Parshat Vayakhel: The sanctuary of God’s love

Our highest awareness of the Creator, represented by Moses, is what empowers us to unite (assemble) the multidimensional consciousness represented by the children of Israel: “And Moses assembled (vayakhel) all the congregation of the children of Israel, and said to them: ‘These 2are the words which the Lord has commanded, that you should do them. Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you a holy day, a Shabbat of solemn rest to the Lord; whoever does any work therein shall be put to death’.” (Exodus 35:1-2).

This multidimensional awareness encompasses not just every aspect, trait and level of our consciousness but also the individual reality of every Jew, either he be poor, rich, ignorant, wise, weak, strong, etc. When these multiple dimensions are all gathered into the common purpose of creating a dwelling place in this world for the Divine Presence, the first Commandment is to understand this unity in the context of the Shabbat.

The difference between the Shabbat and the rest of the days is emphasized in this portion of the Torah, in the same way that the labors related to the building of the Sanctuary (Tabernacle) are those we do not perform during the Day of Rest. Our Sages explain this distinction not as a separation between the material and the spiritual worlds but as a connection between both. After all, nothing is separated in the Oneness of the Creator and His Creation. In our material reality work shall be done in order not just to make a living and survive but also to pursue individual and collective happiness in our endeavors. At this point we have to define the kind of “work” the Creator commands us to do. God’s Commandments are the work we do as His ways and attributes.

We have said that our work in this material world is to reveal God’s Love, and we do it by being and manifesting His ways and attributes. That is our work and we do it by choosing between living in ego’s fantasies and illusions, and living in the truth of Love. We make this choice every moment in our daily life. Therefore “working” in anything we have to is about being and doing who we really are: God’s image and likeness.

This identity is nothing less than God’s Love because we emanate from His Love, and we must reveal Love and experience Love as our common bond with Him. In this sense the daily labors to build the Sanctuary are the same endeavors to build the permanent connection with the Creator in our daily life. Hence, building the Sanctuary to achieve this connection is also working in Love’s ways and attributes in order to be connected with Him in our physical reality.

The Shabbat is not another day because its Essence transcends time and space: in it the Creator is beyond His Creation and His creating. We have mentioned many times that our Sages say that “the Creator, the Torah, the Shabbat, and Israel, are One”, and this is how we understand life in this world, in our Oneness with the Creator. Without this awareness we live only in the material aspect of the world, and the consequence of this is a life without the Presence of the Creator. This is what the Torah means when it says that the absence of His Presence is tantamount to death. Therefore it is not about imposing the death penalty against those who do not observe the Shabbat, because death is the consequence of not living in it. Does it make sense to live in the material world without the Presence of its Creator in our lives?

Vayakhel continues with the reiteration of the detailed construction of the Sanctuary as indicated in the previous portions. This time the extremely abundant donations from all the children of Israel for the construction are something to celebrate. When we are fully aware of our endeavors to build our permanent connection with God’s Love, our hearts urge us to give as much as we can: “And they spoke to Moses, saying: ‘The people bring much more than enough for the service of the work, which the Lord commanded to make’. (…) Because the labors they had was sufficient for all the work to make it, and too much.” (36:5, 7). From these verses we learn that we as individuals have the potential to use all our talents, traits, skills and qualities and direct them in Love’s ways in order to reveal God’s Love in the world.

About the Author
Ariel Ben Avraham was born in Colombia (1958) from a family with Sephardic ancestry. He studied Cultural Anthropology in Bogota, and lived twenty years in Chicago working as a radio and television producer and writer. He emigrated to Israel in 2004, and for the last fourteen years has been studying the Chassidic mystic tradition, about which he writes and teaches. Based on his studies, he wrote his first book "God's Love" in 2009. He currently lives in Kochav Yaakov.
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