“The cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the Presence of the Lord filled the Tabernacle” (Exodus 40:34).
The portion of Pekudei is the last portion in the book of Exodus, and it concludes the building of the sanctuary. The Torah details the dimensions of the Tabernacle and its vessels with great precision, not once but twice: from chapter 35 to chapter 40 (six chapters) and again from chapter 25 to chapter 31 (aside from chapter 29, which details the sanctity of Aaron and his sons). Thus the Torah repeats six chapters with the only difference between them being that at first Moses was commanded, “And the Lord spoke to Moses saying, ‘Tell the Israelite people to bring Me gifts’” (25:1) and the second time Moses is speaking to the people of Israel, “Moses said further to the whole community of Israelites…take from among you gifts” (35:4). At the time of the building they repeated all the dimensions in the same detail as in the previous six chapters.
Aside from the question of why the Torah repeats six chapters needlessly, specifically the building of the Tabernacle and its tools, a topic which is not meant for future generations (as we have written on the weekly portion of Terumah, that Solomon did not build the Holy Temple and its tools based on the Tabernacle dimensions), look carefully at the order of the chapters and see what is happening here, how the order in which the Torah is written confuses the reader.
In Exodus 24:12 it says: “And G-d said to Moses, ‘Come up to Me on the mountain’” and ends in verse 18, “And Moses was on the mountain 40 days and 40 nights” (to get the Tablets).
And then, suddenly, the whole topic of the giving of the Tablets is halted and we begin with the commandment to build a Tabernacle, going on for six long chapters, until chapter 31. The we return to the first issue, the giving of the Tablets, “When He finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, He gave Moses the two Tablets of the pact,” (Exodus 31:18) and the Scripture continues to tell the tale of the Golden Calf and the giving of the second set of Tablets, done on the Day of Atonement, the tenth of Tishrei, as Rashi wrote on Exodus 33:11, “On the tenth of Tishrei G-d was reconciled with Israel with joy and a full heart and He told Moses, ‘I have forgiven as you said’ and gave him the last Tablets.”
In chapter 35 we once again return to the topic of the Tabernacle and once again the Torah details, over the course of six chapters, issues of dimensions and vessels which the reader already knows.
Rashi, who noticed the fragmented nature of the chapters, wrote (in his comment on Exodus 31:18), “There is no chronological order to the Torah; the incident of the Golden Calf happened long before the commandment to build a Tabernacle, for on the 17th of Tammuz the Tablets were shattered and on the Day of Atonement G-d was reconciled to Israel, and on the following day they began donating to the Tabernacle; it was put up on the first of Nisan.”
Any reasonable person who looks carefully at what is written understands that the incident of the Tabernacle is not in its proper place and should have been written after the incident of the Golden Calf; the giving of the Tablets should have been written as a sequence and not stopped in the middle for the commandment to build a Tabernacle. It seems reasonable that the whole issue of the Tabernacle was said to Moses after he received the second set of Tablets and not before the incident of the Golden Calf.
To further clarify the matter, come see what explanation the Gemara gives. In Tractate Gittin 60a it is said: “Rabbi Johanan in the name of Rabbi Banaeh said that the Torah was given scroll by scroll.” Rashi explains: “And as it was said, portion by portion, Moses would write it down; at the end of 40 years, when all the portions were finished, he put them together and sewed them with sinew.” Excellent! The parchment scrolls are shuffled like a deck of cards, once this is first and once that is! That’s why there is no chronological order in the Torah. But why did Moses sew in the story of the Tabernacle twice, in two different places, and confuse the reader about the order of events? And why did he sew in the story of receiving the Tablets and the incident of the Golden Calf in different, distant places?
If you are very precise you will see that there is great similarity between the two sections, between chapters 23-30 and chapters 31-40. In both there is the prohibition against cooking a kid in its mother’s milk, then in both is Moses’s ascent up the mountain to receive the Tablets, and then the command to build the Tabernacle. They seem as similar as twins; understand this well, for there is a great secret here–and one who is enlightened will be silent.
The Ramban, who noticed how the command to build the Tabernacle was described at length and duplicated, wrote: “About this, it is a show of affection and greatness, to say that G-d wanted this work and mentions it in His Torah many times, to multiply the reward for those who busy themselves with it, as is said in the Midrash, the conversation of the servants in our Fathers’ houses is more dear to the holy one, blessed be He, than the Torah of the sons, for the incident of Eliezer is detailed on two and three pages” (Exodus 36:8) and, similarly, in Midrash Bereshit Rabbah, section 60: “Rabbi Acha said, ‘the foot-washing of the servants in our Fathers’ houses is more dear than the Torah of the sons, for even the washing of the feet had to be written, while the swarming insect, which is part of the main body of the instruction, that its blood does not defile as does its body [is not written]’.” You see that the Torah, which was given by the Divine majesty, placed great emphasis on stories of a servant in a Father’s house washing his feet and in detailing the building of the Tabernacle, though it was not meant for all time, while the main body of the Torah and practical Halacha is left for sages to explicate, as written in Gittin 60b: “Rabbi Eleazar said, ‘Most of the Torah is written and a minority is oral’.” Rashi explained: “Most is written–most of the Torah relies upon exegesis of what is written to be explained using the methods of general and specific, syllogism, and the other methods by which the Torah is explicated. The minority is oral, about which no hint has been given in the Torah, but it is instruction given to Moses at Sinai, told orally.”
