Parasha: Vayakhel-Pekudei

(Exodus 35:1–40:38)

         Good morning. Our parasha this week is a little unique because we actually have two parashot that are combined together. This is done on occasion to make sure we follow the annual cycle and we complete the Torah in one year. So, I will spend some time discussing the first parasha, and then the second one. However, don’t worry; I will not be speaking for twice as long.

So, the first parasha is entitled Vayakhel וַיַּקְהֵל, which runs from Exodus 35:1–38:20. Its translation is “and he gathered.” This refers to when Moses gathered all of Israel together to build the tabernacle.

If you remember, last week we saw how God gave the instructions for Moses regarding the tabernacle, but Israel did not wait for this revelation; instead, the people engaged in their own form of worship with the golden calf, resulting in judgment. However, they are now ready to listen to God’s revelation and engaged in his directions. And so, in this parasha, we witness how a community came together to donate their materials, resources, while using their skills to construct the tabernacle for God’s presence.

If you read through this section, you are going to notice a lot of technical details (such as the dimensions, materials used, etc). While we may be tempted to skip over this, there are actually some important and practical challenges that we find in here for our own lives today.

First, through the example of Israel, we are reminded of the importance to be an active participant in the work of God, rather than a passive observer.

You see, this parasha does not begin by saying “Moses gathered the priests and the leaders to build the tabernacle,” but rather, Moses “assembled all the congregation of the sons of Israel,” meaning everybody. As we read the details, we see that nobody was left out: both men and women were building or creating metals and clothing, (Exod 35:22). Here we had those from the general public all the way to the rulers of the community (Exod 35:27) doing the work. Everybody became an active participant.

This is a good reminder for us to also be involved (in some capacity) in building the Kingdom of God. Whether this is a matter of teaching, witnessing, organizing schedules to help those in need, prayer ministry, music, etc. we are called to pour in. When Paul speaks to the community in Corinth about their spiritual gifts, he says “since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, seek to abound for the edification of the church” (1 Cor 14:12). So, the tabernacle is an important reminder that we need to be involved.

Now, when we read these chapters, we see two main ways Israel poured into that sacred edifice. The first is through their monetary contributions. When Israel left Egypt, they took gold from the Egyptians as a means of payment for their work. In turn, they gave financially in the form of “gold, silver, bronze, fine linen, ram’s skins, etc” for the tabernacle (Exod 35:5).

A second way people got involved was by using their skills for building. Moses said: “Let every skillful man among you come and make all that the Lord has commanded” (Exod 35:10). And we notice that, regardless of the job people had, no job was more important than another. From those who took care of the hooks in the tent, to the pillars around the tabernacle, to the ark itself — all were empowered by God. So, this presents us with the question: what skills do you have today that would benefit our community and build the kingdom?

You may have heard of the 80/20 principle. This is a general rule in businesses and organizations that usually 80% of the work is often done by 20% of the people. It’s not good. But this is definitely not what we see in this parasha; instead, Moses ran into a problem! The skillful men approached Moses and said, “The people are bringing much more than enough for the construction” (Exod 36:5). And so Moses responded: “Let no man or woman any longer perform work for the contributions” (Exod 35:6). How can we have this same problem at Beth Ariel?

If you’re interested in being involved, come see us. As Yeshua said in Matthew 9:37 — “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.”

Keep in mind, however, that there is one key ingredient that is necessary for everyone involved, whether they are giving donations, using their skills, or both: a willing heart. Moses said: “Take from among you a contribution to the Lord; whoever is of a willing heart” (Exod 35:5). Similarly, Paul says: “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly” (2 Cor 9:7). Therefore, we are challenged to become an active mover in the Kingdom, but we are also warned about keeping a willing heart.

The next parasha is called Pekudei (פְקוּדֵי) meaning “this is the number,” and in this last parasha, it recounts everything that was done in the tabernacle, bringing us all the way to the end of Exodus (38:21–40:38). Here, Moses blesses the tabernacle, anoints it, and then God dwells in it.

As you come to the end of Exodus 40, you may be asking yourself: Why did we spend so much time on the details of the Tabernacle? Why 11 chapters? When Solomon built the temple, there were only 3 chapters. So, why is there so much more detail and focus here on the tabernacle?

Two things to consider:

First, we see God’s grace here. If you remember the structure, God gave his instructions, Israel went off into idolatry, and then we have the building of the tabernacle. The repetition of both parts may seem unnecessary, but it shows that, despite Israel’s disobedience, God did not withhold His presence from the nation. Instead, God fulfilled His mission to be with them. In the same way, despite our sin, He still dwells with us.

Second, these details are a good reminder of our call to live in a godly manner. You see, just like there were instructions for how to build the Tabernacle, we are also given instructions in how to live as the temple of the Holy Spirit; are we working on ourselves as carefully as Israel worked on the tabernacle? In these last two chapters of Exodus, we see a reoccurring phrase 15 times; “Just as the Lord had commanded.” My prayer and hope is that a similar phrase could be said of you and me as we observe our lives: We are living “Just as the Lord had commanded.”

So, may the picture of the tabernacle be a reminder to work on our sanctification, and to be active builders for the Kingdom of God.