Torah Portion: Vayak’hel(And He Assembled)Ex./Sh’mot 35:1-38:20, P’kudei (Accounts) Sh’mot/Ex. 38:21-40:38 Haftorah Reading: I Kings 7:13-26, 7:40-8:21
Today I want us to mainly look at Vayak’hel. As we finish the book of Exodus we look back and see a book that devotes 13 chapters to the Mishkan. In fact, the construction of the Mishkan takes up 13 chapters of Exodus, 18 chapters of Leviticus, 13 chapters of Numbers and two chapters in Deuteronomy. That is a total of 46 chapters devoted to the Mishkan or Tabernacle. The majority of the verses concern the inventory of the furniture, tools, and the materials used.
This causes us to question why did G-d give so much text and information on a subject that does not seem to be that useful to future generations including ours. It seems the reason may be that the people then and also us today might grasp the truth about G-d’s presence in our life day by day. The Israelites had a constant reminder that G-d daily dwelt in their midst. He was in the cloud by day and the fire by night hovering over the Mishkan, always before them. G-d’s presence was always there directing them.
The Mishkan also served as a blueprint on how they were to approach G-d, in holiness, in purity and reverence. These things should also speak to us and our faith. In John 16:13 we read where the Spirit of Truth will be our guide. He will show us the way. He will show us the things to come. He will open the way for us to understand and cope with our world. (Romans 8:26-27)
In Exodus 31:1-6 we can see each person had a gift or a talent that was given by G-d. They did not all have the same gifts but each family, each person had a specific part in the building of the Mishkan through their donations and participation in its construction. Everyone was involved. If some had decided to ignore the gift or calling G-d had given them the outcome would have been different.
In our faith I believe G-d intends for each of us to be involved in the calling and talents He has given us. We can all pray. We can study and find G-d’s will. Our faith also calls for community. We are all a part of what G-d is doing here and in other places as well. Some in our group have been able to go to Israel and do work projects and encourage those we met there. We have fed and clothed hungry people in Israel. We have financially helped struggling Ethiopian students finish their degree, single moms pay their rent and have money to buy food and clothing for their children. We will probably never meet most of these people but they have been lifted up by what G-d has done through our gifts.
So the participation of everyone involved in the creation of the Mishkan was a reminder for them that they were part of a family, they were all part of what G-d was doing.
Now on to another topic in our reading today. In the first of our two Torah portions, Vayak’hel, we read that Moshe gathered the people. This word Vayak’hel has at its root the Hebrew word for a group such as ours. Kehila is a gathering of people of like mind and spirit who come together with a common goal.
In our portion we read of the first gathering of the people by Moshe following the incident of the golden calf. What would we expect his first words would be? Would he rebuke or speak harshly to them? He did not rebuke. As we read his first words we see they were about the Sabbath. In Sh’mot/Exodus 35:2 he says, “Six days work shall be done.” Actually in Hebrew a direct translation reads, “Six days work is getting done.” What does this say to them? Moshe is telling them your work gets done in the six days of every week but the Shabbat is for the L-rd. He is making a strong point here. We are not slaves. We are not to be consumed by our work. We are to take a day to be with the Father. This doesn’t mean to spend Shabbat anxious over the work not getting done. It is to be a day of peace. A day to refresh our spirit. If we are struggling to give up one day to be with our Creator it may indicate our faith lies in our own effort leaving no time to be with Him.
So as Moshe assembled the people here his words should just as loudly speak to us in our world today. Each one of us have a role to fill. As here in our portion each person saw his contribution around him each time he entered the Mishkan. We as believers have this same pattern in our lives. We each are to bring whatever gift G-d has given us both spiritually and physically to the building of His kingdom.
The building of the Mishkan was different from the first Temple built by King Solomon in Jerusalem. King Solomon hired foreign workers from Tyre. 30,000 Israelites were brought in to do the menial labor with overseers from Tyre. The building materials were imported from Lebanon. The Israelites did not build the Temple as they did the Mishkan. Because of this the Temple was looked at as the territory of the Levites.
The Mishkan was in the middle of the camp of the twelve tribes. They had an active part in its construction. Later this same idea became the foundation of many churches and synagogues. The people who were part of the congregation had a sense of ownership because of their contributions. I pray you all see your part and ownership of what we do in this group. Bless each of you this week.
Hazak, Hazak, v’nit’chazek!
Be strong, be strong, and let us be strengthened!