Commentary for Vayakhel

21 Feb

This week’s parshah continues from the last few parshahs with the building of the Tabernacle, but while the past few weeks have just been Moses relaying God’s blueprints to the people, this week, they finally start the actual construction.  Before construction can begin, though, they need to acquire the materials.  To this end, Moses instructs the Israelites to “bring from among you gifts for the Lord; everyone whose heart so moves him shall bring them (Ex. 35:5).”  The Israelites respond to this call for donations in a way rarely seen in history.  They offer up anything that will be of use: precious stones, precious metals, wood, linen, cloth, dyes, and even goat’s hair.  Anything that will help build the Tabernacle, they are happy to donate.   “Morning after morning (Ex. 36:3)” at the crack of dawn they all showed up with more donations, even after more than enough material to complete the Tabernacle and all of its sacred instruments had been donated, until Moses had to flat out forbid them from donating any more.

The phrase “morning after morning” is used three other times in the Torah, all to describe actions that were repeated every morning.  First in Ex. 16:21 referring to the Israelites collecting the manna, then in Ex. 30:7 to describe Aaron’s duty to light the incense on the golden altar in the Tabernacle every morning, and finally in Lev. 6:5 to describe the duty of the priests to feed wood to the fire on the altar to ensure that it is kept burning perpetually.

All four of these cases represent facets of our relationship with God, both as individuals and as a community.  The incense was a mixture of many different ingredients, all with their own distinct smells, mixed together into one to create its own unique smell and used to serve God.  If any one of the ingredients were missing, it would not be acceptable for use because each individual plays an important role.  The manna did not just sustain the Israelite community; it sustained each individual Israelite because each individual is important.  When Moses called for donations for the construction of the Tabernacle it was not just the community as a whole making donations, but each individual Israelite donated.  Each individual has a unique relationship with God and each individual has something they can give.  So it was back then, so it is today, and so it will be in generations to come because like the flame the priests tended to each morning, our relationship with God is eternal.

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