as G-d intended. For the most part it was still very simple. It still only
involved seven basic Mitzvos; yet the next ten generations did not listen.
This time G-d forgave them but they would no longer receive His Torah.
Avraham was the only one who wanted to listen. He was the only one who
sought out G-d. Avraham sought and he found. Still, for the most part
there was only seven Mitzvos and Avraham listened to the voice of G-d and
did as he was instructed to do. G-d went so far as to test that simple
expectation and resolve. Ten times G-d tested Avraham and each time he
passed with flying colors. Each time Avraham proved that a human can
listen to G-d and do whatever He asks – even the seeming impossible.
Avraham knew that G-d’s statement, “Whatever Sarah tells you, listen to
her,” was intended to better train him to listen to G-d, not just Sarah.
Four centuries later the chosen descendents of Avraham and Sarah numbered
in the millions. The time had come for redemption. Moshe was chosen to
lead but he first refused. G-d said to him. ”In the end I only need you to
listen to Me and do as I tell you. So stop arguing with Me and do as I
tell you.” Moshe listened to G-d. Aharon rejoiced and listened to G-d. The
Bnai Yisroel listened to Moshe and believed that it was the time of
redemption. (4:31) “And the people believed and they heard that G-d had
Then came the tests – some obvious and some not so obvious. “Do as I tell
you and take a lamb, the god of the Egyptians, and tie it to your bed
post.” They did so, they listened to G-d. “Ask your neighbors for their
gold, silver, and fine clothing.” They did as they were told.” It’s time
to leave. Take your children and left over Matzo and follow Moshe into the
desert.” They did as they were told. “Stand silent and witness the glory
of G-d,” They stood silent and then crossed the sea between towering walls
of water. They did as they were told. They burst forth in Shira
proclaiming to themselves and the world that there is only G-d in the
universe and their job is to listen to Him. It could not have been more
obvious or simple. They had been tested and they proved, as did Avraham
before them, that they could listen to all that G-d asked of them.
Then came the thirst and the hunger. The test was not so obvious. G-d had
not made a specific request. It was now a question of the trust that
should have been. Would they complain or would they trust that G-d would
take care of them? They complained and they failed the test. G-d forgave
them and sent then toward Mt. Sinai. Time and time again the same scenario
played itself out. They had the chance to trust the relationship and they
did not do so. The not so subtle message that listening to G-d also meant
to trust Him was not getting through. Nevertheless, G-d forgave them their
imperfection and brought them to Mt. Sinai.
Something changed. Suddenly they were ready. “Do you want My Torah?” “Yes!
We will do all that You ask of us!” G-d revealed Himself to the nation
and they trembled before Him. Moshe ascended the mountain to receive the
first Luchos (Tablets) and the Bnai Yisroel waited to hear more of what G-
d wanted from them. It was so simple – whatever He would ask they were
prepared to do. Perceived delay, confusion, fear and finally betrayal with
the Golden Calf – the Bnai Yisroel forgot to simply listen and trust.
Two more trips to the mountain top and Moshe came back with the second
Luchos. Yom Kippur would forever be the day when we reconfirm the
simplicity of "Naaseh V’Nishmah" - "We will do and then we will attempt to
understand." We are prepared to do whatever G-d asks of us. We will listen
and we will do because “G-d is our G-d.” However, along with the
forgiveness came the opportunity of constructing a place for G-d to dwell
Quickly they assembled the necessary materials. As fast as they
contributed to the Eigel (calf) they contributed even faster to the
Mishkan. “Enough! Enough! Hold back your donations. We have enough!” Here
are the plans and the instructions; here is the chief architect and his
assistant, go build G-d His home. However, make sure that you do exactly
what G-d commands! Listen and do as you are told!
(39:43) “And Moshe inspected all the work of the Mishkan… behold, it had
been done exactly as G-d had commanded. Moshe blessed them.” (See Tehilim
It is really that simple. “Whatever Sarah tells you, listen to her.”
Text Copyright © 2006 by Rabbi Aron Tendler and Torah.org
The author is the Rabbi of Shaarey Zedek Congregation, Valley
Village, CA, and Assistant Principal of YULA.