The Torah portion, or parasha, this week is a double portion called Vayakhel-Pekudei and is found in Exodus 35:1-40:38. In this parasha, Moses asks the Israelites to bring materials for building the mishkan — the portable sanctuary in the wilderness — and for those who have skills to come forward to perform the work. Bezalel and Oholiav are the artisans that head up the work and they receive so many gifts they tell Moses to ask the people to stop. When the mishkan is complete, Moses bestows a blessing on the Israelites for their diligent efforts — “on the first day of the first month” — a fitting New Year’s celebration. The ritual objects within the Sanctuary are anointed and dedicated to their respective, sacred functions. Then the Divine Presence fills the Tabernacle. “When the cloud lifted from the Tabernacle, the Israelites would set out,” continuing their trek to the Promised Land. During these journeys, the cloud of God’s Presence would rest over the Tabernacle by day… taking on a fiery aspect at night.
We learn the following points from this parasha. First, we see everyone work together to give what they had to create a dwelling place for God. Secondly, God encouraged people to use whatever talents they had to create a place of worship that would help them connect with God. Today, as we face difficult times, there are many opportunities to give of what we have to help others in need — a smile, words of encouragement, a helping hand, money, or time. It is not so important what we give or how much, but whether we give with our hearts. Finally, we also see that God did not need a dwelling place, but God asked to have the mishkan built so that God could establish an ongoing visible presence with the people in their journey through the wilderness. Today, we sometimes find it difficult to see and feel God’s presence and to know that God is still with us during the twists and turns in our life’s journey. However, as God was with our people in ancient times, God’s presence is still with us today.