Questions for the Shabbos table, Vayakhel-Pekudei

(Wikipedia)

QUESTIONS FOR THE SHABBOS TABLE PARSHAS VAYAKHEL-PEKUDEI, EXODUS 35:1–40:38

This week we have a double Parsha: Vayakhel (Exodus 35:1-38:20) and Pekudei (Exodus  38:21-40:38).

Parsha Vayakhel begins: וַיַּקְהֵל מֹשֶׁה, אֶת-כָּל-עֲדַת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל

 “And Moshe assembled all of the congregation, the Children of Israel…”

You can see in the word וַיַּקְהֵל the root of קהלה or assembly or community.

That is why Olim in my home town of Nahariya are the קהילת עולים נהריה , the Nahariya Olim Community.

In this week’s Parshat the Mishkan is finally constructed.

There are commentators who are of the opinion that the construction of the Mishkan parallels the construction of the universe.  And oddly enough there are commentators who find parallels between the Mishkan and the Jewish home.  What do you think and why?

In Parsha Vayakhel at 35:1 : אֵלֶּה, הַדְּבָרִים, אֲשֶׁר-צִוָּה יְהוָה, לַעֲשֹׂת אֹתָם

“… These are the things that the Lord commanded to make”.

Moses assembles the people of Israel and reiterates to them the commandment to observe the Shabbat. He then conveys Hashem’s instructions regarding the making of the Mishkan. The people donate the required materials in abundance, bringing gold, silver and copper; blue-, purple- and red-dyed wool; goat hair, spun linen, animal skins, wood, olive oil, herbs and precious stones.

Would you believe, Moses has to tell us to stop giving!

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Because this Shabbat falls before the end of the month Adar and before the beginning of the month of Nisan it is called Shabbat HaChodesh, the Sabbath of the Month.

A special Maftir portion is read from the Book of Exodus 12:1-20, which reminds us that the Festival of Passover will shortly be upon us.

In that regard, I would like to present some of the many Laws of Passover to help you get ready for the big event, the Festival of Our Freedom.  It is not meant to be an exhaustive presentation or for that matter an authoritative presentation, but something for you to talk about at your table and put you on the right track.

PROHIBITION OF CHOMETZ

On Passover, which begins on Wednesday evening the 8th of April to the 16th of April, not only are forbidden to eat Chometz, but we must have removed any and all Chometz from our possession by the morning preceding the Festival.

The prohibition of Chometz on Pesach is an absolute one.  Not only are we forbidden from eating Chometz, we are even forbidden to feed Chometz to our pets.

What is the basis for the prohibition? Because it says so (Exodus 12:15):

“Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread; moreover on the first day you shall put away leaven out of your houses; for whosoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel”.

First things first: What is Chometz?

When either wheat, barley, rye, spelt or oats have come in contact with or even slightly combines with water, you get Chometz.  We are ordered to remove and/or destroy all traces of Chometz from our possession.

How do we get rid of Chometz?

There is a three step procedure:

  1. Sell your Chometz to a non-Jew.
  2. Search and destroy: Search on the evening before and destroy by burning on the following morning.
  3. On the morning before Passover, declare any possible remaining Chometz to be nullified.

All prohibitions regarding Chometz apply to all the days of Pesach. The Torah prohibits any use of Chometz on Pesach, whether it is eaten, sold or even given away.  Chometz may only be destroyed.

After Passover You have to be careful.  It is forbidden to partake of or purchase Chometz from a Jew who did not sell his Chometz before Passover.  It is a fair question to ask someone if they had sold their Chometz.

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On this Shabbat we conclude the reading of Sefer Shmot with the concluding Parsha, Pekudei.

There is a 19th century saying attributed to Lord Acton that goes as follows: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men…”

It would seem what is very much true now, was also true in the time of Moshe Rabeinu.   Moshe, our greatest leader, gives an accounting before the people of the gifts and donations brought by B’nei Yisrael in conjunction with the construction of the Mishkan.  For Moshe there is complete transparency.

Psalm 24:3-4: “Who shall ascend into the mountain of the LORD? and who shall stand in His holy place?  He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; {N} who hath not taken My name in vain, and hath not sworn deceitfully.”

This week’s double parsha concludes with the Mishkan being completed. All its components are brought to Moses, who erects it and anoints it with the holy anointing oil.  Moses initiates Aaron and his four sons into the priesthood. A cloud appears over the Mishkan, signifying the Divine Presence, the Shekinah, has come to dwell within it.

May it continue to do.

We conclude our reading of the Book of Exodus with: חזק חזק ונתחזק

About the Author
Lives in Nahariya, Israel. Interests: Torah, geology, archaeology, and anthropology. “Northern Exposure” Blog in Jerusalem Post for 3 years, co-founder of Nahariya Anglo Benevolent Society.
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