VaYakhel-Pekudei – “And He Assembled-Accounts”

Our last parasha is a double parasha.  VaYakhel, which means, “and he assembled,” covering Exodus 35:1 – 38:20 and Pekudei, meaning “accounts,” covering the last two and a half chapters of Exodus, 38:21 to Chapter 40:38.

Vayakhel 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 this construction were given by God, through Moses, in Parasha Terumah, Exodus 25:1 – 27:19.  The difference is that Parasha Terumah outlines the plans of what was to be built whereas Vayakhel covers the actual construction.

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 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 from 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 workmen 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 laver, 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:

One 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, we should always keep in mind the great and awesome God that we serve and strive to do our best in all things.

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 that although men like Bezalel and Oholiab built the tabernacle, courtyard and all that was within, they were 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.

Parasha Pekudei begins with an accounting of the gold, silver, bronze and copper that the people donated.

But here is the important point.  When the gold, silver, bronze and copper were given, they were counted and dispersed by Ithamar, the son of Aaron the priest.  Moses made sure that he chose a responsible person to take charge of counting and dispersing things of value.  And this holds true for us today.  We want to make sure that we have access to people we can trust with our things of value so that we can know that they are being used in a worthwhile manner.

One of the things that I really like about this parasha is that it is so positive and uplifting. The people donate their valuables and then a trusted person, like Ithamar, counts and disperses them for the required work in building the tabernacle of God.    Bezalel and Oholiab, are the trusted artisans that then direct the work to completion.  And, if you read through the parasha, there is still much work to be done, although the building process has been taking place since Exodus, Chapter 35.  But all through the remaining work that is required in these last chapters of Exodus, we often read these words:  “…just as the Lord had commanded Moses.”  We read this phrase 10 times in Chapter 39 and 8 times in Chapter 40.  Just as the Lord commanded Moses means that everyone was doing what the Lord expected of them.  They were following God’s direction.  They were engaged in the tasks that He wanted them to be engaged in, and they were following those tasks to the exact requirements that God had laid down.

And, this is a lesson that we can learn in our lives.  We want to be doing what God requires of us.  We want to be fulfilling those requirements in the way that God wants us to do.  We want to have the sense that we are doing just as the Lord commands us.

Part of the remaining work of the tabernacle is making the garments for the High Priest, Aaron, the brother of Moses.  Chapter 39 talks about the priestly garments that need to be made.  The High Priest’s garments are made with actual gold and include blue, purple and scarlet material.  Precious stones are utilized as well.  The High Priest’s breastplate includes rubies, topaz and emeralds, sapphires and diamonds and other precious stones.  The priestly robe contains pomegranate shapes of blue, purple and scarlet and twisted linen on the hem of the robe.  The pomegranate shapes of the robe are intermingled with bells of pure gold.

Think how magnificent Aaron would have looked when he was dressed in the garments of the High Priest.  It had to have been a magnificent and amazing sight.

And, then, finally, in Chapter 40, all the work that has taken place in building the tabernacle comes together.  The tabernacle is set up, the ark is placed inside and screened with the veil.  The table with the showbread is brought in, the lampstand is set up and the lamps are mounted.  The altar is set up and the basin is placed between the tent of meeting and the altar and water is poured in it.  The court is set up and the curtain is at the courtyard entrance.  Then, Moses takes the anointing oil and anoints everything that has just been set up.

And, after all this has been completed, the Glory of the Lord, in a form of a cloud descends upon the tabernacle.  Another sign of the approval for the people for following the Lord’s direction.

Let me leave you with one last thought for both of these parashas:  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 tells 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.