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Torah Sparks

PARASHAT VA’YAKHEL - BIRKAT HAHODESH
March 1, 2008 – 24 Adar I 5768

Annual: Ex. 35:1 – 38:20 (Etz Hayim, p. 552; Hertz p. 373)
Triennial Cycle: Ex. 35:1 – 37:16 (Etz Hayim p.552; Hertz p. 373)
Haftarah: I Kings 7:40 – 50 (Etz Hayim, p. 574; Hertz p. 382)

Prepared by Rabbi Joyce Newmark
Teaneck, New Jersey

Torah Portion Summary

Moses assembles the entire Israelite community and instructs them once again to observe Shabbat. He then asks them to bring their gifts of materials for building the mishkan, the tabernacle, and for those who have the necessary skills to come forward to perform the work. When the artisans come together under the leadership of Bezalel and Oholiav, they report to Moses that the people are bringing more materials than are necessary. Moses issues a proclamation that no one should bring any more gifts for the mishkan.

The Torah then describes the making of the cloth walls, roof, planks, and bars of the mishkan, the curtain for the Holy of Holies, and the screen for the entrance. Bezalel makes the ark and its cover, the table, the menorah, the altars for incense and for burnt offerings, the anointing oil, and the incense.

Shabbat Shalom

You shall kindle no fire throughout your settlements on the Sabbath day. (Exodus 35:3)

  1. The Sabbath is a day of rest, on which the people have leisure to discuss communal affairs, to talk about their rabbis, cantors, slaughterers, and sextons, and to offer their comments on the way their institutions, such as the Hebrew school and the ritual bath, are run. This is the reason why we are admonished explicitly: You shall kindle no fire throughout your settlements on the Sabbath day. Do not mar your Sabbath rest by kindling fires of evil gossip and contention. This is not the purpose for which the Sabbath was given to you. The Sabbath is not only a day of rest but also a day of moral sanctity. (Shnei Lukhot HaBrit [Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz, 1556-1630, Europe and Israel])
  2. Rabbi Eliyahu Lopian wrote in a list of regulations for his yeshiva that everyone should be careful not to speak angrily on Friday and Shabbos. He added that ideally a person should never feel angry; someone who nonetheless feels angry should at least not speak out of anger. On Friday, in the rush to finish the Shabbos preparations on time, a person is apt to become short-tempered. Also, on Shabbos when the entire family sits at the table together, parents might become angry with their young children for not behaving properly. Therefore, special care should be taken to control one’s anger. (Lev Eliyahu, cited in Love Your Neighbor, Rabbi Zelig Pliskin)
  3. In the school of Elijah it was taught: Among the days that were to be fashioned, one was to be wholly His (Tehillim 139:16) This is Israel’s Sabbath day. In what sense is it to be wholly His? Say, a man who labors for six days rests on the Sabbath and so finds it possible to come closer to his children and the other members of his household. Likewise, a man may labor all six days in the midst of people who are hostile to him, but then, as he rests on the Sabbath, he forgets all the vexation he has previously suffered. (Tanna de-Bei Eliyahu)
  4. Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish said: The Holy One gives man an additional soul on Shabbat eve, and at Shabbat’s departure it is taken from him. (Talmud Beitzah 16a)

Sparks for Discussion

Shabbat is not only a time for performing certain actions and abstaining from others, it is a condition of mind and soul. If a person lights candles, eats Shabbat meals, attends services, and refrains from cooking or doing laundry, but spends the entire day thinking about how her boss unfairly blamed her for a co-worker’s mistake or the big presentation she had to make on Monday, is she truly observing Shabbat? What techniques can you suggest to create a Shabbat state of mind? What do you say to someone who wants to discuss local real estate prices or the stock market at kiddush? How do you create Shabbat shalom?

It's All Good... Or Is It?

All the artisans... said to Moses, “The people are bringing more than is needed for the tasks entailed in the work that the Lord has commanded to be done. (Exodus 36:4-5)

  1. One cannot understand the nature of this people: If asked to give for the Calf they give; if asked to give for the Sanctuary they give. (Yerushalmi Shekalim 2a)
  2. Rabbi Shimon says: A parable: To what may this be likened? To one who used to entertain scholars and students, and everyone praised him. Heathens came and he entertained them, robbers and he entertained them also. Finally people said, “It is his nature to entertain anyone at all.” Even so Moses said to Israel, “enough gold for the Tabernacle and enough gold for the calf.” (Sifre Devarim)
  3. This is what everyone who is entered in the records shall pay: a half-shekel by the sanctuary weight. (Shemot 30:13) He (God) showed him a type of coin of fire and said to him, “Such as this they will give” (Rashi quoting midrash). And why specifically a coin of fire? This is a hint that money is like fire. Fire can be very useful, by supplying power or heat, but it can also be very damaging. By the same token, money can be used for the most worthwhile causes, for tzedakah and good deeds, but it can also be used to cause damage, as the source of every type of wrong. (Noam Elimelekh [Rabbi Elimelekh of Lizensk, 1717-1787, Poland])

Sparks for Discussion

Jews are known as generous contributors to good causes, but not all the causes to which people contribute are equally good. How do you choose where your tzedakah dollars go? Do you have an annual budget and a list of organizations to which you contribute or do you respond to appeals when you are asked? How do you balance giving to Jewish and secular causes? To local organizations and to Israel? Have you ever been a collector for tzedakah as well as a donor? Do your children know where your tzedakah goes and why? What is your “tzedakah profile?”


 
 
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