Parasha Vayakhel-Pekudai

 What is our "Fair Share" ?
This week in our Torah reading we come to the conclusion of the Book of Exodus and the conclusion of the account of the building of the Mishkan, or Tabernacle in English, the portable sanctuary that the Israelites built in the desert.  We have been reading about this for many weeks now in our Shabbat morning services. In the early weeks we read of the plans that G-d gives Moses for the Mishkan, for its furnishings, and for the dress for the priests who will minister in the Tabernacle.  These past weeks we read about the actual building of the Tablernacle. In comparing the two – the architectural and design plans and the carrying out of those plans, we discover that the builders of the Tabernacle carried out those plans exactly!

We also learn something about the people who actually work on the construction of all of this. A man named Bezalel is in charge of the overall work, along with another man named Oholiab, who seems to be second in command of the project.  The Torah tells us that G-d has endowed them with wisdom and insight to carry out all that G-d has commanded.  Anyone among the people who is inspired to work on the construction is allowed to do so, under their supervision. The Torah tells us that all of the Israelites contribute to the building of the Tabernacle. Then the Torah immediately adds, “They – [the laborers] – continued to bring voluntary gifts each morning.” The question is — why does the Torah single out the gifts of the laborers? Aren’t they included when the Torah tells us that all of the Israelites contributed to the building of the Tabernacle?  Rabbi Shlomo Kluger, one of the leading European Torah scholars of the 19th century, explains this with a story: "The daughter of the Rebbe Zusha was engaged. The Rebbe's wife, mother of the bride, went to the seamstress to order a beautiful gown for her daughter. Four or five weeks later, the Rebbetzin went back to the seamstress to pick up the gown for the bride. However, she returned home without the gown. The Rebbe asked her what happened. She related that she in fact picked up the gown but that as she was leaving the store, she noticed that the seamstress was crying.  "The Rebbetzin inquired why she was crying and the seamstress told her 'It is because I also have a daughter who is a Bride. I wish I could afford such a gown for my own daughter.' The Rebbetzin explained to her husband, 'I told her on the spot — You keep the gown!' Reb Zusha was overjoyed that his wife fulfilled the mitzvah of providing for the needs of a poor bride in such a noble fashion.  "But then he asked his Rebbetzin, 'Did you pay her for the gown?' Reb Zusha's wife was incredulous at the question. 'What do you mean did I pay her for the gown? I gave her the gown! Must I pay her for the gown on top of that as well?'  "'Indeed you must!' Reb Zusha told his wife.  'After all, she did work for you for five weeks, so you must pay her for the gown.' The Rebbetzin told her husband that he was right and she returned and paid the seamstress for the gown that she had just 'given' her." Just like the Rebbetizin, the workers on the Mishkan could have said to Moses, “What do you mean I should give a contribution toward the building of the Tabernacle?  I am working on it – Must I contribute to the Tabernacle on top of that?” Therefore, the Torah goes out of its way to make certain we understand that the workers themselves contributed to the building of the Tabernacle, OVER and ABOVE their contribution of labor.  We have many fine examples of that ethos in our congregation, people who contribute their time, energy, and labor while also contributing financially to the synagogue.  Such was the Jewish way in the time of Moses – and so it is today. Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Marc D. Rudolph
Congregation Beth Shalom
Naperville, Illinois