TORAH FOR THE NATIONS
The weekly Torah portion and its lessons for all people
Vayakhel-Pekudey, Exodus 35:1-38:20 & 38:21-40:38
Treasures and Transparency
The last two portions of the Book of Exodus, known after their Hebrew opening words as VAYAKHEL, "And [Moses] assembled", and PEDUDEY, "[These are the] Accounts", are in some years read in the synagogue on separate Sabbaths, while in others they are read together on the same Sabbath. (This depends on how the Torah calendar reconciles the lunar months with the annual solar cycle in different years.)
Previously we learned about the design of the wilderness Sanctuary which God instructed Moses to make (Terumah, Exodus 25:1-27:19) and the design of the priests' garments and how their ceremonial induction was to be conducted (Tetzaveh, Exodus 27:20-30:10) . Now in VAYAKHEL and PEKUDEY we are shown how Moses led the children of Israel in the execution of this great collective national enterprise in the actual material world. We learn how the people donated the various materials and how the skilled craftsmen prepared all the components, culminating in the erection of the Sanctuary at the foot of Mount Sinai and its consecration on the first day of the month of Nissan, one year after the Exodus from Egypt.
All whose hearts aroused them and all whose spirits made them willing came and brought HaShem's offering for the work of the tent of meeting, and for all its service, and for the holy garments. And they came, both men and women, as many as were willing-hearted, and brought nose-rings, ear-rings, signet-rings, girdles, all jewels of gold. And everyone who had blue, purple and scarlet dyed wool and fine linen, goats' hair, rams' skins dyed red and sealskins brought them . Everyone that set aside an offering of silver and brass brought HaShem's offering; and everyone who had acacia-wood for any work of the service, brought it . . The children of Israel brought a freewill-offering to HaShem; every man and woman whose heart made them willing to bring for all the work which HaShem had commanded through the hand of Moses to be made (Exodus 35:21-24, 29).
The various different physical materials that different men and women had in their possession and contributed for the construction of the Sanctuary correspond to the unique personal attributes and powers possessed by each and every individual.
Moses' call to all the people - the men and the women - was for each and every one to discover and understand his or her own unique personal treasures, skills and abilities and to contribute them for the glorification of God through His chosen Sanctuary, so as to bring harmony and peace into all creation.
The later Chassidic sage Rabbi Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810) called these personal treasures one's "good points", urging us to search after the redeeming good attributes each one of us possesses so as to know how we can make our own contribution to bless God's creation through our efforts in this life.
These "good points" are not to be understood as static attributes but rather as dynamic "power points" that bring us to perform practical ACTIONS in the real material world so as to make our own individual contributions to bring about God' greater purpose.
In the present age more than ever before we live in a world of enormously complex organizations involving intense specialization at all levels of society, in industry and commerce, education, communications and most other spheres of life, such that every person has his or her unique contribution to make.
So too in the spiritual sphere each has a unique role in constructing the great Temple that is constructed out of each and every person's unique good deeds, prayers and even the simplest acts and gestures of virtue for the sake of God. Much of the good that righteous people do may go unseen by the eyes of flesh and blood and unreported in the media, but God knows and registers everything, and no good thought, word or deed is ever lost.
In the words of the Mishnaic sage Ben Azai: "Do not be scornful of any person and do not be disdainful of anything, for you have no person without his hour and nothing without its place" (Avot 2:3).
The portion of PEKUDEY opens with a detailed and exact accounting of the various materials which the people contributed for the different parts of the Sanctuary, and what was done with their contributions:
These are the accounts of the tabernacle - the tabernacle of the testimony - as they were rendered according to the commandment of Moses through the service of the Levites, by the hand of Ithamar, the son of Aaron the priest:
All the gold that was used for the work in all the work of the sanctuary, the gold of the offering, was twenty nine talents, and seven hundred and thirty shekels according to the Sanctuary standard shekel. And the silver of those of the community that were numbered was a hundred talents, and one thousand seven hundred and seventy-five shekels, according to the Sanctuary standard shekel. And from the blue, and purple, and scarlet dyed wool they made plaited garments for ministering in the holy place, and they made holy garments for Aaron, as HaShem commanded Moses... (Exodus 38: 21-25, 39:1).
Theocratic societies are often ruled by priestly castes, all access to whose secret lore and inner workings is strictly sealed off from the general public. The same could be said to apply today under most governments, religious or secular, monarchical or "democratic", throughout the world.
The book of Exodus concludes with Moses' lesson in transparent government . Having imposed a "tax" of the silver half-shekel and invited voluntary contributions of other materials for the Sanctuary, Moses gives a complete accounting of all that was received and exactly what was done with it. Everything was conducted under the eye of full public scrutiny with no cover-ups, scams or filching from ordinary people's contributions for private use and other forms of corruption. Everything is open, honest and laid upon the table for all to see.
Likewise the entire Torah is open to the eyes of all men and women anywhere in the world. Through Internet anyone can find out how to acquire Torah texts. If they are capable of learning Hebrew and Aramaic and studying the original sources, they will be able to see for themselves that everything in this Torah for the Nations series is based on the authentic foundations of HaShem's Torah as received through the hand of Moses at Mount Sinai as expounded by the sages of Israel in the Mishnah, Talmud, Codes, Kabbalah and Chassidut.
Many translations of the authoritative sources have been made into various languages making the Torah accessible to all. Yet she reveals and uncovers the many secret treasures buried deep in her words and letters, crowns and melodies only to those who seek out her wisdom more earnestly than people seek gold and silver.
To understand the depth meaning of the Torah depends upon two foundations that are secret in the heart of each and every person: Love of God and Fear of God. Only you and I - and God Himself - know in our own hearts if we have true Love and Fear of God. It is upon these two hidden foundations that the entire edifice stands.
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