The Torah is not a book like any other. It does not follow the conventions of the Western narrative tradition. It tells its stories and makes its points in ways easy to overlook.
This week’s portion Pekuday concludes the reading of the Book of Exodus and records the formal consecration of the Tabernacle. The myriad tasks required to construct the mishkan have been completed. Then, the Torah says: And when Moses saw that the people had performed all the tasks, as the Eternal had commanded, Moses blessed them.
It’s important to note here that the ending of the Book of Exodus mirrors the beginning of the Book of Genesis. The word choices of the second book of the Torah resonate with the word choices of the first. With respect to creation “God (too) saw all that was made…and God (too) blessed.” Critics call this type of literary noticing ‘inter-textuality.’
So Genesis begins with an act of divine creation and Exodus concludes with a work of human creation. The point being the second can be as holy as the first.
Ever since Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden, work has been the common lot of humanity. “By the sweat of your brow shall you eat bread,” says the Torah. But the work we do in this world can be for blessing or for curse. We have the ability to ennoble and improve the world by the tasks we undertake and the causes we support. Our efforts can mirror the highest ethical and moral standards that we Jews call the way of God.
The portion Pekuday does not share with us the exact words of the blessing Moses imparted to the Children of Israel. By rabbinic tradition, however, Moses prayed: May it be God’s will that the Divine Presence rests in the work of your hands.
When the work of our hands promotes peace, understanding, equality, and justice; when the work of our hands helps to show concern for the sick, the aged, the poor, the lonely, the disposed – then indeed it can be said that, like the work undertaken to build the Tabernacle, our efforts too are worthy of blessing as well.