Parashat Vayakhel/P’kudei

Parashat Vayakhel/P’kudei Exodus 35:1-40:38
Dear Friends,
Have you ever read a book at one point and then after a long time came across another book that seems to resemble the first book you read? The stories are not identical however there are striking similarities between the two that a reader with a good memory could recall.
This is the case with this week’s double Torah portion of Vayakhel and P’kudei which includes an interesting literary feature. Verses in this portion, the last of Exodus, conclude the Israelites construction of the mishkan. They resemble verses in Genesis that conclude God’s creation of the world.
In Genesis, at the end of the six days of creation, God beholds God’s creation of the world, the dwelling place for humankind. A selection of verses (and pertinent words) reads: “God saw all that God had made, and behold it was very good. . .The heavens and all their array were completed. . .And God completed all the work that God had done. . .And God blessed. . .and sanctified (Gen 1:31, 2:1,2:2, 2:3, 2:3).
In Exodus as the very long process of building the mishkan concludes, we read this account: “Moses saw all the skilled work and behold they had done it. . .All the work of the Tabernacle of the Tent of Meeting was completed. . . All the work of the Tabernacle of the Tent of Meeting was completed. . .And Moses blessed. . .And you shall sanctify it and all its vessels. (Exodus 39:43, 39:32, 39:32, 39:43, 40:9) This literary structure is not a unique discovery, however Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks provides some nice insights in his commentary this week including this very succinct summary of the relationship between the creation of the world and the construction of the mishkan; “Genesis begins with God creating the universe as a home for humankind. Exodus ends with human beings, the Israelites, creating the Sanctuary as a home for God.” (Covenant and Conversation, Making Space, Vayakhel & P’kudei 2018 / 5778)
In our world and in our sanctuaries, God and humankind make space for one another. We dwell within each other’s structures where we partake in the ongoing sacred encounter with one another. Often times Shabbat is that moment when the encounter is at its peak, especially we open our hearts and minds to the limitless possibilities that Shabbat can provide for us. The beginning verses in chapter 35 speak of the sanctity of Shabbat-God rested after creating the world in the previous six days; the Israelites will rest on Shabbat and dwell with God in the mishkan they have built for that very purpose.
On Shabbat we may encounter God in our formal sanctuary, or in the sanctuary of our world. When people come to dwell with one another and among the presence of God, we uphold core values of Shabbat-rest, rejuvenation, inspiration, community and celebration.
This Shabbat, come to our sanctuary as we celebrate and honor Mary Cohn and Jodi Davidson, recipients of the 2018 Zebulon Award. Also, take time to participate in the National Day of Unplugging as we try to take a break from our devices that often control our lives. Build sanctuaries of love where God’s presence, and the presence of people about whom you care deeply can dwell together.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Charles K. Briskin