This week, we finish reading Sefer Shemot (the Book of Exodus) for this year. What is fascinating about Parashat Pekudei is its use of repetition. Within the parashah itself, we see the statement that the Mishkan was completed and inaugurated on the first of Nisan made twice (Ex. 40:1 and 40:17). We see descriptions of each part of the Mishkan, the priests’ clothes, and all of the paraphernalia of the Mishkan, along with the materials that composed them. We see this multiple times, and we have already seen these descriptions in Parashat Termuah and in Vayakhel.

What can we make of these repetitions? And what can we make of the fact that we are being asked to learn the dimensions and materials of every part of a portable Temple that has long been out of use?

A hint may be taken from the Passover Haggadah.

“Even if we were all sages, all wise, all of us learned in the Torah, we would still be obligated to retell the story of the Exodus from Egypt. And anyone who expounds upon the Exodus deserves praise.”

Retelling what we have already read or told is an essential part of our learning, and it is a praiseworthy act in itself. A fundamental means of learning Torah is “Mishnah,” literally, “repeating.” We learn by reciting a teaching again and again. This commits things deeply to memory. This is especially important as a people that has survived over two thousand years of exile. Our memory as a people is committed to memory and to retelling.

The next level of Jewish learning after “Mishnah” is “Talmud” or “Gemara,” in which what has been repeated and learned as fact is analyzed, questioned, and debated. We make sure to be able to accurately represent every voice within the discussion, and to follow each of their lines of reasoning to the end. We find new topics to discuss and question as our conversation departs from the original teaching.

The Mishkan, the place where our ancestors encountered God and brought their sacrifices, is given to us year after year, and multiple times in one year as we read about it in the Torah, precisely so that by studying it, we engage in the best kind of Torah study: one of repetition and of focus upon detail about the tools and methods and place of our spiritual exercise and the spiritual attitudes of our ancestors.

Shabbat Shalom! 

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