Vayak’hel (Ex. 35:1 – 38:20)

In this week’s portion, the Israelites build the Tabernacle (Mishkan), carrying out the instructions earlier given to Moses.  First, however, they are reminded of the prohibitions against work on the Sabbath.  From the juxtaposition of this command with the description of the Tabernacle construction, along with similar verses in last week’s reading at the very end of the Lord’s instructions to Moses (31:12-17), the sages (e.g., Rashi) derived not only the principle that observing the Sabbath is so important, you can’t set it aside even to build a Tabernacle (or Temple), but also 39 specific types of activities that are prohibited on the Sabbath, namely, those derived form the actions carried out in building the Tabernacle (see the list at, e.g., ).

Although the directions for building and furnishing the Tabernacle we read a couple of weeks ago in Terumah are scrupulously followed by the Israelites in Vayak’hel, there is a marked difference in tone.  This isn’t the usual sequence of, the Lord tells Moses to tell the people to do X, Moses tells the people to do X, the people do X.  The people respond with outsized generosity, giving so much they have to be told to stop.  Bezalel and his assistant Oholiab were named in the portion Terumah, but here they, especially Bezalel take center stage.  Bezalel in particular, is himself said to have made the ark, cherubim, table and utensils for libations, lampstand and lamp, copper laver, altar and utensils for burnt offerings, incense altar and the sacred anointing oil and the incense.  The skills of many, many people, men and women, are needed and used for making linen cloth, metal working (lots of that in gold, silver, copper), woodworking, weaving goat hair, spinning and dyeing yarn, dyeing animal skins, making and hanging curtains, and so on.  Artistry and craftsmanship are regarded as divine gifts, those with such talents are called “wise-hearted” in some translations.  Beyond the dry numerical specifications you can sense the joy of the people.  Of course, this is not just enthusiasm for the project, but happy relief that the nation hadn’t been abandoned after the Golden Calf incident.  There’s also a desire to be part of something big, something lasting.  I remember when my sister and I visit Salisbury Cathedral many years ago, the cathedral was raising money for renovation.  I would have contributed anyway, but the kicker was that each donor could sign a wooden beam that would be put in the roof.  Similarly, on a smaller scale, my work group and I helped build a house for Habitat for Humanity.  Someday, I’ll have to go look at it. I think I can remember where my nail is.

Shabbat shalom,

Tabernacle Model
See more pictures of the tabernacle…

Tabernacle model from above   In the Wilderness
At Timna Park, 20 miles north of Eilat in the Arabah, a life-size replica of the biblical tabernacle has been constructed.  While no original materials (e.g., gold, silver, bronze) have been used, the model is accurate in every other way based upon the biblical description. 


Altar for incense

And if you want to visit other Tabernacle models, or build your own, I don’t think there’s an app for that yet, but there are a lot of useful links at .

Top Ten Changes to the Mishkan if it was built today

by Weekly Bang Staff writers
Posted: 03-12-2010(Viewed 1811 times)

10.  Showbread would be sponsored by Zomicks [kosher bakery]
9.    GPS/Mapquest: 40 year desert problem solved
8.    Want to know how to bring a Korban Chagiga [festival sacrifice]? there’s an app for that!
7.    Home Depot would have a Cubit converter
6.   Project Runway would have a breastplate-robe-tunic challenge
5.   Live streaming Libation Coverage
4.   $10 to get into your office’s Kohain-Gadol Yom-Kippur Death Pool
3.   ‘Incense for Men’ by Calvin Klein
2.   Kodesh Kadashim [Holy of Holies] would be username/password protected
1.   Jews would all live in Trailer Parks. Jtrash!


Confusing Words Clarified

I yearn to tell you the yarn about the truck driver who was knitting a sweater using multi-colored yarn while he was driving.

Here’s the story: To pass the time while he was driving, a long distance truck driver was speeding along the highway knitting a sweater. He apparently was controlling the steering wheel with his knees and not really paying attention to his driving.
A police officer who observed such driving behavior, drove along the side shouting on his speaker, “Pull over! Pull over!”
The truck driver leaned out the window and yelled, “No officer, it’s not a pull over, it’s a cardigan.”

Gold In Heaven

There once was a rich man who was near death. He was very grieved because he had worked so hard for his money and wanted to be able to take it with him to heaven. So he began to pray that he might be able to take some of his wealth with him.
An angel heard his plea and appeared to him. “Sorry, but you can’t take your wealth with you.”
The man begged the angel to speak to God to see if He might bend the rules. The man continued to pray that his wealth could follow him.
The angel reappeared and informed the man that God had decided to allow him to take one suitcase with him. Overjoyed, the man gathered his largest suitcase and filled it with pure gold bars and placed it beside his bed.
Soon afterward, he died and showed up at the gates of heaven to greet St. Peter.
St. Peter, seeing the suitcase, said, “Hold on, you can’t bring that in here!”
The man explained to St. Peter that he had permission and asked him to verify his story with the Lord.
Sure enough, St. Peter checked it out, came back and said, “You’re right. You are allowed one carry-on bag, but I’m supposed to check its contents before letting it through.”
St. Peter opened the suitcase to inspect the worldly items that the man found too precious to leave behind and exclaimed, “You brought pavement?”


[sent out 5 years ago from , but that is now a dead link.]

Curtain Rods

She spent the first day packing her belongings into boxes, crates and suitcases.
On the second day, she had the movers come and collect her things.

On the third day, she sat down for the last time at their beautiful dining room table by candlelight, put on some soft background music, and feasted on a pound of shrimp, a jar of caviar, and a bottle of Chardonnay.
When she had finished, she went into each and every room and deposited a few half-eaten shrimp shells dipped in caviar, into the hollow of the curtain rods.
She then cleaned up the kitchen and left.

When the husband returned with his new girlfriend, all was bliss for the first few days.
Then slowly, the house began to smell.

They tried everything, cleaning, mopping, and airing the place out.
Vents were checked for dead rodents, and carpets were steam cleaned.
Air fresheners were hung everywhere.
Exterminators were brought in to set off gas canisters, during which they had to move out for a few days, and in the end they even paid to replace the expensive wool carpeting.

Nothing worked.

People stopped coming over to visit.
Repairmen refused to work in the house.
The maid quit.
Finally, they could not take the stench any longer and decided to move
A month later, even though they had cut their price in half, they could not find a buyer for their stinky house.
Word got out, and eventually, even the local realtors refused to return their calls.
Finally, they had to borrow a huge sum of money from the bank to purchase a new place.

The ex-wife called her ex-husband, and asked how things were going.
He told her the saga of the rotting house.
She listened politely, and said that she missed her old home terribly, and would be willing to reduce her divorce settlement in exchange for getting the house back.

Knowing his ex-wife had no idea how bad the smell was, he agreed on a price that was about 1/10th of what the house had been worth, but only if she were to sign the papers that very day.

She agreed, and within the hour his lawyers delivered the paperwork.  
A week later the man and his girlfriend stood smiling as they watched the moving company pack
everything to take to their new home, including the curtain rods.


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