THOUGHT FOR PARSHAT VAYAKHEL – SHEKALIM 5779

BY RABBI CHAIM FACHLER

 

The Parsha starts with Moshe uniquely gathering ALL the people to make a very special announcement. And yet he basically repeats the commandment of Shabbat as discussed last week, followed by a directive to bring all the materials necessary for the actual implementation of the construction of the Mishkan / Tabernacle, the detailed instructions of which we read three and two weeks ago. For this he needed to gather the entire nation?

 

Furthermore, immediately following the announcement, we read two fascinating facts. First, the response of the people was so great that they had to be told to stop bringing the materials! Second, the very first items actually produced were the tapestries "Yeriot." It must be admitted that compared to the Mishkan itself or indeed to the Holy Ark, Table, Menorah and Altar, the Yeriot were definitely low on the "Holy Priority List.” And yet, who were instructed to produce these tapestries? "The most talented Craftsmen."

 

If we look at the terms used by Moshe in his announcement, we can probably find the answer to these difficulties.

 

"Truma", Nediv Libo", "Nesao Libo", "Nadvah Rucho" and "Nediv Lev" are all terms of donation and volunteering. The Children of Israel were not commanded to contribute to the building of the Tabernacle. They were asked to. And their response was phenomenal. Oversubscribed is the description we would use today.

 

Our ancestors were sending a very strong message to both Moshe and HaShem. They WANTED to participate. They INSISTED on being part of the construction of the Mishkan. They proved that they wished to connect with HaShem in every possible way. And it didn't matter whether it was a commandment like Shabbat or a request like bringing the materials. It was the greatest honour to be asked, and they were proud to respond.

 

Throughout the generations, Jews have shown again and again this spirit of volunteerism and eagerness to come forward, often even before they're asked. Jews invest their time and Jews donate their material resources that HaShem has blessed them with.

 

This Shabbat – Parshat Shekalim - we very appropriately commemorate the collection of the 3 half-Shekels that funded the upkeep of the Temple and the daily communal sacrifices.

 

My late mother redefined this trait of volunteerism. At the tender age of 16, shortly after she arrived in London from Frankfurt, she volunteered to look after dozens of younger refugee children so that the iconic Dr Schonfeld could gather more. Some years later when evacuated to Letchworth, mum founded and headed the local Ladies Guild. This, after signing up for the Home Front, and driving a tractor on her Hachshara Kibbutz. And throughout her decades of communal activities, she set the bar really high in terms of investment of time and material resources for the benefit of her fellow Jews and HaShem.

 

Let us all take a leaf out of Mum’s book, and like her, try also to emulate the heights reached by the Children of Israel in the wilderness.

 

Shabbat Shalom and Chodesh Tov,