Parashat Vayakhel

Zachary DuBow
10 min readJun 6, 2022

25 Adar I 5782
February 26 2022

[from Stone Chumash]

In this parasha Moses addresses the entire nation & charges them with the privilege of building the Tabernacle, according to the instructions given by G-D in the previous chapters. Much of the text is therefore a virtual repetition of those verses.

That so many verses are devoted to the Tabernacle speak to its great significance, & Israel’s ability to create an abode for G-D according to those detailed instructions is a measure of its greatness as well — indeed, this is a primary reason for Israel’s very existence, for its future history would revolve around its worthiness to have the Temple in its midst.

When Israel was unfaithful to its trust, G-D’s presence would depart from the Temple, leaving it an empty shell & avoid if its inner holiness. Once that happened, destruction & national exile came quickly.

The challenge of the exile is for Israel to return to its former estate & thereby bring about the Messianic Era & the Third Temple.

This longing is expressed in our daily prayers that G-D return us to Jerusalem & the Temple — may it be speedily in our days!

Ohr Torah Stone

The Torah’s repetition of the Tabernacle parts & the nation’s role in its construction indicates G-D’s love of Israel His regard for its activities in serving Him. This is reminiscent of the attention which the Torah lavishes on Eliezer in his search for Isaac’s wife in parashat Chayei Sarah (Or HaChaim).

‘Vayakhel Moshe,’ the 1st words of the parasha, is often translated as ‘Moses assembled.’ Rashi points out, however, that Vayakhel is a HIFIL-language-form word, causative , meaning one who causes something to happen rather than making it happen by oneself. This teaches us that men can’t be ‘gathered’ by hands/force, but rather by words, which causes them to gather themselves.

‘Eileh HaDevarim’ — ‘these are the things’ — referring to the categories of labor needed to build the Tabernacle, & from which is derived that there are 39 such categories. From the juxtaposition of the Tabernacle to the next two verses which deal with Shabbat, the Sages derive that these same 39 categories of work are also forbidden on Shabbat (Shabbat 97b) — acknowledgement of G-D (~testimonial Mitzvoth like Shabbat) must precede service (~ritual Mitzvoth like Temple service)- & a lesson for life:

Labor is of value only if it can have a sacred as well as a secular purpose; otherwise, it’s innately trivial. Thus, the Torah teaches us that the primary productive labors in the material world are precisely those needed to create an abode for sanctity.’

The Torah specifies the work of kindling a fire, singling out this category from the 38 others, to allude to the law that, unlike on holidays when food preparation is allowed, on Shabbat such work is prohibited, & fire is used as the prototypal labor for food prep.

This prohibition is indicative of the Jewish principle that the Torah can be understood only as it’s interpreted by the Oral Law, which G-D taught to Moses, & which he transmitted to the nation. The Oral Law makes clear that only the creation of a fire & such use of it as cooking & baking are forbidden, but there’s no prohibition against enjoying its light & heat. Deviant sects that denied the teachings of the Sages misinterpreted this passage to refer to all use of fire, so they would sit in the dark throughout Shabbat, just as they sat in spiritual darkness all their lives.

[From the Lubavitcher Rebbe]

Continuing on the parasha’s first word, Vayakhel:

‘Assembled / assembly’ — this represents the team, the community, & how unique individuals merge to form a single whole.

The following Torah portion, Pekudei, refers to ‘counting,’ stressing the worth of each individual & how everyone counts as a separate entity.

In most years this parasha Vayakhel is paired with Pekudei, teaching us of our ability to harmonise these 2 opposing ideas, the team versus the individual.

Likewise, two perspectives:

  1. Quantity versus quality of divine service, the latter only possible from merging with something greater than oneself, something unreachable by ourselves.
  2. Macro view realizing there’s no reality but G-D, versus the micro perspective, where every detail in this world — each creation & each person — every thing in this world reveals G-D’s glory in its own way.

Both the team and individual have redeeming values: however low a team member may be, they’re still part of a community & connected to its fellow & leaders. And however low an individual may fall, each one has unique talents from a unique perspective given to them by G-D specifically designated for them.

The NESIIM aka leaders & rich men of the nation are taken to task by the Sages for not acting with alacrity when it came time to donate supplies for the Tabernacle.

They eventually paid their share, as we all do, but their fault lie primarily with their poor judgment [and/or laziness / hoard-mentality / dragons protecting their gold], not their charitableness.

These leaders thought nobly that it’s better to wait for the people to rise up, let them build up their excitement & be rewarded for getting in on the ground floor. Put their needs first, then if any insufficiencies the leaders will make up the gap.

It’s reasonable logic but misses a key ingredient of leadership: leading by example.

The people were already inspired. They had witnessed the miracles of the Exodus & the Revelation at Sinai, & they had fallen by the Golden Calf but then returned to G-D & now building a home for Him — they were ready! The leaders should have acted first, using their influence & their leverage to build a strong foundation, & that would have inspired the people to give even more, at a quicker pace, & with greater enthusiasm.

  • Lubavitcher Rebbe

Lesson learned, the tribal leaders later corrected their mistake with the inauguration of the Tabernacle in Numbers.

What can we say of our leaders today? How few of them have such noble ideals guiding them, or even in their line of sight?

Israel is compared to a sheep surrounded by wolves who miraculously survives time & again.

It’s now as if the world’s people are the sheep & [some of] the world’s elite the wolves.

How could so few corral so many? Why did G-D ordain it this way?

It’s almost as if Moses’ warning / prophecies to Israel in Leviticus & Deuteronomy has come true not only for Israel — throughout history — but also for the world.


