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Parashat Vayakhel-P’kudei (Exodus 35:1-40:38)

“Bezalel made the Ark of acacia wood, two and a half cubits long;
a cubit and a half wide; and a cubit and a half tall.” (Exodus 37:1)

We read two parashot (portions) this week because of how the Jewish calendar is calculated. A Jewish year can have from 50 to 55 weeks because the months are determined by the moon’s cycle, while the year is determined by the sun’s. Since the number of parashot doesn’t change, some years require certain parashot to “double up.”

Moses announces two master artisans to oversee the crafting of the mishkan, or Sanctuary. The first is Bezalel ben Uri, who possesses God’s spirit, wisdom, understanding, and knowledge (Ex. 35:30,31). The second is Oholiav ben Achisamach, who has the ability to teach others the intricate work necessary to build the mishkan (Ex. 35:34). Each is filled with chochmat lev, heartfelt wisdom needed to oversee this sacred project.

Bezalel descends from Judah, Jacob’s fourth son with Leah. This is serious yiches, or lineage: Judah becomes the dominant tribe; King David is from the tribe of Judah, as is David’s descendant, the messiah. Oholiav, on, the other hand, descends from Dan, Jacob’s first son with Rachel’s maidservant Bilhah. Oholiav lacks yiches both because of Bilhah’s status as a servant as well as her national origin: she is not a full-blooded member of the family; Bilhah is “other.”

The mishkan is the most significant communal endeavor of the Jewish people to date. It is critical to the people’s physical and spiritual well-being. And Oholiav is one of two people entrusted with this sacred task. Vayakhel-P’kudei’s message is clear: a person’s ancestry is no measure of their ability to fill a role in society. Oholiav is chosen for who he is, not for where he comes from.

Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom

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