Parashat Vayakhel - unity between the spiritual and the material
February 28, 2019
Saturday 2 March 2019 25th Adar 11 5779
Exodus 35:1-38:20; 1 Kings 7:13-26; Matt 17:22 - 27
When the people of God join together with a common goal, we can do great things. The joint effort of the people of God working together to fulfill His commandments created a spiritual house worthy of God's Dwelling Presence.
And all the skillful men who were performing all the work of the sanctuary came, each from the work which he was performing. (Exodus 36:4)
The building of the Tabernacle required each person to contribute to the work from his own skill set. The tanners did the tanning, weavers did the weaving, carpenters did the carpentry, metal smiths did the smithing and so on. Each person had something to offer from his own unique vocational skills.
The Torah life is not just a life of religious rituals and scripture study. God encourages all of us to develop our own unique vocational skills so that we can each be self-sufficient and contribute to the common good of the community. Paul instructs each believer to lead a quiet life, attending to his vocation, working with his hands so that he may win the respect of those outside the community and not be dependent upon anyone. He teaches us to find some productive field of work so that we will have adequate resources to share with others who might be in need. These guidelines teach us that making a living is part of living out Torah. The early rabbis agreed with these sentiments:
The study of Torah is excellent when it is combined with a worldly occupation because the effort required by both keeps sin out of a person's mind. But where there is no worldly occupation the study of Torah amounts to nothing and leads to sin. Let everyone who works in the community work for the sake of the Name of Heaven. (m.Avot 2:2)
According to this view, a person should always combine his pursuit of spirituality with the pursuit of an income. To concentrate solely on religious matters is out of balance and will eventually lead to ruin. Instead a person should regard his job a religious duty performed for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Paul illustrated this principle in his own life by supporting himself with his work in tent making.
The building of the Tabernacle illustrates the "tent making" concept well. The combined efforts of the people of God as they labored in all their respective fields resulted in the building of God's house.