Dear Scouts:[Shhh … This week, we listen in while big brother Yosef tells younger brother Asher about the parsha.]
Yosef: In this week’s parsha, Vayakhel, God tells the Children of Israel to build the Mishkan (Tabernacle).
Asher: Again? Didn’t God already tell them to build the Mishkan way back in Tetzaveh and Terumah?
Yosef: Well, sort of. God told them how to build the Mishkan in those parshot. This week, He’s telling them to go ahead and build it. Like, “Start today.”
Asher: What happened between those weeks and this week?
Yosef: Oh – just the Chet Ha’Egel, the Sin of the Golden Calf.
Asher: Wait a minute. I know God told the Israelites a couple of times not to worship idols. Wasn’t that one of the Ten Suggestions?
Yosef: You mean the Ten Commandments? Yes, it’s number 2.
Asher: So, how come God told the people to build the Mishkan weeks ago in Tetzaveh and Terumah, and then He tells them again this week?
Yosef: Well, that’s the order the Torah is in. But the ancient rabbis, our Sages, taught us that the Torah sometimes does not go in historical order.
Asher: So, does that mean we’re going to get part of the creation story next week?
Yosef: No, it doesn’t mean that the historical order is not important. In fact, the historical order is very important in this part of our history. After the Chet Ha’Egel, Moses prays that God will not destroy all the people for this sin. God listens to Moses, and only condemns the 3,000 people who actually worshiped the Golden Calf. Rather than take out His anger on all the Israelites, God understands they need guidance, so He commands them to build the Mishkan as a symbol of His presence, so that the people can feel physically close to God, as a means of coming spiritually close to God.
Asher: I thought the spiritual stuff in our life was just about prayers and being nice to people. You mean the physical stuff we do affects our spiritual life?
Yosef: You bet your backpack! In fact, in this portion, after telling the people to build the Mishkan, God says very clearly not to work on Shabbat, meaning not to build the Mishkan on Shabbat. There were 39 kinds of work necessary to build, take down, and move the Mishkan, and the Sages understood those tasks to be the kinds of work that should not be done on Shabbat.
Asher: There are 39 kinds of work?! Are they all stuff I do at school?
Yosef: You’ll understand when you’re older.
Asher: Now you sound like Dad.
©2014 Nelson R. Block