VAYAK’HEL/PEKUDEI (Exodus 35:1-40:38; haftarot I Kings 7:51-8:21 and, because Nisan starts on Tuesday making this a special Rosh Chodesh Shabbat, Ezekiel 45:16-46:18) WRAPS UP THE BOOK of Exodus by building the Tabernacle: the traveling God-tent whose structure and contents are so lovingly detailed in the previous four portions. After making certain that all the parts are laid out and accounted for, Moses proceeds to assemble the people’s manifold contributions into a single coherent whole — after which “the kavod (honor, glory, gravitas) of Adonai filled the Tabernacle.”
At the beginning of Vayakhel, God asks Moses to assemble “the generous-hearted … the wise-hearted … all of the Israelite community” — the distinction being that the generous provide the materials and the wise shape them into meaning. Earlier commentators might see this “those who can, do — those who can’t, contribute” metaphor as a prooftext for community support of Torah scholars (or one’s synagogue!). But another meaning might be that building the sacred — especially sacred community — requires each member to provide the raw ingredients and wrestle them into place; to be and to become; bumping along together, shaping each other and being shaped into something that (we hope) looks a little more like God than it did before.
Shavua tov, gut woch and have a nice week,
Reb Neal (from our synagogue e-letter)