The End and a Beginning

Parshat Vaykheil-Pekude

Exodus 35:1 – 40:38

 

This week’s Parasha continues with the recounting of the building of the Mishkan.  In Parshat Terumah  and Parshat Tetzaveh, the instructions and designs are revealed to Moses.  And tradition states that in our portions this week, the plans are executed.  Moses now tells the Children of Israel of the plans and Betzalel and his assistant Oholiob oversee the craftsmen and women to complete the Mishkan, the Tabernacle.   “And Moses called Bezalel and Oholiab and every wise hearted man into whose heart Adonai had given wisdom, everyone whose heart lifted him up to approach the work to do it. (36:2). Volunteers were encouraged to be a part of the process of building the Tabernacle!

 It is always exciting to be part of making something. Whether building a home or just redecorating having a project like the building of the Mishkan creates excitement.  That is why there are so many television shows about housing design, make-overs and building anew.  One could get carried away with all the details and want to rush through the project to finish. But the Children of Israel are reminded in the opening words of the Torah portion to observe Shabbat.  The excitement of this project could mean that the volunteers, artisans and workers might work

non-stop. But Moses and God reminds the Israelites of their sacred obligations. 

 

What would it say and mean if Shabbat were violated in the building of God’s place on earth?
It would certainly be a contradiction of values!

 Perhaps for each of us there is an important reminder here.  In a world that wants to push us 24/7 to do more, build more, create more we must push back.  Perhaps we need to remind ourselves of the power and beauty of Shabbat not just the rituals but the opportunity for downtime, reflective time and yes, SLEEP!

 

We are one of the most sleep deprived nations.

 

Some of the latest research shows that “a team of researchers in Wisconsin and Italy has found that in rats kept awake past their bed times, their brains begin to turn themselves off, neuron by neuron, though the rat is still awake” (USA TODAY, 4-27-11). The most likely neurons to go offline are the ones we use daily!   This is like sleeping while you are still awake and affects functioning

 

“The research could mean that the 35% of Americans who told the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that they routinely sleep less than seven hours a night are also having portions of their brains go off-line even though they’re still awake.”

So the ancients and our Torah understood that we workers need down time and time to restore our souls AND OUR BODIES!  Shabbat is the way.  Even when we are excited about building a project, we can’t let our enthusiasm get in the way of taking time off to rest and renew ourselves.

 As the Ten Commandments remind us: Remember the Sabbath Day and Keep it Holy!!!!

Open Your Eyes

Parshat Pekude

Exodus 38:21 – 40:38

We come to the end of the book of Exodus this week. Often this portion is linked together with Vayakhel. But this is a leap year and we have two months of Adar. And so these portions fill their own week.  Jewish tradition teaches us that when Adar enters our joy increases.   This is in part because the holiday of Purim is in the month of Adar.  But when we have Adar aleph and Adar Bet we are doubly blessed and we have double the simcha or joy!

With this portion we are blessed and rejoice as well. It is moving day!  We are about to have a new home! The shrine of our God is ready!  The tabernacle is built by the children of Israel under the direction of the great artisan Betzalel.  The blueprints and space plan were provided by God through Moses.  The Children of Israel were both the donors and the crafts people!  And now it is time to move in!

All of us have moved at one time or another. There are so many preparations.  Packing and unpacking.  Moving the furniture into place.  Making sure that you line the shelves or and have the right picture hangers.  Getting the utilities connected.  There are so many details to attend to large and small. Sometimes you have to buy new furniture and sometimes you get the joy of building a home!

This is exactly what is happening in our Torah portion. Moses and Betzalel make sure that the Tent of Meeting is being fashioned properly.  Also they made all of the utensils of sacrifice as well as the garments of the priesthood are made by the smiths and weavers.  Then Moses has to assemble (or oversee) the tent to ensure its proper layout.  They built it, present it to Moses and then Moses ensures that the furniture is placed properly, the curtains hung correctly and everything is in its proper place.

But all of this is only so the Owner and Resident can move in.  And that is God.  Our portion ends with the Cloud of Glory descending upon the newly erected Tabernacle.  God takes up residence.  The God who previously dwelt atop the high places of Mt. Sinai so far away from the people; a disembodied voice now flutters down and takes up residence with us! God lives not in some distant place but now God is with us; living among us.

 

This is so radical.  Imagine even after the episode of the Golden Calf.  Even after the theatrics of hearing God’s voice boom with thunder from Mt. Sinai. Now God will live in a house made by human hands.

How marvelous that God was near.  And the Torah tells us.  “For over the Tabernacle a cloud of Adonai rested by day, and fire would appear in it by night, in the view of all the house of Israel throughout their journeys.” (Ex. 40:38).  Literally God is in the House!  The God we cannot see-we can see!
This is important for us today because it is a reminder to keep our own eyes open and aware.  We too need to find and look for God in our midst and in our homes. But how many of us are really paying attention. We see but we don’t see even when it is in front of our eyes.  Our mitzvot that we do in the world, the lovingkindness that we bring to others, the way we live Jewishly helps to bring God alive in our midst.  The time has come.  Open your eyes and your own home to Jewish living and to God!