February 21, 2020 ~ MISHPATIM. NAWAH/SABA.

Shabbat Vayaqhel - שבת ויקהל


Time and Place

ויקהל משה את כל עדת בני ישראל - It may have been God's original intention for the people to relate to Him in a purely spiritual manner without the use of any shrines, symbols or rituals. The Golden Calf story, however, was an indicator that Israel, like many other nations, needed more physical and practical ways to worship. For this reason, Moses gathers (ויקהל משה) everyone to teach them how to appropriately connect with the Almighty. By discussing the Sabbath, sacred time is set each week to be free from work and recall God's central role in the world. By discussing the Tabernacle, a place to assemble is designated to perform worship rituals of sacrifice, prayer, and song. Ideally, God's presence should be acknowledged every minute and every place, but in order for the religion to resonate with all the people (כל עדת בני ישראל), the institutions of sacred time and sacred place were deemed necessary. Beth Torah 3/25/17.

The Correction

זה הדבר אשר צוה ה׳ לאמר - With everyone assembled, Moses, in Exodus 35:4, offers a correction by asserting "This is what (זה הדבר) God is commanding of you," and then proceeds to repeat the entire process of building the Tabernacle. This tedious repetition is necessary, because the people thought that they could ignore these instructions. From Exodus 25-31, much effort is devoted to describing every detail of how God wants the Tabernacle. Instead, in Exodus 32, the people, favoring to do what is most convenient and comfortable for themselves, decide to worship God via the Golden Calf; adopting old modes of ritual that they were familiar with from Egyptian society. God considers this an egregious violation, because He goes out of his way to provide specific instructions and is ignored. Moses provides this correction here to demonstrate that the only acceptable way of approaching God is by following his exact instructions. Beth Torah Bulletin, 3/10/18.

Diminished Leaders

והנשאם הביאו את אבני השהם - To show enthusiasm for the construction of the Tabernacle, Exodus 35 documents the sequence of those who brought gifts: first the men, then the women, and at the very end, the leaders. In the Masoretic Text of Exodus 35:27, the word for leaders (נשיאים) is spelled in a shortened way; missing both letter yods (והנשאם). Rashi, quoting the Midrash, says that the word for leaders is written like this (without the yods) because they were the last group to make contributions. Real leaders should be those who lead their people in great projects and not wait until all the work is complete in order to to start participating. To show God's disappointment with these leaders, He takes away the yods from their title. Later on, however, in Numbers 7:2, when the Tabernacle is dedicated, the leaders have learned their lesson, and as a result of presenting their offerings first, the yods from their title are returned. Tiqqun Highlights, Beth Torah Bulletin, 3/2/19.