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
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
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.
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
These are the ordinances of the tabernacle, the tabernacle
Asher pukad al pi Moshe
as they were rendered by the mouth of Moshe
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
and Betzalel son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Yehuda
asa et kol asher tziva Hashem
made all that Hashem commanded Moshe.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.