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Parsha Vayakhel/Pekudei  Exodus 35:1-40:38

Parsha Vayakhel/Pekudei Exodus 35:1-40:38

This week is a double portion that deals with the construction and raising of the Tabernacle. This was the first “Barn Raising,” if you could call it such, found in History; except a “Barn Raising” is when a community comes together to build for a certain individual while the “Mishkan Raising—Tabernacle Raising” was a community coming together to build a house for God. To compare the Tabernacle to a Barn may sound sacrilegious, until we come to the book of Luke and find that Yeshua was born in a stable and slept in a manger. God has a sense of humor. If we are created “B’tzelem Elokim—In the Image of God,” then we reflect Him. If we are a reflection of Him and we as humanity enjoy a good laugh, wouldn’t you think God enjoys a good laugh as well? I am currently in the process of reading a book by one of my favorite authors. The title of the book is called “Happiness is a serious problem” written by Dennis Prager. In the book, he makes the statement, “…unhappy religious people reflect poorly on their religion and on their Creator.”
Now to be sure, I am not equating laughter with happiness, I believe one can laugh without being truly happy. But laughter should become a reflection of the heart; it should reflect a person who is truly at peace with their Creator, at peace in their relationships, and at peace with their circumstances.
Oftentimes, we get caught up in the busy craziness of life that we lose the peace, joy and happiness that comes from a heart that is united with its Maker. That is why this week’s portion opens with this first particular commandment concerning the construction of the Tabernacle. The first commandment given for the construction of the Tabernacle was, “…“Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh day shall be a holy day for you, a Sabbath of rest to the Lord.” It is hard to see how this command is in anyway connected to the building of the Tabernacle. Why is this the command God starts the construction of the Tabernacle with? If I were to start a building project, my first instructions would not be “Remember everybody, the weekend is a mandatory break!” Why would these be God’s first instructions? Maybe it is because God knows mankind. God starts this construction project with the one command most of us struggle with—Take a whole day off from all your projects; forget about your work and rest. Spend time with God, with family and with Torah…
“The Sabbath Rest”  by Samuel Hirszenberg (1865–1908) 
What is the message God is trying to convey here? He is teaching the children of Israel, and by way of implication, us as well, that the most important command of all, is to take time for communion with God. The tabernacle was built exactly for this reason. For God to have a physical abode so He could dwell among His people. What God did not want, was for the Israelites to become so caught up in the building process, to the point, that they forget what the building is for. To become so focused on building the Mishkan—Tabernacle and forgetting the Shabbat—Sabbath, means one has forgotten what the tabernacle represents.
The tabernacle represents communion with God. As Dennis Prager notes in his Exodus commentary, “…the holiest day of the week takes precedence over the building of the holiest place.” The reason for this is because; the Shabbat is a Tabernacle/Temple in time. The physical tabernacle was the building where one could draw close to God; the Shabbat was the time where one could draw close to God.
How many people have we seen who started out in ministry with zeal to build “God’s tabernacle” or “God’s kingdom” and got burned out? I feel that this was the problem God was attempting to steer the Israelites clear of. To not get so caught up in the “work of God” that they forget to spend time in “communion with God.” My question to everyone would be; when was the last time you spent quality time communing with God? Have you become caught up in the “works of God” that you have no time for anything or anyone else?
Here’s the point, don’t get caught “building a tabernacle for God” that you become too preoccupied from resting when God says to rest. Asher Hirsch Ginsberg, better known as, Ahad Ha’am, a Jewish philosopher (1856-1927), famously said, “More than the Jews have kept the Sabbath, the Sabbath has kept the Jews.” A day of rest is what has kept the Jewish people from burning out as a nation for thousands of years.
Exodus 31 says, “…The children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath…” In Hebrew it says, “V’shamru v’nei­-Yisrael et-haShabbat.” The first word “Shamru” comes from the word “Shomer/Shamar” which means “to be careful, to guard, to protect, or to keep.” The children of Israel were to guard the Shabbat; and because they guarded the Shabbat, it in return, guarded them.
Abraham Joshua Heschel, another great author, noted, “…the holiness of the Shabbat preceded Israel’s existence (Genesis 2:3). Even if people fail to observe the Shabbat, it remains holy.” What this means is; the Shabbat is holy whether it receives recognition as a holy day or not. Just as the Shabbat guarded the people who kept it, it is also a holy day for a holy people. The Shabbat is holy even as God is holy. Neither have need of recognition in order to be holy. The Shabbat is one of the few things found in the Bible that has “holy origins” —meaning it was holy/distinct/set-apart from the very beginning of time. With all of this in mind, again I pose the question; when was the last time, you took time aside, to keep the Shabbat, commune with God and recognize the holiness found in both? And again I repeat, don’t get caught busy “building a dwelling place for God,” to where you miss the point behind the purpose of a dwelling place, which is, an intimate relationship with the Creator.
 
