Shabbat Table Talk
Parashat Vayakhel, Erev Shabbat 9 March 2024
Week of 2 – 9 March 2024
Torah portion: Ex. 35:1-40:38  Haftarah: 1 Kings. 7:13-26

This week the last two short parashot Vayakhel and Pekudei of the book of Exodus are read together. Vayakhel, means to ‘assemble.’ The people gathered for the building the Tabernacle (Mishkan). In Pekudei (‘accounting’), Moses gives a full account of all the materials used in the construction of the Tabernacle.  

       The last five parashot of the Book of Exodus cover the magnificence and grandeur of the building of the Tabernacle. So intricate was the “meticulous and loving attention that the Torah gives to the construction of the Tabernacle” (Plaut, 676), that even the names of the chief artist and his assistant, Bezalel (“in the shadow of God”) and Oholiab (“father’s tent”) are given (Plaut 676). The people had gathered together to build the Golden Calf (Ex.32) and now the people assembled to build the Tabernacle. The building of the Tabernacle can be seen as a healing process, reconciliation for making the Golden Calf. 

       The magnificence and grandeur of the Tabernacle is shown in the materials used for the building: “gold, silver, copper; blue, purple and crimson yarns, and fine linen; goats’ hair, tanned rams’ skins, and fine leather…” (Ex. 35:5-9). We recall that when God told Moses to tell the people to bring the Lord gifts for the building of the Mishkan, the qualifying criterion was, “you shall accept gifts from every person whose heart so moves him” (Ex.25: 2). “Freely, freely you have received – freely, freely give” (Carol Owen). Here we see the generosity in the hearts of the people who freely received and freely gave. Commentators emphasize, “God’s presence is not found in a building. It is found in the hearts and souls of people who fashion and sanctify the building” (Etz Hayim, 486). Again, with the song of Carol Owen “Go in my name and because you believe, others will know that I live”, so we go forth, knowing that the Miskhan, the Presence of God is within us, people will know that YHWH lives. Hallelujah. 

Just before the actual building of the Tabernacle was the crucial reminder to keep holy the Sabbath. 

“The observance of the Sabbath appears as one of the fundamental demands of the covenant (Ex.23: 

12, Ex. 34:21, Deut. 5:12-14, Lev. 19:3, 30: 23, Num: 9,10” (Stampley 584). “ Six days is work to be done, but on the seventh day, there is to be complete rest, holiness for the LORD, Sabbath for YHWH” (Ex. 35:2-3). The seventh day is a consecrated day; the consecration of time, a sacred time and God’s presence is felt on this day. “Verily you shall keep My Sabbaths, i.e. though the work of the Tabernacle is sacred and of great importance in My eyes, nevertheless you must not override the Sabbath, on its account, but observe it. (Leibowitz 656).

        In conclusion, the Tabernacle was the portable dwelling and place of worship, which indicated the abiding presence of God amidst the Israelites. On the Sabbath, there is holy and holiness ‘qadosh and qodesh” (Stampley249). Both the Tabernacle and the Sabbath are conduits of holiness. For Reflection and Discussion: 1. How can I be the ‘Living Tabernacle,’ in the world. 

 2. Where are the sacred spaces, holy places in my life? 3. How do I observe the day of Lord, the Sabbath? 

Bibliography: Fox, The Five Books of Moses, (New York, 1995); Leibowitz, Studies in Bamidbar; Plaut The Torah, A Modern Commentary (New York, 1981); Stampley Dictionary Concordance, 1970. Etz Hayim: Torah and Commentary(New York, 2001). 

This Parasha Commentary was prepared by
Aliki Langi, Bat Kol alum [2005] 
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