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Weekly D'rash Vayak'hel

People constructing a building

The first part (description) was written before the story of the Golden Calf in Exodus 25–31, and the second part (building) was written after the story of the Golden Calf in Exodus 35–40. We have previously discussed the fact that the text was written this way to accentuate the love of God and His desire to meet with His people.

The beginning of the description of the building of the Tabernacle, this week’s Torah portion, opens with a reminder of the command to observe the Shabbat (Exo. 35:1–3). According to Jewish tradition, the laws of Shabbat are guided by the categories of work in building the Tabernacle. The kinds of work described in building the Tabernacle are the kinds of work forbidden on Shabbat. (Of course, over the centuries much has been added to the rabbinic laws regarding Shabbat).

But what does this have to do with the purpose of the Tabernacle, which is the desire of God to meet with his people? In the beginning, God built a place for humanity to dwell with Him. God created the heavens and earth—the universe and the world we live in. Contained within this world was the Garden of Eden. God built it, and when He was finished He rested. This is the first time we read about Shabbat (Gen. 2:1–3). Another observation is that Genesis 2 begins with Shabbat and then continues with the creation and purpose of humanity. In like manner, Exodus 35 begins with Shabbat and then describes the people who had a heart to give as well as the people who were responsible for building the Tabernacle. We could say that the building of the Tabernacle is like the creation. In the creation, God built a place for people to have fellowship with Him and gave mankind the responsibility to build a world for the glory of God. Here, humanity is building a place for God to dwell and have fellowship with them. In fact, the name of the chief architect of the Tabernacle is Betzalel. This name is very similar to, and perhaps a shortened version of, “Betzelem Elohim” which means “image of God.” The Tabernacle and the later Temple point forward to the day when humanity could meet with God in a restored creation.

Yeshua came to begin the process of restoration. He has made the way for us to dwell in the presence of God wherever we are, as long as we receive the forgiveness and cleansing that He provided (John 4:23–24). In doing so, we become part of the community of “builders.” We are called to build the Temple or Kingdom of God by living as image bearers of God and continually inviting people to join the builders by embracing Yeshua. As builders, we demonstrate what a restored world looks like. It is not about skyscrapers, technology, and what the world calls “progress.” It is about living in peace, kindness, patience, forgiveness, love, and hope (Gal. 5:22–25). These are the building blocks of the world to come, and we are the builders.

Let us ask ourselves if we are builders or destroyers. Do we build up or do we tear down? Like the contributors and builders of the Tabernacle, are we filled with the Spirit of God? We look forward to the day when the Chief Architect, Yeshua, will come and complete the process. But for now, may we continue to build—even as the world around us continues to burn down.

Go through, go through the gates, clear the way for the people; build up, build up the highway, remove the stones, lift up a standard over the peoples. Behold, the LORD has proclaimed to the end of the earth, “Say to the daughter of Zion: Lo, your salvation comes; behold His reward is with Him, and His recompense before Him.” And they will call them, The Holy People, The Redeemed of the LORD; and you will be called, “Sought Out, A City Not Forsaken”. (Isaiah 62:10–12)

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Howard

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