Sh’mot (Exodus) 35:1-38:20
First Triennial Torah Reading: Shemot 30:11-37:16
Thoughts on Parashat Vayak’hel-P’kudei:
For the past several weeks, the Torah reading has been consumed by all the details required to build and run the Tabernacle, the portable sanctuary where God will dwell amongst the Israelites. At first glance at this week’s parasha, it seems that we are receiving the exact same information for a second time. However, after closer examination, it becomes clear that for the past several weeks, the detailed instructions were what God commanded Moses to do when he was up on Mt. Sinai. These instructions, are being conveyed from Moses to the people of Israel – the cliff notes version if you will.
It is interesting to note that the entire community of Israel brought together the materials needed to make this extraordinary edifice, the skilled workers lead by Bezalel and Ohliab completed the construction of the sanctuary, while Bezalel himself made the ark, the table, the lamp stand, the altars, the lavers, and the enclosure. Moses, after transmitting the message from God, takes more of a backseat role in Vayakhel.
When the big day arrives, Moses does as God commanded, God’s presence fills the Tabernacle and a cloud covers the Tent of Meeting. When the task is finally accomplished, Moses blesses the people, perhaps as a way of marking that the Israelites have gone from a group of individuals who previously had only worked to complete tasks for a slave driver, to a united people who worked together in a holy endeavor. To this end, S. Ludmir in his introduction to this parasha in “Torah Gems” writes that the project of the Israelites to build the mishkan helped them move from the individual twelve tribes of Israel to one united kehillah, one congregation.
Different situations require different types of leadership. Sometimes we are called upon to take a very visible role and sometimes we better serve the community from the sidelines. Sometimes we are asked to donate material goods, and sometimes our skill set is more urgently needed. Sometimes we are running the show, and sometimes we are part of the taskforce. May we have the confidence to know how we can best serve from one situation to the next, ensuring the training of the next generation of leaders. May we at CAA be so blessed as to see our work together not as different iterations of tasks with detailed instructions, but rather as holy endeavors that bring us together as a people and which allow God’s presence to dwell among us.
Rabbi Gail Swedroe