The reading this Shabbat is a double portion, “Vayakhel Pekudei”, Exodus 35:1 – 40:38. From the prophets the reading is special because it is the new moon of the month of Nissan, Haftarah Ezekiel 45:16 – 46:18, Shabbat HaChodesh and the Regular Haftarah (reading from the prophets) for Vayakhel Pekudei: I Kings 7:51 – 8:21. From the New Testament we read 2 Corinthians 3:1-14.
The reading of Exodus 35 starts with verse one. Moses gathers all the people of Israel! We are talking a very large crowd, and the question that ought to be asked is, what does the word mean?
“Then Moses gathered all the congregation of the children of Israel together, and said to them, ‘These are the words which the Lord has commanded you to do.’” – Exodus 35:1 [NKJV]
There is a logical question that is required for an understanding of this text. This event might have happened about two years after Israel had left Egypt. When they left Egypt there were 600,000 men between the ages of 20 and 50:
“Then the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides children.” – Exodus 35:1-37 [NKJV]
So, without a PA system available, and presuming that most of the men only would be gathered to hear Moses speak, that size crowd would have had difficulty hearing and understanding the voice of Moses, especially if he had not been healed from his stuttering.
So, what does it mean, “Then Moses gathered all the congregation of the children of Israel together”? The probability is that representatives of the tribes and the families were gathered – representing every group and division of the people of Israel.
This is why it says that those who were gathered were, “all the congregation.” This leaves an opening to a logical question regarding the situation and gathering that represented all of Israel. Why is this important? Because we have the text in Romans 11:26, where Paul states, “And so all of Israel will be saved…”
“Now therefore, send and gather all Israel to me on Mount Carmel, the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal, and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.” – 1 Kings 18:19 [NKJV]
We find out later in the story that there were hundreds, and even thousands of men of Israel, prophets and disciples of the prophets, that were hiding in caves from the wrath of Queen Jezebel and that were not up there on the top of Mount Carmel with Elijah. So, the word “all” often means that not all were represented there by their proper representation.
This might be a small detail and might seem unimportant, but logic and reason are always important and when we read the word of God we are required to think and to think with reason. If we don’t we can’t build our faith to the degree that is required, to be able to truly follow the Messiah. Faith has to use reason and rational thinking in order to be standing up for the word of God.
It is interesting that the first thing that Moses commands the people of Israel, is to keep the Sabbath day. The camp of Israel was like a beehive with people collecting silver and gold, wood, cloth of crimson and royal blue, leatherworkers and stone masons. People were working hard under the guidance of Bezalel the Son of Uri and his staff in the building of the Tabernacle.
Now Moses is repeating one of the Ten Commandments, the keeping of and resting on the Sabbath day. This is very interesting to me! I could think of dozens of issues that would be more relevant and important to these people who are finally free from slavery. I would think that people who were slaves would naturally seek every opportunity to rest and be more than happy to rest at every opportunity.
God’s wisdom expressed through Moses is to give Israel this very clear command to keep the Sabbath day both for the masters and the servants for the rich and for the poor of Israel.
The next thing that Moses commands the people is to give, to contribute:
“Take from among you an offering to the Lord. Whoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it as an offering to the Lord: gold, silver, and bronze; blue, purple, and scarlet thread, fine linen, and goats’ hair; ram skins dyed red, badger skins, and acacia wood; oil for the light, and spices for the anointing oil and for the sweet incense; onyx stones, and stones to be set in the ephod and in the breastplate.” – Exodus 35:5-9 [NKJV]
The speech that Moses is giving is a divine order and if it is in the order of importance – than Moses is hitting a hot iron for us today. There is no love without sacrifice and there is no sacrifice without giving from your heart.
The Lord is presenting some of the most important things that the people of Israel need to know and do, as they set forth on 38 years of wilderness wandering, before they enter into the promised land of Canaan.
This amazes me to think that it is the Sabbath and the contributions and sacrifice of the people of Israel that bonds these ex-slaves together and forges through suffering and sacrificing, twelve estranged tribes, into a nation.
