Torah Portion: Vayak’hel (He Assembled) P’Kudei (Accounts) Sh’mot (Exodus) 35:1-40:38
HafTorah: Ezekiel 45:16-46:18
To begin with tonight I want to talk about something I saw this week that really caught my attention. In Sh’mot 38:21 we read, “The tabernacle, the tabernacle of testimony.” Usually when the Torah makes double use of a word it is making a deeper point. The Talmud picks up on this and states that here the point is that Torah is speaking of the earthly Tabernacle as being a shadow of the heavenly. This sounds really similar to Hebrews chapters 8-9, Hebrews 8:4 and 9:24. This brings us to the common argument used by many to say the Torah is finished and of little value to us as believers.
So I would like to look at these verses tonight. First I want to draw our attention to verse 8:7 and 8:13. You will notice that the word covenant is in italics. What does this mean? It means the word does not appear in the original Greek. In the Greek it only says first and second. So given that, we have to look at context in the chapters. Most Christian Theologians understand these verses to be saying the Torah has passed away and been replaced by a better one. Two things to look at: first in Jer. 31:31-40 we read where the days are coming when G-d will make a new covenant with the house of Israel. This covenant does not stand apposed to Torah but builds on it and incorporates it. This second covenant was needed because the first was flawed according to Heb 8:7. Problem is covenant does not appear right? So, read 8:7-8 with just first and second and not with the word covenant (which is not in the original text). So, what is he talking about is Torah or the people? Heb 8:9 says the people did not continue. So the issue is us, not the Torah. The problem is this creation. So through Messiah G-d recreates us (new man) this is the second. So now, Heb. 8:13 does not say Torah is obsolete and vanishing. It says this present world is obsolete and vanishing and will be replaced by the coming new creation – new Jerusalem. Remember for these first century believers there was no New Testament. They had the Torah, prophets and the writings. They contained the new covenant we read of in Jeremiah.
So, this present world is what is vanishing (9:9) Our short comings will disappear in the world to come. Rev. 21:22 tells us that in the coming age there will be no need for sacrifices or priesthood. Until then this present world will continue.
This week two portions of Torah are covered and this will finish the second book of Moses. But before we get to that I want to talk a little about Rosh Hodesh Aviv which begins Monday evening at sundown.
This constitutes the very first commandment given to the nation of Israel in Sh’mot 12:1-2. All other holidays are counted and set according to this Rosh Hodesh. You will notice that in scripture in Sh’mot 13:4 and D’Varim 16:1 we see this name – Aviv. Now it is commonly called Nissan. Why? It actually was adopted during the Babylonian captivity in an attempt to blend into Babylonian society. The first month of the local calendar, which occurred in the same time of year was known as Nissannu (Neh 2:1, Esther 3:7) Today Aviv is not the first month but the 7th. Again why the change? Probably the change was made to accommodate the Roman calendar. Seems it would be good to call it what scripture named it and return it to it’s place as Rosh Hashana.
Now to the Torah for tonight. The entire portion of Vayak’hel is taken with the details of Mishkan construction except for Exodus 35:2-3 which covers the Sabbath again. One of my questions to you this week was why did G-d through Moses tie these two concepts together? What have you come up with? The Sabbath is a “Mo’ed” or appointed time. The Tabernacle was called an ohel mo’ed or an appointed place, one an island in time, one an island in space. When you think of our bodies, which are called the Temple of G-d, how do we fulfill this island in space? We carry the Spirit of G-d within us where ever we go. This should impress upon us who we are and how we are to live in this world. We are holy as the Mishkan was holy. The candles of Sabbath can be compared to the lighting of the Menorah in the Mishkan which stood before the Holy of Holies. The challah can be compared to the Bread of the Presence. The salt on the bread to remember the salt applied to the sacrifices. Worshipers went to the Mishkan expecting to encounter G-d. Likewise when we enter Sabbath we should expect to encounter the Father, to come into His presence on this His Mo’ed.
My next question had to do with Ex. 35:1 and the word “Va’yachal” here used as the verb assembled. In Ex. 32:1 we see the same word exactly used when talking about the people assembling together around Aaron to ask for “gods” to go before them. So what are we to make of the Torah’s use of the same word to describe two very different gatherings of the same people? First, I think in some way this use of the same word for the same people could be looked at as a tikkun or repairing, showing that though they are the same physical group they have changed spiritually. They have grown and were to the point that they gave so much to G-d’s house that they had to be restrained. No longer were they asking for other gods but they were overflowing with gratitude to G-d. The word, kehila, means assembly. It is the noun for the word. An assembly is made up of individuals which can be motivated by either good like here in this week’s reading or they can become a rabble or a crowd. Each group, ours included has the potential for good or bad. My prayer is that each of us as individuals keep our focus on what G-d has called us to in our own lives and also how to contribute to the overall direction of this kehila. One great way we are doing this now is feeding the poor at Heavenly Blessing. We also support and help Israel as much as possible. It is equally important that each of us stay focused on our personal role in G-d’s plan. We each have a place in the kingdom and a role to follow.