27 Adar 5773 / March 8-9, 2013
In this week’s double portion of Vayakhel-Pekudei, we find the Israelites finally constructing all of the various ritual objects to be housed in the Tabernacle, as well as the Tabernacle itself. We learn that Moses asks “everyone whose spirit moves him” to contribute gold, silver, etc. to the project, and that eventually he has to tell the Israelites to stop giving because they had contributed more than enough to complete the various projects.
A couple of obvious questions.
(1) After hundreds of years of slavery, how did the Israelites come to acquire such precious materials?
Well if you’ll recall, right before the 10th and final plague in Egypt (which we read about a few weeks ago), we learn that the Israelites asked their Egyptian neighbors to “borrow” such valuables, and that God had a hand in turning the hearts of the Egyptians towards the Jews (as juxtaposed with hardening Pharaoh’s heart). Upon leaving Egypt, the Israelites took these valuables, and now in the wilderness were in a position to contribute them.
(2) Who was in charge of designing these specific ritual objects and overseeing their construction?
Betzalel ben Uri (the master designer), along with Oholiab ben Achisamach (we’re taught that they both were endowed with the skill to do any kind of work). We learn that they did not build everything by themselves however. While we know that an overwhelming amount of valuables were contributed by the people, we also learn that those who were skilled laborers gave of their skills to help construct everything.
Too often in today’s Jewish community we focus in on those giving dollars, and neglect the inherit (and significant) value that comes from those contributing their skills and time.
How and when have you been asked to contribute specific skills to help your community?
Would your feelings change about Jewish communal institutions of they asked you to contribute your skills rather than asked you to contribute dollars?
Have you jumped at the opportunity if and when it has been presented?
At the end of this week’s portion, we learn that the Tabernacle and its accompanying sacred objects were completed, due to the generosity of the Israelites -- both of material wealth and of their time and skills. Let this important combination serve as a model for us of what our community can be, how we can include everyone regardless of means, and how in the end, doing so brings us closer to Divine service.