In our desire to provide you with the teaching of Messiah Yeshua in a Jewish context, we provide in-depth teachings of the weekly Torah portions throughout the year. Below are various perspectives from various teachers and staff members from Netivyah Bible Instruction ministry.
Note: This is a double Torah portion. To learn more about double Torah portions, read here.
Joseph Shulam: Faith Requires Reason 
The reading this Shabbat is a double portion, “Vayakhel Pekudei”, Exodus 35:1 – 40:38. From the prophets the reading is special because it is the new moon of the month of Nissan, Haftarah Ezekiel 45:16 – 46:18, Shabbat HaChodesh and the Regular Haftarah (reading from the prophets) for Vayakhel Pekudei: I Kings 7:51 – 8:21. From the New Testament we read 2 Corinthians 3:1-14.
The reading of Exodus 35 starts with verse one. Moses gathers all the people of Israel! We are talking a very large crowd, and the question that ought to be asked is, what does the word mean?
“Then Moses gathered all the congregation of the children of Israel together, and said to them, ‘These are the words which the Lord has commanded you to do.’” – Exodus 35:1 [NKJV]
There is a logical question that is required for an understanding of this text. This event might have happened about two years after Israel had left Egypt. When they left Egypt there were 600,000 men between the ages of 20 and 50:
“Then the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides children.” – Exodus 35:1-37 [NKJV]
So, without a PA system available, and presuming that most of the men only would be gathered to hear Moses speak, that size crowd would have had difficulty hearing and understanding the voice of Moses, especially if he had not been healed from his stuttering.
So, what does it mean, “Then Moses gathered all the congregation of the children of Israel together”? The probability is that representatives of the tribes and the families were gathered – representing every group and division of the people of Israel.
This is why it says that those who were gathered were, “all the congregation.” This leaves an opening to a logical question regarding the situation and gathering that represented all of Israel. Why is this important? Because we have the text in Romans 11:26, where Paul states, “And so all of Israel will be saved…”
“Now therefore, send and gather all Israel to me on Mount Carmel, the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal, and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.” – 1 Kings 18:19 [NKJV]
We find out later in the story that there were hundreds, and even thousands of men of Israel, prophets and disciples of the prophets, that were hiding in caves from the wrath of Queen Jezebel and that were not up there on the top of Mount Carmel with Elijah. So, the word “all” often means that not all were represented there by their proper representation.
This might be a small detail and might seem unimportant, but logic and reason are always important and when we read the word of God we are required to think and to think with reason. If we don’t we can’t build our faith to the degree that is required, to be able to truly follow the Messiah. Faith has to use reason and rational thinking in order to be standing up for the word of God.
It is interesting that the first thing that Moses commands the people of Israel, is to keep the Sabbath day. The camp of Israel was like a beehive with people collecting silver and gold, wood, cloth of crimson and royal blue, leatherworkers and stone masons. People were working hard under the guidance of Bezalel the Son of Uri and his staff in the building of the Tabernacle.
Now Moses is repeating one of the Ten Commandments, the keeping of and resting on the Sabbath day. This is very interesting to me! I could think of dozens of issues that would be more relevant and important to these people who are finally free from slavery. I would think that people who were slaves would naturally seek every opportunity to rest and be more than happy to rest at every opportunity.
God’s wisdom expressed through Moses is to give Israel this very clear command to keep the Sabbath day both for the masters and the servants for the rich and for the poor of Israel.
The next thing that Moses commands the people is to give, to contribute:
“Take from among you an offering to the Lord. Whoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it as an offering to the Lord: gold, silver, and bronze; blue, purple, and scarlet thread, fine linen, and goats’ hair; ram skins dyed red, badger skins, and acacia wood; oil for the light, and spices for the anointing oil and for the sweet incense; onyx stones, and stones to be set in the ephod and in the breastplate.” – Exodus 35:5-9 [NKJV]
The speech that Moses is giving is a divine order and if it is in the order of importance – than Moses is hitting a hot iron for us today. There is no love without sacrifice and there is no sacrifice without giving from your heart.
The Lord is presenting some of the most important things that the people of Israel need to know and do, as they set forth on 38 years of wilderness wandering, before they enter into the promised land of Canaan.
