Rabbi Eisen’s Shabbat Shalom Message

Shabbat Shalom!


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Torah and Haftarah portions.


Candlelighting for
Friday, March 24, 2017 • 6:20pm

• Our Portion for the Week

VAYAKHEL – EXODUS 35:1 – 38:20
In this portion, we return to the account of the building of the Mishkan. It is significant that the original instructions call for building the furnishings before the structure, and the list begins with the Ark. This is meant to highlight the symbolic nature of the Mishkan: its purpose is to focus the people's attention constantly on the covenant with God. Here, however, we are told that Bezalel and the artisans built the structure before the furnishings in the proper practical order. Accordingly, we find that the tent itself was constructed with two chambers – the inner Holy of Holies and the outer Holy Place. Outside the tent was a courtyard constituting the third area of the Mishkan. The building of the furnishings is described in descending order of holiness. First comes the Ark, to be put in the Holy of Holies. Next come the table, the menorah and the alter of incense, to be put in the Holy Place. Finally, the altar of burnt offering and the laver are built, to be placed in the outer court. The descriptions of the actual building repeat exactly the instructions given in previous portions to indicate that the final product emerged precisely as God had designed it.

PEKUDEI – EXODUS 38:21 – 40:38
With this portion, we conclude the account of the building of the Mishkan and the Book of Exodus. It is stressed repeatedly that each item was made precisely in accordance with God's instructions. The completed parts and appurtenances of the Mishkan are brought to Moses for his inspection. He approves the work and blesses it in a manner reminiscent of the Genesis account of the completion of God's creation. This reinforces a connection between the Mishkan and the Creation narrative which has been apparent throughout these chapters. The connection suggests that with the building of the Mishkan and the implementing of God's covenant with His people, a whole new order of history begins. This theme is further stressed by the account of the date on which the Mishkan is actually erected – the first of Nisan, New Year's Day on the new calendar of freedom.

• Our Question for the Week •

These are the records of the Tabernacle, the Tabernacle of the Pact, which were drawn up at Moses' bidding — the work of the Levites under the direction of Ithamar son of Aaron the priest.
(Exodus 38:21)

Exodus Rabbah claims that, even though Moses had asked for material donations for the Tabernacle to cease, there are still items left over. Rather than wasting them, God suggests that the Israelites use them for a different project. How do our Jewish communities repurpose our resources in a positive way? How can we do a better job of using all that we have? Why is putting all of our resources to efficient use an important Jewish value?

How was the Mishkan transported given that it was made with so much heavy material. What is the purpose of making a portable structure when moving it can be so difficult, albeit possible? When must we sacrifice ultimate convenience for the sake of making something the right way?

While there are many who give generously and care little about how much others are giving, there are many others who are eager to compare giving histories. When is it appropriate for a fund-raising mechanism to publicize what people have given? When is it not appropriate? When a large donation is received, is it more important to keep the donation quiet, or to go to great pains to thank those who donated?