Torah Portion: Vayak’hel (And He Assembled) Exodus 35-38
HafTorah: I Kings 7:13-26; 7:40-50
As we near the end of She’mot we read of Moses calling the people together soon after the sin of the golden calf. There are many interesting lessons for us in this Torah section. To begin with the name of this section should speak to us. In Hebrew there are several terms for a group of people. One is Edah – from which comes the noun witness. When this word is used it often refers to people who have witnessed the same thing. They have a common purpose. An Edah can be a gathering for good or bad. For example, when the people hear the report of the spies and lose heart (Numbers (B’Midbar) 14:27) or in Numbers 16:22 in the rebellion against Moses. The word emphasizes strong identity among the members.
Torah Portion: Vayakhel (And He Assembled) Exodus 35:1-38:20
HafTorah: I Kings 7:40-7:50
II Cor 9:6-11; I Cor 3:11-18
Tonight we look at the Torah section, “And He Assembled.” The root word in Hebrew Khal is the word usually translated as assembly. In the Hebrew Scriptures this word often refers to the people in the tabernacle or temple as the assembly. You have heard me often refer to the group here as the kehila which is the assembly. When the Hebrew Scriptures were translated to Greek, in the 2nd or 3rd century BCE, this word passed over into Greek as ekklesia. It appears throughout the Septuagint in place of khal. However, when this same Greek word appears in the New Testament it is almost always translated by the English word “church.” What does it matter? A recent letter to the editor in the Pensacola News Journal highlights this problem by stating, “The Old Testament is Jewish scriptures; those living under it are living under the law. Although it is our history, for Christians it has been replaced with the New Testament. Those living under the New Testament are living in the age of grace, which was ushered in by the resurrection of our Lord….” This gives the impression that the church is an exclusive New Testament term and draws a stark boundary between the two sections of the Bible. It is a way of disconnecting us from our Jewish roots as believers. Another even more striking example is the Hebrew word “eda” translated in Exodus 35:1 as congregation. When it came into the Septuagint it was translated with the Greek word “sunagogay”, it was usually linked to the place the “eda” met. However in places like James 2:2 the Greek again was translated into English as assembly. Paul uses the same word in I Cor. 11:16. The effect of such translation biases has been to hide any connection between Judaism, from which we sprung and Christianity. We as believers are the worse for it. We have to a large extent been deprived of the sweetness and spiritual food of the Hebrew Scriptures because of these sort of deceptions. And I for one count us most blessed that we have begun to restore some of what has been lost for almost 2000 years.