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Parashat Vayakhel-Pekudei

March 12, 2021
28 Adar 5781
Parashat Vayakhel-Pekudei
Exodus 35:1 - 40:38

 

Dear Friends,

Dare I say it -- we are at the year mark, and we are tired, even as there is a light at the end of the tunnel with more and more people getting vaccinated. Living a constrained life takes effort; establishing boundaries where none previously existed takes energy.  One way or another, each of us has been changed by the past year. Our line of vision may have changed: the way we see ourselves, our lives, and what really matters to us. For many, our assumptions about what matters has been cracked wide open. We have found new ways of living in the world, accessing what matters to us in ways previously unimaginable.

So it is this week with our ancestors, as we finish the second book of the Torah, Shemot (Exodus), with the double portion of Vayakhei-Pekudei (Exodus 35:1-40:38). When Moses was up on the mountain, we read about the plans for the Mishkan (Tent of Meeting). This week, those plans are being realized. We read about the team, led by Bezalel, that is put in place to bring these incredibly elaborate designs to fruition. But it takes the offerings of the community to provide the materials needed.

After a year of limitation, how can we connect from our vantage point with the glorious decorative enterprise that is the creation of the Mishkan and the priestly garb? How does the creation of these beautiful elements matter to us?

If we step back just a little, we are reminded that all the materials needed to create these items were given freely by the people to such an extent that they had to be asked to stop bringing materials. (Exodus 35:22-29, Exodus 36:3-6). These donations are often described as “donations from the heart." They did not come from a place of fear or intimidation; they came from a place of love. This behavior is a clear contrast to the fear that motivated the construction of the golden calf.

Although our current physical lives are still constrained, our ability to give from a place of love remains unabated within each of us. So many have opened their hearts in the past year, pushing aside fear and working hard to connect through open and loving hearts. We know this is difficult work and not easily sustainable. But there are moments in time when creating beauty and order out of chaos and fear through the agency of chesed, lovingkindness, is what is needed.

The Mishkan, a home for the Divine, exists for a brief moment in time. Still, it is an example of what is possible when we work together, casting aside callousness and indifference, confronting evil and fear, and seeking to alleviate pain and suffering. It is a potent reminder that we are each being challenged by a tradition that reminds us to love the stranger, care for the poor, the widow, and the orphan. We are being challenged to create a world where we too can open our hearts. When we do and our eyes are open, we understand that this is about so much more than creating beautiful things in the service of the Divine. It is about the free will offering that creates beauty and lovingkindness in the world. As our ancestors found the strength to go forward so may we.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Linda Shriner-Cahn

Tue, April 13 2021 1 Iyyar 5781