Weekly Scripture Reading

Shabbat HaChodesh

This week's Torah reading is made of two portion, Vayakheil and Pekudei.

Vayakheil

Yayakheil starts with the commandment to observe the Shabbat: “And Moshe gathered the entire assembly of the people of Yisrael together, and said to them, ‘These are the things which Yehovah has commanded, that you should do them. On six days work shall be done, but the seventh day shall be holy for you, a day of Shabbat for Yehovah; whoever does work on it shall be put to death.’ ” (Shemot 35:1-2)

From the fact that the commandment to observe the Shabbat precedes the building of the Mishkan, the sages concluded that labor is of value only if it can have a sacred as well as a secular purpose; otherwise, it is innately trivial - all our labor for the earthly things is just vanity and striving after wind. “The words of Kohelet Ben David, the son of David, king in Yerushalayim. ‘Vanity of vanities,’ said Kohelet, ‘vanity of vanities; all is vanity. What gains a man from all his labor at which he labors under the sun?’“ (Ecclesiastes 1:1-3) The wisest man that ever lived, King Solomon, is searching for a meaning in the man’s toil on the earth, and, in the end, he finds the answer: “Fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it is good, or whether it is evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13)

The man who could have anything under the sun concluded that anything of value that man can do is obeying God’s commandments, everything else is vanity and striving after wind which can be taken away in a blinking of an eye. But this order of commandments - observing the Shabbat before building the Mishkan - also signifies that an outwardly acknowledgment of God must precede any service to Him. Our service, as believers, is also of no value if we do not acknowledge God first, and acknowledge that Yeshua HaMashiah is Lord, “every tongue shall confess that Yeshua HaMashiah is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:11)

By observing the Shabbat we acknowledge that God is the Creator of the universe and that the creation of the world would not be complete without a day of service to Him. Our Shabbat service should be a paraphrase of His sanctification of the seventh day. “The meaning of the Shabbat is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Shabbat we try to become attuned to holiness in time... Six days a week we wrestle with the world, wringing profit from the earth; on Shabbat we especially care for the seed of eternity planted in the soul. The world has our hands, but our soul belongs to Someone Else,” writes Abraham Joshua Heschel in his book "The Sabbath."

The fact that the commandment to observe the Shabbat precedes the building of the Mishkan tells us that the primary productive labors in the material world are precisely those that are needed to create an abode for sanctity. This abode is actually not the physical Mishkan, which can become an empty shell, devoid of its inner holiness and can be even destroyed, but the Shabbat. Shabbat is a spiritual institution. “The Shabbat is our great cathedrals and our Holy of Holies, is a shrine that neither the Romans nor the Germans were able to burn,” continues Heschel. The observance of the Shabbat is a prerequisite to the worship in the Mishkan and thus, the worship in any other sanctuary made by human hands.

But Yeshua said: “I am the Lord of the Shabbat.” Thus, for us the believers, Yeshua is our Shabbat. Celebrating the Shabbat is actually worshiping Yeshua for which we do not need any special sanctuary but the sanctuary of the body of believers, the fellowship with one another. Shabbat is a day for gathering together for praising and giving thanks to Yeshua. The implied holiness of the Shabbat may have been the reason for the tremendous and the generous people’s response in bringing a portion for Yehovah.

This week’s Parashah is as much about the construction of the Mishkan, as about the people’s response when they were asked to give for its construction. It presents a stark contrast in using the word “heart” — in talking about people's hearts — with the one talking about Pharaoh’s heart. People's hearts were willing, wise and generous toward the things of God, Pharaoh's was a hardened heart, not interested in the things of God.

Shemot 35:4: “And Moshe spoke to all the congregation of the people of Yisrael, saying, ‘This is the word which Yehovah commanded, saying:
35:5: 'Take from among you a portion for Yehovah; whoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it as a gift to Yehovah: gold, silver, and bronze, and blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen, and goats’ hair, and rams’ skins dyed red, and goats’ skins, and shittim wood, and oil for the light, and spices for anointing oil, and for the sweet incense, and onyx stones, and stones to be set for the ephod, and for the breastplate.
35:10: 'Let every man with wise heart among you come and make all that Yehovah has commanded.
35:21: ‘Everyone whose heart stirred him and everyone whose spirit moved him came and brought the portion of Yehovah for the work of the Tent of Meeting and for all its service and for the holy garments. Both men and women came; all whose hearts moved them, and brought brooches and earrings and signet rings and bracelets, all articles of gold.
35:25: ‘All women with wise heart spun with their hands, and brought what they had spun, in blue and purple and scarlet material and in fine linen. All the women whose heart stirred with a skill spun the goats' hair.
35:29: ‘Every man and woman, whose heart moved them to bring material for all the work, which Yehovah had commanded through Moshe to be done, brought a freewill offering to Yehovah.”

The construction of the Mishkan was a matter of the heart. God is in no need of our contributions, but our giving is a sincere inner desire to elevate ourselves to a higher spiritual level, to have a part in the things which matter for eternity. Israelis’ hearts were moved not only to bring a portion from the things that the Egyptians gave them as gifts but also a freewill offering from their own labor. Every one of them did not want to be left out from participating in the making a place where the Presence of Yehovah can dwell among them. Their response was overwhelming:
“And all the wise men, that did the work of the sanctuary, came every man from his work which they made. And they spoke to Moshe, saying, ‘The people bring much more than enough for the service of the work’... And Moshe gave commandment, and they caused it to be proclaimed throughout the camp, saying, ‘Let neither man nor woman do any more work for the offering of the sanctuary.’ So the people were restrained from bringing. For the stuff they had was sufficient for all the work to make it, and there was extra.” Shemot 36:4-7

The people had to be restrained from bringing gifts for building God’s sanctuary, and if that was their response for a glorious building that was to eventually fade away, how are we to respond for the building of a much more glorious Mishkan, the Temple of the body of believers in which the eternal Glory is among us, Emmanuel - God is with us - Yeshua HaMashiah. If you confess that Yeshua HaMashiah is Lord, don't you also want to have a part in the things that matter for eternity by contributing from the fruits of your labor for the building of the eternal Mishkan?

