In this week’s double-portion we find a reiteration of the construction of the Tabernacle. The greatest difference found between these two instruction/construction passages is its verbal communication. In past portions God told Moses, “You shall make.” Now in these two portions we read the phrase “he made,” over and over again. The portions this week give action to God’s grand-master-plan concerning the Tabernacle. Words without action are worthless, meaning, God needs people of action to bring His plan of redemption to the World. The construction of the Tabernacle was a connection between Heaven and earth, between God and mankind. But why is the building of the Tabernacle repeated? Xus Casal points out, “the last two portions of Exodus (Ch 35 to 48) could be summarized in one single sentence: ‘And Israel made the Tabernacle according to God’s instructions.’ 

So why the repetition?” Repetition in the Hebrew language is a way to emphasize what is being said. In the Gospels, our Master Yeshua is often recorded saying things like, “Surely, Surely” or “Truly, Truly.” This doubling of words is common to Jewish literature when an individual is making a profound statement or a chiddush (new insight). When words are doubled it means, “Pay attention” and “listen up!” Moreover, this occurrence doesn’t just apply to words, but to the Biblical stories we also find doubled. If we go all the back to the very beginning of Genesis we read about the “Creation Story.” There are 2 accounts of this occurrence rather than just 1. Genesis chapters One and Two give us a glimpse into the same happening from different angles. These two creation chapters, I believe, represent the view of the Creator versus the view of the Created. Chapter one records Creator God interacting with nature and humanity. In chapter two, Created man interacts within nature with God. These accounts are what join Heaven to earth, because within each separate account, both parties are looking for each other.

The building of the Tabernacle was a joint effort, God gave a Divine plan, and mankind was commissioned to implement it. Both God’s and mans perspective are recorded in the Torah. This information alone should awaken us to recognize the importance of this building. There are over 50 chapters in the Torah dealing with the construction of the Tabernacle; there are only 2 for the creation of the Universe. What is more important for us to understand? How God created the world for man, or how man created a “world” within the world for God? As Rabbi Jonathan Sacks notes, “The universe is the space God made for humanity. The Mishkan (Tabernacle) is the space human beings made for God.”
However, why is the Book of Exodus, which is concentrated on the building of a nation suddenly obsessed with a structure for the Divine? What does the Tabernacle have to do with nation building other than it includes the idea of “a building?” It would seem that the Israelites should be more concentrated on building a system of government and rule-of-law, rather than get sidetracked by a Tent in the middle of the desert. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks Z”TL writes that the construction of the Tabernacle was in fact God’s team-building project, turning the Israelites from “a group of escaping slaves into a cohesive nation.” The process of the Israelites becoming a unified nation was centered on a construction project for God.

The entire people gathered together—as a nation—donating wealth, materials and talent to build a House for God in their midst. Rabbi Sacks continues by writing, “Pharaohs calls them (the Israelites) an am, a people. But an am, as Rabbi Soloveitchik pointed out, is a community of fate, not yet a community of faith.” The Israelites were in the process of being turned from an am, a people group connected by their past, into a kehillah, a community connected by their commitment to the future. This Hebrew term “kehillah—community” is equivalent to the Greek word “ekklesia” which is translated as “the church” in the New Testament. Most Christians think that the “Church” was founded at the time of our Master Yeshua, the Disciple Peter and the Apostle Paul. This is in fact, not the case at all. One of the portions for this week is called “Vayakel—He Gathered.” The root word for the Hebrew “VayaKHeL” is the term “kahal” which means, “To gather, assemble, congregate, commune.” The Israelite community throughout the Bible is the “Kahal,” or, the “assembly.” This tells us that the Church is not a new idea; it is as old as the Mount Sinai experience. FFOZ writes in one of their Torah newsletters that, “our English Bibles have led us to believe that ‘the church’ is a new institution outside of Judaism and the Jewish people.” This could not be further from the truth! From then until now, God has called His kehillah, His community, to make the world a place acceptably suited to be inhabited by Him.