After God’s command to keep Shabbat, we get into the details of the Tabernacle’s construction. In Exodus 25:30-31, we read about the appointment of Betzalel as Master designer and craftsman of the “Mishkan—Tabernacle.” It says, “See, the Lord has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; and He has filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom and understanding, in knowledge and all manner of workmanship…” God chose a special person to accomplish the work of the Tabernacle. It says in Hebrew that Betzalel was “Maleh oto ruach Elokim—He was full of the Spirit of God.” This is important to understand as we expound upon this idea. Where in the Bible do we read the 1st mention of the “Ruach Elokim—the Spirit of God?” It’s in Genesis chapter 1 verse 2. It says, “The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.”
In Hebrew it says, “v’Ruach Elokim m’rachefet—and the Spirit of God hovered…” And now we must ask ourselves the question, why was the Spirit of God hovering? Was it maybe because there was no place for God’s Spirit to rest? There is only one mention about the Spirit of God being on/in something between the Genesis creation story and the building of the Tabernacle. This mention is found in the story of Joseph. Joseph has just interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams (Genesis 41), so Pharaoh says to his servants, “Can we find such a one as this, a man in whom is the Spirit of God?” If you go back to what I wrote about during that portion you will see how Joseph is connected to “Mashiach ben Yosef—Messiah son of Joseph,” who is Yeshua. But what do we learn from the Spirit of God hovering at the creation story to all of a sudden being inside of Joseph and filling Betzalel? It tells us exactly what I mentioned several weeks ago. God desires to dwell inside of us. We have the ability to be God’s resting places; the Tabernacle was a resting place for God. Remember, I mentioned a while ago, “God is everywhere, but He only dwells in the places where we allow Him.” 
This is exactly what God meant when He said, “V’asu Li Mikdash V’shachan’ti B’tochamAnd let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell inside of them.” God filled Betzalel with His Spirit for one purpose. What was Betzalel’s purpose? That he could make a Sanctuary for God to dwell in and among His people.
I see and hear a lot of people asking for God’s Spirit. But we cannot miss the first and foremost reason why God’s Spirit was and is given. God’s Spirit is given to build the Sanctuary of God that He may dwell among His people. It is not given for healing, or for spiritual insight, or for tongues, or for “walking in the supernatural.” Some of these may be side outcomes from the giving of God’s Holy Spirit. But the main focus of God’s Spirit is for the building of a Sanctuary where He may dwell among His people. Whether it is a physical structure or within an individual person, God’s Spirit is given to expand the places where He can dwell.
 
In Exodus 38:21 it says, Eleh P’kudei HaMishkan, Mishkan HaEidut—This is the inventory of the tabernacle, the tabernacle of the Testimony.” The last thing in this portion that really stuck out to me was a comment I read in a book called “Daily Wisdom” written by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson concerning this verse. He wrote, “The Torah refers to the Tabernacle as a ‘Testimony’ because it testified that G-d forgave the Jewish people for the sin of the Golden Calf. Moreover, the Hebrew word for ‘testimony’ (Eidut) is related to the word that the Torah uses for ‘jewelry’ (Edi) –i.e., the spiritual crowns- that the people received at the giving of the Torah and had to remove after the incident of the Golden Calf. Thus, the Tabernacle is also called ‘the Tabernacle of the jewelry.’” He goes on to explain that the Tabernacle was the means by which the Jewish people could regain the spiritual height they had received before the sin of the “Egel Masecha—Molded Calf.” 
As it is recounted, each Jewish person received 2 crowns from God when they all stood together at Mount Sinai and declared, “Na’aseh V’Nishma—We will do and we will hear.” One crown was given on the account of saying “Na’aseh—we will do” and the other crown was given on account of saying “V’Nishma—we will hear.” Though they lost these during the sin of the Calf, God “offered them back in the form of the ‘tabernacle of the jewelry.’” I don’t think it is mere chance that in this portion we literally see the nation of Israel give physical jewelry and treasure to build a tabernacle where spiritual jewelry and treasure could be found. In fact it says, Israel gave so much that Moses had to tell the people, “‘Let neither man nor woman do any more work for the offering of the sanctuary.’ And the people were restrained from bringing, for the material they had was sufficient for all the work to be done—indeed too much.”
It is as if the people understood how important this building was. This wasn’t just about having a literal physical building for God to dwell among them; this was for the spiritual well being and uplifting of the people.
“The Jewish Tabernacle and Priesthood”
by George C. Needham (1874) from the Library of Congress
After reading how generous the children of Israel were for the construction of the tabernacle, I think we all need to ask ourselves, how much am I giving and/or willing to give to build a Sanctuary for God -or- a place where God can dwell? When I stand before God, will I have given my all for Him to dwell among us? How important is it for me, to see God have a place in the world? If I had been an Israelite, would I have been one who would’ve had to have been restrained from giving?  Let’s consider these questions and then give some more. He is worthy and deserving of our everything and beyond. 
 
There is beautiful picture here of a Divine exchange. We give our wealth, jewels and crowns away to build God a tabernacle, a place where He can dwell, in and among us. When we do, God in return, as it says in the Psalms, “…crowns [us] with lovingkindness and tender mercies.” May His glory be the crown upon our head, as is written in Isaiah, “…the Lord of hosts will be for a crown of glory and a diadem of beauty to the remnant of His people.”
 
At the end of the day, may the words of Rav Shaul—The Apostle Paul be our words as well. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” May we be found as those who love the Day of His soon coming appearing! We have now completed the book of Exodus. It is customary to say:
Chazak, Chazak V’nitchazek!  Be strong, Be strong and may we be strong! Grace and Peace to all,
Shabbat Shalom,
Samuel

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