Vayakhel-Pekudei – A thought for the week by Michael Lewis

Updated: Mar 19, 2021

The double Sedra this week begins with the word “Vayekel”. Moses is calling on the people to assemble. After a reminder of the need to observe Shabbat we go on to an enormously detailed instruction sheet for the Mishkan, the Tent of Meeting. (Those of us who struggle with putting up flat pack items would surely groan at the complexity). There is some confusion as the instruction for the altar differs from that set out earlier. After the revelation at Sinai the altar was to be of earth and unhewn stone. Here the materials are wood, copper and gold.

The builders are described as “wise”. How do we understand this? What constitutes wisdom? Bezalel is described as being "imbued with the spirit of God, with wisdom, with insight, and with knowledge, and with [talent for] all manner of craftsmanship". We also are told of “every wise hearted woman”.

All were described as having the ability “to teach which was given to their heart.”

Rashi taught that “wisdom is that which a person learns from others”; “insight is that which one understands from the heart”;

When everything had been made Moses blesses the people, but the blessing is not described. There is a tradition, again from Rashi, that the blessing was to be found in Psalm 90, verse 12:

teach us to count our days rightly that we may attain a wise heart

This week we approach the month of Nisan and we find in the special Maftir of Shabbat HaChodesh the phrase:

הַחֹ֧דֶשׁ הַזֶּ֛ה לָכֶ֖ם רֹ֣אשׁ חֳדָשִׁ֑ים רִאשׁ֥וֹן הוּא֙ לָכֶ֔ם לְחָדְשֵׁ֖י הַשָּׁנָֽה:
this month shall mark for you the beginning of months. It shall be for you the first of the months of the year

As we prepare for Pesach, we start to spring clean our homes and welcome the coming year.

We recall our history and relationship to God at the Seder. We will, each in our own way, be building our own Mishkan. By passing on wisdom we will are able to recognise that our heritage is the presence of God in our own lives.

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