In this weeks portion, we finish the book of Sh’mot, Exodus, and read the twin parshayot Vayakhel and Pekudei.
At the beginning, Moses reiterates the commandment to observe Shabbat, and then goes on to explain, in excruciating detail, the construction of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, that is to be Hashem’s dwelling place with the Israelites as they travel. The question in this portion is what, in all of these details regarding the kind of blue, purple and red dyed wool, goat hair, animal skins, gold, silver, and copper, what can we learn from this, this mishegas? This craziness?
This is the questions I asked myself:
What does this have to do with me?
At the beginning of the portion, Moses asks the Israelites to donate these rich and precious materials to build G_d’s house, His Tabernacle, and to work to build the Sanctuary.
And what do the Jews do?
And give some more.
The Torah says:
“Every man and woman whose heart motivated them to bring for any of the work that Hashem had commanded to make, through Moses – the Children of Israel brought a free-willed offering to Hashem.”
They came and gave freely. Not only did they give, they worked, they sewed and built and labored.
In fact, they gave so much of their possessions and of themselves that Moses had to say, “Man and woman shall not do more work toward the gift for the Sanctuary”!
Moses told them to stop!
So what did I learn from this?
We are called to give, not as charity and not just money. Jews are called to give tzedakah, which means “righteousness” or “justice”. We are called to do right with ourselves and our resources.
Not just of money, not just of gold and silver and goat skins.
We need to give and give until Moshe Rabbenu himself tells us “Enough!”
And then, being Jews, we should give some more!
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A golden calf, and a missing leader.
In this weeks portion we hear the story of the golden calf, one that is familiar to so many of us, and also one that is so very, very heavy with hidden meaning it would take a very long time to unpack it all.
Moses climbed the mountain to meet with Hashem and to receive the Law. Through a counting error, the Israelites expected Moses back sooner than he was planning on returning. The Israelites got nervous and made the golden calf.
Here’s where I learned something new.
The sin of the calf wasn’t one of idolatry per se. Ramban tells us that there is actually a whole different interpretation. “If the sin of the Golden Calf was one of mass idol worship… the entire affair is incomprehensible”.
It seems that through the golden calf the people didn’t deny Hashem, they made the calf as a replacement for Moses. They thought because they had had Moses to speak to G_d, now that they had lost him they needed someone or something new to be a substitute for their vanished leader. Moses had spoken with G_d, he had led them through the sea, to Sinai, and directed them in battle.
It makes me think of different ways that we put people or things in between G_d and us. Sometimes we value others’ opinions and thoughts more than our own, and we can get caught up in the belief that they can better communicate with G_d, or that we need someone to mediate for us.
But that’s not really true.
We are Hashem’s people, His children. The giving and receiving of the Torah creates a two way relationship, one that is at once communal and intimate.
I guess what I’m saying is, don’t be afraid to take responsibility for yourself before G_d, to own this relationship that was created. There’s no one standing between us and G_d, and there never should be.