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Parasha No. 23
Pekudey: “The accounts”

Shemot (Exodus) 35, 1 - 40, 38


Plan

I. The first two verses
(transliteration and translation)

II. Rules for an exact pronunciation of the
text:
Rule no.1: elle fekude
Rule no.2: hamishkan
Rule no.3: exceptions (meteg and gutturals)
Rule no.4: precise pronunciation
Rule no.5: modifications in the letter vav

III. Practice
IV. Why it is important to be precise

This parasha is often read together with parasha Vayakhel. This commentary is a continuation of the commentary on Vayakhel and the two should be read at the same time.

Teamim Ashkenazim
Listen to parasha Pekudey (ORT link)
Listen to the haftara for Pekudey

Teamim Sepharadim
Listen to parasha Pekudey (Alliance)


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Parashiot Vayakhel and Pekudey should be read together. The extent and range of their content makes it impossible for me to give an in-depth commentary at this point, so I shall limit myself to commenting on rules for the interpretation of a Torah text, in this case the first verses of the parasha.

This is a reminder for those who are used to reading a parasha aloud and a useful exercise for those who have never done so, in particular for barmitzva students.

We shall see to what extent the Torah requires us to read the text precisely, with respect for every letter and nuance.
The rules I shall describe apply equally to reading prayers aloud, as well as to spoken Hebrew.
Sadly, one often hears totally faulty readings.
The following two prayer books contain useful indications for an exact reading of the text: Ish Matzliah by Rav Mazuz and the prayer book by Rav Mordekhai Eliahu.
For those who read the Torah, a remarkable book, titled Tikkune Koreine Hamefoar Simanim by Shmuel Meir Reahi (Olam hasefer hatorani publications), describes in detail the rules for reading a Torah text.

I. The first two verses of the parasha
(transliteration and literal translation)
The first words elle (these) pekudey (ordinances)
should be read in the following way:

elle fekude hammishkan, mishkan haedut
These are the ordinances of the tabernacle, the tabernacle of testimony.

Asher pukad al pi Moshe
as they were rendered by the mouth of Moshe

avodat haLeviyim
work of the Levites

beyad Itamar ben Aharon hakkohen
by the hand of Itamar, the son of Aharon the Cohen

Vetzalel ben Uri ven Hur lematey Yehuda
and Betzalel son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Yehuda

asa et kol asher tziva Hashem et Moshe
made all that Hashem commanded Moshe.

II. Rules for an exact pronunciation of the text

We have often seen, in these commentaries, how one derives the exact meaning of the text from the letters and nuances of each word. The different levels of interpretation - the peshat (literal), the drash (symbolic) and the remez (allusion) - all depend on a precise reading of the text.

Rule No. 1
The first words elle (these) pekudey (ordinances)
should be read as: elle fekudey. Why?
This is the rule which holds that if a word ends with one of the letters of the two names of Hashem (the tetragram and the name Ehie) which are yud, he, vav, aleph, and if the following word begins with a dagesh which makes a consonant hard (as in pe instead of fe), then the dagesh is canceled and the consonant becomes soft.
This is the case here: thus the first two words elle pekudey must be pronounced as: elle fekudey. Click and listen to the example
This is also why one says Uri ven Hur, and not Uri ben Hur.

Rule no. 2

Note the spelling of the word hammishkan (not hamishkhan) in elle pekudey hammishkan. The article ha (the) which precedes the word mishkan always requires a doubling of the consonant which follows it. This double consonant should be pronounced clearly as in hammishkan. Many people erroneously omit this double consonant in their reading of the Torah and in spoken Hebrew. Most, however, pronounce correctly barukh habba (instead of barukh haba), which means "blessed he who comes." Sephardi Jews who come from Arabic speaking countries have retained this correct pronunciation. You can hear an excellent Sephardi reading of the parasha by Herve Benjamim Huri on the Alliance link.
The same rule applies to the word hakkohen at the end of the first verse: Itamar, son of Aharon the Cohen. This should be pronounced hakkohen, and not hakohen.
The first word of the parasha also includes a dagesh in the lamed and should be pronounced as elle, and not ele.

Rule no. 3. Exceptions (the meteg and the gutturals)
Exception no. 1.
According to the above rule we should pronounce ha LLeviyim (the Levites) by doubling the lamed in the word following the article. You will see however that I wrote haLeviyim with a single lamed. Why? This is because of the small sign placed under the article ha, which is called a meteg and cancels the rule.

Exception no. 2.
The following guttural letters are not doubled when they come after the definite article: he, het, ayin, reish. Thus one says haedut, not haeedut.