I am thinking of the tribes of Israel and of the competitive spirit that existed between them from the beginning of their childhood in the house of Jacob their father. I am thinking of the blessings and non-blessings that Jacob delivered to the fathers of these twelve tribes on his death bed.
Now they were all standing before the fearful Mount Sinai, they have all heard the voice of God speaking from the mountain, they all are eating the mana from heaven every day. Now, it seems like they have graduated from the Mount Sinai college and they have to step out into the harsh and difficult desert of life’s survival.
God gives Moses the most important things that these people of Israel need to know and do during their future wanderings through the barren desert. So, first they need to know when to rest and how to rest. This is as important as knowing how to work, and what work to do.
If people don’t know how to rest (the best way is in accordance with the manufacturer’s prescription, our creator Himself and His instructions), also without His instructions, they will also not be able to work the way that they ought to work.
If the people don’t know how to give and contribute and sacrifice for the Lord’s people they will not know how to contribute to their own community or even to their families. The next chapters, all the way to the end of the book of Exodus, give us every instrument every furniture, every tool and procedure that is to be carried in the tabernacle of the Lord.
Every single tool and part of the tent called the “Tent of Meeting,” the Tabernacle (which is another word for tent) is given with detailed instructions down to the last detail. What can I personally learn from these tedious and super detailed instructions?
Well, I learn that the great creator of the universe, the one who so loves the world that He sent His only begotten Son to be a sacrifice and salvation for all of humanity. This God, is a God who cares and leads and guides His children even down to the smallest detailed instruction of His will for us, as His children.
I would like to share a few words also about the reading from the prophets and also from the New Testament.
From the prophets the reading that is connected with the Torah portion is from 1 Kings 7-8, the building and dedication of the Temple by King Solomon.
The temple was a building not from cloth and leather, but from stone. It was a magnificent building. Solomon brought 50,000 foreign workers from Tyre in the Lebanon. He imported cedar wood from Lebanon, gold from Tarshish, and purple from Lebanon. After the building was finished Solomon made one of those dramatic statements that ought to be posted on every synagogue and church building. These are the words of Solomon in his dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem:
“‘And now I pray, O God of Israel, let Your word come true, which You have spoken to Your servant David my father. “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built! Yet regard the prayer of Your servant and his supplication, O Lord my God, and listen to the cry and the prayer which Your servant is praying before You today: that Your eyes may be open toward this temple night and day, toward the place of which You said, ‘My name shall be there,’ that You may hear the prayer which Your servant makes toward this place. And may You hear the supplication of Your servant and of Your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. Hear in heaven Your dwelling place; and when You hear, forgive.’” – 1 Kings 8:26-30 [NKJV]
This dedication speech of Solomon is one that has influenced me the most, together with Paul’s speech on Mars Hill, in Athens. Paul states the same thing that Solomon is saying here in 1 Kings. Paul says:
“God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things.” – Acts 17:24,25 [NKJV]
This is a lesson that all of us, Jews and Messianic Jews, and Christians of all denominations, must know this truth that both Solomon and Paul and the prophets of Israel (see Isaiah chapter 1) knew. The Tabernacle built in the wildness with all of its intricacies and detailed instructions was built for the people of Israel. The Lord was above it as a pillar of fire by night and cloud by day, not inside of it.
It is idolatrous to think that church buildings or synagogues are the house of God, no they are houses for us, for us humans to have a place that is sanctified by God for His children to gather and to serve and to proclaim His goodness and mercy for all!
The individual, the community, is where God dwells. In the hearts of the people and within the anointing of the Holy Spirit is the place that God dwells as the Torah said,
“And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.” – Exodus 25:6 [NKJV]
I urge you to read the Torah portions and the prophets, and from the New Testament every week. The choice of texts is based on the relationship between these texts, and the relationship of the texts with each other, Torah, Prophets and the New Testament, makes the picture complete.
This article originally appeared on Netivyah and reposted with permission.