There is a commandment given to Israel that once every 7 years, during the Festival of Sukkot, they should assemble ALL the people to hear the Torah read to them. (Deuteronomy 31:10-12). Chazal (a Hebrew acronym that means, “our sages of blessed memory”) instituted a continuous cycle of reading the Torah. They defined weekly sections so that Jews would be reading and hearing Torah every single week and complete the 5 Books of Moses in a set time. The teachers I learned under taught me to follow the yearly Torah cycle and I discovered that Chabad divides their Torah study into daily aliyot. When the Torah portion is read in its entirety on Shabbat in the synagogue, there are seven sections, seven aliyot. The Chabad tradition is to study one aliyah each day, starting Sunday and going through to Shabbat. One who does this can get a double dose of the same Torah Portion each week.
Additionally, the Ashkenazic and Sepharidc, that is Eastern European and Spanish or Iberian Peninsula communities sometime differ on how they divide the Torah Portions.
It’s time to explore Torah Portion Vayakhel, aliyah by aliyah.
Vayakhel Exodus 35:1-38:20
Aliyah 1 – Exodus 35:1-20
Exodus 35:1-3 Moshe assembled the whole community of the people of Isra’el and said to them, “These are the things which HaShem has ordered you to do. 2 On six days work is to be done, but the seventh day is to be a holy day for you, a Shabbat of complete rest in honor of HaShem. Whoever does any work on it is to be put to death. 3 You are not to kindle a fire in any of your homes on Shabbat.”
Clearly HaShem is very serious about Israel observing the Sabbath. Earlier in the Torah we see that a man gathering sticks is found guilty of breaking the Sabbath as well as people who went out to gather manna and found none. Here we see a prohibition against kindling a fire as a Sabbath violation as well. Are these the only violations of the Sabbath? Chazal say that the second half of verse 1: “These are the things which HaShem has ordered you to do.” sets the context and defines that the Sabbath is not even to be violated for the sake of building the Tabernacle and that the labors involved with the tabernacle construction are what define “any kind of work.”
Exodus 35:5 ‘Take up a collection for HaShem from among yourselves — anyone whose heart makes him willing is to bring the offering for HaShem: gold, silver and bronze;
HaShem has always cared about what is in your heart. From Cain to Cornelius, HaShem has looked at the heart and judged how actions and thoughts aligned. Anything done out of obligation alone, with no love is unacceptable to Him. Any good things done with love, passion or gratitude is accepted as a pleasing aroma to the Almighty.
Exodus 35:10 ‘Then let all the craftsmen among you come and make everything HaShem has ordered
We see here again that the Tabernacle requires work to be done. That’s where the 39 prohibitions come from. That’s something you may be interested in looking into yourself some time.
Aliyah 2 – Exodus 35:21-29
Exodus 35:22 Both men and women came, as many as had willing hearts; they brought nose-rings, earrings, signet-rings, belts, all kinds of gold jewelry — everyone bringing an offering of gold to HaShem.
This feels like an opportunity for the people of Israel to make up for the sin of the golden calf.
Aliyah 3 – Exodus 35:30-36:7
Exodus 36:1 “B’tzal’el and Oholi’av, along with all the craftsmen whom HaShem has endowed with the wisdom and skill necessary to carry out the work needed for the sanctuary, are to do exactly according to everything HaShem has ordered.”
B’tzal’el and Oholi’av kind of come out of nowhere don’t they. They are two of a handful of named people who have a big impact as Israel sojourns through the Wilderness.
Aliyah 4 – Exodus 36:8-19
Exodus 36:9 Each sheet was forty-two feet long and six feet wide; all the sheets were the same size.
Earlier it is said that all the craftsmen did everything exactly as HaShem wanted. Why did it matter to HaShem that the sheets all be the same size? Why not just focus on the end product? Why not 12 smaller sheets or 7 larger sheets as opposed to 10 sheets of the same size?
Aliyah 5 – Exodus 36:20-37:16
Exodus 36:27 For the rear part of the tabernacle, toward the west, he made six planks.
This is something I use to support my Temple Mount is where Eden once stood theory. The rear of the Tabernacle being toward the West, would make the front of it, the entrance to the Mishkan be on the East. The entrance to Eden that was guarded and sealed off was on its Eastern side.
Another thing, entering it, you would come in from the East and face West while you are there. Was this done to separate Israel from Egypt’s sun-god worship?
Aliyah 6 – Exodus 37:17-29
Exodus 37:1 B’tzal’el made the ark of acacia-wood three-and-three-quarters feet long, two-and-a-quarter feet wide and two-and-a-quarter feet high.
Did Betzalel do all of this gold work while the other artisans did the other work? It only mentions him in this entire chapter.
Aliyah 7 – Exodus 38:1-20
Exodus 38:8 He made the basin of bronze with its base of bronze from the mirrors of the women serving at the entrance to the tent of meeting.
Who are these women and what did they do?
Before I go, I want to answer questions raised at the beginning of this session. These are my opinions, based on my time studying under various teachers and while I try to set aside any commentaries while examining each aliyah, I will allow myself to bring some back in for this section. I will disclose where I am getting these ideas where relevant.
- Was Aharon supposed to lead the building of the Tabernacle?
Were B’tzal’el and Oholi’av raised up because of how Aharon contributed to the sin of the golden calf? I think it is possible, especially if the people of Israel bringing these offerings of gold to HaShem for the Tabernacle is a way to sort of undo their sin with offering the gold for the idol. The people who gave to the idol and the Tabernacle should be different because the golden calf worshipers should have been killed by this point. A different set of the people brought forth the materials for the Mishkan so a different craftsman should be tasked with assembling it.
2. Does HaShem want uniformity or does He see all His people as being equal to each other?
I am spiritualizing this topic of the sheets used for the tent of the Mishkan, but I think it is a good question to ask. Do these tent sheets actually represent believers? I don’t know, but maybe they can. Peter says followers of Messiah are being built up as stones of the Temple. There is a godly standard believers are to follow, but there is room for individuality and I think HaShem will use our differences to compliment and strengthen each other. Furthermore, I think we are all equal is His eyes, as a father loves all his children even though they are unique and offer varying levels of difficulty.
3. Who are these mirror women and what did they do?
There is some cool commentary on this. I encourage you to find out what Rashi and others say.
That concludes my journey through Mishpatim for the year 5782.
I hope these words have been a blessing to you.
May our Heavenly Father give you peace and joy.
This is Matthew and I am Walking In Liberty.