Weekly Torah Section: Vayakhel (To assemble) Exodus 35:1-38:20 and Pekudei (To Take Account) Exodus 38:21-40:38, Haftorah: I Kings 7:40-8:21
As you can see we cover two Torah sections and two Haftorah sections this week. Rather than try to cover both I would like to talk about one from each. I want to start with the Haftorah from Pekudei. In I Kings 7:51-8:21 we read about the dedication of the Temple by King Solomon. There are many connections between this scripture and the Torah readings. One of the most striking is the cloud of G-d’s glory that filled both the first temple and the tabernacle. I want us to look at this in some depth. Before that, there are a couple of things we need to go over. Solomon, as confirmed in Acts 7:46-47, completed the temple of G-d in seven years and brought all the treasurers of his father David, into the temple.
In I Kings 6:38 it says that Solomon completed the temple in the eighth month of the 11th year of his reign. Yet he did not dedicate it until the seventh month of the following year. Why did he wait eleven months? The temple was dedicated during Succoth. It was commanded in Deuteronomy 16:15 that during this holiday the people were to be all together joyful and it was the culmination of the religious cycle of time. During Succoth people build temporary booths to dwell in during those eight days. Similarly, G-d came from heaven and lived in a temporary building – the temple. The dedication also reminded the people of how G-d had cared for them and brought them to the land He had sworn to give to them.
In I Kings 8:10 we see where the cloud of G-d fills the temple just as it had in the tabernacle. In both cases the presence of G-d was so powerful that no one could stand. In I Kings 8:12 Solomon connects the cloud with G-d’s presence. The Hebrew word here for cloud is “arafel”. This is the same word used by Moses in Exodus 20:21 and in Deuteronomy 4:11. Also in Leviticus 16:2 the same word is used when G-d Himself says that He will appear in the cloud. Where do we see this cloud in the New Testament? It was at the transfiguration in Matthew 17:5. Also, here we see the connection between this cloud and Succoth. The disciples wanted to build three booths there. I want you to look at I Kings 9:3 to see how long G-d says His presence will be connected with the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. He says His presence will be there forever – no matter if there is a building there or not. Not surprising that this is where all the conflict and tension is taking place today.
One last point on this section concerns the cherubim that guarded the mercy seat. Where else in scripture have we read of the cherubim? They were at the entrance to the Garden of Eden. The cherubim were heavenly beings whose duties were not only to guard but also to praise G-d.
The temple is an example of heaven on earth. Our bodies are now the temple of G-d and should be reflective of Eden, having complete fellowship with the Father and resting in Him. We should not be striving. In Eden Adam and Eve spent each moment in the presence of G-d completely relying on Him for their provision. The same should be for us.
Now to the Torah portion. I would like to look at Vayakhel which means “To gather together”. Here Moses assembled the people. Remember this was the first gathering of the people by Moses after his time on the mountain with G-d and after their incident with the golden calf. What might you expect his first words to them to be? His first words might possibly be a harsh admonition to them about their sin. But no, the first thing he said is Exodus 35:2 “Six days work shall be done.” This Hebrew construction is in the passive voice. The work is getting done. So Moses’ point here is not so much about the Sabbath but about the other six days.
If during the six days of the week we believe someone or something is in control of our destiny other than G-d we are in a sense worshiping the golden calf. G-d runs the world. Our work that we do should always be seen as only a conduit through which we receive the blessings of G-d. If we think that by working 7 days a week we are accumulating more so we can be more secure financially we are chasing an idol. If work takes away from our time with G-d it can lead us only to ruin spiritually. If we can get this clear then our whole week will be a Sabbath experience. Our week would not be filled with worries and anxieties because we are relying on G-d to supply our needs. Our goal is to find the balance between the work we do and always knowing everything we have comes from G-d and not from our own strength. We must work. But the balance should always be kept. Work is a means to an end and never to be seen as the main point of our lives. G-d is the point or center of our lives. Our time with Him cannot suffer. Everything we have is a result of G-d’s blessing not our own strength or power. He is our beginning and our end, the Alpha and Omega. Don’t be sucked in by the world’s priorities but allow yourself to be the temple of G-d each moment