Parashat Vayakhel – Erev Shabbat 25 February 2022 (5782)
Week of 20-26 February 2022
Torah portion: Exodus 35 :1-38 :20 ; Haftarah: 2 Kings 12 :1-17
Theme: Gifts for the LORD God
Parashat Vayakhel which beginsthe portion of Exodus known as the Descriptive Tabernacle texts (Ex. 35-40) is the penultimate portion of the Book of Exodus. According to the Women’s Commentary, it is broadly divided into four sections: I. Introduction Procedures (35:1-36:7); II. Building the Tabernacle structure as a Place of God; III. Constructing the interior furnishings; and IV. Completing the Courtyard (Eskenazi, New York: 2008, p. 522).
My focus is B. “Donations for the Tabernacle” (35:4-29). Fox heads this section “The Contribution Restated” (35:4-19) (Fox, New York: 1997, p. 462). This theme appears in Ex. 25:1-8. When I first followed the weekly Parashah, I was always intrigued by the number of treasures that kept being produced by a group of people wandering in the desert. Of course, that was not the question to be asked but still being curious, I decided to trace the origin of some of the precious stones and metals.
In direct contrast to Ex 35:4-19 is Ex. 34:1-6 where the people tire of waiting for Moses and demand of Aaron that he give them a god/leader. He instructs them: Break off the gold rings that are on the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters and bring them to me (v.2). Aaron made a molten calf for the people to worship (v. 4).
Where had they procured these various precious jewels? I turned to Ex. 12:33-36 where we see the Hebrews leaving in a hurry with unleavened dough because: Egypt pressed the people strongly, to send them out quickly from the land for they said, ‘We are all dead-men!’ (v. 33) Before they left, they requested of the Egyptians objects of silver and gold, and clothing as Moses had instructed them. The Egyptians allowed the Hebrews to strip them of everything of value – like taking the ‘spoils of war’. I feel the Egyptians were only too glad to give the fleeing slaves everything if it meant they would leave Egypt for good!
There are hints of the treasures that the people would receive in Ex. 3:21-22 which is what Moses relates to the elders concerning what the LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob told him: I will give this people favor in the eyes of Egypt…objects of silver and objects of gold, and clothing…so shall you strip Egypt. Exodus 11:2 repeats this command given to the women and then adds that the men request silver and gold as well.
The number of sets of gifts given in Ex. 25:1-8 and 35:4-19 are seven – symbolizing completeness – fitting for the dwelling place of the LORD, God.
For Reflection and Discussion: Read Genesis 15:14:But the nation to which they are in servitude and afflict them…and after that they will go out with great property, which is the LORD’s promise to Abram in the Covenant concerning his descendants. Discuss the faithfulness of the LORD God to the promises through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to the Israelites as we see in this Parashah Where have you experienced the LORD God’s faithfulness?
Bibliography: Eskenazi, T. C. Weiss, A.L. A Women’s Commentary (New York: 2008); Fox, E. The Five Books of Moses (New York: 1997).
This week’s Parashah Commentary was prepared by
Bernadette Teresa Chellew, South Africa, Bat Kol Alumna: 2008