This amazes me to think that it is the Sabbath and the contributions and sacrifice of the people of Israel that bonds these ex-slaves together and forges through suffering and sacrificing, twelve estranged tribes, into a nation.
I am thinking of the tribes of Israel and of the competitive spirit that existed between them from the beginning of their childhood in the house of Jacob their father. I am thinking of the blessings and non-blessings that Jacob delivered to the fathers of these twelve tribes on his death bed.
Now they were all standing before the fearful Mount Sinai, they have all heard the voice of God speaking from the mountain, they all are eating the mana from heaven every day. Now, it seems like they have graduated from the Mount Sinai college and they have to step out into the harsh and difficult desert of life’s survival.
God gives Moses the most important things that these people of Israel need to know and do during their future wanderings through the barren desert. So, first they need to know when to rest and how to rest. This is as important as knowing how to work, and what work to do.
If people don’t know how to rest (the best way is in accordance with the manufacturer’s prescription, our creator Himself and His instructions), also without His instructions, they will also not be able to work the way that they ought to work.
If the people don’t know how to give and contribute and sacrifice for the Lord’s people they will not know how to contribute to their own community or even to their families. The next chapters, all the way to the end of the book of Exodus, give us every instrument every furniture, every tool and procedure that is to be carried in the tabernacle of the Lord.
Every single tool and part of the tent called the “Tent of Meeting,” the Tabernacle (which is another word for tent) is given with detailed instructions down to the last detail. What can I personally learn from these tedious and super detailed instructions?
Well, I learn that the great creator of the universe, the one who so loves the world that He sent His only begotten Son to be a sacrifice and salvation for all of humanity. This God, is a God who cares and leads and guides His children even down to the smallest detailed instruction of His will for us, as His children.
I would like to share a few words also about the reading from the prophets and also from the New Testament.
From the prophets the reading that is connected with the Torah portion is from 1 Kings 7-8, the building and dedication of the Temple by King Solomon.
The temple was a building not from cloth and leather, but from stone. It was a magnificent building. Solomon brought 50,000 foreign workers from Tyre in the Lebanon. He imported cedar wood from Lebanon, gold from Tarshish, and purple from Lebanon. After the building was finished Solomon made one of those dramatic statements that ought to be posted on every synagogue and church building. These are the words of Solomon in his dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem:
“‘And now I pray, O God of Israel, let Your word come true, which You have spoken to Your servant David my father. “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built! Yet regard the prayer of Your servant and his supplication, O Lord my God, and listen to the cry and the prayer which Your servant is praying before You today: that Your eyes may be open toward this temple night and day, toward the place of which You said, ‘My name shall be there,’ that You may hear the prayer which Your servant makes toward this place. And may You hear the supplication of Your servant and of Your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. Hear in heaven Your dwelling place; and when You hear, forgive.’” – 1 Kings 8:26-30 [NKJV]
This dedication speech of Solomon is one that has influenced me the most, together with Paul’s speech on Mars Hill, in Athens. Paul states the same thing that Solomon is saying here in 1 Kings. Paul says:
“God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things.” – Acts 17:24,25 [NKJV]
This is a lesson that all of us, Jews and Messianic Jews, and Christians of all denominations, must know this truth that both Solomon and Paul and the prophets of Israel (see Isaiah chapter 1) knew. The Tabernacle built in the wildness with all of its intricacies and detailed instructions was built for the people of Israel. The Lord was above it as a pillar of fire by night and cloud by day, not inside of it.
It is idolatrous to think that church buildings or synagogues are the house of God, no they are houses for us, for us humans to have a place that is sanctified by God for His children to gather and to serve and to proclaim His goodness and mercy for all!
The individual, the community, is where God dwells. In the hearts of the people and within the anointing of the Holy Spirit is the place that God dwells as the Torah said,
“And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.” – Exodus 25:6 [NKJV]
I urge you to read the Torah portions and the prophets, and from the New Testament every week. The choice of texts is based on the relationship between these texts, and the relationship of the texts with each other, Torah, Prophets and the New Testament, makes the picture complete.
Joseph Shulam: The Power of a Freewill Offering 
The reading of the Torah this Shabbat is a double portion, called Vayakhel-Pekudei (Exodus 35:1 – 40:38). This Shabbat we finish reading the book of Exodus. In addition, it is the end of the month of Adar and the beginning of the month of Nisan.
