The Torah spends 40 verses describing the construction of the universe, and something like 4,000 verses describing the construction of the Tabernacle. The last few weeks’ parshiyot told of Moses receiving the instructions from G-d, and the first of this week’s double portion –Vayahkel – begins with Moses reiterating those instructions to the people of Israel. They all immediately set to work. Betzalel and Ohaliab seem to be doing the bulk of the building, as head architect and interior designer, but the whole community chips in to the best of their abilities, donating all they can find to contribute to the demands of gold, copper, silver, skins, yarns, and the acacia wood. In the second parsha of this week, Pekudei, soon all of this preparation work of building and making garments is finished, and the Mishkan and the priests are ready. As promised, the cloud of G-d appears over the Tabernacle and settles, so that the people will always know that G-d is with them. When the cloud rises and starts to move, the people follow. If the cloud stays put, the people know that it is not a good day to travel. At night, the cloud becomes a fire, so that the people will still see G-d’s presence clearly.
The Israelites, as they wander through the desert, are not always grateful for all that G-d has done for them. Despite all the miracles they had seen, in last week’s parasha they still demanded that Aaron build them an idol to pray to instead of G-d. Throughout the next 40 years, they constantly complain about the hardships of wandering in the desert, and whatever G-d provides and whatever guidance Moses gives, the Manna, the water that springs from rocks, the leadership of Moses, it is often not enough for these people. But when they are given these very specific instructions to give up their money, jewelry, precious stones and fabric, they do so immediately and wholeheartedly. Together, they throw themselves into the work of building the Mishkan. They work together, accept the direction of Moses, and don’t complain about the special roles given Betzalel and Ohaliab. When G-d tried to talk to the people directly, they were freaked and sent Moses to talk to G-d for them. When Moses had been gone too long, and they heard nothing from this G-d, they lost faith. But when G-d, via Moses, gave them a specific task, they set to it. The people need to keep busy, and they need to be able to work together, for this mass of wanderers to survive.
The construction of the universe is told in only 40 verses, because that is G-d’s domain. G-d created the world in 6 days through Divine powers that we could never hope to comprehend, so why bother trying to explain it in simple human words? The construction of the Tabernacle is allowed half of the book of Exodus, because it is a human domain. Through teamwork, generosity, and sheer human strength and wisdom, the Israelites were able to bring G-d’s blueprints for a dwelling place to fruition. The Israelites learn how to be a TEAM – where Together Everyone Accomplishes More. Although the teamwork itself is a small paragraph in comparison to the pages and pages of descriptions of the materials and how they are to be used, it puts into perspective how massive the task was, and how easily they were still able to complete it when they put their minds and hearts to it. In Genesis, G-d created humans and a place for them to live. In this week’s double parasha, humans create a place for G-d to live, and a community that serves G-d, basically validating G-d. This is not a small thing!
As we go through our tasks in life, which may sometimes be unappealing, and sometimes do not inspire gratitude, let us remember that through hard work, our lives are made fulfilling and by using teamwork to complete our hard tasks, our loads are made light. May we always try our best to work well together and be generous, giving G-d a home and a strong community. Amen and Shabbat Shalom.