Parashat Vayakhel (and he assembled)

Vahakhel (“and he assembled”Exodus 35:1 to 38:20 is this week’s Sidra.

It begins with laws about Shabbat. No fire was to be lit on Shabbat and anyone doing work on that day was to be put to death.

Much of what we have already read about the Mishkan (Tabernacle) in Parshat Terumah is repeated. In Terumah we see the blueprint, but now actual construction commences.

Everyone contributed generously. They gave yarn, silver, gold, spices, oil, ram skins and precious stones for the priestly garments. The material would have been gathered at the time the Israelites left Egypt. We go back to Parshat Bo (Exodus 12:36)  to remember that which provides the answer to the FAQ. ‘Where did all this stuff come from in the middle of a desert?’

Skilled Craftsman worked to fashion the components of the Tabernacle. The list of materials is as follows

  1. Tent (woven curtains joined)
  2. Tent covering (rams skins joined)
  3. Hooks, frames, bars, pillars and bases
  4. Ark with its poles, mercy seat and veil
  5. Table with its utensils, poles and the bread of the presence
  6. Lamp stand with its utensils, lamps and oil.
  7. The altar of incense with its spices and the anointing oil
  8. The screen for the entrance to the Tabernacle
  9. The altar of burnt offering including its poles, grate, basins, utensils and stand
  10. The hangings for the courtyard including its pillars and bases
  11. Pegs for the Tabernacle, the courtyard and the attaching cords
  12. Garments for Aaron and his sons for the Priestly duties

People came forward with their donations and all those with skills offered their services. Bezalel and Oholiab were endowed by the Holy Spirit with special ability. Apart from their own work they ran classes for the other skilled people to perform the intricate work which constituted its construction.

The curtains for the tabernacle were woven with linen and scarlet, blue and purple yarn, embroidered with Cherubim It would have been neater than the artistic impression shown here, but it gives an idea.

The Tent was made of ten curtains, sewn together in two sets of five and joined with loops and gold clasps

The covering of the tent was of eleven curtains of ram’s hair sewn in two sets of curtains, one of six   and one of five to provide an overhang at one end over the entrance

The curtains were also joined by loops sewn in the curtains secured with bronze clasps

Another layer of goat skins and dyed rams’ hides covered the goat hair

It was all put together in a framework comprising twenty frames on the north side, twenty on the south and six on the west plus two corner frames making eight

There were no frames on the east, where the entrance was, but five pillars to support the entrance screen (as we will discover later).

Each frame measured ten cubits by one and a half cubits, (five metres or fifteen feet by about seventy-five centimetres or just oner two feet) mounted on two silver bases, joined with a tenon joint and held together by five bars secured to the frame with gold rings.

The tent and the covering would be placed over the framework. Also, a veil made of linen and scarlet, blue and purple yarn was to separate the Holy of Holies, where the Ark of the Covenant rested, and the rest of the Tabernacle. Four pillars made of acacia wood, overlaid with gold on bases of silver, supported the veil.

There was a screen over the entrance of the Tabernacle also made of embroidered lined and scarlet, blue and purple yarn. Its pillars, five in all, were made of acacia wood with gold covered filets and capitals. Their bases were brass.

The courtyard was a hundred cubits, that is fifty metres (slightly more in yards) with linen hangings supported by twenty pillars on its north and south side. The pillars were bronze but their hooks and fillets which supported the linen hangings were made of silver. The west side comprised ten similar pillars supporting fifty cubits or roughly twenty-five metres (or slightly more in yards). The entrance on the east was twenty cubits (ten metres or slightly more in yards) wide. The screen, at the entrance was the same scarlet, blue and purple yarn – five cubits (two and a half metres) high and supported by five pillars The tent pegs holding the courtyard and Mishkan together were made of bronze.

The detailed description of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) furnishings, that is to say the Ark and Cover, Table, Lampstand, Altar of Incense Washstand and Altar of Burnt Offering  is more of less a repeat of the specifications found in Parshot Teruma and Tzaveh

Haftarat Yayakhel                                   הפטרת ויקהל

The Haftarah portion is 1 Kings 7 verses 40 to 50. Sephardim read 1 Kings 7 13 to 26. We follow the Ashkenazi tradition, but the comments could apply to both passages.

