Moses called the whole community of the children of Israel to assemble, and he said to them: “These are the things that the L‑rd commanded to make. Six days work may be done, but on the seventh day you shall have sanctity, a day of complete rest to the L‑rd . . .” And Moses spoke to the entire community of the children of Israel, saying: “. . . Take from yourselves an offering for the L‑rd; every generous-hearted person shall bring.” (Exodus 35:1–4)

The Torah portion of Vayakhel begins with Moses assembling the Israelites after coming down the mountain (on the day after Yom Kippur) to instruct them concerning the building of the Mishkan (Tabernacle). It is interesting that Moses prefaced these very detailed instructions with the commandment to keep the Sabbath. The observance of the Shabbat is considered an atonement for the sin of the Golden Calf, and brings the people back to a place of unity.

In this abstract rendition, the people that gather are all different sizes, shapes and colors, and yet are connected. As they move to a plateau of many candles, symbolizing Shabbat, the people themselves are lit up and look like candles. The contrasting earth tones mixed with the celestial blues enhance the feeling of the unification of heaven and earth. Our sages say that it is only after the people were united again by keeping Shabbat that each individual could bring a donation to the Tabernacle.

The larger figures in the upper background suggest these two different aspects of the gathering. On the one hand, they reflect the generations of people who have enjoyed the lights of Shabbat and the centrality of Shabbat in Jewish history. On the other hand, these figures suggest the people who came to bring their offerings for the building of the holy Tabernacle.