Excerpts from the Leviticus TOCHACHA aka warning/rebuke [including both the nice & naughty, the good & bad, the relapse & recovery, the fall & rise, the gotchas & gotchus]:

Unpleasant things:

But, eventually, happily ever after:

4th portion summary:

The work on the Tabernacle begins with the Curtains. The Torah details all the parts, materials used, colors & designs, measurements, and the assembly.

At the end another layer is made, the Covering MICHSEH of the Tent (as opposed to the Cover KAPORET of the Ark)


Previously we read of the mandate to build the Tabernacle and the contributions made by the people . They kept giving until the artisans came and told Moses they had enough, and Moses then instructed the people to stop giving (Exodus 36:4–7).

[Stone Chumash]

The sequence of events is a tribute to all concerned. The generosity of the people was unlimited, the artists/craftsmen were scrupulously hones — refusing to accept more than they needed — & Moses, unlike typical ruler, was uninterested in the self-aggrandizement of amassing huge treasuries that would be at his disposal (Ramban).

Q: So there was still extra? What was done with the leftovers? How was it both ‘enough’ & ‘extra?’

A1: There was only a small, insignificant amount of leftover material, and it was put away for future repair work, or it was used to make additional vessel for the Tabernacle service (Ramban).

A2: Since there was a bit extra, the artisans could do their work without skimping on their use of materials (Sforno).

A3: In order that every contributor would have their gift used for the Tabernacle & not be embarrassed by the return of their contribution, a miracle happened and everything that was ‘extra’ was incorporated into the Tabernacle & its parts, without making them anyb bigger than they were required to be (Or HaChaim).

The Four Parshiot

The Shabbat of, or before, Rosh Chodesh Adar preceding Pesach is designated as the first of four special parshiot that herald the arrival of Pesach.

The four parshiot, in order:

  1. Shekalim — we read (Exodus 30:11–16) of the community-wide donation of the half-shekel contribution toward the communal sacrificial offerings
  2. Zachor — we read (Deut. 25:17–19) of the command to wipe out our archenemy Amalek, who attacked us on our way out of Egypt — after the Reed Sea & before Mount Sinai
  3. Parah — we read (Numbers 19:1–22) of the Red Heifer, used for purifying ourselves from the impurities of death & preparing ourselves to partake of the Pesach festival offerings
  4. HaChodesh — we read (Exodus 12:1–20) of the commandment to keep time according to the Jewish calendar, specifically to make Nissan the head of all months. By declaring the new month, the Jewish people have the freedom & responsibility to sanctify life and the passage of time in service of G-D their Master, whereas before they were slaves to human masters in Egypt.

These four then culminate in the 5th: HaGadol, the Shabbat preceding Pesach.

Parashat Shekalim

This week is parashat Shekalim in addition to Vayakhel.

The donations were used to purchase the communal Korban Tamid sacrificial offerings, which stoned for our souls so that G-D could dwell in each of us & leave no Jewish soul severed from D’VEIKUT / attachment to G-D. This cannot be accomplished alone, but only as part of a community. In fact, in this community everyone gives the same amount & joins equally in serving G-d & atoning for their souls. It’s a half-shekel, teaching us we are incomplete by ourselves. — Netivot Shalom

The half-shekel contribution of each Jew, no matter their socioeconomic standing. This teaches us that we’re all equal in our AHAVA V’RATZON, the love for G-D & willingness to serve Him, the inner strength that was implanted in us at Mount Sinai. Fear of G-D, however, is a choice, & other attributes, as well come in unique measures to each person. Money can be used as an aspect of love — in which we’re all equal — in that a rich man can uplift the poor man, he can awaken in him his love for G-D, & give the half-shekel on his behalf, as his partner. Alone, however, the rich man can give no more. (Sfat Emet)

That ‘pintele Yid,’ the core piece of a Jew’s soul that is [as?] a fragment of G-D Himself is like a lightbulb — it provides the same light for everyone, and though some shine brighter & others are more murky or covered in dust, each has the same core (Rabbi Schuster).

[Stone Chumash]

Having first focused on the auxiliary aspects of the Tabernacle thus far in the parasha, the Torah now details the main event. ‘Last in deed but first in thought.’

The Torah gives an account of the vessels that represent the essence of the Sanctuary’s teachings & the innermost of human ideals, beginning with the Ark which contains G-D’s teachings. Then a Table that reflects man’s struggle to sustain his physical being by fighting for his daily bread. And finally, the Menorah that reflects man’s obligation to spread the light of Torah beyond himself. The Ark in the Holy of Holies radiates its holiness to the Table & Menorah, & through them to the entire nation.

Following these we have the Altars, used for the less-than ideal scenarios when we have to appease Him (incense Altar) to restore our relationship with Him after we have atoned (sacrificial Altar) for our sins.

[Stone Chumash]

‘From the mirrors of the legions’ — Exodus 38:8

The making of the KIYOR / Laver, a large copper basin used for washing hands & feet before performing the Temple service.

The Laver was made exclusively from the brightly polished sheets of copper that the Jewish women in Egypt had used as mirrors to make themselves look attractive to their husbands & seduce them — even amid their slavery & suffering.

Moses had been reluctant to accept these mirrors as gifts for the Tabernacle because they had been used to incite lust, but G-D told him he was wrong since they were instrumentals in the survival of the nation. The women used their charms to help entice the me to continue normal family life even after a long day of backbreaking labor.

Thanks to this, ‘legions’ of Jewish children were born.

Therefore, G-D said, not only should these mirrors be used but they are to serve as the exclusive material for the Laver, whose waters would be used to bring peace between husband & wife by proving innocence in cases of suspected adultery (Numbers 5:17,28). Thus, the implements that brought husbands & wives togethers in Egypt were used exclusively to fashion the vessel that would end suspicion & animosity within families (Rashi).