Priestly Matters Require OCD-Level Instructions – Vayakhel-Pekudei

Since the priesthood requires diligent adherence to a set of legacy rules to prevent another crisis, it’s normal for priestly texts to be pretty tedious in their instructions. The text describing the building of the tabernacle is practically a carbon copy of the instructions previously given.

The repetition is annoying for most readers, and it’s common for an exciting journey through Torah study to grind to a halt here. The minute details in the instructions and subsequent execution of the instructions sounds is like a process doc for building a portable nuclear reactor. And based on how the ark functioned, that’s probably an accurate description.

This OCD-level of detail should be expected from any priestly portions of holy texts because these are the sections where the author(s) can demonstrate that they not only took the critical instructions seriously, but actually executed those instructions exactly. The modern equivalent would look like a set of CAD designs and process instructions for the nuclear reactor, followed by a detailed checklist of how each instruction was carefully heeded, maybe with an accompanying signature from a foreman signing off on every step.

An uncontrollable crisis such as famine, infertility, and violent contagion – in other words, total annihilation – is just around the corner in the ancient mind, and priestly matters deal with the control centers of the crises. Before the Semitic alef-bet, these matters were either passed down verbally and suffered decay from a game of telephone, or they were written in a indecipherable languages like Tangut that could only be read by officials. The point wasn’t to democratize the priestly process, but to just write it down so that the priests (or bureaucrats) had a process to follow to avoid certain destruction.