The second reading for the new month is from Exodus 12:1-20. From the prophets the reading is from 1 Kings 7:13-28,40 – 8:21. From the New Testament we read 2 Corinthians 9:6-11, 3:7-19. As you can see this next Shabbat the reading is a double portion, and that is why we have a double portion from the prophets and from the New Testament.
Earlier the Torah dealt with the 10% that all Israelites had to contribute to the Levites and the Kohanim (priests). Then the gifts for the building of the Tabernacle. Now Moses turns to an extra contribution, a freewill offering.
This is not a tithe that was obligatory for all of Israel. This occasion is very different. This is what God commands Moses and Israel:
“Then Moses gathered all the congregation of the children of Israel together, and said to them, ‘These are the words which the Lord has commanded you to do: Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh day shall be a holy day for you, a Sabbath of rest to the Lord. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. You shall kindle no fire throughout your dwellings on the Sabbath day.’ And Moses spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying, ‘This is the thing which the Lord commanded, saying: “Take from among you an offering to the Lord. Whoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it as an offering to the Lord: gold, silver, and bronze; blue, purple, and scarlet thread, fine linen, and goats’ hair; ram skins dyed red, badger skins, and acacia wood…”’” – Exodus 35:1-7 [NKJV]
What can we learn from this text of Exodus 35? There is an obligation that is equal for every member of the Israelite nation. The obligation is like modern income tax in most nations.
Everyone has to give an equal portion of his income, 10%. It is a proportional sum of money that everyone has to give. The amount that everyone would give is a relative amount to a person’s income.
Now God does not define the amount in percent of a person’s income. Now it is a request for the people of Israel to give a freewill offering, as they have purposed in their hearts. The first thing that God commands that is based on the desire of a person’s heart.
The question that comes up here is, what is more valuable for the construction of the Tabernacle in the wilderness? The 10% that was commanded for all of Israel to give to the priests and the Levites, the contributions that were commanded to be given for the construction of the Tabernacle, or this freewill offering that comes from the heart’s desire of each person, without a set amount or percentage?
I suggest to you for the Lord what was most significant was the offering that was free, where no amount or percentage was assigned.
The first command to give the 10th percentage was uniform and relative to each person. A set 10% from the crops and income of each person. In the second case, the contribution for the building was specified in different kinds of materials. The half-shekel was for the counting of the number of Israel’s population. Also stressing the equality between each soul in Israel.
Now we have a contribution that is individual, and from the desire of our hearts. The text says, “Whoever is of a willing heart.” The materials are also suggested but not limited.
In the New Testament, this kind of giving is the only kind commanded. The 10% in the New Testament, like in the Old Testament, was only mentioned for the Temple in Jerusalem. The giving in the New Testament is only associated with giving for the “poor saints in Jerusalem”.
There is no mention of giving to the church 10%. The apostle Paul says the following things about giving and receiving contributions from brothers in the diaspora:
“Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem.” – 1 Corinthians 16:1-3 [NIV]
“For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the Lord’s people in Jerusalem. They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings.” – Romans 15:26,27 [NIV]
“There is no need for me to write to you about this service to the Lord’s people. For I know your eagerness to help, and I have been boasting about it to the Macedonians, telling them that since last year you in Achaia were ready to give; and your enthusiasm has stirred most of them to action. But I am sending the brothers in order that our boasting about you in this matter should not prove hollow, but that you may be ready, as I said you would be. For if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we—not to say anything about you—would be ashamed of having been so confident. So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to visit you in advance and finish the arrangements for the generous gift you had promised. Then it will be ready as a generous gift, not as one grudgingly given. Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: ’They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.’ Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.” – 2 Corinthians 9:1-12 [NIV]
This text in 2 Corinthians 9 reveals Paul’s method of raising funds for the saints in Jerusalem. Paul used true psychology as his method. To the Romans he wrote “Achaia” was pleased to make a contribution for the poor saints of Jerusalem. Paul is motivating the people of Corinth to give by provoking the brothers and giving them an opportunity to sow seeds in the blessing of the poor brothers in Jerusalem.
