Regardless of the chaos and uncertainty around us, it is nice to have some stability and camaraderie. As I have mentioned many times, within Judaism there has been a set schedule of Torah readings. The custom dates to the end of the Babylonian captivity (6th century BCE). The origin of the first public Torah readings is found in the Book of Nehemiah, where Ezra the scribe writes about wanting to find a way to ensure the Israelites would not go astray again. This led to the creation of a weekly system to read the portions of the Torah at synagogues. The current structure was created by Maimonides (Moshe ben Maimon) also known as Rambam. He lived from 1138-1204. This tradition has brought comfort and unity to the Jewish people for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Why not read the double portion this week, being cognitive that millions of people around the world are studying the same portion with you!
This week’s reading is a double portion, which covers Exodus 35:1 – 40:38. Below is a short commentary by Baruch of the first portion, Vayakhel:
In this week’s Torah portion one learns about the construction of the Tabernacle. Although everyone was invited to participate in some way in the construction of the Tabernacle, one reads in the parasha,
“And all the wise people came the ones who did all the Holy work, each man from his work that they were doing.” Exodus 36:4
At first reading this verse makes me feel as if I would have been left out of the actual building. Sure I could have made a donation, but the fact that only the “wise” were actually allowed to take part in the hands on building, would leave me out. Although this is how the text may read in English, one needs to understand the meaning of the Hebrew word “wise”. Often times this word does not relate to simply intelligence, but the knowledge which is required to accomplish something. Hence the text is not saying only the most intelligent people have a role in the construction of the Tabernacle; rather each person participated in the tasks that he knew how to do.
In other words, the decision of which person would do which task was not based upon simply who wanted to do what; but rather, who was best equipped to accomplish the individual tasks which needed to be done. When service is decided based upon an individual’s desire, rather than appropriateness of a certain person for a given assignment, problems will arise.
Service to HaShem must be rooted in a call and an equipping. Sometimes the equipping comes by supernatural means, i.e. the Holy Spirit; but other times the equipping comes by preparation over a period of time. Let us consider David for example. He was equipped to defeat Goliath, not through years of training as a soldier, but by shepherding his family sheep. It was battling lion and bear that David learned the skills necessary for bringing victory to the Children of Israel. David knew that he was called to the task of delivering Israel and submitted to it, not in order to receive honor, feeding his pride, rather in order to serve the Living G-d.
The account in this week’s Torah portion is an excellent example of people realizing who they could serve and submitting to that task, because they knew they could carry out the assignment, not motivated in some personal desire for achievement.