Peace of Parsha - Vayakhel/Pekudei by Dr. Laura Danoff
The parsha of Vayak’hel records the actual carrying out of Hashem’s instructions on how to construct the mishkan. The name Vayak’hel means “And he (Moshe) congregated”. Much of Vayak’hel is almost an exact replication of Parsha Teruma. So why the repetition since we know that the Torah does not waste space, even one extra letter?
The power of community is the answer. In the book of Exodus we are given the Torah at Har Sinai and we achieve G-d’s presence in this world through the building of the mishkan. Earlier, G-d gives Moshe the commandments. Now, Moshe relays these commandments to the children of Israel as a whole nation. Rashi tells us the assembly took place the day after Yom Kippur. Moses comes down from Har Sinai bearing the message of G-d’s forgiveness for the sin of the golden calf. Moshe gathers all the Jewish people and tells them about Shabbos and specifically the prohibition of kindling the fire. Moshe instructs the Jews as to what they should bring in making a tabernacle.
The Torah describes the enthusiasm of the people, especially the women, in donating the building materials. “The men came with the women”. (Exodus 35:22). According to Rambam this term implies the men were secondary to the women. The women were the first to volunteer and not only donated gold and silver, but their own jewelry which was irreplaceable. The women who refused to give their jewelry for the golden calf were the first to volunteer and donate all their jewelry to the mishkan.
This week’s parsha also tells of G-d’s instructions to make a copper washbasin for the tabernacle so the Kohanim would be able to purify and wash their hands and feel before performing their service. Rashi explains that the basin was made from copper mirrors that had been melted down. The copper mirrors were abundantly donated by Jewish women who used these mirrors in Egypt in order to beautify themselves and to romance their husbands. When Moshe found out what the mirrors had previously been used for he was hesitant to use them for such a holy purpose in the tabernacle. Hashem’s response was, “Use them. These mirrors are beloved to me.” When the Jews were enslaved in Egypt, the men gave up hope. Pharoh was trying to kill all the Jewish babies.
As the medrash in Shir Hashirim describes, the women went out into the fields and beautified themselves in front of their mirrors and enticed and persuaded their husbands to live with them and to have children. Those mirrors represented Klal Yisroel. The women kept the dream of rebirth alive. In Egypt, the faith and hope of the women saved the Jewish people physically. At the construction of the mishkan, the faith and hope of the women saved them spiritually.
This “Peace of Parsha” is in honor of my husband, Scott with whom I have learned the importance of a foundation of a building - the foundation of our family and the foundation of a marriage. Faith is the foundation of our religion. This is why the Torah identifies the women who helped build the mishkan as “wise of heart”. Wisdom of heart refers to incredible strength and belief in G-d.