Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Pekudei: Moshe's Blessing

Towards the end of parshat Pekudei, once all the work on the mishkan is done, Moshe blesses the people. Shemot 39:43:
מג וַיַּרְא מֹשֶׁה אֶת-כָּל-הַמְּלָאכָה, וְהִנֵּה עָשׂוּ אֹתָהּ--כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוָּה ה, כֵּן עָשׂוּ; וַיְבָרֶךְ אֹתָם, מֹשֶׁה.
43 And Moses saw all the work, and, behold, they had done it; as the LORD had commanded, even so had they done it. And Moses blessed them.
The blessing seems to be a response to seeing the completion of all the work.

However, while we know that Moshe blessed them, the Torah does not tell us explicitly the contents of Moshe's blessing. The Midrash helpfully steps into the breach and tells us what the blessing was.

As Rashi cites Bemidbar Rabbah (though Rashi is 11th century and Bemidbar Rabba is 12th century, and this is an unattributed statement in Bemidbar Rabba, so perhaps Rashi has another source, or Bemidbar Rabba is quoting Rashi):
So Moses blessed them He said to them, “May it be His will that the Shechinah should rest in the work of your hands. "And may the pleasantness of the Lord our God be upon us…” (Ps. 90:17), and this is one of the eleven psalms in “A prayer of Moses” (Ps. 90:1). -[from Num. Rabbah 12:9]
This makes sense in context, given that this is at the conclusion of the building of the mishkan, and Tehillim 90 begins:
א תְּפִלָּה, לְמֹשֶׁה אִישׁ-הָאֱלֹהִים:
אֲדֹנָי--מָעוֹן אַתָּה, הָיִיתָ לָּנוּ; בְּדֹר וָדֹר.
1 A Prayer of Moses the man of God. {N}
Lord, Thou hast been our dwelling-place in all generations.
and thus talks about a dwelling place. And so as well the end of the perek, which contains a blessing to the Israelites.
יז וִיהִי, נֹעַם אֲדֹנָי אֱלֹהֵינוּ-- עָלֵינוּ:
וּמַעֲשֵׂה יָדֵינוּ, כּוֹנְנָה עָלֵינוּ; וּמַעֲשֵׂה יָדֵינוּ, כּוֹנְנֵהוּ.
17 And let the graciousness of the Lord our God be upon us; {N}
establish Thou also upon us the work of our hands; yea, the work of our hands establish Thou it. {P}
It certainly seems plausible that this is the intent, on a pashut peshat level, of the local pasuk, and of the pesukim in Tehillim.

An open canon approach, which would admit any possible blessing, even one not mentioned in Scriptures, might be peshat here. But the closed canon approach certainly seems like it has what to recommend it, in this instance.

Targum Pseudo-Yonatan only cites the first part of Moshe's blessing as Moshe's blessing, in his translation of the pasuk: u-vrich yas-hon Moshe va-amar: tishrei Shechinta de-Hashem be-ovadei yedeichon, "May the Presence of Hashem rest upon the work of your hands." Which need not be parallel to, but does have something in common with "וּמַעֲשֵׂה יָדֵינוּ, כּוֹנְנָה עָלֵינוּ; וּמַעֲשֵׂה יָדֵינוּ, כּוֹנְנֵהוּ" in pasuk 17. It certainly calls to mind בנימין בארעיה תשרי שכינתא ובאחסנתיה יתבני מקדשא in Targum Onkelos, from the blessing of Binyamin.

Regardless, there is a delicious and I think deliberate ambiguity with this suggested blessing for Moshe. tishrei Shechinta de-Hashem be-ovadei yedeichon can mean one of two things. It could mean that Hashem should rest his Divine Presence on your day-to-day labor, your parnassa, and grant you hatzlacha. And that could be how Moshe blessed them, giving them a blessing for wealth and success in their livelihood. It can also by taken absolutely literally, that Hashem should rest His Presence in the work of their hands, namely the Mishkan which they just built. Thus, Hashem should dwell among them in the Mishkan. This is a good thing, and was indeed the entire point of the exercise of building the Mishkan, and is thus less a classic blessing.

Rabbi Sacks also offers his insights on this. Where he cites it:

What blessing did Moses gives the Israelites at that moment? According to tradition, Moses said: 'May it be G-d's will that the Divine presence rests in the work of your hands.' The Israelites - the same tradition says-replied:

Let the beauty of the LORD our G-d be upon us,
And establish the work of our hands for us;
Yes, establish the work of our hands. (Psalm 90: 17)
Though I am not sure what his basis is for saying that the latter was the Israelites' reply. My text of Rashi just has Moshe saying both. And my text of Bemidbar Rabba has the question - what bracha did he bless them with? וִיהִי נֹעַם... Then it continues. Amar Lahem - he said to them -- Tishreh haShechina BeMaasei Yedeichem. In which case Tishreh is second, or else an explanation of the meaning of וִיהִי נֹעַם, not the reply of the Israelites. Perhaps there is some other source, which reworks this, or a different girsa, or the like.

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