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Parashat Vayakhel (Exodus 35:1-38:20)

“You shall kindle no fire throughout your settlements on the Sabbath day.” (Exodus 35:3)

In Parashat Vayakhel Moses relays God’s instructions for building the mishkan, or Tabernacle, to the Israelites. He announces two master artisans to oversee this sacred project: Betzalel ben Uri and Oholiav ben Achisamach. They are chosen because they possess God’s spirit, wisdom, understanding, and knowledge (Ex. 35:31).

Additionally, though, they have the ability to teach others the intricate work necessary to build the mishkan (Ex. 35:34). Ibn Ezra (1089-~1164; a great medieval Spanish scholar) observes there are many accomplished people who find it hard to teach others. Rabbi Shai Held (1971- ; scholar, theologian and President of Machon Hadar) builds on Ibn Ezra’s insight and distinguishes between those who are unable to teach effectively (who hasn’t had a brilliant college professor who was a dud in the classroom?) and those who are unwilling. Betzalel and Oholiav are chosen because they are generous of spirit and share their expertise without hesitation (as opposed to hoarders of knowledge). Thus, the mishkan, God’s haven among the Israelites, is built out of the heartfelt generosity of the Israelites to God (through their donations of material) and the heartfelt generosity of Betzalel and Oholiav to their fellow Israelites (through their donations of knowledge). Generosity is a building block of sanctity.

It is fitting JCC Association’s 2019 Professional Conference occurred this week of Parashat Vayakhel. For four days, invited speakers, vendors, and JCC staff across all departments lived out Vayakhel’s message, creating a sacred space through generosity of spirit, experience, and wisdom. This exchange of heartfelt sharing transforms each participant into an individual mishkan, a generous haven of insight and inspiration for their JCC.

Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom

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