Parashat Vayakhel & Pekudei
Shabbat Mevarekhim HaHodesh
March 19-25, 2017 – 27 Adar 5777
Annual (Exodus 35:1-40:38): Etz Hayim p. 552-572; Hertz p. 373-391
Triennial (Exodus 35:1-37:16): Etz Hayim p. 552-560; Hertz p. 373-379
Maftir (Exodus 12:1-20): Etz Hayim p. 380-385; Hertz p. 253-257
Haftarah (Ezekiel 45:16-46;18): Etz Hayim p. 1290-1294; Hertz p. 1001-1004
The Tabernacle of the People, for the People and by the People
Dr. Joshua Kulp, Rosh Yeshiva, Talmud teacher, and a founder of the Conservative Yeshiva
After a brief reminder to observe the Sabbath, the heart of this week’s parsha begins with Moses taking donations from all of Israel, from “everyone whose heart moves him (35:5)” for the purpose of building the Tabernacle. In the following paragraph he addresses “all among you who are skilled” to “come and make all that that the Lord has commanded.” The Israelites heed his call and “Everyone who excelled in ability and everyone whose spirit moved him came, bringing to the Lord his offering for the work of the Tent of Meeting (35:21).” Over and over, the Torah emphasizes that all of the Israelites participated in the building of the Tabernacle. While service in the Temple in Jerusalem will eventually be limited to the priests and Levites, the building of the Tabernacle was a communal affair, involving all of Israel.
The Tabernacle was set up on the first day of the first month of the second year in the wilderness (40:17). Today this day is called the first of Nissan. In ancient times this day was not just the semi-holiday of Rosh Hodesh. Rather, it was an annual holiday intended to recall the initial erection of the Tabernacle. This holiday is mentioned in a book called Megillat Ta’anit —literally the “Scroll of Fasting,” a Second Temple document that lists the occasions on which Jews should not fast or offer eulogies. The first of these holidays begins on the first of Nissan and lasts eight days, the period of time it took to dedicate the Tabernacle according to the book of Leviticus.
The commentary on Megillat Ta’anit expands the religious meaning of the erection of the Temple by connecting it to a dispute between the two famous Second Temple groups, the Sadducees and the Pharisees. The Sadducees ruled that public sacrifices such as the daily offering (the tamid) and additional holiday offerings (the musaf) should be funded by the donations of individuals. In contrast, the Pharisees believed that public sacrifices should be purchased with the half-shekel Temple tax, which was donated equally by all Jews. The essence of this dispute seems to be over the preservation of the purity and righteousness of those who are allowed to participate in public sacrifices. The Sadducees believed that only the righteous and pure could participate in funding the sacrificial ritual and therefore, these sacrifices must be donated by individuals who would be vetted by the priestly ruling authorities. Public funds such as the half-shekel tax, donated by all Jews, would of necessity come from all types of Jews, both the righteous and transgressors, and thus must be rejected, according to the Sadducees, as a source of funding. In contrast, the Pharisees emphasized that all of Israel is to participate in the sacrificial service —transgressors alongside the righteous. And their participation was to be one hundred per cent equal. Every Jew would donate half a shekel a year, the rich could not give more, nor the poor less. As such, all Jews would have an equal part in the service of God in the Temple. This is the spirit of the emphasis on “all of Israel” found in this week’s parsha, which is read only a few days before the first of Nissan, when this ancient holiday once existed. While we no longer celebrate this holiday, the egalitarianism of the Pharisees, their demand that all participate equally in the worship of God, still lives on among us.
A Vort for Parashat Vayakhel & Pekudei
Rabbi Daniel Goldfarb, CY Faculty
Exodus 36:3 tells that Moses received all the offerings from the people needed for the building of the Mishkan (Sanctuary), “yet they (v’hem) kept bringing freewill offerings morning after morning (boker boker).” The Imrei Shefer says that “they” were the artisans themselves, who did not “take the easy out,” as community professionals sometimes do, saying “we don’t need to contribute because we are already working on the Mishkan,” or, in the colloquial, “I gave at the office.” They got up early and prepared their own offerings for the Tabernacle, before going to do their professional work on it.
Vered Hollander-Goldfarb, CY Faculty
We have reached the point of action. After receiving lengthy instructions for building the Mishkan (Tabernacle), it is finally happening. Note that this is a double Parasha and it brings us to the end of the book of Shmot (Exodus).
1) The instructions to collect materials and invite all who have the “heart wisdom” to build the Mishkan is given to the entire congregation (35:4-20). Why do you think that the Torah stressed that this announcement was made to the entire congregation?
2) Most materials were brought by “every person” who had it in his/her possession. But one type of material was brought specifically by the Nesi’im, the leaders of the tribes. What was it (35:27)? Why do you think that these stones were brought by the tribal leaders? 28:9-21 or 39:6-14 might help.
3) While all people can participate in donating materials, those with special creative talent are invited to build and create. Who heads the creative construction team (35:30-35)? Women are singled out for their special artistic talent. What field are they experts in (35:25)?
4) When we reach the making of the garments of the Kohanim, a phrase repeats at the end of each section (39:1,5,7,21,26,29,31). What is the phrase? How many times does it appear? Now count how many times this phrase appears in the assembling of the Mishkan (40:20-32). What is the total number? Do any of these numbers have any special significance?
5) When Moshe and the people had done their share to create the Mishkan (literally: ‘dwelling place’) the cloud covers the Mishkan (40:33-38). What does the cloud signify? What was the message that Bnei Yisrael (the children of Israel) might understand from this?