Skip to content

Contrasts and the end of Exodus

Parshat Vaykhel/Pekude

Exodus 35:1 -40:38

We have made our way this week to the end of the book of Exodus. This double portion brings to a close the immediate part of the liberation story from Egypt to Sinai to Ten Commandments to building the Tabernacle. The portions include the building and making of all the pieces of the Tabernacle. We learn that it took skilled craftsmen and women under the direction of Bezalel and his assistant Oholiab to engage in this sacred building project: building God’s holy home that would move with the people wherever they went. Bezalel’s name has symbolic purposes. One way to understand his name is translated “In the Shadow of God.” ZLL as a root in Hebrew to be or grow dark. The word shadow comes from this. The El at the end of this is one of the names of God. Bezalel is known for the spirit of wisdom that he possesses and carries out God’s plan for the Tabernacle, does so in God’s shadow. But the contrast is amazing. Bezalel in the dark or shadow of God builds a place for God’s glory to shine and dwell among the people. And his assistant Oholiab names is the counter to Bezalel’s shadow because his name is Father’s Tent but can also mean Father’s shine. Symbolically what is the Torah trying to teach us from the primary builders of the Tabernacle, the Mishkan? Out of the darkness and shadow comes the light and glory of God. Out of the darkness of slavery the Israelites came into the light of freedom. Out of the darkness of the sin of the Golden Calf came the light of renewal of the covenant. Out of our darkness and shadow, out of our hard work and communal offerings will come a palace of beauty and glory for God. These mere former slaves, used to working to the death, used to building for the Egyptian Pharaoh’s who were gods themselves, now build willingly for the glory of our Holy One of Blessing. This is a contrast not to be missed. This work help rebuilds their faith and makes them stake holders in the covenant in a whole new way. At Sinai they said, “Naaseh v’nishmah” – We will do it and we will listen. But right away they didn’t listen and didn’t “do” or “live” the covenant because the first thing they do is build and worship the Golden Calf. But after God forgives them and sends a second set-the people are now proving their commitment to the covenant by building the Mishkan, the Tabernacle. Our own lives are filled with similar contradictions and counterpoints. The challenge is often to figure out how those contrasts can lead us to deeper faith. As the Tabernacle is dedicated and the glory of God dwells in the Tabernacle-our own work towards a deeper faith can help the glory of God dwell in us.