Then Moses gathered all the congregation of the children of Israel together, and said to them, "These are the words which the LORD has commanded you to do..."
Join us for this week's reading of Parashat Vayakhel, which means 'to assemble/congregate'. We will take a look at God's desire to dwell amongst us in the book of Exodus (35:1-38:20). We’ll discover the link between God's commandment to rest, the building of the Tabernacle, and how Yeshua paved the way to make His home within us (Acts 1:4).
In this Parasha, God asks Moses to assemble the people of Israel to receive instructions for building the Tabernacle. A tent of meeting in which God would speak to Moses and communicate His will to the people. Moses is asking them to contribute free will gifts to build a very special tabernacle for God’s glory. Skilled and anointed craftsmen are called to complete the work of the tabernacle.
Sabbath is for Rest
The Parasha starts with a very important commandment in Exodus 35:1-3. Moses assembles the people and instructs them about the holiness of the Sabbath and commands them to limit their work to only six days a week:
"Then Moses gathered all the congregation of the children of Israel together, and said to them, "These are the words which the LORD has commanded you to do: Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh day shall be a holy day for you, a Sabbath of rest to the LORD. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. You shall kindle no fire throughout your dwellings on the Sabbath day."
After 400 years of slavery in Egypt, the people of Israel didn't know how to trust God to provide for them. They were crushed beneath the heavy hand of labor, and rest was a foreign concept, not in line with their deeply engrained slave mentality.
They needed a constant reminder from God that they were not only encouraged to rest but were commanded to - putting a boundary between His children and oppressive hardship. It was important to God that His people would never again be enslaved by foreign nations or repeat the same behavior by their actions. Hence God set the firsts-thing-first by declaring rest is an inseparable part of who He is.
Collecting Contributions for the Tabernacle
God desired to dwell amongst His people, to become their home and be their God. Although the people of Israel were no longer slaves in Egypt, they were also not yet in the promised land. God's solution for this in-between period was to build a tabernacle. The tabernacle was a 'tent of meeting' where He would meet with His people and speak to Moses.
The people of Israel were then asked to contribute to the building of the tabernacle, each according to the generosity of their heart in Exodus 35:4-8:
"Moses said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, "This is the thing that the Lord has commanded. Take from among you a contribution to the Lord. Whoever is of a generous heart, let him bring the Lord's contribution: gold, silver, and bronze; blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen; goats' hair, tanned rams' skins, and goatskins; acacia wood, oil for the light, spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense."
Soon enough, the contributions came flooding in. People gave their jewelry, precious wood, fine linens, spices, oils, and more.
The people of Israel responded to God's invitation with open hearts and generosity. The abundance of free will gifts was so plentiful that Moses had to instruct the people to stop giving since they collected enough!
Calling Skilled Craftsmen to Build
No house can be built without capable builders to faithfully lay down the foundations and fill its interiors. God then calls Bezalel, a skilled craftsman, to build his dwelling place in Exodus 35:30-33:
“See, the Lord has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold and silver and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, for work in every skilled craft.”
Betzalel was called to use his skills to build the tabernacle in all its splendor - but he didn't work alone. God also put His spirit in other skilled artisans to complete the work. Paying attention to every detailed instruction, they sewed curtains from fine linen, crafted the ark of the covenant, and overlaid furniture with gold. Together they used their hand and God-given gifts to serve and fill God's dwelling place with every precious thing.
An Eternal Dwelling Place
If there was only one place in which God would meet with His people in the past, Yeshua was about to change that forever. After He went to the cross, forgiveness for all was available, and sin could no longer separate God's children from Him. Through this act of redemption, the Holy Spirit could now dwell in every willing heart.
While Yeshua appeared to the disciples for 40 days after His resurrection, He left them with this comforting gift of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit:
"And while they were gathered together, He commanded them: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift the Father promised, which you have heard Me discuss." - Acts 1:4
The people of Israel will never again be limited to a physical tent to meet with God as Yeshua decided to make His home in us - an eternal dwelling place within the hearts of His children to guide, comfort, and encourage them.
Reflection: God's Eternal Dwelling in Us
From the dawn of time, God desired to dwell amongst His people and give them rest. At the assembling of the people of Israel at Mt. Sinai God gave instructions. He reminded His children just how important it was to rest on the Sabbath and keep it holy - keeping them safe from ever returning to slavery again.
He then desired to build a tabernacle, a place where He could dwell amongst His people. No longer a seemingly aloof or distant God but a God who desires nearness with those He loves— comforting a people wandering in the desert, searching for a home.
Just like the people of Israel contributed their own possessions to build a tabernacle, we treat our hearts the same - a place worthy of the Holy Spirit. The generosity of their hearts to contribute to the building of the tabernacle paints an inspiring picture for us today to offer ourselves as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1).
Each person has been given talents and skills to serve with build God's kingdom in creative ways. Just as Bezalel was anointed to build the tabernacle, we too are called to volunteer our gifts and work with our hands and serve.
As we reflect upon this Parasha, we thank God for giving us rest and gifting us with the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. God, please cleanse our hearts and fill us anew with your goodness. Help us be faithful with the skills you have given us to build your kingdom today.
To hear Batya’s teaching about Parashat Vaykehl, click HERE.