The Torah portion, or parasha, this week is called Vayakhel and is found in Exodus 35:1-38:20. In this parasha, Moses assembles the entire Israelite community and asks them to bring their gifts, materials for building the mishkan–the portable sanctuary in the wilderness– and for those who have the needed skills to come forward to perform the work. When the artisans come together under the leadership of Bezalel and Oholiav, they report to Moses that the people are bringing more materials than necessary so Moses issues a proclamation that no one should bring any more gifts for the mishkan. The Torah then describes the process of making of the cloth walls, roof, planks, and bars of the mishkan, the curtain for the Holy of Holies, and the screen for the entrance. Bezalel makes the ark and its cover, the table, the menorah, the altars for incense and for burnt offerings, the anointing oil, and the incense.
We learn two primary points from this parasha. First, we see everyone work together to create a dwelling place for God. In fact, the people brought so many gifts, Moses had to tell the people to stop giving. Secondly, God encouraged people to use their talents. People utilized their skills, in whatever areas their talents lay, to beautify a place of worship that would help them connect with God. Today, as we face difficult times, there are ample opportunities to give of what we have to help others in need–whether it is a smile, words of encouragement, a helping hand, or giving of our money or time. It is not as important as to what we give or how much we give but how meaningful the gift is and whether we give with our hearts.