Notice that there is no 10% mentioned. There is no amount mentioned. There is only the need mentioned and the blessing of blessing the brothers in Jerusalem.
The question is, how do we receive and interpret what was commanded to the brothers by the apostle Paul? And what example do we have in the scriptures, both in the Old and New Testament?
We have obligations by the Torah to sustain the priests and the Levites in their service to God and for the people. In the New Testament we see only the pattern of the freewill giving, without a specification of amount. The only thing specified is that the giving ought to be purposed and pre-organized for the giving.
The children of Israel responded in this case above and beyond the needs, and they had to be asked to stop. They gave all that is needed, and when it was enough they were asked to stop.
It is so much more noble to give for a good cause from your free will and your heart’s desire.[ quote] This kind of giving is what pleases the Lord most.
Joseph Shulam: Following the Cloud by Day and the Pillar of Fire by Night 
The highest value of Western civilization in these years of the 21st century is freedom! Freedom of everything that puts a demand on you! This is one reason that today couples move to live together long before marriage. They want to have a life of marriage without making the commitment of marriage.
This “Now Generation” wants to live free from obligation, free from commitments, and to enjoy the privilege of marriage and not have the obligation and limitations of marriage! Many want to enjoy the privilege of being disciples of Yeshua and sometimes go to church, but they are perpetual visitors in the church and not willing to make commitments and follow.
The end of the Book of Exodus is God’s instruction to Israel to follow His guides through the wilderness. Do you need a guide to guide you through the desert of modern life realities?
I can honestly say that I need a guide daily, and I want a guide through life. I want to have a map of where and when I need to be each day, and what I need to do each day. I feel much less secure when I have to make big choices without guidance from God.
You might ask today, Joseph, where do you get the guidance by day and by night? Do you see a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night? No, dear brothers, I wish I did have a physical cloud by day and the fire by night. I don’t have these physical reminders today, but maybe I have something better.
I have the book of instruction and a map of where the pitfalls and the dangers are, and where God wants me to be every day. And if there is a change in the curriculum, there is the Holy Spirit that is there for me and for you.
You have to ask for guidance and you will get it and receive it from the Word of God and from the Spirit of the Lord that is in you! You need to read and study and pray for this revelation and guidance – it is there waiting for you, but you have to take it and work it out for yourself.
Let me review the last three parashot (weekly portions) of the Torah: Terumah, Tetzaveh, Vayakhel. These are sections of the Torah that deal with the collection of things (gold, silver, wood, and leather) for the building of the Tabernacle in the desert. Much of it is about inventory and technical issues – the collection of the half shekel and the census, the counting of the people of Israel in the wilderness, etc.
The Book of Exodus ends with the instruction of how to travel in the wilderness, and to follow the Lord as a guide through the harsh land of Sinai that will lead them to the Promised Land, the land of Canaan that God had promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and their seed forever.
When I was a young believer in the USA, away from my family, long before there were messianic Jewish congregations in the world, one of the worship songs they sang often in the churches was, “Where He Leads Me I Will Follow”:
I can hear my Savior calling,
“Take thy cross and follow, follow me.”
Where he leads me I will follow,
I’ll go with him, with him all the way.
I’ll go with him thro’ the garden,
I’ll go with him, with him all the way.
Where he leads me I will follow,
I’ll go with him thro’ the judgment,
Where he leads me I will follow,
He will give me grace and glory,
Where he leads me I will follow,
Where he leads me I will follow.
This spirit of a disciple that will follow his teacher all the way is just about lost in the teaching of the evangelical Protestant churches. Today the message is ofen very different. The idea that I have to give my freedom, my personal desires and habits, in order to follow the Lord is rare and missing.
Just put yourself in the place of these stiff-necked Israelites that were just liberated from slavery a few months earlier. During slavery, they had to do what their Egyptian masters demanded from them. Now they are free, and yet the Lord commands them, “you need to follow where I will lead you, by day and by night. Don’t wander off and go where you want, stay with Me children of Israel, stay with Me if you know what is wise and good for you, your safety, and your wellbeing.”
The result of their following the Lord is the following:
- The Lord fought their wars and gave them victory over enemies that were much better trained, bigger, and stronger.
- The Lord provided them with daily food from heaven, manna by day and quail for dinner.
