Parashat Vayakhel Torah Reading: Exodus 35:1-38:20
"Everyone whose heart so moves him shall bring gifts for the Lord--gold, or silver, wool or linen, wood or oil, spices or stones, anything to make the Sanctuary more glorious for God," said Moses.
In this week's Torah reading, Bezalel and his workers actually construct the portable tabernacle and the accessories that God has described in previous parshiot/Torah Readings.
When describing the project to His new project manager, God says "build me a tabernacle that I might dwell among the people." In other words, God sought to find a mechanism for bringing God and the people closer together.
And just as we welcome new neighbors and bring gifts when they move into the new neighborhood, the Israelites bring gifts to glorify God's new home.
I love this imagery of welcoming God to the neighborhood with gifts. And even though the gifts that individual Israelites are moved to bring are grand gifts, indeed, there is something intimate and endearing about this gift-giving. The Israelites respond to God's wish to live among them with open arms and generous spirits.
Today, each of our homes are described by the tradition as a "mikdash m'at" . . . as a sanctuary writ small. We have the ability to welcome God to live among us in our own homes. How wonderful if we could welcome God's presence into our homes with the same open arms and generosity of spirit that our Israelite ancestors displayed when God moved into their neighborhood!
Rabbi Amy Levin
has been Torat Yisrael's rabbi since the summer of 2004 and serves as President of the Board of Rabbis of Greater Rhode Island.