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

“In the first month of the second year, on the first of the month, the Tabernacle was set up.” (Exodus 40:17)

We read two parashot (portions) this week because of the way the Jewish calendar is calculated. Months are determined by the moon’s cycle, but the year is determined by the sun’s. Therefore, a Jewish year can have from 50 to 55 weeks. Since the number of parashot doesn’t change, some years require that certain parashot get “doubled up.”

Vayakhel-P’kudai offers a subtle message about finding meaning in life. Vayakhel opens with Moses assembling the entire Israelite community, saying, “…These are the things God has commanded you to do: on six days work may be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a Shabbat of complete rest, holy to the Lord…” (Ex. 35:1-2) Rabbi Menachem Nachum Twersky of Chernobyl (1730-1797; founder of the Chernobyl Chassidim) interprets this to mean both work and Shabbat are commanded by God and are both imbued with Torah. Twersky recognizes Shabbat’s uniqueness but stresses the importance of drawing k’dusha, or sanctity into all we do all week long. Work is not an afterthought; all labor is dignified and any task is potentially a setting for k’dusha.

This idea is amplified when connected to P’kudei’s conclusion. After six months of work, the Israelites finally complete the mishkan, or Tabernacle. Moses sets it up, and, “…When Moses had finished the work, the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting and the presence of the Lord filled the Tabernacle.” (Ex. 40:33-34) This is not accidental; six months of labor, forbidden on Shabbat, but still imbued with intentionality, are the spiritual foundation for the mishkan. Only regular spiritual practice can create a space for God’s presence.

Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom


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