- Their shoes did not wear out and their garments did not get worn down.
- They have divine judgment, arbitration, and intervention for their good – all the way to the changing of the Torah for the sake of individuals and families. In other words, the Lord heard their desires and requests and answered their capricious demands.
What more could anyone want from a leader?
What do we have today to guide us and give us the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night?
What a great privilege would it be for me, and I hope for you, for the presence of the Lord to be always with me, by day and night. For me it would be wonderful to know that God is so very close to me that He sees and hears and guides me day after day.
I would love to know that I have the Lord so near that His presence is visible and guiding me every day. I would know where the Creator of the universe wants me to be, where he wants me to go, and when I should stop and rest in one place.
This is what the Lord says to Jeremiah:
“Moreover the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Go and cry in the hearing of Jerusalem, saying, “Thus says the Lord: ‘I remember you, The kindness of your youth, The love of your betrothal, When you went after Me in the wilderness, In a land not sown.’ Israel was holiness to the Lord, The firstfruits of His increase. All that devour him will offend; Disaster will come upon them,” says the Lord.’” – Jeremiah 2:1–4 [NKJV]
“‘At the same time,’ says the Lord, ‘I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be My people.’ Thus says the Lord: ‘The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness— Israel, when I went to give him rest.’” – Jeremiah 31:1,2 [NKJV]
Being close to the Lord and the Lord close to us, guiding us, instructing us, protecting us, being dependent on Him is what I want for myself and for my family. I know that God can take care of me and my family much better than I can take care of myself.
What do you think? What would you like for yourself and your family to have God guiding you daily? Why don’t you make your choice today!
Joseph Shulam: God is a God of Details 
The Torah reading this Shabbat is the portion Vayakhel (He Assembled) from Exodus 35:1-38:20. The portion of the Prophets that will be read this Shabbat is from 1 Kings 7:40-50, and we will be reading from the New Testament from Hebrews 9:1-14.
This parasha (portion) starts with a kind of shopping list that Moses gives the people of Israel in a kind of general assembly. He assembled the people, and is giving them a list of things that they ought to do: keeping the Shabbat, giving the donations (contributions) for the work of the Lord in the Tabernacle.
A list that is almost the same was given to the officials, to Aaron and his sons the priests. Now Moses repeats the list, with minor changes, to all of Israel, the whole community. The Torah in general, and the whole Bible, is very concise and doesn’t waste words.
What can we learn from this reading?
- We can learn that, as leaders, we must be patient with our disciples and not assume that they understood or received the instruction. Therefore, the teacher must repeat his instruction with patience, and even repeat more than one time.
- We learn that the God of Israel is a God of details. If you pay attention to the text you will see that these commands (and not recommendations) are detailed. When it comes to the Lord’s demands (commands) – He is specific and detailed. The attitude of so many Christians is that God is liberal. He is a little deaf and a little blind and a little retarded. God does not care about the way that we do things as long as we have faith. Well, from this reading I learn that God does care how we do things. I see that when God gives instructions, He cares not only that we keep these instructions (commands), but how and why we keep them.
- The miracle is that in chapter 35, we are told that what the people brought, the gold and the silver, and the fur and expensive cloth, was enough, and Moses had to tell them to stop giving. I have not seen in any synagogue or church the leadership say, “It is enough, we don’t need more contributions.” We learn from this the following principles:
- If the people really believe in God and understand the importance of their contribution – the people will give, and they will give with a sincere heart, and give enough.
- If the cause is clear and the people understand the benefit that they will have, privately or communally, the people will give.
- These are people that have just gone through the terrible ordeal of the building of the Golden Calf, and the plague and the death of thousands. They had given for the Golden Calf the jewelry right off their wives’ and daughters’ ears. Now they understand they were wrong in wanting an idol that will lead them. They understand that to correct the wrong that they did, they have to show at least the same dedication and magnanimity as they did in the building of the Golden Calf.
- What can we in the 21st century learn from this reading and from this list of inventory that Moses is presenting here? I learn from this that it is always easier to raise funds for physical things, like buildings or some remodeling, or something that will be visible and will give a sense of ownership to the members of a congregation. It is harder to raise money for service to the people, the poor, and the needy. One of the reasons for this is that a physical project has a beginning and an end, but the “poor will always be with us” – the need will not end.
