SHABBAT READINGS & COMMENTARY

Friday, March 24, 2006 | 
Va’Yakhel & Pekudei(And he assembled & Then they numbered): Exodus 35:1-40:38; Ezekiel 45:16-46:18

On this Shabbat, Jews read two weekly portions, Va’Yakhel and Pekudei, finishing the Book Exodus. (The reason for this double portion is because this is not a leap year, so the 54 parashot (portions) are divided in the 52 weeks of the year.) Both parashot talk about materials that the Israelites contributed to the construction of the Mishkan (tabernacle) through free will donations.

The people contributed so generously that the craftsmen said to Moses, “The people are bringing much more than is needed” (36:5). As a result, only three days after Moses asked for donations to the Mishkan, he made an announcement that “No man or woman shall make any more work for the sanctuary” (36:6).

Maimonides (Rambam) categorized the mitzvah (commandment) of charity into eight levels. The highest level of charity is to help the poor, even though lending money to start a business or offering employment. Another level is that the giver knows who receives charity, but the poor person does not know the giver. As it is written: “Your father in heaven sees what is done in secret, He will reward you (in public)” (Matthew 6:1-4). That’s what the New Testament tells us, “But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing”

We also find in our reading: ”You shall not kindle a fire in any of your dwellings on the Sabbath day” (35:3). That’s why religious Jews do not turning on electric apparatus and drive cars on Shabbat. It is a clear command from the Bible and not a rabbinical added interpretation!

In general, our Shabbat readings speak about the exact construction of the sanctuary and sanctification of the priests.

On the first day of the first month of the second year, the tabernacle was completed (40:7), or the 1st of Nisan, which falls this year on March 30.

After the Tabernacles was completed with the finest gold and textiles, and cleansed instruments and persons, and “Moses finished the work” (40:33) – God covered the tabernacle, His dwelling place, with His cloud. “… and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.” That’s is like us in our walk with the Lord. Only after our heart and our home are cleansed can the Holy Spirit fill us. The heart and our home should belong the Him alone. Then in His time, He will call us to special service in His kingdom.

The “cloud,” the Holy Spirit, moved with the Tabernacle and God guided them through the wilderness. As long the cloud did not lift, they did not move. This is a lesson for us: Wait a bit. Let God work first, then go out “and preach the good news!” Don’t forget Moses’ 40 years of preparation! Sometimes we do more damage than good if it is not in His time. Let us leave it in His hands and in His time table !

- Michael Schneider –

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