Skip to content

A Word From The Rabbi

D'var Torah - Talia Wise

B’nei Mitzvah Drashot

My parsha is from the start of Vayakhel-Pekudei, and it tells us about the Children of Israel after the exodus from Egypt. It includes several verses about keeping the Shabbat, before moving onto a detailed list of parts the Israelites donated to build the Tabernacle. At first, I was more into in the first of those two sections, the verses about keeping Shabbat, as I wasn’t particularly interested in searching through what is essentially Ye Olde IKEA Catalogue.

So I had a look through the translation for these first verses, and I had a few questions: Firstly, why is this here? It has nothing to do with the parsha before it, Ki Tisa, which is largely about the Golden Calf, and it isn’t mentioned anywhere else in Vayakhel-Pekudei. In the start of this parsha, Moses, a prophet of God, calls the Israelites together, and tells them that they cannot light a fire or do any work on the Shabbat, on pain of death. However, Harvey Field’s Torah Commentary on Exodus states that Moses, by telling the Israelites about these rules, means that despite building the Tabernacle, Jews still had to obey the rules of the Shabbat. This brings me to my next point - why is the Shabbat so important? The Shabbat is meant to be a period of rest, starting on the evening of Friday and ending on the same time of the following day. You light candles, drink wine (or a wine-substitute if you can’t), eat challah, and thank God the week is over and you can rest and recover over the weekend. However, back on the days when the Israelites were wandering in the desert, the concept of any kind of day where you didn’t work didn’t exist, as that notion was only formed much later on, so while there was a week, there was no weekend. That was where the notion of the Shabbat stepped in, giving people a chance to celebrate surviving another week, and look over what they’d accomplished and what they still needed to do while being liberated from day-to-day activities and schedules. 

Later on in the parsha, it goes onto say how Moses asked people “whose heart is willing” to bring materials for the Tabernacle, including gold, silver, bronze, dyed linen, acacia wood and a whole slew of various items, rather like a shopping list, but I doubt anyone now days needs dolphin skins.  At this point you may wonder: Why are you talking about dolphin skins? And in the words of our rabbi, I am glad you asked! Well, dolphin skins, or tachash, were apparently one of the materials required for the building of the Tabernacle, to which the obvious question is: The Israelites were wandering in the desert. Where do they get the dolphin skins from?

However, after some research, I found an article on the Internet saying that, according to the ancient Greek translation of the Torah, the Septuagint, tachash is translated as ‘hyacinth skins’, which is thought to mean that these skins were normal ram or goat skins, but dyed with hyacinth flowers. However, after the people have somehow found all these items and brought them, Moses tells them to stop, as they have brought too much, something we wish could happen here at Temple David. As an aside, if you don’t know, then Temple David is in a financial crisis at the moment, as we don’t have enough money to fund everything, and our building is not suitable for kindys and after-schools centres to use, so if you want to help, there will be a list of coming-up events later in the service that you can sign up for, and if you have some money spare and you feel like donating, I’m not stopping you. Bring your gold, silver and bronze, but not the ram skins, because they smell. Now, back to the Drash.

But why? Why did people bring so much even without being forced to?Possibly, pride was a motivation. The Israelites had just come out of Egypt, and had recently stopped being slaves to the Egyptians and doing tasks that they had no wish to do. Possibly taking on a huge building project like this was their way of saying, “We are independent people, and we will build a thing!”

Bringing materials gives you pride in the same way, as, say, bringing food to an oneg does. You see all the food with your platter the middle of it all, you feel proud of what you, along with everyone else, have achieved.

If one person could do it all, not only would they have all the responsibility on them, but because not many people would’ve contributed, there wouldn’t be any sense of community. 

And if one person could fix up Temple David, we’d still be able to enjoy the fixed-up synagogue, but we wouldn’t have the pride, satisfaction or sense community that we would have by everyone taking a part in fixing it up.

Moses realised the value of a communal achievement, and therefore gave every Jewish man or woman a task to complete, so everyone could take part and no one person could say, “I did this.”