Rule no. 4: clear pronunciation
Every letter should be clearly pronounced:
- the he should be pronounced with a clear "h" as in Aharon (not Aaron).
- the ayin should be pronounced with a guttural sound.

Rule No. 5: modifications in the letter vav
The letter vav on its own means "and" and is pronounced as "ve"
It is used as a prefix: "and Betzalel."
5a. It is pronounced as va when it links two parallel words as in yom va laila (day and night).
5b. When the word following "ve" (and) begins with one of the following letters beit, gimel, dalet, kaf, pe, tav (known as begadkefat), the dagesh is canceled and the consonant becomes soft. This is why one says uvetzalel and not ubetzalel.
5c. You will note that the vav is pronounced as "u" when it precedes the letters beit, mem, pe (known as bumaf). Thus one says Aharon uMoshe, not Aharon veMoshe. When the last two rules apply together, one says uvetzalel, and not vebetzalel.
5d. When vav precedes complex vowels, it is pronounced va, not ve, as in at va ani (you and me). This is an assimilation of sounds.
5e. When vav precedes a word beginning with the sound yi under the letter yud, it is pronounced vi, not ve. One says virushalayim (and Jerusalem), not veyerushalayim. Here two sounds contract into one.

III. Practice
Correct reading of the Torah or prayers in Hebrew requires extensive practice. The best way is to study in two's or in a group and to concentrate on a few basic texts or prayers (the beginning of a parasha, the birkat hammazon, the morning blessings, eshet hayil, etc.). The participants should first go over the main rules, then read a phrase in turn, with the others listening and correcting errors. This method achieves immediate results and is an excellent way of identifying mistakes in pronunciation.
Pronouncing the Torah correctly is a mark of affection and respect for Hashem. You will enjoy the exchange with others and will be proud of your progress, and in no time you will be able to help your children prepare for their barmitzva. You will then have accomplished the mitzva of "lilmod u lelammed" (studying and teaching).


IV. Why it is important to be precise

We have often noted how precise readings of a text (the peshat) open up an immense range of meaning. The Shla demonstrates this with Rashi.
We also saw, in the preceding parasha, to what extent every word and letter in a text clarifies the meaning.
We shall continue this approach with parasha Pekudey, which follows Vayakhel.
This parasha concludes the exodus from Egypt. The children of Israel have received the code for holiness and the sanctuary, so that they can become a kahal, as described in the commentary on Vayakhel.
Parasha Pekudey says: "these are the accounts of the tabernacle, elle fikudey hammishkan."
These are not administrative rules but a code of conduct which expresses the loving relationship between the Creator and his chosen people.
The word mishkan appears twice in the first verse. This shows that the union between Hashem and his people has two levels, high and low. The low level is not a "material" one, but represents the divine presence within concrete life: this is the shekhina or malkhut, divine royalty. According to the Sages, as noted by Rabbi Yaakov Abuhatzera, the word mishkan has the same numerical value as shema, which describes the perfect union between Israel and the Creator. This is even more evident when one notes that the word shema contains the word shem (Name) and its realization in the 7 dimensions of space in this world, which are the 7 days of the week, as we saw in the preceding parasha, and when each one achieves its maximum of 10 one get to 70 or the letter ayin of the word shema.
We know that the shema has the same number of words as the organs of the body. This shows that the union takes place within every fiber of one's being.
This also shows us that it is through our prayers and physical actions that the divine plan will be achieved, as described in parasha Vayakhel.

So why does the Torah speak of ordinances?
We know that the message of the Torah is usually found in another part of the text which contains the same word. In this case it is Job 5, 24:
ve yadata ki shalom aholekha
and thou shalt know that thy tabernacle shall be in peace

u fakadta navekha ve lo teheta
and thou shalt visit thy habitation (spouse) and shalt not find fault.

The Sages say: fikudey leshon zivug, ordinances (fikudey) have the meaning of conjugal union. They note that the place of meeting (mishkan ha edut) is made up of the same letters as daat, which in Hebrew represents both intellectual knowledge and conjugal union. The letters are identical except for the absence of the letter "u" which appears in edut.
He who built the sanctuary, lived in the shadow of Hashem as seen in his name. Betzalel (which means "in the shadow of God"). The shadow is that of the divine union, which he is said to have known completely.
This has been given to us as a teaching and so that we will follow in his path.

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- Psychology and Repentance
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Dedication

Rav Professor
Yehoshua Rahamim Dufour
(Dipur, in hebrew)

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