Joseph Shulam: The Box is Less Important Than What is Inside of It 
The Torah reading this Shabbat is a double Torah portion from Exodus 35:1-40:38. Here Moses summarizes all the work and the tools of the Tabernacle that was built under Mount Sinai. It’s a kind of a builder’s catalogue of the parts and tools that will be used for the next few hundred years in the place of worship for the children of Israel.
With these readings the book of Exodus ends. Next Shabbat is the beginning of the reading of Leviticus. Leviticus is my Bar-Mitzvah reading. I am looking forward to it.
The haftarah (the reading from the prophets) this Shabbat is from 1 Kings 7:13-8:21 – King Solomon building and dedicating the Temple in Jerusalem. The Tabernacle is no longer going to be a portable temple in a tent, now Jerusalem becomes the center of Israelite Worship. There is a permanent building from stone, and not a tabernacle.
It was David’s vision and desire to build a permanent building made of the best materials that were available in his day: stone and cedar wood from Lebanon. He asked God to allow him to build Him a house, a temple in Jerusalem. God did not allow King David to build such a place in Jerusalem.
Recently I had the privilege of visiting the city of David and to go to places that are still not open for the public. One of these places was way down underground, in the Palace of King David.
Under David’s palace there is a space that has been excavated that is still a question and a puzzle for the scholars and those who are digging in the city of David. There have been some stunning discoveries in the last few years, and even in the last few months.
Just a few weeks ago a small clay seal was found with the name of Yeshayahu HaNavi – Isaiah the prophet. A few months back, another such seal was found with the name of Hezekiah son of Ahaz, king of Judea.
Now there are at least half a dozen of such seals found, with names of people whom we know from the Word of God. But, this discovery of the house of David has under it a small temple. In this private, personal temple of King David, there is an altar that still has signs of fire and some burned animal remains. However, the most striking thing was a kind of “holy of holies” with a standing “stele” (stone) that represented God.
There is no image on it, but it stood erect in the place where in pagan temples there would be a statue of their gods. Such standing stelae were found in more than one Israelite temple. The most complete is in Tel-Arad’s Israelite fortress, where not far from the altar there was a small Holy of Holies, and there were found two small altars and more than one stele (standing stones).
This raises some interesting questions about the use of church buildings and synagogues, and their importance for the Almighty God of Israel. I know that we have a new building in Jerusalem and we appreciate it very much, but we are aware of how it ought to be used and for what it ought to be used, and it is used every day.
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, did not have tabernacles or temples. They had a personal God that walked with them wherever they pitched their tents. The God of the Patriarchs was with them everywhere they went, and identified Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
The Temple in Jerusalem, with all its beauty and glory, did not bring too much glory to God, or purity of worship and dedication, in the long run. It was condemned by Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Amos, and a few more of the prophets.
The Apostle Paul says to the Athenians, and those of you who have visited Athens know the beautiful buildings up on the Acropolis. The Parthenon was the temple of the goddess Athena, and it is one of the architectural wonders of the world. It would be much more wonderful if the British would return the Elgin marbles that they have stolen back to Athens.
“God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” – Acts 17:24–31 [NKJV]
Israel prostituted after the idols of their pagan neighbors in the very temple that Solomon built. The priesthood was corrupt in the time of Yeshua, but the Temple was beautiful and one of the finest buildings in the Greco-Roman world. Let us remember that the box is much less important than what is inside of it.
Yehuda Bachana: No Generosity Means No Community 
Read the teaching below, or watch a video of the teaching by Yehuda Bachana.
Our weekly reading is called Parashat Vayakhel-Pekudei; it is a double Torah portion. According to the Hebrew calendar, an additional month is added every leap year, the month of “Adar II”.
This month is added so that Passover will always fall during the month of spring, Rosh Hashanah will always occur during the right time of the year, and the the first rain will be around the time of Sukkot. This additional month is added in order to preserve the order of the feasts and holidays throughout the year.
So if an additional month is added, from where will we bring the additional parashot to read during the additional Sabbath days of this month? For this purpose, we have combined parashot like Vayakhel-Pekudei, Behar-Bechukotai, and Tazria-Metzora. Usually we read each one as a single parasha, however, in a leap year, when there are four extra Sabbaths, we read them separately.
