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.
Another word is tizbur. This word describes a group of people who happen to find themselves together. Like at the Western Wall, they just happen to be there together at the same time.
Then we come to the word used here for our group, Kehilah. It is made up of people different from each other but they are together for a collective undertaking. Each person is making a distinctive contribution. There is a danger in that it can become a mob or crowd. However, when driven by a constructive purpose it can be beautiful, each person will be making their distinct contribution. Each one has a hand in reaching the goal of the whole. That is what we see here. Moses is asking each to make a contribution to bring the Mishkan (Tabernacle) into being.
Now I say all that to say that here in our Kehilah, this is what I see and pray toward. Each of us has a part to play, a contribution to make. Like in shemot 35:20-29 where everybody had a hand in building the Mishkan. We each have a part to play, a contribution to make to bring Road to Zion into being what G-d wants. We can become an Edah, with a single purpose but the freedom to put each of our gifts to work for the glory of G-d. I encourage each of us to make that contribution, reaching out to another in need, rejoicing together in our triumphs and moving toward what G-d has for us as a Kehilah. What is G-d asking you to contribute?
Now to move on to another thought, in Exodus 35:1-2, Moses is speaking to the people saying, “These are the words which the L-rd has commanded you to do, Work shall be done for six days but the seventh day shall be a holy day for you.” My question was, why did Moses pick this to begin his speech? Why did he not choose to talk about repentance, or a strong rebuke for their sin with the calf? Also he had already talked about the Sabbath at Mt. Sinai. Lastly the wording, “Work shall be done,” instead of “you shall work.” My conclusion is that he was telling them more about Sunday – Friday than about the Sabbath. I think Moses was telling them idolatry is more than worshipping some statue. If we believe our lives are controlled by anything other than G-d we are breaking the second commandment. If we can reform the work we are involved in it can change our lives. G-d runs this world. He runs the stock market. He really runs your company. Our work is only a way for us to receive what G-d has for us in this world. We are not to sacrifice our relationship with Him for anything else, not an extra hour of work for sure. To say, “work shall be done,” means what needs to be done for six days will get done. We don’t have to stress through the week rushing to get all the work done before the Sabbath. If we can rest in that thought we will enter the Sabbath ready to receive His rest instead of being exhausted. Our family, our health, our personal time with Him are eternally more valuable than that. Moses was telling the people how to see Sunday through Friday. When we know and have the faith that G-d will supply all our needs, each day, we will live our lives differently. Ulcers will go away and we will leave each day as a preview of the Sabbath to come. Moses was teaching them and us to put everything into perspective. G-d has this. We can sleep at night and spend our days living for Him and “work shall be done.”
Now to end a few words about the similarities between the Sabbath and the Mishkan; First they both are tied closely together by the word Mo’ed or appointed. The Sabbath is called a Mo’ed, an appointed time for the people and G-d to come together. The Mishkan was called ohel mo’ed or an appointed place for the people to come and meet with the L-rd. The Sabbath was a holy space in time. The Mishkan was a holy place in space. Limits were set on each. Many rituals that happened in one also happened in the other.
Candles for Sabbath are lit and the Menorah was lit in the Mishkan. Bread also played a big part. You have Challah on the Sabbath and the Shew bread in the Mishkan. On Sabbath the Challah is salted and in the Mishkan the offerings were salted. We enter Sabbath expecting a close time with the Father. People entered the Miskan expecting the same.
So each week as we experience this day of Shabbat, let it remind us of what it signifies in our life. It is that appointed time, that special time when we enter into G-d’s presence and worship Him.