Moses inspected the work and saw that they had done it just as the LORD had commanded. So Moses blessed them. - Exodus 39:43
The Torah portion for this week is a double reading, Vayakhel-Pekudei, from Exodus 35:1-40:38. Vayakhel means "assembled," and Pekudei means "counting." The Haftorah is from 1 Kings 7:51-8:21.
In our Torah reading this week, the work of building the Tabernacle and the holy vessels had been completed. Scripture tells us, "Moses inspected the work and saw that they had done it just as the LORD had commanded. So Moses blessed them." Moses was pleased with the work that the children of Israel had done and so he blessed them. However, Scripture doesn't tell us what Moses actually said.
The Jewish sages explain that the words of Moses' blessing at that momentous point in history are the same words found in Psalm 90, a psalm prefaced with "A prayer of Moses the man of God" (Psalm 90). Specifically, it was the very last verse of this psalm with which Moses blessed Israel: "May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us-yes, establish the work of our hands" (Psalm 90:17). It makes perfect sense that Moses would say these words upon the completion of the Tabernacle. It is a prayer and a blessing that God's presence should rest amongst the people through the Tabernacle, the work of their hands.
The question is: Why did Moses need to pray for and bless the people with God's presence? In Exodus 25:8, God already had promised, "Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them." Why was it necessary for Moses to pray for a promise that God had already made?
Back in Genesis 2, in the story of Creation, Scripture tells us that although God had created everything but man by day number six, there still wasn't any rain or vegetation. The Jewish sages explain that God could have sent the rain, but He wanted man to pray for it first. After Adam was created and he asked God for sustenance, that's when the Garden of Eden blossomed with every kind of fruit and vegetable that Adam could ever want. The lesson God was teaching us is that even when something is promised and destined to happen, we still have to pray for it. Our prayers are the conduit for God's promises.
That's why Moses had to pray and bless the people with God's presence. It had been promised, but it still had to be prayed for. This is true on a personal level as well. God has promised us health, but we still need to pray for it. God has promised prosperity, but our prayers open the channels of abundance. God has given us so many promises - which ones will you pray for today?
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President