Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah#22: Vayak’hel (He assembled) Sh’mot (Exodus) 35:1-38:20
Haftarah: M’lakhim Alef (1 Kings) 7:13-26
B’rit Chadashah: Revelation 11:1-13
Moshe begins his discussion by reiterating G-d’s command for Shabbat observance. We should be getting the idea that this is important to G-d; especially when He commands that anyone who works on it to be put to death. Yet, we can see how seriously our world in general takes G-d’s commands. G-d is patient and long-suffering, but will not allow such negligence to go unpunished. This passage reiterates Ex. 31:12-17 in the last parashah where a complete paragraph is devoted to this command and why it was established. Note the theme of Shabbat running throughout the Bible describing G-d’s purpose for man; “for this is a sign between me and you through all your generations; so that you will know that I am Adonai, who sets you apart for me.” Furthermore it is to be observed through all our generations as a perpetual covenant.
Then we see a command that seems to be out of place which commands us not to kindle a fire in any of our homes on Shabbat (35:3). What does this mean? Are we to have no light or heat on Shabbat?
Moses Alshekh (1508-1603) was an exegete with a keen interest in halakhah (Jewish law). His commentary on Ex. 35:3 questions why God is telling Moses about the Sabbath laws at this point in the story, rather than including them with the instructions previously given for building the tabernacle. Additionally, he addresses the ambiguity of the phrase “within your settlements” explaining that the injunction against kindling refers to your residences, not My G-d’s) residence. In this fashion, he explains that in the tabernacle fire may be used on the Sabbath for the purpose of burning sacrifices.
So what are we to make of this verse? There is no doubt that it is tied to Exodus 35:2 that commands rest from the mundane world of work on six days of the week, including arguing among ourselves in our own residences and in the gates of our cities. The point that fire is not to be kindled in one’s house provides an exception to fire that was to be kept burning at the Temple that was commanded by G-d. Kindling may not have been traditionally thought to have been “creative” as are the other types of work prohibited, because wood burned is destroyed. However, it takes work to kindle a fire whether a physical fire or an argument, both of which are prohibited by G-d. There are numerous meanings of “kindle” and “ish” which indicate a close connection in any context between the prohibition of kindling fire; whether considered as provoking the fire of judgment by G-d, and ceasing all work for one day to reflect and worship the One who so carefully explicates His instructions. In reality our worship and reflection on our G-d should be as a perpetual burning fire, just as that in the Temple.
Next we notice the overwhelming generosity of the people in donating their time and possessions for the tabernacle’s construction. So much so that they had to be restrained from further contributions! (36:3-7).What a change in the attitudes of modern society!
In this parashah we see a beautiful illustration of the body of YHVH/Yahshua working together in various roles without argument. Compare this scenario with Sha’ul’s (Paul’s) narrative about the different body parts and how they should work together for the optimum function of the entire body. We read in 1 Cor. 12 throughout the chapter. Verses 4-7 read “Now there are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit gives them. Also there are different ways of serving, but it is the same L-rd being served. And there are different modes of working, but it is the same G-d working them all in everyone. Moreover, to each person is given the particular manifestation of the Spirit that will be for the common good.” Verse 18 reads “But as it is, G-d arranged each of the parts in the body exactly as he wanted them.” This is nothing new as we read our parashah. In Ex. 35: 30-36:1 we read “Moshe said to the people of Isra’el, ‘See, Adonai has singled out B’tzal’el the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Y’hudah. He has filled him with the Spirit of G-d-with wisdom, understanding and knowledge concerning every kind of artisanry. He is a master of design in gold, silver, bronze, cutting precious stones to be set, woodcarving and every other craft. [Adonai] has also given him and Oholi’av, the son of Achisamakh of the tribe of Dan, the ability to teach others. He has filled them with the skill needed for every kind of work, whether done by an artisan, a designer, an embroiderer using blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and fine linen, or a weaver- they have the skill for every kind of work and design. B’tzal’el and Oholi’av, along with all the craftsmen whom Adonai has endowed with the wisdom and skill necessary to carry out the work needed for the sanctuary, are to do exactly according to everything Adonai has ordered.” G-d did not instill wisdom and skill so these men could run rampant and do whatever they wanted. They were given just what they needed