Parshat Pikudei opens up with what seems to simply be an accounting taken by Moshe of the materials used for the Mishkan. However, the choice of words indicates so much more.
These are the accountings “pikudei” of the Mishkan, the Mishkan of the Testimony, which were counted “pukad” at Moses’ command; [this was] the work of the Levites under the direction of Ithamar, the son of Aaron the Kohen
The word Pikudei comes from the root word Pakad which became synonymous with redemption at the end of Parshat Vayechi. Joseph is about to die and he informs his brothers that G-d will “pakod yifkod” (surely remember them) and then he makes the children of Israel swear to take his bones out of Egypt as he repeats for the second time that G-d will “pakod yifkod” (surely remember them).
Joseph dies and before long the nation is enslaved in Egypt. Moses is born and goes through life experiencing transformations to prepare him to become the one to lead the nation out of Egypt. G-d first appears to Moses at the burning bush to inform him of his mission. It is there that he says “Go and assemble the elders of Israel, and say to them, ‘The Lord God of your forefathers has appeared to me, the G-d of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, “I have surely remembered you “pakod pakaditi” and what is being done to you in Egypt.”
It is in that conversation that G-d tells Moses that each woman should ask from her neighbor for silver and gold objects and garments which they were to adorn their children with when leaving Egypt. In the end, these materials were voluntarily donated for the building of the Mishkan.
Moses and Aaron succeed in their appeal to the elders by using this very same language, “the people believed because they heard that the Lord had remembered “pakad” the children of Israel and that He saw their affliction”. After many signs and wonders, G-d eventually redeems the people in a grand Exodus.
The reappearance of the word “pikudei” in this parsha alludes to a continuation of the redemptive process. Yes, G-d physically redeemed them from a place of servitude and bondage but that was only the beginning. Spiritual, emotional, and psychological freedom cannot be done for us, not even by G-d. It is work that can only be successfully accomplished from the inside out. That is what their donations of the materials taken from Egypt represented.
It was their jealousy and hatred of Joseph that planted the seed that led them into exile. In Egypt, they gained an understanding on a personal level of what the brothers made Joseph endure. They experienced the injustice of being perceived as a threat and thereby persecuted and enslaved. Only after enslavement did they gain an appreciation of each person’s worth as an individual and a member of the community.
The Israelites rightfully earned the possessions they took from their neighbors through their hard work, blood, sweat, and tears. What they took with them out of Egypt was much more than mere gold, silver and fine materials with which to kick start their new life. Each material represented a hard-earned lesson of what freedom really means. Freedom to be and let be. Freedom to be realized as equal at the core as represented by the equal payment that went into the foundation of the Mishkan, yet free to express individuality as represented in their entitlement to contribute each one “as their heart inspired them” in other areas of the Mishkan.
The materials donated for the Mishkan represented the internal work that developed their greater selves. The work that enabled them to act nobly as both an individual and a respectful member of a community.
Only once they valued both the individual and the community could they build a place where G-d would reside. G-d’s presence is pushed away by ego and contention. Only a place of peace and humility can properly receive the glory of G-d. The accounting (Pikudei) that Moses took here was an acknowledgment of every bit of their hard work and effort expended to build a place where G-d could finally rest amongst them and that is truly the fulfillment of redemption.