A Quick Review of Exodus
This parasha is the final portion of the book of Exodus, because of this I will summarize the book and the long path that Israel took. In the beginning of Exodus, an extended family went down to Egypt due to the harsh conditions of drought and famine. Eventually, this family grows and becomes a great nation. To remind you, the people of Israel were in Egypt for 400 years. In the beginning of the book we met Moses, we fled with him to Midian, and we witnessed God’s appearance in the burning bush.
Later on, we saw the mighty hand of God, how He brought Israel out of Egypt mightily with the ten severe plagues – ending with the parting of the Red Sea and the passing of an entire nation through it.
The Book of Exodus can not be summed up without the mention of the revelation at Mount Sinai and the giving of the tablets of the covenant. After the giving of the Torah, the collection of contributions for building the Tabernacle began. We also have the unfortunate incident of the Golden Calf. After the Golden Calf, we reach the end of Exodus, which is our parasha. After summarizing this series of events, we can see a collection of great, wonderful, and amazing stories. After such stories, it’s a bit difficult to read this week’s relatively mundane Torah portion.
Once again, we’re discussing the materials for the Tabernacle, the labor, and the contributions. At the end of all the tedious detailed work, God came and dwelt in His glory amongst the people of Israel in the Tabernacle that the people had built, sculpted, sewed, and contributed towards.
The long, hard, and meticulous path that they took entitled us to the Divine Presence among us.
The Power of Generosity
The Book of Exodus ends in a powerful way:
“Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.” – Exodus 40:34,35 [NIV]
What was the Tabernacle in which God dwelt made from? As we read a few weeks ago in Parashat Terumah:
“Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering. You are to receive the offering for me from everyone whose heart prompts them to give.” – Exodus 25:2 [NIV]
This generosity is also mentioned in this parasha (Exodus 35:5).
The most precious thing that was given for the construction of the Tabernacle was not gold nor expensive stones, the most valuable aspect of it was the heart of man. Generosity was the most essential part and it is what truly built the Tabernacle of God.
Did the people of Israel actually build the Tabernacle out of their own generosity? Yes, in fact, this parasha teaches us that the people of Israel gave so much towards the project that Moses had to forcefully stop the giving:
“…and [the skilled workers] said to Moses, ‘The people are bringing more than enough for doing the work the Lord commanded to be done.’ Then Moses gave an order and they sent this word throughout the camp: ‘No man or woman is to make anything else as an offering for the sanctuary.’ And so the people were restrained from bringing more…” – Exodus 36:5,6 [NIV] (amended)
Giving to the community is one of the cornerstones of human society, it is an act of taking responsibility and leading towards change. Our contribution connects us to each other and to God.
The Consequences of False Appearances
I would like to turn to the incident of the donation of Ananias’ estate in the New Testament:
“Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet. Then Peter said, ‘Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.’ When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him. About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter asked her, ‘Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?’ ‘Yes,’ she said, ‘that is the price.’ Peter said to her, ‘How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.’ At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband.” – Acts 5:1-10 [NIV]
This is a very challenging story to comprehend. Even before it started, it was not made clear whether or not contribution was mandatory. Did the early believers have to sell their property and share everything? What sin had been committed in this instance?
It’s my understanding that contribution was not mandatory, it was optional. As a result, there are two main explanations for Ananias’ sin.
It could have been a sin of disbelief and doubt, that he did not trust God to provide for him and his family. In other words, he gave up his property, but he was afraid he would be in financial need, so he kept a portion for himself just in case.
Perhaps it could be that he took for himself credit, prestige, and honor that were not his. Meaning that Ananias decided to donate his property, just as the people of Israel gave out of their own free will for the building of the Tabernacle. Ananias could have given any amount he wanted, as we can see from Peter’s own words:
“Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal?” – Acts 5:4a [NIV]
That is to say, Ananias could have given much or little, according to the calling of his heart and his own desire to contribute.
The problem started when he kept some of the money for himself and lied about it as a result. It was as if he sold all of his estate and gave everything, all he had, to the Messianic community. The real problem here is one of false appearances. He took the credit for himself, more honor than he deserved, he tried to appear in everyone’s eyes as a great saint who sold all his property for the common good. When in fact, he secretly kept some for himself.
