Torah – Exodus 35:1-38:20 Haftarah – 1 Kings 7:40-50 Brit Chadashah – 2 Corinthians 99:6-11; 1 Corinthians 3:11-18
Vayakhel (and he assembled) is the parasha (portion) we will look at this week. It covers a lot of ground from the restating of the mitzvah (command) regarding observance of the Sabbath, the taking up of the offering from the people in order to construct the Mishkahn (Tabernacle) and even the making of some of the contents of the Mishkahn including the Ark and laver.
Let’s get started by taking a look at a somewhat lengthy portion of the verses contained in our Torah reading this week and then we will consider a point or two.
Exodus 35:1-29, “Then Moses gathered all the congregation of the children of Israel together, and said to them, “These [are] the words which the L-RD has commanded [you] to do: 2 “Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh day shall be a holy day for you, a Sabbath of rest to the L-RD. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. 3 “You shall kindle no fire throughout your dwellings on the Sabbath day.” 4 And Moses spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying, “This [is] the thing which the L-RD commanded, saying: 5 ‘Take from among you an offering to the LORD. Whoever [is] of a willing heart, let him bring it as an offering to the L-RD: gold, silver, and bronze; 6 ‘blue, purple, and scarlet [thread], fine linen, and goats’ [hair]; 7 ‘ram skins dyed red, badger skins, and acacia wood; 8 ‘oil for the light, and spices for the anointing oil and for the sweet incense; 9 ‘onyx stones, and stones to be set in the ephod and in the breastplate. 10 ‘All [who are] gifted artisans among you shall come and make all that the L-RD has commanded: 11 ‘the tabernacle, its tent, its covering, its clasps, its boards, its bars, its pillars, and its sockets; 12 ‘the ark and its poles, [with] the mercy seat, and the veil of the covering; 13 ‘the table and its poles, all its utensils, and the showbread; 14 ‘also the lampstand for the light, its utensils, its lamps, and the oil for the light; 15 ‘the incense altar, its poles, the anointing oil, the sweet incense, and the screen for the door at the entrance of the tabernacle; 16 ‘the altar of burnt offering with its bronze grating, its poles, all its utensils, [and] the laver and its base; 17 ‘the hangings of the court, its pillars, their sockets, and the screen for the gate of the court; 18 ‘the pegs of the tabernacle, the pegs of the court, and their cords; 19 ‘the garments of ministry, for ministering in the holy [place]–the holy garments for Aaron the priest and the garments of his sons, to minister as priests.’ ” 20 And all the congregation of the children of Israel departed from the presence of Moses. 21 Then everyone came whose heart was stirred, and everyone whose spirit was willing, [and] they brought the L-RD’s offering for the work of the tabernacle of meeting, for all its service, and for the holy garments. 22 They came, both men and women, as many as had a willing heart, [and] brought earrings and nose rings, rings and necklaces, all jewelry of gold, that is, every man who [made] an offering of gold to the L-RD. 23 And every man, with whom was found blue, purple, and scarlet [thread], fine linen, and goats’ [hair], red skins of rams, and badger skins, brought [them]. 24 Everyone who offered an offering of silver or bronze brought the L-RD’s offering. And everyone with whom was found acacia wood for any work of the service, brought [it]. 25 All the women [who were] gifted artisans spun yarn with their hands, and brought what they had spun, of blue, purple, [and] scarlet, and fine linen. 26 And all the women whose hearts stirred with wisdom spun yarn of goats’ [hair]. 27 The rulers brought onyx stones, and the stones to be set in the ephod and in the breastplate, 28 and spices and oil for the light, for the anointing oil, and for the sweet incense. 29 The children of Israel brought a freewill offering to the L-RD, all the men and women whose hearts were willing to bring [material] for all kinds of work which the L-RD, by the hand of Moses, had commanded to be done.” (NKJV)
Exodus 36:5-7, “and they spoke to Moses, saying, “The people bring much more than enough for the service of the work which the L-RD commanded [us] to do.” 6 So Moses gave a commandment, and they caused it to be proclaimed throughout the camp, saying, “Let neither man nor woman do any more work for the offering of the sanctuary.” And the people were restrained from bringing, 7 for the material they had was sufficient for all the work to be done–indeed too much.”
This is a very important part of this parasha that we have looked at a couple of times over the years. This year we will revisit some of the same points as they are that important. We will also take a look at a little different angle that I don’t believe we have discussed before.
First, you will note that Moshe (Moses) invited the people to offer to the L-RD in order to build the Mishkahn, which the L-RD had instructed them to build.
The vision that was presented was very clear and given with great transparency. You will note that specific items were requested and even was mentioned the purpose for those items at times.
As an aside, is this something we see in the modern “church-at-large?” We have general offerings that are taken up with little if any transparency given to most congregations. We also see any number of sub-groupings of offerings taken up at various times. You’ll see things like missions offerings, building offerings and so on. Let it be noted I am not saying that taking offerings, or even multiple or specific offerings is a bad thing in and of itself. I’m just wondering how often church leadership gets as specific as Moshe did.
Furthermore, you will notice that there was NO coercion, manipulation, or pushiness in the request made by Moshe. Simply put, he stated without any drama the need, and what it was to be used for in the work G-d had called them to do. He also made it very clear that this was an offering to be received from the “willing” only!
One last thing you don’t see in this offering time. It is not recorded that there was any band playing emotional music designed to draw people in. No, none of that.
So what was the result? I think if a “consultant” sat in on most pastoral business meetings and suggested offerings were taken up in the exact way Moshe did in the above verses and furthermore that once the “goal” was met that the people should be instructed to stop giving that the consultant would likely be escorted out of the building!
The question for all of us to ponder this week as we study the parasha on our own is clear. What is our heart’s motivation when we give? Above and beyond our commanded tithe (10%) are we giving from a heart of love that is not seeking personal gain from some cosmic genie in a bottle? Are we attempting to bribe the G-d of the universe? Are we giving because we feel pressure from the pulpit? Is our giving inspired by the Holy Spirit, or because we don’t want to be the only one in our row not pulling out our checkbook or wallet?
Whether or not a special need is made known from leadership, I think we ought to make sure that our giving always comes from a position of love and a desire to please the Father, whether or not He will bless us. Anything else, I’m afraid will amount to wood, hay and stubble in the world to come.