Torah Portion: Vayak’hel (He Assembled)(Sh’mot) Exodus 35-38
Haftorah Reading: I Kings 7:13-26; I Kings 7:40-50
In this Torah portion we cover the giving of the offering by the people for the building of the Mishkan or Tabernacle as well as the picking of the man chosen by G-d to oversee the construction of the Mishkan as well as the art work.
This portion opens with the verse using the Hebrew word from which comes the name of the portion, “Vayakhel.” This word means assembled or gathered. Here Moshe gathers the people together to speak to them. This is the first gathering since the sin of the golden calf. Where would Moshe begin? Maybe with the first and second commandments that the people had heard from G-d just a few weeks before about idol worship and that G-d and He alone is G-d. We can imagine the expectation in the air. Here is an unparalleled opportunity to educated and inspire a repentant nation. What does he pick to speak about? He talks about the Shabbat. This is the fourth time Moshe has brought this particular subject before the people, with the first being when Moshe spoke to them about the taking of a double portion of manna on Friday so that they would have food for the Sabbath. Here Moshe adds another prohibition, no fire would be kindled on the Sabbath. It might interest you that these two things are the only ones specifically mentioned in scripture. The other things forbidden on the Sabbath came about over time as the Rabbis defined what constituted work. We see this discussed several times in the New Testament such as when Yeshua was accused of breaking the Sabbath by healing on the Sabbath and also when His disciples took grain. So what could and could not be done on the Sabbath is a subject that is constantly going on even today among religious Jews.
For us tonight, however, I want to look at the two biblical specific actions mentioned. I would like us to look at both of these as creative works. Fire for example, easily can be seen as energy. From the beginning it has been a symbol of human creative work. Even today, most everything created by man requires energy and the use of that energy to advance society. Gathering manna on the Sabbath required no fire but it did require work in the gathering and moving of the manna so it could be used for food. So here in our verses we see Sabbath as a time to cease creating on man’s part. By ceasing we acknowledge and testify that G-d is the Creator. Creation began by the Word of G-d, “let there be light.” Lighting a fire is a reflection of creation. By ceasing such action, creative work, we give honor and recognition to G-d and Him alone as the real creative force in our world and we tap into the holiness of the day.
From another viewpoint, Sabbath also puts the brakes on the rat race of life. The six work days of the week by their nature are driven by accomplishing and achieving to the point of consuming our time. Sabbath is the day that says, “stop, take a deep breath, step back and refresh your outlook on life, life’s work and life’s purpose.” Life is not just about doing but more importantly it is about being a child of G-d. It is a day to pause and reflect in order to regain and revitalize our sense of holiness of purpose in everything we do. Of course when we engage in times such as this we will likely shift into introspection. Is our life in order and harmony with whom we are called to be?
This time is so important to us for it can bring us to consider our time and life from the stand point of repentance. If we do not have these quiet times it is hard to see those acts of ours that may require repentance. My point being, as humans, as children of G-d we need a time of quiet and being still before our Creator to be able to listen to His voice without the interruptions of the world. In the New Testament we see the Shabbat rest mentioned, especially in Hebrews 4:9-16. We read about the Shabbat rest for the people of G-d.