This tells you that not from the Torah and the Fathers’ foot washing do we live, but based on what the sages explicate, using their knowledge, as the main body of the Torah and practical Halacha.
Come see the confusion Moses caused when he sewed the scrolls out of order. We will cite the words of the Rosh in a response, rule 13, section 21: “You asked why the Midrash speaks about four reasons why Nadav and Avihu died, that they entered drunk, etc. You asked about their being drunk, for they still had not been warned about it, as it was later written, ‘wine and alcohol do not drink.’ But this is not a question, for there is no chronological order in the Torah… and all the chapters required for work [in the Tabernacle] were given before they were fulfilled, but they were not written in order. Therefore, when the Midrash says why the chapter about drinking is close to the death of the sons of Aaron, giving a parable of a physician…it is an explication of no importance, to explicate due to proximity [smuchin].” You see that one should explicate nothing due to proximity, in a place one knows it had not been written (or perhaps not sewn) in the proper order, for there is no chronological order to the Torah, and the matter of proximity is made into explication of no importance.
And since we talk of proximity, we will quote the Gemara in Yevamot 4a: “Rabbi Eleazar said, ‘From where do we learn to study proximity in the Torah? It is said, “Smuchin [“reliable,” also “proximate”] are they for all eternity, wrought of truth and equity” (Psalms 111:8).’” You see that the method of elucidating the proximity was not received from Sinai, but itself was learned from explicating the book of Psalms. Therefore they asked from where in the Torah one could learn to elucidate the proximity, and Rabbi Judah, who did not elucidate the proximity, thus said to Ben Azai: “Just because this matter is near that one, we should stone her [a witch]?” (Yevamot 4a).
We will conclude with the making of the ephod, about which it is said: “They bordered the lazuli stones with frames of gold, engraved with seal engravings of the names of the sons of Israel” (Exodus 39:6).
The Gemara in Sotah 36a says, “The high priest had two precious stones on his shoulders, one on each side, and the names of the twelve tribes were written on them, six on one stone and six on the other…there were fifty letters, twenty five on one stone and twenty five on the other.” The Gemara in Sotah 36b asks: “There were fifty letters? Fifty less one…They explained that throughout the Torah ‘Binyamin’ is written defective, with only one yud, but here it is written plene, with two, for it is written, ‘and his father called him Binyamin’ [with two yuds].”
Again our souls are shaken by the errors in copying the Scriptures and the Mesorah, as the Trumat HaDeshen wrote, part one, section 233: “But I wonder, for according to our Mesorah there are 17 plene instances of Binyaminin the Torah, and even more in the Prophets…it must mean, ‘in most of the Torah,’ and most is like the whole.”
But when we checked how many defective Binyamins there were and how many plene, we found that even the Trumat HaDeshen had a erroneous version. These are the results: seven plene spellings of Binyamin and 16 defective.
The Minchat Shai already spoke of this tradition on Deuteronomy 33:12, “L’Binyamin amar–in all printed books and manuscripts…defective, as in the Mesorah [the Great Mesorah which we possess] there are 17 plene instances of Binyamin throughout the Scriptures, and they are organized in the Great Mesorah in the weekly portion of Vayishlach…and in Tractate Sotah these are mentioned in dealing with the number of letters on the breastplate; it is said that in the whole Torah Binyamin is written defective…this, too, I find amazing, that there are seven instances of Binyamin spelled plene in the Torah. And this is also what the Ramah wrote, and I asked that sage, and he said that when they stated “in all the Torah Binyamin is written…” they did not really mean all, but most, and most is like all’.”
There are great doubts and many questions about the Gemara in Sotah, for if there are seven instances of Binyamin spelled plene in the Torah, why should I care about the Gemara’s question of fifty less one? Take one away from seven and you’re done with the fifty (and no application of “most is like all” is needed). But the Gemara takes the trouble and brings, as it says, the only time in which Binyamin is spelled plene. You learn that the Great Mesorah does not match the Torah of Talmudic times, nor the Torah we now possess. And one who wishes to delve further into this topic should read pamphlet 9, which is presently being distributed, and he will delight in the investigation and explanation of the source of the matter.
Words of True Knowledge