Sedra Shorts

Ideas and commentaries on the weekly Torah readings.

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Location: Bet Shemesh, Israel

I taught Tanach in Immanuel College, London and in Hartman, Jerusalem. I was also an ATID fellow for 2 years. At present, I work for the Lookstein Center for Jewish Education in the Diaspora, in Bar-Ilan University, Israel. The purpose of this blog is to provide "sedra-shorts", short interesting ideas on the weekly Torah reading. Please feel free to use them and to send me your comments.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Parshat VaYakhel-Pekudei

Raising the Cash

The children of Israel begin and complete the building of the Mishakan in this week's parsha.

However, before they built it, they needed the raw materials that would become the Mishkan. Therefore at the outset, Moshe makes a call for donations: "Take from yourselves an offering for the Lord; every generous hearted person shall bring it" (Shemot 35:5).

The people were so generous that Moshe was told that "the people are bringing very much, more than is enough for the labor of the articles which the Lord had commanded to do" (ibid 36:5) and so Moshe calls them to stop bringing things.

This type of donation is in contradistinction to what the Torah had called for in last week's parsha: "everyone who goes through the counting shall give half a shekel…The rich shall give no more, and the poor shall give no less than half a shekel (ibid 30:13-13).

In our parsha each person could give how much or how little they wanted to do, while in the previous parsha, there was no choice; each person was required to give the same amount.

We find a similar thing in the next two parshiyot. Sefer VaYikra begins by describing the different sacrifices a person could bring should they feel the urge to sacrifice – the whole parsha is described in a voluntary manner. While the following parsha, Tzav, describes obligatory sacrifices.

What is the Torah trying to teach by describing voluntary and obligatory features in the same aspects of worship?

These two features recognize the reality of the human spirit. There are times when we feel deep religious conviction and do not need any prompting in our worship or in our desire to give, while at other times we need prompting and direction, as we do not always feel the urge.

The same rules regulate our prayers. Jews are required to pray three times a day, whether or not they feel the urge to pray. At the same time one can pray at any time of any day for any reason.

We recognize that we need regulation in our lives. Our spiritual yearnings cause us to codify our religion, and yet that codification automatically stunts our desire and often even removes the spiritual urge.

The challenge is to find the medium, to somehow bring spirituality into our regulations, to treat our obligatory duties as if they were voluntary.

Last years' Sedra Short on Parshat VaYakhel-Pekudei, entitled: "The Builders of the Mishkan" appears at

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