Parshiyot Vayakhel, Pekudei 5773: Shabbos, the Mishkan, Unity and the Paradigm Leader — Lessons for Our Times

by Moshe Burt

The word Vayakhel — Assembling together of Kol B’nai Yisrael, introduces the building of the Mishkan (Tent of Meeting), the forerunner of the Beit HaMikdash, which would serve as a kappara (atonement) for the Eigel Zahav (Golden Calf). Our parsha opens by teaching B’nai Yisrael about Shabbos which has always, until recent times, been the unifying, defining factor of Judaism. Shabbos seems a gateway to all else — Kashrut, the Chaggim, Torah learning and Ethics, Yishuv HaAretz, Kiddushin, Family Purity, etc. It symbolizes the Jew’s faith in Hashem. And the melachot involved in the construction of the Mishkan were meant to define the paradigms of melachot prohibited on Shabbos.

The parsha begins by stating that “Moshe assembled the entire congregation of B’nai Yisrael…” (Perek 35, Posuk 1) Torah’s loshen (language) “Adat B’nai Yisrael”, in the context of learning the laws of Shabbos to the construction of the Mishkan, seems to indicate a unity — the Assembly of the B’nai if one single entity.

The opening p’sukim of Parsha Vayakhel;

“…These are the words that Hashem commanded you to do: On six days, work may be done, but the seventh day shall be holy for you, a day of complete rest for Hashem…” (Perek 35, posukim 1 and 2)

is not merely an introduction but a rectification, a kapparah for the Chait HaEigel.

Rabbi Daniel Yormark of the Young Israel of Etingville, New York, wrote in a National Council of Young Israels D’var Torah on Parshat Vayakhel on 25 Adar I, 5755 — 25 February, 1995:

The imperative “six days you shall labor” tells us that in all that one does one should strive to have The Creator in mind…. We see that the subjects addressed in the pasuk, the six days and Shabbat, are really based on one theme. Because it is only when creation is perceived as a sanctuary of Hashem that our abstention from the labors of the Mishkan mirrors the Creator’s abstention [on Shabbos] from creating the universe.

But there are questions: Was Vayakhel — the assembling of the entirety of Am Yisrael, and the learning of the halachot (Torah laws) of Shabbos meant only as a Mitzvah in the times of Moshe Rabbeinu and the building of the Mishkan, as well as during the period of the Malchei Yisrael? Or were both Vayakhel and the laws of Shabbos also meant to have application for B’nai Yisrael throughout our travails in Galut through to our current troubled times where divisiveness, me-first self-centeredness, ego, envy, self-desire and more all carry the consequence of indifference and insensitivity toward one’s fellow Jews? Were Vayakhel and the laws of Shabbos meant to apply as mussar regarding one’s tendency to pursue their self-interests and their self-aggrandizement amidst a bitter war against murderous Arab terror which threatens to destroy us from within in ways that the Arabs alone would never be able to accomplish were we truly “Adat B’nai Yisrael”?

Back in the “Old Country”, this author recalls that Kiruv Rabbanim placed heavy emphasis on Shabbos as the embarkation point — the beginning of one’s teshuvah journey to come close, to come closer to HaKadosh Borchu. Recalling past history of the past approximately 120 years, Shabbos was a point of disembarkment. When the Jews emigrated to America in large numbers around the turn of the 20th century and had difficulty finding parnossa in their new residence: when the work was a six day job (before laws were passed regarding the five day work-week), the newly arrived Jew found himself with a huge test of emunah and hishtadlut (expending effort) — keep Shabbos or earn money to feed, clothe and house one’s family. It was a tough call and many failed the test. The results of this test, failed by many, were that after crying rivers of tears, they gradually distanced themselves from Hashem. The weight of the test led many to working on Shabbos, then to eating non-kosher food, to secular marraige without marriage ketubot, to generations with little or no Torah footing or learning, and ultimately to inter-marriage and more. All of this has evolved to where we are today — massive numbers of Jews in America are distant from Torah, despite the mushrooming kiruv movement of the 1960s through today, and huge numbers of offspring of the burgeoning inter-marriage rate who are NOT Jewish and lost to Judaism.

Rabbi Yormark adds in his D’var Torah on Parshat Vayakhel:

Shabbat is not merely ‘a day off’…. It is not merely a day where there are so many things that I cannot do. It is a day when the Jew enters the realm of The One Above. It is a day when the the theme is Oneg, pleasure and delight. It is a day where even our indulging in physical pleasure can be elevated and becomes an integral part of mirroring Hashem. It is a day when concerns for mundane and ephemeral pursuits is inappropriate…. Shabbat is a Matanah Tovah — a very special gift.

To segui into Parsha Pekudei, just as Shabbos is very special, so was Moshe Rabbeinu, despite whatever the cronic complainers in the camp said. Our Parsha should serve as a paradigm lesson for both today’s secular Israeli goverment leaders, as well as religious communal leaders in accountability and transparency.

Our Parsha Pekudei begins;

“These are the accounts of the Mishkan (the Sanctuary), the Mishkan of testimony, which were drawn up on Moshe’s orders …” (Shemos, Perek 38, posuk 21 — Metsudah Linear Chumash, page 579).

In short, Pekudei is the accountant’s parsha, the parsha of crunching the numbers.

The Sefer L’lmod U’Lamed on our parsha asks what the primary reason was for Moshe’s detailed accounting of the costs of the construction of the Mishkan. The Sages tell that “there were apparently some who suspected that Moshe might have kept some … contributions for his own use.” (Parsha Pekudei, pages 97-98).

The Sefer “The Midrash Says” (pages 357-360) notes that Moshe Rabbeinu overheard mutterings among certain people, presumably sinful individuals such as Dasan and Aviram, who cast aspersions upon his (Moshe’s) honesty regarding the allocation of the people’s donations. According to “The Midrash Says”, comments were heard such as:

“Of late, Ben Amram’s neck is very fat! ….No wonder; he is in charge of all that money for the Mishkan!”

Therefore, Moshe committed himself to account for the allocation and purpose of everything donated toward the construction of the Mishkan. “The Midrash Says” (page 357) then relates that not only did Moshe account for all donations, but he “… gave his calculations to a second person, Ithamar Ben Aharon, for verification.” Perhaps this was the first real paradigm of oversight: a Delloite-Touche CPA-like audit.

The irony here is that when the jewelry and gold were collected for making the Chait HaEigel, no accountability or transparency, no source and allocation of donations was demanded from those who compelled the Eigel. However, when the donations came in and the Mishkan was constructed, many demanded and expected such accountability and transparency from Moshe Rabbeinu. Today, we see pretty much the same ironies in the Israel judiciary’s dual standards of prosecution of those who act on behalf of Eretz Yisrael, those who make their homes on Jewish property, on Jewish land, vs (for instance) labor union protestors who disrupt and block traffic in strong-arming through their agendas.

Moshe Rabbeinu was the model of, and set the standard for accountability, oversight and transparency of leadership.

Moshe is, for all times, the prototype of a true Jewish Leader — humble, modest, without desire for self-aggrandizement and self-enrichment. His first and foremost thought was for the welfare and well-being of his nation — the B’nai Yisrael. Moshe Rabbeinu was above corruption and self-enrichment. Nobody owned him as he could not be bought.

May we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brethren Jonathan Pollard and Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the other MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!

Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.