Parashat Vayak’hel-Pekudei 5777

Rabbi Aaron Goldstein, 24 March 2017

Building Community

Exodus 35:1
Moses then assembled / convoked the whole Israelite community…

…וַיַּקְהֵ֣ל מֹשֶׁ֗ה אֶֽת־כָּל־עֲדַ֛ת בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל

On this verse, Joseph ben Isaac Bekhor Shor expounded:
So that no one would be able to complain, “We did not have a chance to contribute, because we were not told until those who knew had already contributed everything necessary.”

What an insightful comment! It is quite remarkable when someone who lived over 700 years ago comments on an aspect of human nature and we find that the observation remains astute and universally relevant and meaningful. As well as considering the Torah portion, Bekhor Shor passed comment that was influenced by his contemporary reality, that of Christian polemic and oppression (

In Bekhor Shor’s community, twelfth century Orleans, what opportunity was it that was being given to all the people? Was it to take one’s turn to stand on security duty or to lead the administration and business of the community – to sit on the Synagogue Council or volunteer for the activity of the community? Was it to take part in external public affairs, perhaps standing up in disputations with Christian leaders who demanded an allegorical interpretation of the Torah? Was it to contribute to the building of sacred communal and personal spaces, providing glory to God and security for mere mortals?

All these activities are still vital to the operation of the Jewish Community today. “So that no one would be able to complain, “We did not have a chance to contribute, because we were not told until those who knew had already contributed everything necessary.””

We are informed later in this sidrah:

Exodus 35:5-7
(The artisans) said to Moses, ‘The people are bringing more than is needed for the tasks entailed in the work that the Eternal has commanded to be done.’ Moses thereupon had this proclamation made throughout the camp: ‘Let no man or woman make further effort toward gifts for the sanctuary!’ So the people stopped bringing: their efforts had been more than enough for all the tasks to be done.

וַיֹּֽאמְרוּ֙ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֣ה לֵּאמֹ֔ר מַרְבִּ֥ים הָעָ֖ם לְהָבִ֑יא מִדֵּ֤י הָֽעֲבֹדָה֙ לַמְּלָאכָ֔ה אֲשֶׁר־צִוָּ֥ה יְהוָֹ֖ה לַֽעֲשֹׂ֥ת אֹתָֽהּ: ו וַיְצַ֣ו מֹשֶׁ֗ה וַיַּֽעֲבִ֨ירוּ ק֥וֹל בַּֽמַּֽחֲנֶה֘ לֵאמֹר֒ אִ֣ישׁ וְאִשָּׁ֗ה אַל־יַֽעֲשׂוּ־ע֛וֹד מְלָאכָ֖ה לִתְרוּמַ֣ת הַקֹּ֑דֶשׁ וַיִּכָּלֵ֥א הָעָ֖ם מֵֽהָבִֽיא: ז וְהַמְּלָאכָ֗ה הָֽיְתָ֥ה דַיָּ֛ם לְכָל־הַמְּלָאכָ֖ה לַֽעֲשׂ֣וֹת אֹתָ֑הּ וְהוֹתֵֽר

These sidrot – sections of the Torah – concerned with the building of the Tabernacle contribute more than a third of those from the Book of Exodus. Exodus, that deals with such heady themes as emancipation from slavery, revelation of an eternal covenant with God and a code by which to conduct ones social, civil and religious life. More than a third concerns a building project!

Perhaps we consume ourselves in the details of the building of the Tabernacle for so many weeks because it says as much about building community, than physical structures.

On 11th June, we will all have the opportunity to consider what our contribution has been and what it will be to the body politic of our community and society. At Liberal Judaism’s Day of Celebration, you are invited to consider what it is that makes us political beings, the political leverage we can build when we come together as community, and how we might apply that strength for the good of all in society.

I look forward to this biannual gathering that convokes a holy gathering, a kehillah kedoshah.

To find out more about the LJ Day of Celebration and register click here.

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