Vayakhel – “And He Assembled”

This week our parasha is Vayakhel, which means, “and he assembled.”  Our parasha covers Exodus 35:1-38:20. Parasha Vayakhel contains the construction of the tabernacle, the items inside, and surrounding areas like the sacrificial altar. This parasha is also very similar to Terumah in Exodus 25:1-27:19. In Terumah, the Lord gave our people instructions for building the tabernacle and now finally in this parasha the construction is completed. Why such a gap between the parashas? Well between these parashas was the terrible sin of the golden calf and the renewal of the covenant with the Lord.

The vast majority of Vayakhel is filled with the specific details of the construction of the tabernacle and connected items. Instead of summarizing the details of the items built, I want to instead focus on our people. What can we learn from those who contributed to the construction and the builders who did the construction? What was the attitude of our people after renewing the covenant and beginning this work of the Lord?

We read in Exodus 35:21, after listing everything that was to be constructed, the attitude of our people in response to the words of the Lord.

And they came, everyone whose heart stirred him, and everyone whose spirit moved him, and brought the Lord’s contribution to be used for the tent of meeting, and for all its service, and for the holy garments.

We are then told all the gold, silver, bronze, fine linens, animal skins, and all other kinds of items that were the raw materials for the construction. One of the first items listed were earrings.  Remember that earrings were offered to make the golden calf. We chose to use our treasures in a profane way and were justly punished. However, our people still had plenty of jewelry left after that abomination and so the Lord told us to remove our jewelry in Exodus 33. Now our people honor the Lord by properly offering these items for a holy purpose.

Notice the attitude of our people described in verse 21 and repeated throughout the parasha. Our community was stirred up, their hearts lifted from hearing the Lord’s command. They immediately sprang into action and joyfully brought their contribution. Their motivation came from their hearts and spirits. From the deepest parts sprang a desire to see the work of the Lord fulfilled and joy in being able to be a part of it. After listing all the materials our people brought for the construction, we find this repetition in verse 29.

All the men and women, the people of Israel, whose heart moved them to bring anything for the work that the Lord had commanded by Moses to be done brought it as a freewill offering to the Lord.

This verse reminds us that the offering was entirely voluntary. Both men and women were involved in bringing contributions and desired to follow the command of the Lord. In fact, our people brought so much that in the beginning of Exodus 36 the Torah records Moses telling our people to stop! They had brought more than enough to do every work required and then some! What an amazing problem to have, people being too generous. So, the attitude of our people was unrestrained generosity and a profound desire to see the Lord’s work done.

But parasha Vayakhel also has lessons for us from the construction team for the tabernacle. The Lord calls two specific people to lead the crafting of His tabernacle and in verse 31 we are told that they were “…filled with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftmanship.” The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Lord that filled Moses, also filled these craftsmen. The Lord supernaturally gave them, and everyone who helped them, every skill needed to perform their tasks. When we think about the Holy Spirit, we tend to think about how He illuminates scripture, leads us closer to the Lord, or perhaps gives us the words we need to proclaim the Good News. But here we see the Holy Spirit gifting human beings with the knowledge to create beautiful things.

The plans for the Lord’s tabernacle were given by the Lord and so were perfect. But He also knew that our people lacked the skills to fully realize His creative vision. So, the Lord gave our people what they needed to see their duty fulfilled.

It is a sad fact that the wonderful tabernacle and later temples of the Lord no longer stand today. Left of them all is just one wall. The lampstands, altar, ark, etc. are all destroyed. But the people of God endure even as buildings crumble. When I consider our people in this parasha I am reminded of the importance of working together as a community to fulfill the call of the Lord.

Each one of us has a role and a duty that the Lord wants us to fulfill as servants in His community. Our people in this parasha were called to build the Tabernacle, but there was other work to be done as well. So today we may find ourselves in a role for all our lives or just a season.

Like we just read, the Holy Spirit enables us to use our gifts to do wonderful things that bring joy. The Lord calls us to do His will, but also empowers us through His spirit to see His will done. The question we must ask ourselves is if we know what the Lord’s will is for our lives right now and are we walking in it with His community?

The Lord calls humanity, like He has every generation, to set aside our idols and to embrace a better calling He has for us. The Lord will enable us to be effective servants, but we must make the choice to use our talents and resources for evil or for good. We can contribute to building idols or contribute to the works of the Lord.

May the Lord enable each of us to know our gifts and to walk rightly in them. May our community draw closer together as we serve the Lord together in joy. May each of us one day hear from our Messiah, well done, good and faithful servant.