“And Bezalel made the Ark of acacia wood; two cubits and a half was its length, and a cubit and a half its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height; and he overlaid it with pure gold inside and outside, and made a rim of gold around it… And he made the Table of acacia wood; two cubits was its length, and a cubit its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height; and he overlaid it with pure gold, and made a rim of gold around it… And he made the Menorah of pure gold; of hammered workmanship; its shaft, and its branch, its bowls, its bulbs, and its flowers, were of the same.” Shemot 37:1-17

The Parashah ends the account of the Mishkan’s construction with the vessels that represent the essence of the Sanctuary’s teaching. These vessels symbolize the innermost of human ideals. There is an Ark containing God’s teaching; there is a Table that reflects man’s struggle to sustain his physical being by fighting for his daily bread; and finally, there is a Menorah that reflects man’s obligation to spread the light of Torah beyond himself. The Ark that is in the Holy of Holies radiates its holiness to the Table and Menorah, and through them – and through us – to the entire world.

Pekudei

Pekudei consists of the last chapters of Shemot and it starts with the reckoning of all the amounts of gold, silver and copper that were contributed for the construction of the Mishkan. This is not only to emphasize the generosity of the people but also to attest that all was used for the construction of the Mishkan and that Moshe and Betzalel were beyond reproach in handling the donations by keeping a detailed account of everything given.

After a detailed description of everything made, the Mishkan was ready to be erected and consecrated. Shemot 40:17, 34: “And it came to pass in the first month in the second year, on the first day of the month, that the tabernacle was erected… Then a cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the Mishkan.” Shemot ends with the Shechinah – the Glory of Yehovah - filling the Mishkan on the anniversary of the exodus from Egypt. The nation of Yisrael has been established and it will be guided from now on - spiritually and physically - by the glory of God. The purpose of the exodus from Egypt has been fulfilled and the people are ready to start a new year as a free nation. Tradition tells that Moshe, overwhelmed by the site of the Mishkan, composed a prayer praising God and asking for His blessing upon everything they did – the work of their hands. It is recorded as Psalm 90:

“A Prayer of Moshe the man of God.
‘Yehovah, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth, before You had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.
You turn man back to dust; and say, “Repent, O children of men!”
For a thousand years in Your eyes are but like yesterday when it is past, and like a watch in the night.
You sweep them away; they are like sleepers; they are like short lived grass in the morning.
In the morning it flourishes, and fades; by evening it is withered and dry.
For we are consumed by Your anger, and by Your wrath are we terrified.
You have set our iniquities before You, our secret sins in the light of Your countenance.
For all our days pass away in Your wrath; we spend our years like a fleeting thought.
The days of our years are seventy; or if, because of strength, they are eighty years, yet their pride is but trouble and wretchedness; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.
Who knows the power of Your anger? According to Your fear, so is Your wrath.
So teach us to number our days, that we may get a heart of wisdom.
Return, O Yehovah! How long? And relent concerning Your servants.
O satisfy us in the morning with Your loving kindness; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Make us glad as many days as You have afflicted us, and as many years as we have seen evil.
Let Your work be visible to Your servants, and Your glory to their children.
And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us; and establish the work of our hands upon us; O prosper it, the work of our hands.’”

God, indeed, blessed the work of their hands. But as great as the Mishkan must have been it was a mere copy of the things from above for we read in Hebrews 9:21-28: "Moshe sprinkled both the Mishkan and also all the vessels of service in the Mishkan with blood. Indeed, according to the Torah, almost everything is purified by blood, and without a kapparah by means of the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. Therefore, it was necessary for the copy of the things in Shomayim be purified with these, but the things of Shomayim themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Moshiach did not enter into a Kodesh HaKodashim made by human hands, a mere copy of the true Kodesh HaKodashim, but Moshiach entered into Shomayim itself, now to appear before the face of Yehovah for us. Nor was it so that He may offer Himself again and again, as the Kohen Gadol enters the Kodesh HaKodashim yearly with blood not his own; for then it would have been necessary for Him to suffer often from the foundation of the world; but now, He has appeared to put away sins by the korban of Himself. So He, having been offered up once in order that He bore away the sin of many and shall appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin for those who expectantly await His arrival."

The Mishkan that Moshe built was a mere copy of the one in heaven. The earthly Mishkan had to be cleansed year after year with the blood sacrifice of an animal. So, too, the heavenly Mishkan had to be cleansed, but, as the apostle writes, it was cleaned not with the blood of a bull but with a better sacrifice, the sacrifice of Messiah, and, because of this better sacrifice, it had to be done only once.

The earthly Mishkan, with all its glory, was torn down in order for mankind to worship the Creator and not the things made by human hands. But through the Ruach HaKodesh we are able to see the real meaning of the Mishkan, the representation of the Salvation offered to us by the Lord. Through Ruach HaKodesh we are able to look at the copy and understand the necessity of the sacrifice of Yeshua for our salvation, to cover our sins without which we cannot come in the presence of a Holy God. And, through Ruach HaKodesh. we expectantly await for Yeshua’s return to be able to see the heavenly Mishkan, a glory that the mind of man cannot comprehend.

It is customary in a traditional synagogue at the conclusion of the reading of a book, for the congregates to stand and chant: “Chazak! Chazak! Venischazeik! – Be strong! Be strong! And may we be strengthened!"

Be strong indeed, Yeshua is coming back.