Larchmont Temple Chevra Torah

Questioning faith in the parsha

Vayak’hel

February 26, 2011 / 22 Adar I, 5771
Modern Author: Paul Goodman, A Memorial Synagogue

KOSHI: WHAT is Israel creating in the building of the Tabernacle?  HOW is the [re]building of the Mishkan a mirror of Jewish survival?

v.1       Moses then convoked the whole Israelite community and said to them: these are the things that the Lord has commanded you to do

RASHI… On that day after Yom Kippur, when he descended from the mountain.  The word VaYakhel is in the causative—the Hifil, because he does not gather the people by hand, but causes them to gather by the words he speaks.

IBN EZRA… Having come down with the second set of tablets, he now told them about the construction of the Tabernacle.  The “whole community” was responsible for paying a ransom to the service of the Tabernacle.

RAMBAN… After having told Aaron and the chieftains all that God commanded, Moses convened the whole community—men, women and children…He then told them everything he’d been commanded about the Tabernacle before the breaking of the tablets, for at this point the Holy One was again reconciled with them.

S’FAS EMES“Vayak’hel—he caused a kehila”…There is a hint here that somehow, through the experience of Shabbat, the children of Israel were fused into one congregation…

v.5    Take from among you gifts to the Lord; everyone whose heart so moves him shall bring them—gifts to the Lord

RAMBAN…It is quite common for the Bible to use a pronoun and only afterwards to specify to what that pronoun refers…But, according to the True interpretation, “ET” is not the direct object here, but the word “with.”  They should bring their contributions “with” gifts for the Lord, that is, the higher gifts referred to in the secret meaning of “Tell the Israelites to bring Me gifts…” [Ex 25:2]  The “Heh” before being “it,” meaning “The Shechinah.”

MUNK…RAMBAN seeks an explanation for the superfluous “heh” at the end of “bring,” meaning shall bring it. He alludes to the Zohar which explains the heh as the Shechinah—the Divine Indwelling.  The mystics emphasize that whoever strives sincerely to build the dwelling of God on earth—the synagogue or Sanctuary, draws the Shechinah into the world.

 v.10ff       And let all among you who are skilled come and make all that the Lord commanded: the Tabernacle…the Ark…the cover…the Curtain…the Table…the Menorah….the Altar…the hangings…the pegs for the Tabernacle…

ABRAVANEL… Moses listed each item individually so the skilled artisans could volunteer for their craft.

RAMBAN…Moses had to tell the entire community all the details that God instructed, to let them know that there was a lot of work to be done, and many gifts were needed…

v.20-21      So the whole community left Moses’ presence. And everyone who excelled in ability and whose spirit moved him came, bringing to the Lord his work as offering for the Tabernacle.

IBN EZRA… More literally, “everyone whose heart stirred him up,” that is, whose intelligence lifted him above others.  So two groups came: knowledgeable people of skill,  and generous ones.

MUNK“to leave the presence” can have a pejorative meaning, as in “Cain left the Presence of God.” [Gen 4:16] It would then indicate that Israel furtively departed from Moses when asked to contribute…

R’ R.ADLER The Mishkan as a transitional structure mirrors the Israelites as a people in transition.  The tent turning into a house parallels nomads turning into a settled agrarian people.  For post-exilic Jews, the transportable mishkan reflects a transportable Judaism.  It reminds us that wherever we go, whatever befalls us, we carry with us the power to create sacred space.  For post-modern Jews, the Mishkan traveling through space evokes a Judaism traveling through time.  Our very difficulty in decoding the Tabernacle of our ancestors reminds us that there is not one timeless Judaism, but many Judaisms framed in specific historic and social contexts…As with the Mishkan, to survive, we are continually taking them apart and putting them back together again.

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