This incident should raise a red flag for us and cause us to think about our own actions at work, at home, or within our community. We must be careful not to take for ourselves more credit than we actually deserve. For instance, our manager at work praises us for some accomplishment that we only played a small part in – we must be careful not to take honor that we do not deserve or that we only partially deserve. Especially if we spend most of the day browsing the web and using office equipment for our personal needs.
As another example, let’s say I decided to stay at home to take care of my small children and I put them in front of the TV in their room, while I go off and watch TV in another room. A few minutes before my wife gets home, I take them outside and play with them, as if I invested hours with my children. Now that my wife gets home, it’s her turn to take care of the kids, because I was a good father and played with them earlier and now I’m tired; this is an instance of false appearances as well as a lying.
We are also guilty of presenting false appearances within the community, and when this happens, it causes harm in a number of ways. On one hand, it’s the honor that we deceitfully take from our brothers and sisters in the community. Even if the honor is deserved, receiving it from man comes at the expense of receiving it from God, at the price of a blessing from God in our lives.
If we put up false appearances or try to appear more righteous than we really are, we are setting a high standard. However, when the truth comes out, and it always does, the fake high standard is broken, and this may harm many others in the process.
Trust Begins With the Smallest Things
We must be able to trust one another, and when it turns out we were lied to, it immediately leads to brokenness, pain, insecurity, and even despair.
Remember, trust is necessary not just with important matters, in fact it must begin with the smallest things first. If we cannot be trusted in the small things, at work, in the home, or with family, we cannot be trusted by God.
For example, someone pretends that he can heal others and people follow that person. But when it turns out that it’s just an illusion, innocent people get hurt and something inside of them gets broken.
Another example can be seen with people who claim that they’re prophets who hear from God. Innocent people follow them, and they don’t understand why they’re not getting a revelation from God. These desperate individuals might try fasting and praying for hours, trying with all their might to hear directly from the Almighty.
However, to their dismay, it turns out in the end that these people who claimed to be prophets never truly were.
In this instance, I believe that Peter is giving a warning to believers: if Ananias and Sapphira put up false appearances, they are actually lying to the Holy Spirit, to the Lord, and to the community. They cannot be trusted and should not be part of the community. We see in this story an extreme case of God ousting the impostors from the community by using death as the punishment.
Should Your Foot be on the Gas Pedal or on the Brakes?
My favorite part of this parasha and favorite part of the Torah is the verse that closes and seals the Book of Exodus:
“So the cloud of the Lord was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the Israelites during all their travels.” – Exodus 40:38 [NIV]
I really love this verse because it taught me about the importance of balance in life.
Everything in life is based on pressing the gas pedal and pressing on the brakes.
When we burn with enthusiasm, we let out a lot of energy and our engine may catch fire – we should calm down. But when we’re sleepy and running at half capacity, we should drink a strong cup of coffee and wake up. When we’re stretched to the limit, we needed to loosen up a bit, but if we’re too loose, it’s hard for us to snap back into action and do what is required of us. When we’re too happy and in the clouds, our warning lights don’t work, so we should land back on Earth. However, if we sink into depression, we need to rise up a bit, we need to strive to transcend.
The Israelites were accompanied by a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire, fire gives light and heat in the cold, dark night of the desert. The pillar of cloud however, gives shade, hiding the bright desert sun. Life is a series of contradictions; the point is to develop a heightened sense in order to know when to press on the brakes and when to press on the gas pedal.
I also relate this to our spiritual lives – we cannot be so connected with the spiritual side, so as to neglect the physical side. It’s not healthy to neglect your life. On the other hand, we cannot neglect the spiritual side in caring for this world.
The grandiose ending of the Book of Exodus tells of God descending to dwell in a house that the people of Israel built for Him. God Almighty, Creator of everything, coming to dwell with humans.
This ending teaches me, that after the hard and meticulous work, when we work from our hearts, God comes and dwells amongst us. Even in the congregation, we must attend to the smallest details, beginning with the chairs, the kitchen utensils, general cleaning, greeting one another, and not to mention mutual respect and good manners. If we attend to the small and the big things – God will dwell among us.
Be strengthened and encouraged, next week we will begin the Book of Leviticus.