This week’s Torah portion is Vayakhel. Almost the entire parshah focuses on the building of the mishkan, or Tabernacle – in other words, a portable place of worship. God instructs Moses to tell the Israelites how to build the Tabernacle in great detail. Moses then asks the Israelites to bring forth their gold and their finest valuables for the construction of the mishkan. The Israelites donate so many materials that Moses has to ask them to stop giving their gold. In Exodus 35:5, Moses tells the Israelites:
קְחוּ מֵאִתְּכֶם תְּרוּמָה לַיהוָה כֹּל נְדִיב לִבּוֹ יְבִיאֶהָ אֵת תְּרוּמַת יְהוָה זָהָב וָכֶסֶף וּנְחֹשֶׁת׃ “Take from yourselves an offering for the Lord; every generous-hearted person shall bring it…gold, silver, and copper…’” .
The parshah begins with the words, “וַיַּקְהֵל מֹשֶׁה” – “And Moses gathered the people.” We find the same verb in last week’s Torah portion, Ki Tissa, as well, where it says, “וַיִּקָּהֵל הָעָם עַל־אַהֲרֹן” – “the people gathered against Aaron.” In that instance, they weren’t gathering for the building of the mishkan, but the building of the Golden Calf. The use of verbs with the same shoresh, or root, suggest that there must be a connection.
Last week, in Ki Tissa, we read about how the Israelites disobey God by creating a Golden Calf, which is made using gold they donated, demonstrating their temporary lack of faith in God. This week, in Vayakhel, we read that the Israelites also donate gold for the Tabernacle, perhaps in attempt to make up for the Golden Calf episode. When the Israelites realize what a bad decision they’d made, they do what they can to make it right.
We learn from the juxtaposition of the Golden Calf and the that the same action, gathering, can be for good or for evil. The same material, gold, can create an idol or a place of holiness. It’s all how we choose to use our resources and our energy.
If we want to correct a mistake we have made, the first step is acknowledging our mistake.Then, we have to do everything we can to try to fix it, even if it is difficult. Although we, too, may feel alone and afraid after realizing we’ve made a mistake, by trying to make things right, like the Israelites when they built the mishkan, we can invite holiness into our lives and the lives of those around us.