Shabbat-Table Talks: Vayaqhel-


To read last year's Table Talk  click here.


By: Rabbi Ralph Tawil <>

Value: Completing God’s Creation, Sanctifying God’s Name. What is the value of human action? God, in his omnipotence, can accomplish whatever He wills in the world without the aid of people. One way to look at the value of human action is to see it as the completion of God’s creation of the world. Human action that is in accordance with God’s will brings God more apparently into the world. For example, God is merciful. When people are compassionate to one another, they cause God’s purpose of compassion to be more apparent. Through this behavior, they bring God into creation thereby “completing” creation, or at least advancing God’s creation.

Background: This week we read two parashiyot that describe the construction and completion of the Mishkan. The Torah describes the Mishkan’s completion using similar words to the way it describes the completion of Creation of the Universe. The Torah is showing us that Man’s act of building a “holy place” is similar to God’s act of creation. Man must realize that by bringing holiness and God’s will into the world, he is in effect continuing God’s creation and achieving His purpose in the world.


Text: Compare the following verses from God’s creation of the world with the way the Torah describes Bne Yisrael’s construction of the Mishkan.


Now God saw all that he had made, and here: it was exceedingly good… Thus were finished the heavens and the earth, with all of their array. God had finished, on the seventh day, His work that He had made, and then he ceased, on the seventh day, from all His work that He had made. God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it for on it He ceased all His work, that by creating, God had made. (Genesis 1:31-2:3)


Thus was finished all the service for the Mishkan, the Tent of Appointment. The Children of Israel made (it) according to al that Hashem had commanded Moshe, thus they made. And they brought the Mishkan to Moshe: …<<a detailed list of all the items of the Mishkan follows>>…According to all that Hashem had commanded Moshe, thus had made the Children of Israel, all the service. Now Moshe saw all the work, and here: they made it as Hashem had commanded, thus had they made. Then Moshe blessed them. (Exodus 39:32-43)


Analysis and Discussion: Notice that there are similar phrases used to describe the completion of the creation of the world and the completion of the construction of the Mishkan (in the original Hebrew the similarities are much more apparent.) Read the texts (in Hebrew if possible) and ask your children and guests to notice the similarities and differences between the texts.


What things are similar in these two places? (God completed the creation; Israel completed the Mishkan’s construction. God saw that it was very good; Moshe saw that it was done according to God’s wishes. God blessed the seventh day; Moshe blessed Bne Yisrael.)


What are the differences? (The most relevant difference is that Moshe did not evaluate whether the Mishkan’s construction was good, only God can do that. Moshe can only evaluate whether the Mishkan’s construction fulfilled God’s commandment. In addition, by definition, when man fulfills God’s will, it is good.)   


Why did the Torah describe these two events in similar ways? (To teach us that God’s creation of the world and Man’s construction of the Mishkan, God’s “dwelling on earth” are similar. When man creates a place where he can worship God and recognize His presence, he makes God more apparent in the world.


Why do you think God asked Bne Yisrael to make him the Mishkan? Couldn’t he have done it Himself? (Of course, he could have done it Himself. He wanted Bne Yisrael to reach the level of wanting to bring God into their midst. By doing the work themselves, Bne Yisrael showed how important it was to them.


The construction of the Mishkan and its inauguration leads to God having his presence fill the Mishkan.

So Moshe finished the work. Now the cloud covered the Tent of Appointment, and the Glory of Hashem filled the Mishkan (Dwelling). Moshe was not able to come into the Tent of Appointment, for the cloud took up dwelling on it, and the Glory of Hashem filled the Mishkan (Dwelling). (Exodus 40:33-35)


Bne Yisrael, through their actions of building the Mishkan, brought God’s presence into the world in a more apparent way. Likewise, we create holiness by our actions and attitudes. Fulfilling God’s will and following his commandments makes God’s presence more apparent in the world. Behaving with honesty and integrity leads to people recognizing God and the beauty of His Torah. However, if a person learns Torah and does not behave properly with people, then he causes people to speak bad about the Torah and profanes God’s name. See how our wise Rabbis described both kinds of people (Yoma 86a):

“and you shall love Hashem, your God”—make the Name of Heaven beloved through you. Let him read and learn (Torah) and assist Talmide Hakhamim (to learn from their ways). When he deals with integrity and calmly with people, what do people say about him? Happy is his father that taught him Torah; happy is his Rabbi that taught him Torah; woe to those that do not learn Torah. That person that learned Torah, see how fine are his actions. About him scripture says: “And He said to me, “You are My servant, Israel in whom I am glorified” (Isaiah 49:3).


However, he who reads (Torah), learns (Torah) and assists Talmide Hakhamim and does not deal with integrity and calmly with people, what do people say about him? Woe to him that he learned Torah. Woe to his father that taught him Torah; woe to his Rabbi that taught him Torah. That person that learned Torah--see how corrupt are his actions; see how ugly are his ways. About him scripture says: “They have profaned My holy name, when they said of them, “these are the people of Hashem, yet they had to leave His land” (Ezekiel 36:20).

By fulfilling Hashem’s will in this world, by acting properly with people and by doing the misvot in the way that Hashem intends we make glorify God in this world.

One last question: How do we know what Hashem’s will is? (By learning about Hashem.) How do we do that? (By learning all the parts of Torah, Humash, Navi, Talmud and Halakha; by observing the behavior of our great spiritual leaders, our rabbis. Most importantly, we have to let what we learn and observe influence and improve our behavior. Learning Torah must be connected with becoming better people.)

To read last year's Table Talk click here.


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