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PARASHAT VAYAKEYL וַיַּקְהֵל | He gathered

Saturday 26th February 2022 25th Adar 1 5782

PARASHAT VAYAKEYL וַיַּקְהֵל | He gathered FFOZ

Exodus 35:1-38:20; Haftarah: 1 Kings 7:40-50; Gospel: Matthew 12:1-13

Special readings for Shabbat Shekalim are applicable this Shabbat.

Exodus 30:11-16; 2 Kings 11:17-12:17; Matthew 17:22-27

Shabbat Shekalim ("Sabbath [of] shekels" שבת שקלים) requests each adult male Jew contribute half of a Biblical shekel for the upkeep of the Tabernacle, or mishkan (משכן). Shekalim is the plural of the Hebrew word shekel, the currency used by the ancient Israelites as well as the currency of modern day Israel. In biblical times, every male Israelite, age 20 years and older, had to contribute a half-shekel annually to the maintenance of the Temple in Jerusalem. This is parallel to our modern day concept of maintaining our house of worship with dues. This practice comes from Exodus 30:14-16: “Everyone who is entered in the records, from the age of twenty years up, shall give Adonai’s offering. The rich shall not pay more and the poor shall not pay less than half a shekel when giving the Lord’s offering as expiation [or atonement] for your persons. You shall take the expiation money from the Israelites and assign it to the service of the Tent of Meeting; it shall serve the Israelites as a reminder before Adonai, as expiation for your persons.” (JPS)

The half-shekel had to be paid before the first of the Hebrew month of Nisan. However, in order to remind the people of this duty, proclamations were made for payment on the first of Adar — the month that comes before Nisan on the Hebrew calendar. (To put this into context, Purim falls in Adar and Passover in Nisan).

The Mishna, codified around 200 C.E. also speaks about this practice. It says: “On the first day of Adar they give warning of the Shekel dues. On the 15th thereof, they read the Megilla in walled cities (meaning the scroll of Esther); and repair the paths and roads and pools of water.” (Shekalim 1:1)

The paths and roads needed to be repaired after the winter rains in readiness for the Passover pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and the pools of water, or mikvas, needed to be equipped in a fashion that would make them kosher, or valid. So again, even though the dues technically needed to be paid by the first of Nisan, the announcement began in Adar. As a result of this ruling by the rabbis, it became customary on the Shabbat before the first of Adar, to read from two Torah scrolls — the weekly Torah portion from one and the verses about paying the half-shekel, from the other.

As we usher in Rosh Chodesh Adar in the coming days, let each of us renew our financial commitment to our own house of worship. And may we have a joyous month of Adar and a zeisen Pesach.

Parashat Vayakeyl

Don't quit your day job to become a Torah scholar. When Torah study is not combined with an occupation, it amounts to nothing and leads to sin.

Torah with an Occupation

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.

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