It’s the catchphrase of the parshah
After months of studying the blueprints of the Mishkan and gathering its materials, Parshas P’kudei describes the long-awaited construction of the house for Hashem. With each step of the building process, the Torah states that B’nei Yisrael did it ka’asher tzivah Hashem es Moshe, just as Hashem had commanded Moshe.
For example, they built the beams and sockets – just as Hashem had commanded Moshe. They made the Aron – just as Hashem had commanded Moshe. They brought in the Shulchan – just as Hashem had commanded Moshe. They set up the Menorah – just as Hashem had commanded Moshe. And the same for the Mizbei’ach, and the Kiyor, and the Courtyard – all “just as Hashem had commanded Moshe.”
Okay, okay – we get the idea! Why does the Torah repeat at each stage of the process that the people did it “as directed”?
The Beis HaLevi (Ki Sisa) explained the importance of this refrain, based on Chazal’s understanding that the Mishkan was designed to serve as an atonement for the sin of the Golden Calf (Sh’mos Rabbah 48:6). What was the root sin of the Eigel HaZahav? The Beis HaLevi highlights that the Jewish people were looking for their own way to develop a relationship with Hashem. When they assumed that Moshe would not return, they formed a calf – not as a statue to worship per se, but as a leader to help them reconnect with Hashem. True, Hashem had explicitly stated in the Ten Commandments that they were not permitted to form a molten image, but the people assumed that their lofty intentions of creating a powerful intermediary to communicate with Hashem was more important than the technical prohibition against it.
This was their error.
In the aftermath of the sin, Hashem taught B’nei Yisrael that they were only permitted to form a bond with Him in ways that He had prescribed. Hashem taught them how to form a connection with G-d: He taught them how to make a Mishkan. This structure, too, would center around a golden image: the K’ruvim (cherubs) atop the Aron in the Holy of Holies. Question: What made this golden statue any more permissible than the Eigel? Answer: Nothing – except for the fact that Hashem had commanded the construction of the Mishkan and had prohibited the formation of the calf (see Rabbeinu Bachya, Sh’mos 20:4). In order to correct their egregious mistake, B’nei Yisrael would now need to emphasize the importance of developing a relationship with G-d – just as Hashem had commanded Moshe.
By repeating that refrain after each step of the Mishkan’s completion, the Jewish people demonstrated that they had learned their lesson. One cannot invent his own creative, spiritual avenues of coming close to the Divine. Certainly, one cannot justify violating an explicit mitzvah of Hashem with the rationale that the act feels meaningful or brings about religious fulfillment. It all has to be “just as Hashem had commanded Moshe.”