Exodus 35:1 – 40:38
VaYakhel Moshe et kol adat b’nei Yisrael “And Moses assembled all the community of Israel …” (Ex. 35:1)
Right here, we find history in the making. I mean, how often does anyone call the entire community of Israel together in one place? And if the call comes, how likely are we all to show up?
In last week’s parasha, the same verb – VaYakhel was used to describe the Israelites as they gathered against Aaron to demand that he fashion the Golden Calf. This week, in a dramatic reversal, Moses convokes the entire assembly to build a place for God in the midst of the camp. The result, is remarkable. Free will donations are requested, and gifted artisans and craftsmen are engaged. The people are so generous with their free will offerings that it becomes necessary to make them stop! In all of its glory the Tent of Meeting is completed, and God descends to the Tent to fill its precincts with the Divine Presence. We are finally ready to begin our journey to the Promised Land.
The verb VaYakhel can be translated as gather, assemble, or convoke. However, a deeper meaning is in play here. We might say that the very act of assembling was the prerequisite for building the Tent and finding the Promised Land. VaYakhel is not just a convocation, it is a mobilization. There is purpose behind VaYakhel, to which we are called. When we choose to become part of a kehillah (community), we become part of something greater than our individual selves. When we mobilize out of fear alone, we risk the same kind of knee-jerk reaction that led to the Golden Calf. When we mobilize around Torah, around love of God and of each other, then we see how the Promised Land beckons.
Hi there! I am the senior rabbi at Temple Beth Ami in Rockville, Maryland, where I have served since 2016.
(c) copyright 2018 by Rabbi Gary Pokras