Enjoy four short thoughts and a video adapted from the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe on Parshat Vayakhel-Pekudei.

Passive Labour

One of the greatest paradoxes of a life of faith concerns the need to work for a living. If G‑d is the source of all blessings, why toil to earn a livelihood? And if we do work, how can we avoid the thought that it is our labor alone that produces material results? We seem torn between absolute passivity and the denial of G‑d’s involvement in the world.

Thus the believer engages in what can be termed “passive labor.” In the opening verses of Vayak’hel, