VaYakhel – “And He Assembled”

This week’s parasha is called, VaYakhel, which means, “and he assembled.”  It covers Exodus Chapter 35:1 – 38:20.  This parasha covers the actual building of the tabernacle and its implements as well as the altar of sacrifice and the courtyard of the tabernacle.  The instructions for building the tabernacle, the implements and the courtyard were given by God, through Moses, in Parasha Terumah, Exodus Chapter 25:1 – 27:19.  In fact, today’s parasha covers the same topics that were covered in Parasha Terumah in much the same language.  The difference is that Parasha Terumah outlines the plans of what was to be built whereas today’s parasha covers the actual construction.

We also have to remember that during the time between Parasha Terumah and today’s parasha, we had the incident of the golden calf and the Lord’s anger with the people and the need for forgiveness and reconciliation.  Towards the end of Exodus, Chapter 34, we have the renewal of the covenant between the Lord and the Israelis.  Finally, the plans that were given in Exodus Chapters 25 – 27 can be put into action.

At the start of Exodus Chapter 35, Moses assembles the people.  What a contrast this is to the last time an assembly of the people took place.  That was back in Chapter 32, when the people angrily assembled around Aaron demanding that he make them a god.  At that time, Aaron told the men to tear off the jewelry that was on their wives, sons and daughters and bring it to him.  Using that, he constructed the golden calf.  This time, Moses begins by reminding them about the importance of one of God’s commandments, the keeping of the Sabbath.  He reminds the people that they are to only work for 6 days and that the 7th day was to be put aside for the Lord.

After this reminder, Moses asks the people for a Terumah, an offering.  Again, we can see a contrast with the giving when the golden calf was constructed.  That offering was gold and silver that was torn off of people, but this time, the people give joyfully, so much so that Moses has to ask them to stop giving.

In Chapter 36, all the skilled workman are called together to begin the work.  They are led by Bezalel, of the tribe of Judah and Oholiab, of the tribe of Dan.  Bezalel’s skill is in building the tabernacle, its implements and the court of the tabernacle, while Oholiab is a skilled engraver and weaver.  In Chapter 36, the tabernacle structure and the curtains that surround it are produced.

In Chapter 37, we read about the construction of the ark, the mercy seat, the Table of Showbread, the utensils and dishes for the table and the lampstand.  In Chapter 38, the altar for burnt offerings, the bronze lavar and the court, with its pillars and fences is constructed and with that, the work is completed.

I think there are several takeaways from this parasha:

Since the Sabbath was mentioned at the beginning of this parasha, let me first make some comments regarding the Sabbath for our consideration.  The Sabbath is centered on the following 2 commandments.  Exodus, Chapter 20, verse 8:  “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.”  And, Deuteronomy, Chapter 5, verse 12:  “Observe the Sabbath day and keep it holy.”  Well, how do we remember and how do we observe?

We remember by reflecting that God created the world in 6 days and on the 7th day, He rested.  We remember God’s salvation of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt.  It was not until the Jewish people were freed from slavery and left Egypt that we were given, and were able, to celebrate the Sabbath.  For those of us who are Messianic Jews, we remember that Jesus called Himself the Lord of the Sabbath and we remember the salvation provided through belief in Yeshua.  And, finally, we remember the following:  The rabbis have a teaching that there will be 7,000 years of human history:  6,000 years where man will toil away and work and have difficulties.  But then, there will be a 1,000 year reign where the Messiah will rule over the earth.

So, the Sabbath looks back, it looks to the creation.  It looks at the physical redemption of the Jewish people out of Egypt.  It reminds us of the glorious Messiah who gives us rest and spiritual redemption, and peace with God through His sacrifice on the Cross.  And, finally, it reminds us of the consummation of human history and the advent of a Messianic age, a 1,000 year period of rest.  So, in essence, the Sabbath encompasses all the time from creation to the consummation of human history.

And, how are we supposed to observe the Sabbath?  Well, we are supposed to rest, which is what the word, “Sabbath” means, and that means refraining from working.  But the concept of work here is different then what we usually think of as work.  Work, in this case means creating, or making, something.  Since God created the universe in 6 days and then rested from creating, we are supposed to do the same. We humans are always so busy running from place to place building, fixing, making and doing.  But we are supposed refrain from these things and rest in what God has created and how He sustains us.  So, although we should be resting in God on a daily basis, this is one day of the week to really focus on resting in God.  And, one of the great biblical truths is that if we can really let go, and let God, it can free us from some of the daily worries in this life.

Another thing we can learn from this passage is the importance of trying to be in the right frame of mind before doing the work of the Lord.  Just as Moses reminded the people about the importance of the Sabbath and then began the construction of the tabernacle, whether we are teaching Shabbat School, speaking in other churches, doing street evangelism or even just coming to services, we should always keep in mind the great and awesome God that we serve.  This is the God who sent His precious Son, Messiah Yeshua, into the world to give us the gift of eternal salvation.

In today’s parasha, we can also see the importance of having a positive attitude about giving, whether it is of our time, our talents or our money.  For the giving to build the tabernacle, I am sure that some people gave more than others, but everyone gave what they could and they did it gladly and because they wanted to give.  We should have the same attitude.  Sometimes we will be able to give, or do more, at other times less, but whatever it is, let’s try to have a heart of gladness for what we contribute.

In addition, we learn from today’s parasha that although men like Bezalel and Oholiab built the tabernacle, courtyard and all that was within, they were exactly following the specifications given by God.  We, too, live our lives as human beings going about our daily tasks and relationships, but it is important that we do these things within the context of the specifications that God has given to us for these things.  As we live our lives, let’s remember to live them in a way that follows the specifications that he has laid out for us in His Word.

And lastly, as magnificent as the tabernacle and the courtyard with all the gold, silver and other precious metals and fabrics that they contained, Hebrews, Chapter 8:5 reminds us these are just a copy of the magnificence of heaven.  Likewise, the tabernacle focused the people’s worship of God through the offering of animal sacrifices; however, access to God was limited.  Only the priests could enter the Holy place and only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies, and then only once a year.  This was all leading up to a future point in time when Messiah would come to earth, die on a cross in Jerusalem and be raised from the dead to sit at the right hand of God.  Only then would direct access to God would be opened up.  Hebrews Chapter 9:8 reminds us that, “The Holy Spirit is signifying this, that the way into the holy place has not been disclosed while the outer tabernacle is still standing…”  But now, through the life, death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Yeshua, we who believe are allowed direct access to the Living God.  This is the most amazing blessing and one that should give us great hope and comfort, even as we encounter difficulties in this life.