to accomplish their G-d ordained tasks. They were not only in charge of building, but teaching others (Ex. 35:34). This is an extremely important statement. In our “modern” society we are encouraged to believe we are an “army of one” instead of “a part of the army of the One.” People are often very selfish/stingy with their knowledge, time, and talents they believe they were either born with or developed independent of G-d’s kindness. G-d distributes gifts and talents according to His will and for His purpose. We, in turn glorify Him when we use these G-d-given gifts for his glory, no matter what they may be. We should not be jealous of another’s job, gifts, or anything else our neighbor has because G-d endowed us with the perfect gift/s to accomplish our specific function in the body of YHVH/Yahshua. Just as he gives, He can remove these gifts or blessings if we prove to be unfaithful stewards and give them to someone who loves Him and wants to serve wherever and however G-d chooses. He can also remove his spirit (1 Sam. 16:14). G-d’s power has given us everything we need for life and Godliness, through our knowing the One who called us to his own glory and goodness (2 Pet. 1:3). Finally, we read in Ex. 38:22: “B’tzal’el the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Y’hudah, made everything that Adonai ordered Moshe to make. Assisting him was Oholi’av the son of Achisamakh, of the tribe of Dan, who was an engraver, a designer and a weaver in colors- in blue, purple, scarlet yarn and in fine linen.” In Ex. 39:42-43 we see the conclusion “The people of Isra’el did all the work just as Adonai had ordered Moshe. Moshe saw all the work, and –there it was!-they had done it! Exactly as Adonai had ordered, they had done it. And Moshe blessed them.” It should be more than enough for us to one day hear our L-rd and King say “Excellent! You are a good and trustworthy servant. You have been faithful with a small amount, so I will put you in charge of a large amount. Come and join in your master’s happiness!” (Matt. 25:23).
Haftarah: M’lakhim Alef (1 Kings) 7:13-26
This passage reflects back to the talents, wisdom and knowledge G-d provided B’tzal’el and Oholi’av and G-d’s provision for those who love Him; just what they need when they need it to accomplish His purpose for their lives. In this case it is Hiram from the tribe of Naphtali who was “a bronze worker filled with wisdom, understanding and skill for all kinds of bronze craftsmanship. He came to King Solomon and did all his bronzework.” The challenge for those who submit to decisions by the rabbis or other religious leaders is to compare what is given as halacha or law compared to G-d’s Torah. It is also wise to pray for wisdom and understanding on your own behalf. Clergy do not own the market on wisdom and knowledge, as the Torah makes very clear. More than this, we need to keep the warning found in revelation 22:18-19 very near as we listen to those who do not teach true to G-d’s Torah: “ I warn everyone hearing the words of this prophecy in this book that if anyone adds to them, G-d will add to him the plagues written in this book. And if anyone takes anything away from the words in the book of this prophecy, G-d will take away his share in the Tree of Life and the holy city, as described in this book.” We have been duly warned.
B’rit Chadashah: Revelation 11:1-13
The focus of this passage is the two witnesses of whose identity there exists much debate. It seems logical these two will represent grace and law as they are described as “the two olive trees and the two menorahs standing before the L-rd of the earth.” Are these two Elijah and Enoch? These are the two individuals identified in the Bible that did not die before being taken to heaven. Or could one of them be Moshe? We will not know for certain until the designated time. These two will be given what they need to accomplish G-d’s purpose for them as described for others who served G-d in the parashah and the haftarah. Of this provision we can be sure of in our lives if we are living to serving G-d. These two witnesses are given the power to destroy, hold back rain, turn the waters into blood, and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want! However, to whom much is given, much is required. After 1,260 days of calling people to repentance as evidenced by their sackcloth garments, the Anti-messiah will kill them. Their bodies will lay in the streets of Jerusalem for 3 ½ days while those who reject their prophesy and G-d; laugh, rejoice, and exchange gifts as they celebrate their deaths. But there is more to come. After the 3 ½ days G-d calls them to heaven. Once this witness for G-d is gone, there is a great earthquake killing 7,000 and causing others to give glory to the G-d of heaven. This does not mean these people became believers. Many people give glory to G-d in a time of fear. Nevertheless, this is the end of the second woe and the worst is yet to come. May we pray for wisdom from above, knowledge, and strength as we approach the next test of our faith and trust, knowing the outcome for true believers.
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart