Shabbat Shalom! – Vayakhel / Pekudei

Image: A rainbow of colored pencils. Photo by Padrinan/pixabay.

This week we have a double portion, Vayakhel plus Pekudei. It will carry us from the beginning of Exodus 35 to the end of the book.

Vayakhel covers the making of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle and its sacred vessels. Pekudei addresses the setting up of the Mishkan. These are Torah portions loaded with detail; simply reading them without help, our eyes may glaze over.

One way to enliven the process is to read with a pen and paper. As each detail is laid out, do your best to draw what you are reading. This is help you visualize the material. Resist the temptation to look up pictures: read and draw for yourself. Don’t worry about making great art.

Then, only then, compare your images with the drawings of others. Those might be drawings you find in a book or online, or they might be drawings by your study partner. Don’t be distressed when your images are different from those of others. You are not the first to discover that the descriptions in Torah are incomplete. It is human nature to “fill in the blanks” with interpretation. You are not wrong to do so, but it is good to realize when you are doing it.

Here are some divrei Torah to illuminate these portions:

O Lord, Won’t You Buy Me a Mercedes Benz? by Rabbi Kari Hofmeister Tuling, PhD

What Women Do & Why Women are Rewarded by Rabbi Sylvia Rothschild

The Journey of Control & Powerlessness by Rabbi Amy Scheinerman

Shared Purpose Unifies by Rabbi Nina J Mizrahi

Future Questions of Personhood by Rabbi Esther Hugenholtz

Shabbat Shalom! Vayakhel

Image: The Ark of the Covenant, Drawing by James Tissot, c. 1986-1902. Public Domain.

Vayakhel (“And he assembled”) is the name of this week’s Torah portion, Exodus 35:1 – 38:20. Moses assembles the people and says to them:

On six days work may be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a sabbath of complete rest, holy to the Lord; whoever does any work on it shall be put to death.

– Exodus 35:2

Because this explication of the commandment to keep Shabbat is made in the midst of the building of the Mishkan [Tabernacle,] later when the sages were trying to define “work,” they looked to the various activities required to build the sanctuary. Those 39 categories of labor, called melachot in Hebrew, became the basis for all activities traditionally forbidden on Shabbat.

Then Moses asks the people to bring materials to donate, and collects them. He announces God’s choice of Betzalel and Oholiav as master builders. The parashah describes the building of the Mishkan itself and of much of its furniture.

If all of this sounds familiar, there’s a reason. In an earlier part of Exodus (Ch 25-31) God gave the commands to Moses. Now, in this and the upcoming parashah, Moses has gathered the people and is transmitting those orders to them. In many ways, this is a repetition of the earlier chapters, only with a different speaker and a different audience.

Some divrei Torah from around the Internet:

O Lord, Won’t You Buy Me a Mercedes Benz? by Rabbi Kari Hofmaister Tuling

Collaboration by Rabbi Rachel Barenblat

Power in the Assembly by Rabbi Don Levy

Breath of Fresh Air by Rabbi Amy Scheinerman

39 Ways Not To Work by Benjamin Elterman

“The Collector” by Ari Shacher

A Song About Wise Hearted People by Alicia Jo Rabins