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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashas Vayakheil/Pikudei(66)

The two sedras for this week's Torah Reading discuss the Tabernacle, its vessels and its materials. With these sedras we end the book of Exodus.

This week, in place of a Rashi analysis, we will look at a unique aspect of Torah (and Tanach) literary style. As we know, seven is a special number in Judaism. Seven days in a week; seven weeks between Pesach & Shavuot; seven years for a Shemita; Seven times seven for a Jubilee. Moses is the seventh generation from Abraham etc., etc. Also the Torah often has Lead Words, which means certain words in any particular section, which are repeated several times, most often seven times or multiples of seven, and which highlight the main subject of the section. I discussed this apsect of Torah style in my book "Studying the Torah: A Guide to In-depth Interpretation" (Jason Aronson Publishers) The following thoughts are from a very worthwhile set of books (in Hebrew) by Elchanan Samet "Iyunim b'Parashat Hashavua".

Parashas Vayakheil is a perfect illustration of this. Let us look at it.

As a guide to the discussion below, we should note that the sedra is divided into two parts; 1) the people giving their contributions and 2) Bezalael and his men doing the work of constructing the Mishkan.

Now let us look at some seven combinations .

1) The word 'Truma' (contribution) is repeated 7 times (verses 35:5;21;24;36:3,6,)

2) The word "Havieu" (and other constructions of the verb, "to bring") is repeated 14 times (35:5,21,22,23,24,25,27, 29,; 36:3,5,6,)

3) The word "lev" (heart) appears 7 times in regards to giving (35:5, 10,21,22,25,26,29)

4) The word "lev' is repeated again 7 times as regards the craftsmen and their work (35:34, 35; 36:1,2,(3 times in this verse),8).

(There are other seven combinations but they become too complicated.)

Note the following points - addition to the strange fact of these repetitions.

The repetitions are done in an unobtrusive way, they do not ruin or distort the literary quality of the text.

The word "lev" is central both to the givers and the builders. In this way the Torah equates the contributions of the layman and those of the skilled artist. Both came from the heart. It recalls a comment by the Sages "Both he who does a lot and he who little, it is the same, as long as his heart is directed to G-d.

The word Havieu - "to bring" - is central to giving one's contribution, while the word "Natan" ("gave") though not repeated 7 times, is central to having the artistic wisdom necessary to create the Mishkan and its vessels. . This shows that a person does not give to Hashem's Mishkan, he only brings what G-d has given him - his gold and silver. While the artistic skills are given to man by Hashem.


One might ask: Why the need for this word play ? What significance does it have?

We have already shown that certain meaningful messages can be conveyed by the repetitions. But I would also add that there is a type of artistic skill in literary beauty that is involved here. And just as the Mishkan, itself was not just another building, but was constructed with its beauty as an important goal, so too the construction of the Written Torah itself is constructed in a way that shows artistic skill.

Shabbat Shalom
Avigdor Bonchek

"What's Bothering Rashi?" is a production of "The Institute for the Study of Rashi." The 5 Volume set is available at all Jewish bookstores.

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