Torah Portion: Vayak’hel (He assembled) and P’kudei (Accounts)

Shemot (Exodus) 35:1-40:38

HafTorah: I Kings 7:40-8:21

New Testament: II Cor. 9:1-15, Hebrews 9:1-14; Revelations 11:1-13; 15:5-8

In Shemot (Exodus) it says, “They shall make me a sanctuary and I shall dwell among them.” This verse is the basis for two names for G-d’s earthly dwelling places. The Hebrew word for dwell is “Shachin,” from this comes the word for Tabernacle or Mishkan. Later the Temple was known as “Beit HaMikdash.” Mikdash is from the root word Chodesh or holy. From it we also get sanctify and sanctity. So these places of G-d can be seen together to show us that G-d sanctifies that which He inhabits. G-d is seen by those who look for Him. To one person a tree is merely a tree – to another it is the handiwork of G-d, depending on the viewer. Our own joys and tragedies can seem quite accidental or they can be seen as    G-d’s hand in our life. How we see it depends on us. Everything in and about our life can reveal G-d if we allow it.

G-d makes His abode in what we sanctify. Because of this, Torah uses physical things in the building of the Mishkan. Wool cloth becomes more when used to fulfill G-d’s will when it becomes a talit or prayer shawl. All our affairs, no matter how mundane, or seemingly devoid of any spiritual meaning, if conducted according to G-d’s word, becomes a sanctuary and creates a dwelling place for G-d.

Maybe some of you might have an example of something seemingly mundane that became more when G-d was allowed to dwell in it. My challenge for you is to give G-d the opening to sanctify whatever is in your life.

In the New Testament we see this same thought. In I Cor. 6:19 Paul reminds us that even as individuals we are to function as the Temple of G-d. In Eph. 2:19-22 we are called the body of Messiah. We work and contribute together to take the mundane, like making sloppy joes for a homeless shelter, and allow G-d to inhabit our efforts.

Now, let us look at Exodus 35:1-3. Why did Moses pick this place to reiterate keeping of the Sabbath to the people? I think Moses was making a strong point here that the best way to not fall into sin is to stay connected with G-d. Idolatry is not a problem when we are well rooted in the Father. The Sabbath is a wonderful way to keep ourselves grounded in our faith. It affords us an extended time to be quite and at peace focusing on Him who made us. He sanctifies the time if we allow Him.

Now, I want us to look at the first question I sent out this week. The first of our two sections this week is based on the Hebrew word, Kahal or assemble. This word throughout the Hebrew Bible was used when referring to times when the people assembled in the Mishkan (Tabernacle) or Beit Mikdash (Temple). When the Hebrew Bible was translated into Greek this word came over as ekklesia. Always used to speak about the assembly in the Temple or the assembly of the whole people of Israel.

Now the interesting part, when the New Testament was translated to English this same word, ekklesia, was almost never translated as assembly. Look at James 2:2. This passage is one of the few where the word assemble is used. In the New Testament this very same word became “church.” What did this do? It would appear that church is exclusively a New Testament phenomenon disconnected with its Hebrew roots. By translating ekklesia as church our English Bible has made us think that the church is distinct and separate from Judaism.

In Matt. 16:18 we read Yeshua’s famous exchange with Peter where Yeshua says, “Upon this rock I will build my church.” The only thing is the word is ekklesia or assembly – not church. Church actually comes from an old English Scottish word, kirk. There is a Greek word kuriakos which means belonging to the L-rd. This word does appear in the New Testament twice in I Cor. 11:20 and Rev. 1:10. But it was never translated in these places as church. Rather a completely different word, ekklesia, with Jewish overtones was mistranslated over and over as church. Facts like these should help us all reclaim some of our heritage and connection with Judaism and Israel.