Haftarah Parshat Pekudei (1 Kings 7:51-8:21)
March 12, 2016 / 2 Adar B, 5776
Parshat Pekudei signals the end of the construction of the Sanctuary in the desert. This week’s haftarah recounts the parallel completion of the First Temple in Jerusalem: “When all the work that Solomon (Shlomo) had done in the house was completed (vatishlam)” (7:51) These two human building projects were intended to “create” places designated for divine worship.
In the following midrash, the Temple is seen as more than merely a building intended for the worship of God: “‘Now all of the work …is finished’- It is not written in this verse ‘the work’; instead it says ‘all of the work’ -This must refer to the work of the six days of creation – as it says [in Genesis]: ‘from all of the work that God created to make’ (Genesis 2:3) It is not written in this verse: ‘[that] He did’ (namely past tense as if God has completed the task) but rather ‘to make’ – meaning that there was still other work to be done. When Solomon came and built the Temple, the Holy One Blessed Be He said: ‘Now the work of heaven and earth have been completed (Tishlam). This is why [the king] is called Solomon (Shlomo), for God completed the six days of creation through the acts of his hands.” (Pesikta Rabbati 6:6)
According to this midrash, the world was not completed until Solomon completed the Temple. This made the builders of the Temple God’s designated partners in the creation of the world. This understanding of the significance of the building of the Temple is monumental. It not only makes “God’s House” the pinnacle of creation; it also establishes human creativity as a form of divine agency. Human creativity is a way of doing God’s bidding in the world. It is a means for completing God’s world.
Is it any wonder then, that the sages who composed this midrash saw meaning in the fact that Solomon’s name (Shin Lamed Mem Hey) could be poetically linked to the root of the verb used to signify the completion of the Temple (Shin Lamed Mem). Solomon’s monumental fame could now be linked to the fact that he was involved with the very act that completed the world. So, too, our creative acts should be seen in the same light.
This study piece is offered as a service of the United Synagogue Conservative Yeshiva. It is prepared by Rabbi Mordechai (Mitchell) Silverstein, senior lecturer in Talmud and Midrash at the Conservative Yeshiva. He is a graduate of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.
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