PARASHAT VAYAKEHL AND PEKUDAI

Saturday 21st March 2020 25th Adar 5780

PARASHAT VAYAKEHL AND PEKUDAI

Exodus 35:1 – 40:38; Ezekiel 45:16 – 46:18; Luke 22:1-13

We have a double portion this Shabbat which concludes the book of Exodus. At the conclusion of e ach of the five books of Torah, we stand together as a community and chant ‘chazak, chazak v’nitzchazeik’ – ‘be strong, be strong and may we be strengthened’ ( you can learn more about this custom at http://beitariel.co.za/articles/why-do-we-say-chazak-chazak-vnitzchazeik-end-each-book-torah,).

This Shabbat is also another of the special Shabbatot that punctuate the Jewish year and is called Shabbat HaChodesh. Allow me to explain.

On Monday evening, we celebrated Purim. Next week, Thursday 26th March, is Rosh Chodesh Nissan, the beginning of the Hebrew month when we observe Pesach. The Shabbat that falls after Purim and before Rosh Chodesh Nissan, is called Shabbat HaChodesh.

On this Shabbat, we read the special "Hachodesh" reading from Exodus 12:1-20, which recounts G‑d's historic communication to Moses in Egypt on the first of Nissan, two weeks before the Exodus.

Shabbat HaChodesh.

Purim Shabbat Rosh Chodesh Pesach

HaChodesh Nissan

Monday Saturday Thursday Wednesday

10th March 21st March 26th March 8th April

14th Adar 25th Adar 1st Nissan 14th Nissan

The double portion repeats many of the instructions carried in the previous 3 parashiyot. For example, the emphasis on Shabbat observance is repeated again.

From a literary point of view, we have a very nice sandwich:

  • Two weeks of Tabernacle instructions (Terumah, Tetzaveh),

  • the middle filling - the Golden Calf incident, (Ki Tisa), and

  • the 2 weeks of the actual Tabernacle construction (VaYakhel, Pekudei).

Commentators, who note the Torah's brevity on many occasions, struggle with this! Surely, Torah could have simply said: All that God commanded, they did, instead of virtually repeating everything! However, there are

Two slight differences that should be noted;

  • in the earlier parashiyot, the instructions were future i.e. "You shall make the altar"

  • in the final 2 parashiyot of the book of Exodus, the instructions are in the past tense; e.g. "He made the altar."

AND,

  • the description in the earlier parashiyot begins with the holiest and most important objects and works outward toward the entrance

  • However, when the construction begins, the work begins from the outer and works its way forward to the most holy items hidden behind the veil.

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayakhel, Moses assembles the entire Israelite community and tells them what God has commanded.

Ex 35:1-3

1 Moses assembled the whole Israelite community and said to them, "These are the things the LORD has commanded you to do:

2 For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day shall be your holy day, a Sabbath of rest to the LORD. Whoever does any work

on it must be put to death.

3 Do not light a fire in any of your dwellings on the Sabbath day."

The word ‘Vayakhel’ means ‘and he gathered’ or “he assembled. In fact, we find this word ‘vayakeyl’ mentioned once in Genesis, twice in Exodus, once in Leviticus and 4 times in the book of Numbers. In total, ‘vayakeyl’ is mentioned only eight times in the entire Torah! And so, the chazal (sages) ask why is it mentioned here?

One possible reason is that the previous day, Moses had descended from the Mountain carrying the 2nd set of the Stone tablets. Moses gathered the people together not only to impart the instructions for the actual building of the Mishakan, but also, to receive G-d’s forgiveness for the terrible sin of the eigel zahav, the golden calf incident.

Even as they gathered together in a unified manner some days earlier to receive the original tablets of Torah, so too did they come together as one to receive the 2nd set which, according to the rabbis, was indicative of G-d’s forgiveness for the sin of the golden calf! The fact that HaShem provided a 2nd set was interpreted that God had forgiven their terrible sin.

There is a further possible reason why Moshe gathered the people together. The construction of the Temple was intended to reveal HaShem’s presence in the world and therefore, unity is the prerequisite for Hashem’s revelation – Psalm 133. Before the Torah was given, there had to be unity amongst the Jewish people. When Torah says they gathered before the mountain, it is in the singular, not in the plural. They came together as a unified whole in order to receive HaShem’s revelation. Similarly, before the Jewish people could create a dwelling place for Hashem in the world, the aspect of unity had to be intensified.

Moshe instructs the people to “take gifts” to God to help create the sacred Mishkan — the Tabernacle (Exodus 35:4-9).

Exodus 25:1-2; 8

Tell Bnei-Yisrael to take up an offering for Me. From anyone whose heart compels him you are to take My terumah offering. "Have them make a Sanctuary for Me, so that I may dwell among them.

And so, this was further expressed through the contributions to the construction of the Tabernacle. They were instructed to bring their terumah offerings which HaShem says, is My terumah offering. This first-portion offering should never be used for the mundane things of the world because it had to be set apart, for God’s usage alone. Furthermore, when offered with the correct heart attitude, this terumah portion became kadosh – holy- set apart to God.

This offering was not limited only to money; the terumah offering also included gold, silver, precious jewels, scarlet thread etc.

However, the principle that I want to stress is that this first-portion offering must be set apart for God’s usage. We do not pay our electricity account with the first portion, free-votive offering. It belongs to God!

Sha’ul also spoke about the correct heart attitude that should exemplify our giving to the work of God in our spiritual home.

2 Corinthians 9: 6-7