A divided nation
Our western nations are socially, culturally, religiously and politically divided. Multiculturalism has divided us instead of bringing ethnically diverse groups together in order to build a nation. The book of Exodus focuses on nation building, can we turn to this book to find answers on how to cure our divided nation?
In Parashat Ki Tissa, the commandment to keep the sabbath appears at the end, following the details regarding the construction of the Tabernacle. In parashat Vayakhel, it appears at the beginning prior to the construction of the tabernacle - why does it appear in this way?
From God’s point of view, the Sabbath was the seventh day. From the point of view of the first human beings, who were created on the sixth day, the Sabbath was the first day. The debate is about which perspective should be adopted. When God is speaking, as in Ki Tissa, the Sabbath comes last, however when Moses is speaking to the Israelites in Parashat Vayakhel, the Sabbath comes first.
However there is much more to this. God knows how things will turn out, He has the foresight to know what the consequences of creation will be. However, we as humans do not have that foresight, we do not know all the consequences of actions that we might take. One alternative is to just let things happen, however that is not the Jewish way.
The other solution, unique to Judaism, is to reveal the end at the beginning. This is the meaning of the Sabbath. More than just a day of rest, the Sabbath is a rehearsal for the end of days, the messianic age. On it we recover lost harmonies of the Garden of Eden. We do not strive to do, we are content to be. We are not permitted to manipulate the world, instead we celebrate it as God’s supreme work of art. We are not allowed to exercise dominance or power over other human beings or domestic animals. Rich and poor inhabit the Sabbath alike with equal dignity and freedom.
The Sabbath is a full dress rehearsal for an ideal society that has not yet come to pass, but will do, because we know what we are aiming for - because we experienced it at the beginning.
The name of the Parshah, "Vayakhel," means "And he gathered" and it is found in Exodus 35:1.
Moses assembles the people of Israel and reiterates to them the commandment to observe the Shabbat. He then conveys God’s instructions regarding the making of the Mishkan (Tabernacle). The people donate the required materials in abundance, bringing gold, silver and copper; blue-, purple- and red-dyed wool; goat hair, spun linen, animal skins, wood, olive oil, herbs and precious stones. Moses has to tell them to stop giving.
A team of wise-hearted artisans make the Mishkan and its furnishings (as detailed in the previous Torah readings of Terumah, Tetzaveh and Ki Tisa): three layers of roof coverings; 48 gold-plated wall panels, and 100 silver foundation sockets; the parochet (veil) that separates between the Sanctuary’s two chambers, and the masach (screen) that fronts it; the ark, and its cover with the cherubim; the table and its showbread; the seven-branched menorah with its specially prepared oil; the golden altar and the incense burned on it; the anointing oil; the outdoor altar for burnt offerings and all its implements; the hangings, posts and foundation sockets for the courtyard; and the basin and its pedestal, made out of copper mirrors.
Building the Tabernacle
Throughout the prior three parshot: Terumah, Tetzaveh, and Ki Tissa, we read about G-d’s detailed instructions to Mosheh about how to build the Mishkan. A team of wise-hearted artisans make the Mishkan and its furnishings.
Spirituality and God's work
The work in the tabernacle was done by specific people who were chosen for their talents, however, the Torah tells us to not forget that even when we perform work that might seem personal, it is for the betterment of the entire community.
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