Do you sit through the credits at the end of a movie or a TV show? Do you
read your program to identify the actors, designers and crew? Are you
bothered when TV networks squeeze the "crawl" at the end of a movie or show
into a small area so they can run self-promotional advertisements at the
same time, always louder, bigger and more distracting?
Do you ever find yourself referring to the ubiquitous "they" ? Do
find yourself asking that familiar phrase "just who are the they you are
referring to" ?
Have you ever remarked to someone "gee, [such and such a person] sure
'I' a lot in [his/her] speech" ? Ever heard a self-proclaimed analyst
suggest that using "I" statements is the best way to express how one feels?
I did this. You did thus. He did that. She did something else. They did
another thing. Y'all (the only true 2nd person plural in American English I
could think of that was distinguishable from the 2nd person singular you)
did that again. (You'll notice I left a pronoun out. You'll see why.)
We use pronouns regularly, continually, often without even being aware of
them. Yet they have a significant impact on us, on how we think. And I have
a thesis about all this. There's a pronoun we don't use as often as we
should. The lack of use of this pronoun is why some people don't watch or
read the credits. After all, the people who made this movie are "them."
We've been taught to say "I feel x when you say or do y."
What has all this to do with parashat Pekude? Take a look at the text. It
dawned on me as I read it that paying attention to the pronouns (or implied
pronouns, in the Hebrew-indicated by the verb forms)
The first part of the parasha seems to use the pronoun he predominantly,
though there aren't that many pronouns used. It's not entirely clear who the
"he" is - Moshe, Betzalel, or even Oholiab. It might be safe to assume the
"he" is Moshe, but the parasha talks about "he made hooks for the posts..."
which might lead one to believe it was the artisan Betzalel (or his
assistant Oholiab) for, after all, they were the artisans, and not Moshe.
But then a sudden switch in Chapter 39, and the pronouns become
They who? Betzalel and Oholiab? The people? All the artisans? 31 verses of
"they" did this and "they" did that. Verse 32 may provide a clue: it says
"b'nei Yisrael", they did these things for the preparation and erection of
Another switch in pronouns comes with Chapter 40, as Gd addresses Moshe. The
dominant pronoun becomes "you" (singular) A private conversation that wraps
up at verse 16, where we get another pronoun switch. The balance of the
parasha speaks of what Moshe did. What "he" did to prepare the tabernacle
for use. Thru to verse 33.
Finally, the last few verses are a mix of pronouns, rather sparingly, a few
"its" referring to the cloud (of course, the "it" concept is a little vague
in the Hebrew) and one "they" clearly referring to the people of Israel, and
the last verse contained verbal "theys."
What dose this juxtaposition of pronouns tell us? That I leave to each of us
to exegete for him or herself. But I do wish to call attention to the
missing pronoun. The same one that explains why people don't watch the
credits, why greed and selfishness persist in our world, in or "me" society.
Where is the WE? It wasn't just Moshe, or Gd, or Betzalel or Oholiab that
accomplished these things. WE, the people of Israel, WE accomplished these
things. Together. Gd, the people, the leadership, the artisans all working
There is WE in watching a movie or a TV show or a play or concert. The
audience is as much a part of the experience (though some might argue it is
more so in a live presentation-I'm not convinced this is so except in how
the response dynamic may affect the performance-but audience involvement to
a fixed form-painting, film, etc. is still part of the artwork.) So the
people listed in the crawl, the credits, are not just "they" but a part of
WE. We who experienced this thing.
The book of Sh'mot (Exodus) end with a "they" thought. With that in
I'd like to offer this slight alternative to the traditional remarks made
when reaching the end of a book of the Torah:
Chazak, Chazak, vayitchazaknu. Be strong, be strong, and we will strengthen
This Shabbat, may WE all be strengthened, and may WE all try to remember the
importance of the WE.
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