• Gabbai

Vayakhel-Pekudei – All for All

“Moses gathered the entire congregation of the children of Israel and he said to them , these are the words that the Lord has commanded to do.” (Ex 35:1)

The entire congregation. Every last Israelite was called to attend. Rarely were all the people gathered together except for extraordinary occasions. Moments of great consequence such as the revelation at Mt. Sinai demanded the participation of every single member of the nation. Other times concerned messages that were critically important for everyone to hear. This instance hardly appears to qualify as one relevant for all the nation to hear at once. Moses repeats the instructions of the Lord regarding the building of the Tabernacle, including detailed descriptions of the design of the Tabernacle as well as the various furnishings that were to be fashioned for it. While the entire nation was solicited for contributions toward the project, the bulk of the instructions related only to the artisans who were directly involved in the work. This is hardly of a nature that should demand full national attendance. Why then was it important that everyone hear together?

Numerous ideas are advanced by commentaries, including the notion that at this particular time the importance of unity among the people was paramount. The second Temple was destroyed, according to our tradition, because of disunity among the people. When embarking on the project of building the first House of God, therefore, complete unity of purpose had to be established from the start.

Ramban and other commentaries understand the building of the Tabernacle as a direct response to the Golden Calf which had been fashioned earlier. While Moses was absent the people had demonstrated that they lacked the sophistication to serve God without some tangible symbol. This drove them to push for an alternative to Moses when they feared he would not return from atop the mountain. A Tabernacle, in which worship of God involved symbols that could be seen and actions to experience, was an alternative to the Golden Calf. The difference was that the Tabernacle had been sanctioned by God whereas the Golden Calf was in opposition to God’s will.

The Midrash states that when the Tabernacle was completed the sin of the Golden Calf was atoned for. The 19th century commentary Ketav Sofer probes the source of this Midrashic assertion. From where does the Midrash derive this? Maybe the Tabernacle had nothing to do with the Golden Calf? Perhaps the sole purpose of the Tabernacle was to bring an awareness of God among the people?

After the Tabernacle was erected the verse states that, “Moses saw all the work, and behold they had done it just as the Lord commanded, so they had done, and Moses blessed them.” (Ex 39:43)

Moses was an observer here. He did not participate in the building of the Tabernacle himself. When the