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Vayakhel 5784

March 3, 2024

Rabbi Geier


BS"D || Rabbi Geier

Vayakhel 5784

Parashat Vayakhel begins by enumerating the mitzvot regarding the observance of Shabbat, but its main focus is actually the construction of the Mishkan. Why this strange leap from one topic to another? It is from this portion that we learn the laws of Shabbat. Our sages teach us that since these newly mentioned things appear together, it means that the activities we are forbidden to do on Shabbat are the tasks that were necessary for the construction of the Mishkan. The tasks necessary for the construction of the Mishkan are the 39 "melachot," tasks that are prohibited for us to perform during Shabbat.

At the beginning of the Parashah, Moshe is asked to gather the people, Vayakhel, to gather everyone to convey the important things that will be the basis of the community. It is not in vain that the entire people are mobilized, not just the leaders of each tribe, to transmit instructions. The strength of the kehilah, of the entire community, is transcendental, not only of the leaders.

Moshe gathered the People of Israel and told them that six days a week they would work, but the seventh day, Shabbat, would be a day of rest, and they would not kindle fire. Later on, in the following verses, detailed instructions are given for the construction of the house that will be used for the worship of God and for the production of the symbols that unite the people as a collective sharing faith, customs, and now also physical space. The implementation of the project involves everyone; each one will have to contribute their part according to their abilities. 

The Torah is aware of class differences, and therefore establishes a variety of donation channels. From gold for the wealthy, silver for the middle class, and copper for those with fewer means. The guiding principle is the principle of partnership that transcends economic status but also gender differences. Thus, in a patriarchal world where the walls between men and women were not always clear, in the commitment to build the tabernacle, the response is resounding regardless of social status or gender. Everyone contributed what they could. 

Moshe continued speaking to the people and told them to take an offering for God, whether gold, silver, copper, threads, skins, wood, oil, spices, aromatic incense, stones. All these materials would be used for the construction of the tabernacle, the Mishkan (the tent of meeting and the holy garments). 

All men and women brought their offerings, they brought rings, earrings, jewels, fabrics, skins, as well as offerings of silver and copper, and wood for all the tasks that were to be carried out. The women who knew how to spin, spun with their hands, and brought what they had made. All these offerings brought by the Children of Israel were voluntary; each one brought what they could and wanted, based on what Moses had instructed them to do. 

Unlike other mitzvot, in this parashah, there is no threat to those who cannot fulfill the request. Here there is a request for personal commitment motivated by the generosity of the heart.

Probably for this reason our sages chose Vayakhel as the name of this parashah. The people gathered to build the tabernacle out of their own will. That was probably what gave greater strength and support to the Mishkan that would last throughout the desert and for centuries in the Beit haMikdash, the Great Temple of Jerusalem. The power of dedication and kavana, the intention with which each one delivered.

Betzalel son of Uri son of Hur of the tribe of Yehudah was a person who had wisdom, intelligence, and knowledge. He knew how to devise designs, work in gold, silver, and copper, carve stones, carve wood, and, according to the Torah text, he understood what the Kadosh Baruch Hu transmitted in his indications about not only the indications of the construction but also the forms of the elements that would surround the worship of the People of Israel. Oholiav son of Ahisamach of the tribe of Dan also knew how to perform these tasks. They would be in charge of making the Lord's request a reality.

When they began to gather the offerings, they realized that there was more than enough, and the people still continued to bring more and more every morning. They told Moses what was happening, and it was he who told the people that they did not have to bring more materials since the quantity they had was more than enough for the tasks to be carried out. 

A Mishkan is built from goodwill, from generosity, from a human community that creates a common enterprise. 

We are not today like the People after the sin of the Golden Calf. It is not us who caused the horror in which we are still immersed. When we finish and begin again the annual cycle of Torah reading, we are pierced by horror. October 7th, still today.

We will not be able to rebuild all the destruction generated until each one of the members of our People returns home. 

The return of each and every one, the eradication of antisemitism in all its forms that has arisen since October 7th, and the achievement of a definitive and lasting peace, though it may seem impossible, must be our common goal. 

May we know and be able to apply the spirit of dedication, community work, and the intention of the heart that Parashat Vayakhel describes, in the many tasks of reconstruction, healing, and creation that we now have and that we will have ahead of us.

On this International Women's Day, after Hamas demonstrated its total disregard for the female gender, and much of the world ignored and continues to ignore the violence inflicted on them on October 7th, we advocate for the respect and equality of women of any nationality, religion, creed, and social status. 

Today, we don't say "Happy Women's Day," as it's about recognizing the condition of womanhood that each one possesses and the significant role our women play in our lives and in our world.

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