The Jewish community was a group of complaining, stubborn, former-slaves when God first brought them out of Egypt. Personal and national transformation did not take place because of “what God did for them but what they did for God.” (Rabbi Sacks) The Israelites, it says in Exodus 35:20-21 (after Moses gave the description for the necessary items needed for the Tabernacle’s construction), “departed from the presence of Moses. Then everyone came whose heart was stirred, and everyone whose spirit was willing…”Moses (to use Sports terms) called a huddle and gave his team the game plan. Once Moses was finished talking everyone “departed from the presence of Moses,” brought their gifts for the tabernacle, found their respective positions and began the work of the Tabernacle. Rambam states (aacording to book “Growth through Torah”) that, “there was no one who had any previous experience with the skills necessary for the tabernacle …But the were people who had the courage to come before Moshe to tell him, ‘I will do what you say.’” It says that those “whose heart was stirred, and everyone whose spirit was willing” were the ones who came to help with the building. It doesn’t say those “who had experience and prestige” came to build. God accepted the people who were ready and willing to be a part of the project, even if they didn’t necessarily have the degrees or know-how for other jobs at that time.

The entire nation came and offered themselves for the building project of the century; project #1 out of all the wonders of the ancient world—a home in which the God of the Universe could dwell. After the horrific sin of the “Egel Ma’asecha—Molden Calf,” Moses recognizes he needs to turn the peoples creativity into a healthy, productive venture. God had just given Moses the perfect answer for the people. In the words of Rabbi Sacks, the answer for the Israelites was “if you want to create a group with a sense of collective identity, get them to build something together.” It is with the future in mind, which allows a community to overcome differences, drop their diversity and build together in complete unity. James in his books poses the question, “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?” Why are there problems? Because of selfishness rather than self-sacrifice. Personal desires versus the good of the community.

The future is not dependent on tolerance and multiculturalism (buzz words from the modern media) that attempts to create a utopian world (the word utopia literally means “nowhere” or “no place”) of peace and harmony. What we need is the understanding of God’s desire to dwell among His people and how to bring this outcome about. All of us, all around the world can unite as one kehillahcommunity under God, to bring His will and His kingdom down “on earth as it is in heaven.” Remember, as Rabbi Sacks writes, “We are made by what we make.” If we work together in building and bringing God’s kingdom to earth, it will certainly begin to transform us, starting from the inside and working its way out.
To end I would like to read the last few verses from the book of Exodus, “So Moses finished the work. Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle…For the cloud of the Lord was above the tabernacle by day, and fire was over it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys.” Finally, the work of the Tabernacle was finished and the true test takes place. Would God accept the Israelites invitation and inhabit His house, which had been built by and among the Jewish nation? Yes! A cloud of glory completely covers the Tabernacle. It was a mini-scale Mount Sinai that would travel with the Israelites. God had showed up and was once again dwelling with His people. It was one step closer to the Garden of Eden.

Dennis Prager writes,“Everett Fox points out that Exodus ends not with a tribute to the beauty of the Tabernacle or to the skill of its builders, but with a Description of how ‘its purpose was fulfilled.’ The Tabernacle was built so God could dwell among the Israelites; now that it has been completed, the Torah affirms God is indeed in their midst.” The building wasn’t described for its beauty; it was described as serving its purpose, as a house for the living God. Everett Fox describes the complete story of the Exodus in one sentence, “Whereas the storey of the Exodus began with a people in servitude to an earthly king, it ends with a people in servitude to a Divine King.”This is our story as well. As we ascend and scale to greater heights may our hearts be turned to the service and splendor of the King of kings as He makes Himself known to the world, one heart at a time!We have now completed the book of Exodus. It is customary to say:
Chazak, Chazak V’nitchazek! Be strong, Be strong and may we be strong!

Grace and Peace from God’s Bondservant,
Shabbat Shalom,

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