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Parashat Vayakhel-Pekudei - 5777

Dear friends,

This Shabbat - given that the year 5777 is a regular 12-month year - we read the last two portions in the Book of Exodus. They are read separately when it is a Jewish Leap Year and an extra month is added.

In the preceding portions, Moses was given the details for the building of the Tabernacle and its contents. In these 2 portions we are told how this project comes into fruition.

When Moses comes down from Mount Sinai he gathers all the people (Vayakhel) and tells them that a Tabernacle will be built in their midst. He asks for donations of the items that will be needed and for skilled volunteers who will work under Bezalel, the chief architect, and his assistant Oholiav.

The Torah then tells us that the people were most generous. Individuals brought gold, silver, brass and all manner of items that were requested. In fact, the people brought so much that Moses had to circulate an order not to bring anymore, as they already had too much for what was needed.

In the portion of Pekudei, Moses gives an accounting of what was collected and how it was spent. And it came to pass that, on the first day of the month of Nissan, one year after they had left Egypt, the Tabernacle was erected and all the items placed in their assigned positions. A cloud descended upon the Tabernacle, symbolizing G-d's presence in the midst of the camp of the Israelites.

The Book of Exodus began with a description of the enslavement of the Children of Israel in Egypt, the long and oppressive hard labor that was placed on them by a stubborn Pharaoh, and what it took to convince him and the Egyptians to "Let My People Go". Many things happened since that fateful night of the first Passover. They crossed the Sea of Reeds, they fought Amalek, they complained about the lack of food and water, they got Manna, they received the Torah at Mount Sinai, and they abandoned G-d by making a Golden Calf. In Vayakhel, by gathering the people, Moses explains that they had been forgiven, and that there is a project that can unify them - building a Tabernacle so that G-d is always in their midst. These former slaves are now a united people. They are excited to participate in this project. They look to G-d's presence and guidance as they head to their destined homes in the Promised Land.

The Book of Exodus can serve as an important guide for us as a community and as individuals. We all experience at some level in our life being in 'Mitzrayim' - Egypt (from the Hebrew word 'tzarot', meaning troubles) and the need to be liberated.

How can we tell if Life is Good? If we can - like in Vayakhel - (a) feel that we are part of the community and responsible for the community, and (b) we are able to give an account and an accounting (Pekudei) of what that life has been like, then we will have been successful in overcoming Mitzrayim and in contributing to the strengthening of the community.

The Book of Exodus ends with the Tabernacle being in the center of the life of the community. We are liberated if we are part of a united community and draw inspiration from the Tabernacle in living a life that is governed by laws and religious commitment.

This Shabbat is also Shabbat Hahodesh, when we read an extra passage from the Torah, designating the month of Nissan as the First Month in the Religious calendar, since this coming Tuesday is the first day in the month of Nissan.

Shabbat Shalom, and have a 'Guten Hodesh' - a good month!!