The division between the topics included in Parshat Pekuday and those included in Vayakhel mirrors the division between Parshiyot Terumah and Tetzaveh. Vayakhel, like Terumah, deals with the Mishkan and its keilim. Pekuday, like Tetzaveh, deals with the bigdei kehuna.
The chiddush of Parshat Pekuday are the parsha’s first pesukim, which describe those in charge of the building and summarize the amount of each metal collected for the process. Why were these pesukim inserted at the beginning of the parsha, in the middle of the description of the building? Would it not make more sense for them to have appeared before the building began (when the donation process was described) or at its conclusion?
Leaders — Or Metals?
The answer to this question hinges on understanding the first of these pesukim — pasuk 21 — which mentions the root p-k-d twice and is the source of the parsha’s name — Pekuday. What does this “pekuday” refer to? From the first three pesukim of the parsha (which list those in charge of the building process) one could get the impression that the pekuday refers to those appointed to leadership positions. This makes sense; pekuday, like the word pekid, can refer to those appointed.
Rashi, though, understands that the word pekuday refers to the weight of the metals that were donated to the mishkan. Why did Rashi explain “pekuday” this way?
A hint to the answer lies in the order that Rashi mentions the metals. Though the Torah (when listing the metals) mentions gold first (which makes sense, as it is considered most precious), Rashi begins with silver. Why does Rashi mention silver first?
The answer connects to the first of the pesukim that describe the donation of silver — pasuk 25. Like the first pasuk of the parsha (pasuk 21), pasuk 25 also mentions the word pekuday. Rashi seems to have learned from the usage of the word pedukay regarding the silver that the original pekuday also refers to the silver (and the other metals).
The importance of the silver relative to the other metals can be seen by the number of pesukim devoted to it. As opposed to the gold and copper, which are each summarized in one pasuk each (24 and 29), the Torah devotes four full pesukim to the donation of the silver (25–28). The silver was clearly very important, and was, therefore, emphasized by these pesukim. Why does it get so much attention?
The People Project
The answer lies in the point emphasized by one of the four pesukim that describe the silver. Pasuk 26 reminds us that the silver came from the machatzit hashekel donated by each Jew. The silver collected was uniquely significant because it linked the Mishkan project (equally) to the entire Jewish people.
This explains another link between pasuk 26 and the parsha’s first pasuk, pasuk 21. Pasuk 26’s usage of the word “edah” (Jewish people) to describe the source of the silver reminds us of pasuk 21’s usage of the word “edut” (testimony) to describe the Mishkan. The message of this link is that it was the Jewish people’s (edah) donation of the silver that made the Mishkan’s testimony (edut) about our relationship with Hashem possible.
The connection of the Mishkan to the involvement of the entire Jewish people explains why the Torah inserts these pesukim in the middle of its description of the construction. By doing so, the Torah reminds us of the involvement of the entire people and links the building to them.
Moshe and The Jewish People
The people’s importance continues to reverberate throughout the rest of the parsha. After the initial “pekuday” pesukim, the parsha includes two more perakim: Perek 39, which includes the people’s creation of the bigdei kehuna and their bringing what they built to Moshe, and Perek 40, which describes Moshe’s hakama (raising) of the Mishkan.
The Torah goes out of its way to present the efforts of the people as parallel to that of Moshe. The Torah uses the phrase “as Hashem commanded Moshe” seven times in reference to each of these efforts. While it would have been more natural to describe Moshe’s efforts with the words “as Hashem commanded him,” the Torah describes Moshe in third person to parallel the term used to describe the efforts of the Jewish people, emphasizing the importance of the Jewish people’s involvement in the project. Though it was ultimately Moshe who would need to put the pieces of the Mishkan together, this was possible only after, and because of, the efforts of the entire Jewish people. This was such an important message that it justified repeating everything we knew from Terumah and Tetzaveh in Parshiyot Vayakhel and Pekuday.
We have seen (in both last week’s and this week’s piece) how the details of the Mishkan emphasize the importance of the role of (each member of) the Jewish people. Hashem’s Shechina resides on the Mishkan when it is constructed through the efforts of the entire Jewish people.