Ben-Tzion Spitz
Former Chief Rabbi of Uruguay

Vayakel: Emotional Spectrum

The depth of our despair measures what capability and height of claim we have to hope. –Thomas Carlyle

The first time God gave the people of Israel the Ten Commandments engraved upon the two Tablets of the Covenant – it didn’t work out very well. They created and worshipped the Golden Calf – quite a slap in the face to God. God is ready to destroy the nation. Moshe destroys the Tablets and intercedes, saving Hebrew nation from destruction. Before and after all this action, we have the instructions for the construction of the Tabernacle, the Sanctuary where the actual Tablets are meant to rest in the Ark of the Covenant, in the epicenter of the entire effort.

Rabbi Hirsch on Exodus 35:1 provides an analysis of the narrative from the point of the receipt of the second set of Tablets and the actual construction of the previously instructed Sanctuary:

“Now that the Testimony of the Law, the pledge of God’s special Presence in the midst of the people, had been given to Israel once again, the erection of a dwelling place for this Testimony had again become relevant. The grim events described previously, which had jeopardized the realization of this task, are of the most far-reaching significance for the task as such, for the Sanctuary and the purpose for which the Sanctuary is to be erected.”

“The construction of the Sanctuary was to take place under the impact of a completely new experience. The people and the priests had come to realize how weak and imperfect they still were, how much they still needed to work upon themselves incessantly and how greatly they were in need of uplift and atonement. Moreover, they had come to know God in all the severity of His judgment, but also in all the fullness of His grace. They had experienced all the nuances of our relationship with God, from the feeling of utter rejection by God up to the height of Divine favor regained.”

“The Sanctuary to be constructed was to become the place from which the ideal of their vocation would shine forth forever to individual and community alike. It was to be the place where, at any stage of error or weakness, they would find renewed strength to work their way up again and to persevere on the high level of their vocation, and where they would find God’s help and blessing for both objectives.”

“Thus, the experience that had been recorded forever in the history of the nation between the time it had been commanded to build its very first Sanctuary, and the actual execution of that command, is documentary proof that it is possible at any stage of error to return, and to regain the favor of God.”

May we remember that the full gamut of experiences and emotions can always bring us to God.

Shabbat Shalom,



To our children Eitan and Rebecca, on your wedding! It’s finally here!

About the Author
Ben-Tzion Spitz is the former Chief Rabbi of Uruguay. He is the author of six books of Biblical Fiction and hundreds of articles and stories dealing with biblical themes. He is the publisher of Torah.Works, a website dedicated to the exploration of classic Jewish texts, as well as TweetYomi, which publishes daily Torah tweets on Parsha, Mishna, Daf, Rambam, Halacha, Tanya and Emuna. Ben-Tzion is a graduate of Yeshiva University and received his Master’s in Mechanical Engineering from Columbia University.
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