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Vayakhel-Pekudei (Exodus 35-40 )

by Rabbi Menachem Weiman

In this week's Torah portion, Moses spoke to the people regarding their involvement in building the Tabernacle, the precursor to the Holy Temple that stood in Jerusalem. He gathered everyone together, the entire nation, some 3 million strong.

Couldn't he just get the word spread around? Did he have to make such a formal gathering about something that was fairly straightforward? True, the Tabernacle was central to the socio-spiritual context of the travels through the desert. But the building of it was not philosophical or complex. Those with construction skills would put it together, weavers would weave, carpenters would make the wood, etc.

You only need a few hundred laborers actually making things. Other people would be involved in transporting the materials and assessing the inventory. Others would donate materials. But it certainly wasn't a job for everyone. Moses could have merely spoken to those doing the work.

Three times in a short bit of text (Exodus chapter 35, verses 1, 4 and 20), the phrase "the entire congregation" is used. Apparently it was very, very important for the message to go out to the entire people, not just those working on the Tabernacle.

When you break it down into groups, there are actually more groups then you'd expect who were involved. In 35:5 it mentions donation from "everyone whose heart motivates him." Other phrases of "his heart was lifted" and "his spirit was moved" indicate different inner motivations to contributing to the effort. The leaders brought precious stones; women brought jewelry to be melted down. All the materials came from all segments of the nation.

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The main point is that a collective spirit was necessary for the building of the Tabernacle because it was meant to represent the entire people. Sure, all the Israelites could have proxies or agents to carry out the various tasks. And to an extent, they certainly had to do that. In fact, the actual service that is rendered in the Tabernacle on a daily basis was done only by the kohanim (priests). The kohanim are not a privileged first class; they are in fact the servants of the people to carry out the intentions of the nation.

The work of construction had to be done by only a few craftsmen. But the spirit and the intention of each and every Jew was an important contributor to the common cause. Even when it is possible for service of God to be carried out by others, it's important that we all contribute to a cause.

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Whenever a group of people get together to tackle an important cause, it's important that you make your own contribution, no matter how small. Not necessarily for the work to get done, but rather for the sake of you having contributed. It concretizes your convictions and strengthens your values. The cause becomes a part of you, and you become a part of the cause. Even if they have enough people to lick the stamps and stuff envelopes, it's good for you to lick a few stamps.

You can then sleep well, knowing that you've left your mark on something you believe in.

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Spiritual Exercise:

Send one dollar to 10 charities that you believe in. (Make sure it's anonymous so they don't waste a dollar sending a thank you letter and tax receipt.) The recipient may snicker, but you've changed yourself for good.

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