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Parashat Vayakhel

Builders and Inheritors

Torah Portion Vayakhel deals with the building of the Tabernacle while the Haftarah, in Kings 2, deals with the maintenance of the Temple (except in those years when on that Shabbat we read Parashat Ha-Chodesh).

More than once have I thought that the Tabernacle is preferable to the Temple. The Tabernacle gave the people of Israel a constant feeling of building. The Tabernacle moved from place to place and it was necessary to dismantle and reconstruct it tens of times in the course of the years.

As soon as the Temple was built, the work was done. There was no more building, only maintenance.

While it is true that the Shechinah received a permanent place with the building of the Temple, we as a people lost something along the way. We stopped being builders and became inheritors, the opposite.

We lost the courage, the creative thought and the initiative that characterize generations of builders. We became inheritors and took the building for granted.

This always happens, not only with the Temple and the Tabernacle. We can see this situation on the national level and on the congregational level.

We too can ask ourselves whether we are the builders of the country or simply the inheritors. The same question is relevant today if we speak about our congregation.
Do we take it for granted or do we see it as something that needs us as builders and not just as inheritors?

Some time ago, when I spoke to our Bar-Mitzvah group about the building of the Tabernacle, one of the boys asked me a brilliant question: Where did the people of Israel find the wood for the building of the Tabernacle?

The source of the gold for the Tabernacle was clear to all. It is written in the Torah that Israel left Egypt "with great property" (Genesis: 15, 14).

The source of the material for the curtain of the Ark was also clear. The Torah tells us that we left Egypt "with flocks and herds, very much cattle" (Exodus 12, 38).

But wood? Where are there trees in the desert?

The midrash (Tanhuma, Truma) tells us that our patriarch Jacob planted them.

When he went down to Egypt, he said to his sons: "My sons, in the future you are destined to be delivered from there, and when you are redeemed, the Lord will tell you to build Him the Tabernacle! Then rise up and plant cedars now so that when you are told to build the Tabernacle, the cedars will be ready immediately." They raised up and planted trees as they were told to do.

That is a wonderful midrash. Jacob knew that neither he himself nor his sons would ever see the Tabernacle, but to build, from the Jewish viewpoint, is not only a matter of sand and plaster, stones and bricks.

To build is an enterprise that links the generations. To build is not just an action. To build is a view of life, an onward vision.

We might say that at first glance the portion Vayakhel is a general description of the architecture and interior design of the Tabernacle. But to define the Tabernacle as an arrangement of wood, metal and curtains is as absurd as to say that a Torah scroll is a hundred metres of parchment and a litre and a half of ink.

The portion Vayakhel is a call to all generations of the people of Israel to enable us to distinguish between building and vision, and simple inheritance.

Weekly Torah Portion

Old Hebrew Prayer Book
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