Vayakhel-Pekudei: Encore

By Ilana Grinblat

Published March 15, 2010.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Sunday was my daughter Hannah’s third birthday party (which came just three weeks after my son Jeremy’s sixth birthday party). My husband and I threw the same kind of party for my daughter as for my son. I baked a cake — shaped like Dora the Explorer this time rather than The Cat in the Hat. We had Hannah’s class over for a party in the back yard, just as we did for my son — with a Moon Bounce and entertainment.

Although the preparation, set up and clean up of my daughter’s party were the same as for my son’s, I found the experience much more relaxed this time. Making the cake for my daughter took me hours less than for my son, and the whole process felt less of a production. I wondered what had I done differently to make the event go so much more smoothly? I did the preparations exactly the same as before, so I could find no explanation for why things felt calmer this time.

As I repeated the party preparation, this week’s Torah portion was also a reprisal. The double parasha, called Vayakhel-Pekudei (which means: And he gathered-accounts), contains virtually no new information. The first portion recapitulates the commandment to keep the Sabbath and the instructions for fashioning the tabernacle — both of which have been previously explained in detail. The second portion simply tallies up the expenditures that were already spent in fashioning the tabernacle and its furnishings. This repetition is particularly puzzling because the Torah is normally sparing in its use of language.

In reading the parasha, I had a déjà vu experience — the weekly potion for my daughter’s birthday party was virtually identical to the one coinciding with my son’s birthday three weeks ago. (I wondered if I should just repeat the column I wrote that week!) Since the portion contains nothing new, I pondered why the Torah even bothered to include it.

Perhaps, however, the lesson of the parasha is to be found precisely in its repetitive quality. Often times, in life, we get things better the second time. When we read a book (or see a movie) for the second time, we pick up on nuances that we didn’t see before. My friend Michael teaches the same class to different groups of adults five times each week. He said by the fifth time, the session is fantastic — because he’s perfected it through each repetition.

Children understand this spiritual lesson far better than adults. Toddlers and preschoolers love to hear their favorite story over and over again. I’ve read “My Little People School Bus” book to my daughter multiple times a day for the last few months, and I now can recite it in my sleep! Likewise, my son likes to hear his favorite song on repeat for 45 minutes at a time — until I start to lose my mind.

As adults, we are far more wary of repetition. If we read a book once, we’re finished with it. We won’t go to the same show twice. Perhaps, there’s a spiritual lesson to be learned from children about the power of encore performances. On reflection, I think Hannah’s party went more smoothly simply because it was so soon after Jeremy’s party. We knew precisely what to do and therefore felt more relaxed. Indeed, the lesson from this week’s portion can be summed up with the great phrase from Casablanca. To really enjoy the music of life, just “play it again, Sam.”

Rabbi Ilana Grinblat teaches rabbinic literature at the American Jewish University’s Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their two young children.






Find us on Facebook!
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.