Vayakhel

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Spark: Israel is the place where Jewish physicality and spirituality meet.

 

 Key Texts

 
Exodus 35
 

א וַיַּקְהֵל מֹשֶׁה, אֶת-כָּל-עֲדַת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל–וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם: אֵלֶּה, הַדְּבָרִים, אֲשֶׁר-צִוָּה יְהוָה, לַעֲשֹׂת אֹתָם.

1 And Moses assembled all the congregation of the children of Israel, and said unto them: ‘These are the words which the LORD hath commanded, that ye should do them.

ב שֵׁשֶׁת יָמִים, תֵּעָשֶׂה מְלָאכָה, וּבַיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי יִהְיֶה לָכֶם קֹדֶשׁ שַׁבַּת שַׁבָּתוֹן, לַיהוָה; כָּל-הָעֹשֶׂה בוֹ מְלָאכָה, יוּמָת.

2 Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you a holy day, a sabbath of solemn rest to the LORD; whosoever doeth any work therein shall be put to death.

י וְכָל-חֲכַם-לֵב, בָּכֶם, יָבֹאוּ וְיַעֲשׂוּ, אֵת כָּל-אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְהוָה.

יא אֶת-הַמִּשְׁכָּן–אֶת-אָהֳלוֹ, וְאֶת-מִכְסֵהוּ; אֶת-קְרָסָיו, וְאֶת-קְרָשָׁיו, אֶת-בְּרִיחָו, אֶת-עַמֻּדָיו וְאֶת-אֲדָנָיו.

10 And let every wise-hearted man among you come, and make all that the LORD hath commanded: 11 the tabernacle, its tent, and its covering, its clasps, and its boards, its bars, its pillars, and its sockets [etc…]

 

Framing:

 

This parasha opens with Moshe gathering the children of Israel to proclaim two very different commandments: the order to celebrate Shabbat, and the order to donate items and build the Mikdash.

Shabbat is a day of pure spirit. Donating items and building a structure is purely physical.

Israel is the manifestation of the physical meeting the spiritual. The atmosphere of a Jerusalem shabbat, the holiness of the Kotel, the intensity of religious practice and study are incredibly spiritual. However, Israel is also an intensely physical space. The presence of the army. Building projects. Bustling marketplaces. Israel is where Jewish spirituality and physicality truly meet. 

Modern Application to Israel:

 

In a collection of short pieces, A Dream of Zion: American Jews Reflect on Why Israel Matters to Them, Rabbi Janet Marder (leading Reform rabbi, Los Altos CA) writes:

Some of what I love is the reality of Israel: the automatic teller machine that spits out a receipt wishing me a happy Sukkot; the taxi drivers with tehilim (psalms) taped to the dashboard; street signs in Hebrew, named for sages and poets and great figures in our history; concerts that begin with the crowd singing “Hatikvah”; public lectures, literature, films, plays, and even rock music that wrestle with Jewish themes; the siren that announces Shabbat on Friday afternoons in Jerusalem; the buses that stop running, the quiet that falls over the city, and the streets full of people carrying flowers home or walking to synagogue. Israel is the only place in the world that offers me public Jewish space—an external environment that reflects my inner identity. I belong there, in a way that I belong nowhere else. (132)

 

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