Vayak’hel (Ex. 35:1 – 38:20), Shabbat Shekalim

This week, we have two reasons for a sense of déjà vu.  First, this Sabbath is Shabbat Shekalim, the first of four special Shabbatot before Pesach on which we have an additional reading from a second scroll. This week, we read Exodus 30:11-16 about the half shekel head tax used for both a census and maintenance of the Tabernacle.  We just read that section last week in Ki Tissa, whence the déjà vu.  There is also a special haftarah, (II Kings 11:17 – 12:17, 12:1-17 for Ashkenazim) about Temple maintenance and the reformation of King Jehoash.  Second, we read a lot of the material in the regular weekly portion, Vayak’hel, in Terumah three weeks ago.  But then, we just read instructions; now, the Israelites are actually building and furnishing a Tabernacle.  And the tone is of purposeful joy.  Also probably relief, that they’ve survived the fallout from the golden calf incident

This is a truly communal effort.  Moses tells the people what is needed in terms of materials and the people respond so overwhelmingly that he has to tell them to stop (a fundraiser’s “happily ever after”).  Led by Bezalel and his assistant Oholiab, many, many men and women, “wise-hearted” artisans, contribute their skills in making linen cloth, metal working, wood carving, making planks of acacia wood, weaving goat hair, spinning and dyeing yarn, embroidering, dyeing animal skins, making and hanging curtains, stone cutting, and so on.  Their skills are considered gifts from the Lord.  Bezalel himself makes 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.   

However, when Moses first assembles the people, before he even tells them about the Tabernacle project, he reminds them (35:2-3),  “On six days work may be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a Sabbath of complete rest, holy to the Lord; whoever does any work on it shall be put to death.  You shall kindle no fire throughout your settlements on the Sabbath day.”   The placement of these verses in the text led the rabbis to conclude that observing the Sabbath is more important even than building the Temple and, further, that the tasks needed to build and furnish the Tabernacle provide a guide as to what tasks should not be performed on the Sabbath.  You can learn about the 39 categories of labor (melachot) they defined at

Shabbat shalom,


Strange But True Tax Laws From All 50 States

Posted on 2/17/2016 8:00 EST

Arizona.  Several states, including Arizona, tax ice blocks and ice cubes differently. Since ice cubes are used in mixed drinks, and considered food, they aren’t taxed by the state. Ice blocks, however, are subject to sales tax.

Colorado.  Think twice before taking a full cup to go while driving down a bumpy road in Colorado.  Cups aren’t taxed, but lids and straws are. Other nonessentials, such as toothpicks, portion dividers, cup sleeves, and bibs are taxed as well.

Illinois.  Pity the poor candy store owner. In Illinois, Twix bars aren’t taxed because they are made with flour, so they don’t meet the state’s definition of candy. Other Mars candy bars such as Snickers, though, are taxed, because they contain no flour. Similar laws are on the books in Washington, Colorado, and Connecticut.

Missouri.  To encourage young men to marry, Missouri charges an annual tax of $1 to single men between the age of 21 and 50. The law was passed in 1820, when $1 was equivalent to about $20 today.

New York.  Looking forward to a delicious New York bagel? Those who want it prepared — toasted, sliced, covered with cream cheese, or altered in any way — have to pay the 8.875 percent tax that is applied to processed foods. An unsliced bagel to go, however, isn’t taxed.

Washington, D.C.  The nation’s capital apparently has mixed feelings when it comes to healthy habits. Both gyms and sugary drinks draw a 5.75 percent tax.

A visitor to Israel attended a recital and concert at the Moscovitz Auditorium. He was quite impressed with the architecture and the acoustics. He inquired of the tour guide, “Is this magnificent auditorium named after Chaim Moscovitz, the famous Talmudic scholar?” 

“No,” replied the guide. “It is named after Sam Moscovitz, the writer.” 

“Never heard of him. What did he write?” 

“A check,” replied the guide.


tph building nails










There are lots of tabernacle model kits on the market.  If your budget is tight, you can get a laminated paper tabernacle model for $12.23.  For $55, at The Tabernacle Place, you can get a more substantial kit that includes people and sacrifices.  You can splurge $136 on a 375-piece wooden kitOr, you can build the building out of Popsicle sticks and splurge on the furnishings:



Hebrew Tabernacle Furniture Set: Regular Size   $75.00

Hebrew Tabernacle Furniture Set: Regular Size (about 1 inch equals 1 cubit, except the Brazen altar which is 1/2 inch equals 1 cubit; resin and metal casts). You get all the Tabernacle furniture. The Brazen altar with a candle you can burn, the Laver which you can fill with water, the Table of Showbread, with simulated bread, the candlestick or menorah, the Altar of Incense with incense cone you can burn, and the Ark of the Covenant with its simulated contents of the 10 commandments, Aaron’s rod and a pot of manna. Great for classroom demonstrations!  Shipping Weight: 1.5lbs

Construction Definitions (Comic)

Contractor – A gambler who never gets to shuffle, cut or deal.
Bid Opening – A poker game in which the losing hand wins.
Low Bidder – A contractor who is wondering what he/she left out.
Engineer’s Estimate – The cost of construction in Heaven.
Project Manager – The conductor of an orchestra in which every musician is in a different union.
Critical Path Method – A management technique for losing your shirt under perfect control.
OSHA – A protective coating made by half-baking a mixture of fine print, split hairs, red tape and baloney – usually applied at random with a shot gun.
Strike – An effort to increase egg production by strangling the chicken.
Delayed Payment – A tourniquet applied at the pockets.
Completion Date – The point at which liquidated damages begin.
Liquidated Damages – A penalty for failing to achieve the impossible.


Art Quotes

The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls. Pablo Picasso

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.  Scott Adams

If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.  Vincent Van Gogh

Life beats down and crushes the soul and art reminds you that you have one. Stella Adler

Art is a collaboration between God and the artist, and the less the artist does the better. Andre Gide

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