פרשת ויקהל

Moses then convoked the whole Israelite community and said to them…
On six days work may be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a sabbath of complete rest, holy to the Lord…
Take from among you gifts to the Lord; everyone whose heart so moves him shall bring them—gifts for the Lord

The reason the Sabbath is mentioned first before the construction of the Tabernacle is that the construction of the Tabernacle connected the heart of every person in Israel to one another without even a hint of ego.

Initially, each skilled craftsperson made his or her specialized contribution, and it was apparent that every piece was truly remarkable. Afterwards, when all the individual twists and ties were joined together, they saw how each thing fit perfectly, as if it was all made by one person. They realized that everything they had done was not because of/for themselves – it was only the hand of God guiding their handiwork, and this is why there was a perfection of form in the completed building. How is it possible to feel superior over another when it was made only with the help of God?

The Talmud (BT Megillah 9a) relates the story of King Ptolemy gathering the 72 elders [to translate the Torah into Greek, independent of one another] who all acted as one mind and made the same emendations to the biblical text. It seemed to each one that he had uncovered a profound and deep wisdom in his changes. When it was revealed that they had unearthed the exact same insights, they understood it all had been God’s will.

This is why the Sabbath is placed in relation to the building of the Tabernacle, for the essential principle that connects them is the commandment of the Sabbath. The Sabbath underlies any commandment done with the intention of being for the sake of Heaven, as this intention is called “Sabbath.”

So too with the construction of the Tabernacle. All their work was to glorify Heaven to allow the Divine Presence to dwell with Israel. It was this that joined their hearts together, for the Divine Presence would not reside there if even one peg or rod is missing. Therefore, it wasn’t possible to feel superior to another at all, even the one who constructed the Holy Ark compared to the one who made the pegs of the outer courtyard, as it says in the Talmud (BT Sotah 40a), “What do you care? Through this and this the Most High is praised!”

And this is Moses then convoked the whole Israelite community.


Link to original Hebrew text


פרשת תרומה

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Tell the Israelite people to bring Me gifts

This is what is meant by the verse (Isaiah 45:18), “For thus said the Lord, the Creator of heaven who alone is God, who formed the earth and made it, who alone established it — He did not create it a waste, but formed it for habitation,

In the weekly reading of Yitro, when the Israelites heard the Ten Commandments, it appeared easy to do them all because the commandments seemed to depended only on a person’s actions. When they heard all the subsequent rules in the reading of Mishpatim and grasped that God desire His holiness and devotion be manifest in the essence of the Israelites down to the very objects they owned, to the point that they would be unable to do anything contrary to the Law [as has been explained in the section on Mishpatim “Now these are the ordinances…”], they cried out within “How is it possible for a person to purify his heart in this way??”
So God gives the people the advice “bring me gifts…gold, silver, and copper.” The Zohar (Exodus 148a) teaches that these three types correspond to the foundations of a person. It is describing one who gives over all of his strength and support to the Divine and allows God to rule over him according to His will. If so, even his possessions will be good and upright and no harm will come from them!

The Zohar (Numbers 121b) expands this idea. On the verse (Psalms 32:2), “Happy the man whom the Lord does not hold guilty, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.” this is one whose spirit/life force inclines only towards the Divine will. If he were to question how it is possible to purify his heart to such an extent, the response comes from the verse in Isaiah (ibid.) He did not create [the earth] a waste. God does not desire for a person to have fear in his heart.
This is how to understand the following verse (Isaiah 45:19),

I did not say to the stock of Jacob, ‘Seek Me out in a wasteland – I the Lord, who foretell reliably, who announce what is true.’

I did not say to the stock of Jacob, ‘Seek Me out in a wasteland – To this, the previous verse responds He…formed it for habitation לשבת, meaning that a person should have a settled mind ישוב הדעת.
I the Lord, who foretell reliably, Who announce what is true – Even though God desires a person to be righteous and blemish-free in all his ways, and to uphold the entirety of the commandments and the Law, nevertheless He refers to Himself as the Lord, who foretell reliably, who announce what is true, meaning He has uprightness and a generous heart towards a person, and gives him advice on how to come to all the words of the Torah with ease.


Imagine what it must have been like for the Israelites. They just experienced the revelation at Sinai, and as magnificent as it was, it did not ask SO much of them. Just do these ten essential things and everything will be fine. A week later though they are saddled under a mountain of rules and strictures that govern every aspect of their lives: courts, loans, damages, food. They doubted they could ever do it. It was so much so fast it made them want to scream.

Here is where the Ishbitzer steps in. He says “I know it’s a lot. It’s so much that you’re crying on the inside and afraid and wondering if you should just give up.

Yes. Just give up.

Stop fighting so much. Let your will drop away and live for something more. This work is not supposed to be hard. It only becomes crushing when we are always pushing against it. Trust that God wants you to be settled and at peace, and also believes you are capable of so much. More than you realize is possible. He doesn’t put us in a world that is too much for us, where every facet of our being isn’t singing out and we can’t give all of ourselves in abundance. Maybe the more we let go, the more we say yes to the world and just give of ourselves without always asking why or how much, the easier it all gets.


Link to original Hebrew text