Blog Vayakhel  Adar1 25 5779 בלוג וַיַּקְהֵל, כ”ה אדר א’ תשע”ט

Parashat Vayakhel continues with the provision for and the building of the Mishkan. From Terumah to Vayakhel there is a resounding theme – the Shabbat!  Why is the Shabbat so important? Simply put, it is the “glue” of the community. The Mishkan was to be the place where the people would assemble on that special day to focus upon the Boreh Olam who would dwell with us.

Israel was not first people that He had chosen. From the beginning, He chose Adam, Noah, and many others to know Him in a special way, but the choosing of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob began the formation of this “am segula” עם סגולה, a singular people known as Israel.  They had a very important function, which called them to be separated – “holy” from the rest of humanity. By changing the understanding of this function, the practical nature of the Torah has been lost.  Israel was to be a nation separated for the purpose of carrying the Ten Commandments wherever they went, teaching the nations the principles of living in harmony in this world.  It bears the idea of there being only one God, one Creator who made us equal in the sense of value, different in the sense of calling or role.  In the same way that they built the Mishkan, each one of us today is responsible to use our innate talents and abilities to build up the community.

The word Vayakhel contains the words kahal -קהל, kehillah קהילה, the place of congregating. He would call us to gather and to be part of this assembly (adat – עֲדַת) which would essentially be responsible to carry the Tablets and bring light to all humanity. Sadly, we have confused religion with a relationship with the Creator. Religion tends to make people think that they are “holier than thou” rather than understanding that we each have a special role. The fact that some people have a higher position, more wealth or more knowledge doesn’t give them more value; their roles simply imply more responsibility toward the well-being of the whole. Herein lies a very important key from the Hebrew perspective.  The Creator made us communal, but He works through the individual for the betterment of the entire community. Each one is equal in God’s sight. In contrast, the world enthrones the individual who expects to be served.  Our intrinsic value lies in our participation in community. When we build a brick wall, which brick is more important?  If we pull out a brick, the hole is very visible. Certain bricks are foundational and when removed, the entire wall collapses.

The world is in terrible shape today because it is trampling upon the moral values laid down for us in the Torah.  Sadly, most of us fall in the trap of preferring the world’s values to the point that we doubt whether or not the Torah is still applicable for us today. The Creator wants us to live in a moral society, but we are rapidly approaching the days when we will be living in a totally amoral society.  This is not new. The book of Judges tells us that everyone did what was right in his own understanding.

The Creator told us the story of the golden calf as a picture of exchanging the Truth for something false – that is adultery. Most religions sell us a “genuine imitation” of the Creator, but we cannot put Him in a box. He does not think like us. He is the one who tells us how to worship Him, not vice versa. The most important thing to Him is not how we treat Him but how we treat our neighbor. The process goes from taking His gift of faith (emunah – אמונה) and turning it to trust (bitachon – בטחון) through action.  Then we take His gift of free will (bechirah chofshit – בחירה חופשית) and again by using it in the right way, by choosing life, He sees and judges the true intentions (kavanah – כונה) of our hearts.  Check your heart when you do things here in the community. Are they for your own benefit or the benefit of the whole? 

The Mishkan, containing the ark, would be the central focus for the people; it covered the sin of idolatry where we had tried to replace the Creator with an imitation. They were already turning Moshe himself into a god; that is man’s tendency. Idolatry is pervasive and has infected us to this very day.  The Creator wanted to change our focus from the imitation to Him, the real thing. He gave us the Ten Words, and a very simple message, “we are responsible for our actions”.  We all struggle today with idolatry in its various forms – superstitions, fetishes, ideas, people, instead of focusing upon the Creator. 

The Creator goes into great detail about the building of the Mishkan and the leif motif is the heart meaning intention, reason, action, and will. If someone has the ability to do the work, then do it. We as humans were called to participate, to make changes, to take action and to be together as community. Individuality is lost as community works together. All function together as one and no one is better than anyone else.

My call to you is that as we come together to worship the true God of Israel in this place, ask yourself, “What is my role here; What have I been formed to doHow can I best use my talents to serve the whole?” Each of us is very necessary.  It begins with Shabbat because it is the day we come together to bond and are empowered by His Presence. That helps us to face the week with strength, honesty and courage. Shabbat Shalom