Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Table Talk -- Vayakhel-Pekudei 5767

The Torah divides the 613 mitzvos into two types of commandments: 248 positive and 365 negative commandments. This number also corresponds to parts of the body. According to rabbinic count, the body consists of 248 limbs and 365 sinews. In fact, we mention this number during the prayer for the sick -- רמ"ח איברים ושס"ה גידים. And, this number also appears with regard to the mishkan in our parshah.
While both Vayakhel and Pekudei deal with the construction of the mishkan, Pekudei sums up the final construction and including a tally of the money and materials used in the process. In the parshah, the Torah tells us that they "made" and "built" and "created" numerous times in numerous ways, using some form of the word לעשות -- from the root ע.ש.ה. -- meaning "to do" or "to make."
Rabbi Yitzchak Karo, author of the work "Toldos Yitzchak" actually counted how many times that the root of the word appears in Pekudei. Not surprisingly, the number of times that the verb עשה appears in the parshah comes to 248. This numeric connection reminds us of the inherent connection between our bodies and the holiness that we can achieve with them. By following God's commandments, we have the power to transform our physical selves, quite literally, into a mishkan -- a sanctuary for God.