The connection between the Torah and Haftarah readings is the comparison between the furnishings of the Mishcan) (Tabernacle) and the furnishings of the far more elaborate Temple built by Solomon  from material provided by Hiram king of Tyre. The Temple was very elaborate, and no expense was spared in the provision of decorative pillars and utensils made of gold silver and brass. The Mishcan had one washstand, while the Temple had ten mounted on decorative plinths made to look like carts. The Mishcan had one lampstand while the Temple had ten, five on each side of the entrance to the Inner Sanctuary. It had pillars mounted on pillars with lavishly decorated capitals and a bronze Sea mounted on twelve oxen A network of four hundred pomegranates were placed between the pillars. It must have been a magnificent and breath-taking wonder to behold.

Messianic Message

The Temple built by Solomon was magnificent and surely was built to reflect the glory of God. It interesting that the materials for both the Mishcan and the Temple were provided by non-Jews. The Tabernacle materials came from Egypt while the Temple components came from Lebanon. In the last days when the Temple of Yeshua’s risen body is resurrected in the land of Israel much of the foundation is being laid by Gentiles. Even from the point of view of secular history Edmund Allenby captured Jerusalem from the Turks in 1917 and in the same year the British Government indicated its approval of a Jewish State in what was then known as Palestine in a letter to Lord Rothschild from the erstwhile Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour.

In spiritual terms also Israeli Pastors and Congregation leaders are completing their education in prestigious overseas seminaries and many Messianic believers trace their first meeting with Yeshua to having been provoked to jealousy by people from outside Israel or the Jewish people. (Romans 10:19) We must never undervalue the gratitude of the Messianic Community worldwide to those in the Church who love Israel and the Jewish nation.

The Tabernacle is described in great detail. Why do we need to know all its intricacies? It teaches us that God is interested in every detail of our lives. The hairs on our head are numbered and nothing happens that God does not know about. (Luke 12:6-7). So why does God allow brutal wars and little children to develop leukaemia? The answer is I don’t know. But does God care? Very much yes. Much of the suffering we see everyday is down to man not God. The rich still exploit the poor and powerful organisation deny less powerful people their rights. Vast areas of the world are deforested for profit causing climate havoc in places where people rely on good weather for their harvest. Even Russia’s desires on Ukraine boil down to the leadership there disobeying the tenth commandment and wanting what Ukraine has for themselves.

Well, what is God doing about it? He has already done something. He sent His Messiah to voluntarily go to a painful execution in order to deal with the corrupt human nature that is behind almost all of the world’s problems.

What else can we learn from the Mishcan. Every component was firmly secured together. How would it have held up in a gale or a sandstorm. Quite well I should imagine. The frames were securely held by tenon joints reinforced by bars and the tent and coverings secured by pegs.

What is the most basic secure unit of the living temple? It has to be the family held together by the marriage bond. When the early Zionists came to the land of Israel they wanted to throw off the shackles of the old shtetl  (small Jewish village) they had come from and have the freedom to marry whoever  they fell in love with rather than be dictated by the constraints of a shidduch  (arranged marriage) The freedom trend however has gone too far. Modern Israel is now the antithesis of what it once meant to be Jewish with marriages succumbing to unfaithfulness and abortion performed on an industrial scale. The Messianic Community has an unprecedented opportunity to be salt and light in a dark land.

The next level of connection is the local Congregation or Church. The most difficult thing Jewish believers find is getting on with each other. Two Jews three opinions overflows freely into the Messianic world. However, putting up with the quirks and idiosyncrasies of our brothers and sisters is all part of the sanctification process as is our ability to forgive quickly and not allow wounds to fester. (Matthew 6:14)

The last level of connection of the living Temple is that to the worldwide body of believers. We can go to India or Africa and have more in common with the local believing community than our next-door neighbour who speaks the same language.

As we grow in grace these connections become stronger. It is not right to be a loner. The Israeli Amy recognises that fact and has special provision for the Khail boded  (lone soldier) to help him integrate.

How much more so in the body of Messiah

You have been built on the foundation of the emissaries and the prophets, with the cornerstone being Yeshua the Messiah himself. In union with him the whole building is held together, and it is growing into a holy temple in union with the LordEphesians 2:20,21 CJB

This article originally appeared on the BMJA website and is reposted with permission.