- Exodus 35:1—38:20 + (Shabbat Sh’kalim) Exodus 30:11-16
The readings for this week 24 February—2 March 2019 are called VaYa’k’hel—“And He Assembled”:
NOTE: The normally-read Haftarah is I Kings 7:13-26; 40-50 (Which we recommend reading, because of its relation to the Exodus portion). However, since the day for traditionally honoring the giving of a “Shekel Tax” for the Tabernacle/Temple falls this year on the Sabbath preceding the 1st of Adar Bet (8 March), an additional Torah portion Exodus 30:11-16 and a different Haftarah which mentions “each man’s census money” (II Kings 12:4) will be read in synagogues.
In this week’s readings, Moses gathers together the congregation of Israel and relates to them what God has instructed regarding the construction of the Tabernacle.
In effect, Exodus 35:4—39:43 carefully repeats what was recorded earlier in Chapters 25-28 (T’rumah) and subsequent passages. But here certain details have been clarified. For instance, unlike the earlier passages, this one makes specific mention of women. Verses 35:25-26 refer to “Each woman who is a gifted artisan” and “whose hearts stirred with wisdom.” Verse 29 is careful to mention both “men and women” whose hearts moved them to volunteer materials and to labor as a freewill offering for building the tabernacle. In 36:6, this had in fact been done with such generosity and cheerfulness that Moses was forced to issue a command, “Let no man or woman any longer perform work for the contribution of the sanctuary!”
Please pray for hearts of Israeli believers to be moved to offer up their craftsmanship and creative energies as a free-will offering to the Most High. Pray for women and men to be equally valued and recognized in their talents and giftings. Pray for “cheerful” giving from the heart (II Cor. 9:7) on the part of Israeli believers, both of physical resources and of talents and time, not merely as a mitzva (an obedience to gain favor)—but at the moving of the Holy Spirit within their hearts.
*Exodus 35:1-3. “…These are the words which YHVH has commanded you to do: ‘Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh day shall be a holy day for you, a Sabbath of rest to YHVH. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. You shall kindle no fire throughout your dwellings on the Sabbath day.”
Attempts to observe the prohibition related to fire in the last verse of this passage continue amongst many observant Jews today, in some cases reaching extremes which, to our understanding, go far beyond the original intent of the prohibition. From the time the Shabbat Lights are lit just before sundown on Friday until candles are again kindled at Havdalah following sundown on Saturday, no lights are to be kindled by Jews. Electric timers are placed on light switches and stoves so that the owners will not be guilty of lighting a fire (i.e. initiating an electric spark by flipping a switch). This is also the reason religious Jews don’t drive on Shabbat (starting a car involves making the battery produce a spark to ignite the engine). Pressing a button at a streetlight in order to cross the street also initiates a “spark”, as does pressing a button in an elevator (Kosher hotels and many fancy apartment buildings in Israel are equipped with “Shabbat elevators,” which are set to automatically and unceasingly go up and down throughout the Sabbath. We do not mock the earnestness of those who genuinely feel it to be God’s will, and who are trying to please Him by observing these strictures. But we do believe them to be misguided; that in some instances, such prohibitions slip into a category which Yeshua condemned in Matthew 23:4—that of heavy burdens not intended by God being laid on people’s shoulders by religious leaders, rules which often become mere works for show.
The context for this lone passage about lighting a fire on the Sabbath is God’s instructions for the construction of a place for His habitation among His people—the Mishkan, Dwelling Place, the Tabernacle. It was a construction of craftsmanship requiring all the creative, “artistic” gifts, energies and skills of which humankind (made in the image of Creator God) is capable. Yet the fashioning of this Holy place with all of its Holy furnishings was not to cancel out the pattern set by the Master Artist when He Himself fashioned the universe. He worked for six days, then ceased work and was refreshed on the seventh (Genesis 2:3; Exodus 31:17). Much of the work being described in these chapters would require building a fire to smelt and fashion the metals—melting, bending, shaping and forming everything, from Cherubim of gold, to tools, to ornaments, to bolts and pins of brass. Making the fire involved a lot of work—finding, gathering and chopping the wood, then kindling the flame with a friction method involving much exertion (The one record we have of judgment coming on an individual for breaking this law is found in Numbers 15:32, where the offense was specifically for gathering wood on the Sabbath) .
The joyous sacrifice of yielding up one’s gifts and skills to God for “holy work” must also include respect for His “times and seasons” in exercising those gifts, chief among them being what He first called “holy” — the Seventh Day (Genesis 2:3).
*Exodus 35:36. “And He has put it in his heart the ability to teach, in him and Aholiab the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan.”
Last week we read of Betzalel (a descendant of Judah) and Aholiav (of the tribe of Dan)—artisans whom God had filled with all wisdom and grace for performing and overseeing the intricate workmanship required in preparation of the Tabernacle. In this later passage it is mentioned that He also put it in their hearts “to teach.” Indeed, 36:1 mentions others whom the LORD had filled with artistic grace to work under them (36:1), subject to their wise instruction.
PLEASE PRAY: that those released in the artistic skills in the congregations in Israel will focus not only on the work allotted to them for their own times—but will be stirred in their hearts with a desire and ability to pass on their wisdom and skill to the men and women of the generation rising after them.
– Your Friends in Jerusalem
[The readings for next week (3-9 March 2019) are called P’kudei—“Accountings of…”: TORAH: Exodus 38:21—40:38; HAFTARAH: I Kings 7:51—8:21]