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Pekudei, and Proving Yourself

Actions speak louder than words, and in this week’s parsha, Moshe and the Israelites acted on what they’d been saying in recent previous parshas. Moshe told the Leviites to count up everything that had been donated towards the building of the mishkan. They used the metals that they had collected towards building the structure of the mishkan and the vessels within it; they used the fabrics to make clothes for the kohanim, the priestly family.

Everything that G-d had commanded to Moshe, which he then relayed to the Israelites, they did now. When the craftsmen and their assistants finished building, they brought the mishkan and its vessels to Moshe, and Moshe, seeing that they’d done everything right, exactly as they’d been commanded to do, he blessed them.

They set up the mishkan and everything in it: the menorah, the altars, gates all around and dividing curtains. Moshe anointed everything with the special anointing oil that he had prepared. Then, he anointed his brother Aharon and Aharon’s sons. Aharon would be the kohen gadol, the High Priest, and his sons would be kohanim. The priesthood would continue in their lineage forever.

A cloud would lead them as they traveled in the desert. It rested on the mishkan when it was time to stop traveling, and it would rise once it was time to travel again.

The past few parshas all centered the building of the mishkan—the dimensions they would follow, the clothing they would make for the kohen gadol. But it was all projections for the future, not really any acting on what they said they’d do. Finally, in Parshat Pekudei, it all came to fruition, words becoming actions and plans for the future coming true. It’s great to make goals. Even better to outline the steps you’ll take to achieve them. But the ideal is to actually take the steps. Prove that you don’t just talk for the sake of talking, that your words hold some weight; show that when you say you’ll do something, you’ll actually do it.

Proving yourself goes beyond acting on your plans and fulfilling your promises. It also includes proving your worth or integrity to other people. The Midrash Tanchuma, an interpretation on Tanach composed in the early Middle Ages, discusses how Moshe Rabbeinu accounted for everything, every donation, no matter how small. He knew the Israelites were contentious (Sefaria’s translation, not mine), and in an attempt to ease their argumentative spirits, he preemptively gave them the exact accounting of all the donations and all he’d used them for.

It’s hurtful to be doubted. Hurtful when people assume the worst of you. And when questioned, maybe you want to lash out, double down. But people asking for proof that you are who you say you are, people asking for some guarantee that you can be trusted, are not inherently accusing you of not being trustworthy. And even when it does stem from a place of aggression, you don’t need to stoop to their level of bad faith arguments. You can do what Moshe did when the Israelites tried catching him in a lie, didn’t have faith in his integrity, wanted him to prove himself. He listed all his calculations and what all the donations were used for. He did just what the Israelites wanted him to do, even though they were going in with an argumentative perspective: he proved himself. 

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