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    Sharing the load – P’kudei

    Constructing the tabernacle was a massive task. That it was faithfully done is attested by the verse, “The Children of Israel did according to all that HaShem had commanded Moses: thus did they” (Ex. 39:32).

    Looking more closely at the text, however, we ask, Who actually did the work? Was it really “the Children of Israel”? Was it not B’tzalel and his artisans, each working in his own area of expertise?

    One answer is the principle, sh’lucho shel adam k’moto – “one’s agent is as himself”; B’tzalel’s team did the work as agents of the people, and it is as if all Israel had done it themselves.

    Chaim Ibn Attar says the text indicates “the mutual, interlocking character of Torah observance, by which the Children of Israel brought benefits on each other”. The tabernacle required one job to be done by architects, another by tailors, a third by plasterers, and so on, but in the end the task was done collectively.

    Likewise no one person can keep all the mitzvot; there are some for priests, kings, judges, farmers, women, farmers… but overall the Torah is “observed collectively, by the people as a whole, each deriving benefit from the observance of his neighbour and complementing one another”.

    The achievements of any Jewish community are due to many people. We should rejoice in each other, but be warned that if any fails to pull his or her weight the whole community is the poorer and Judaism will suffer.

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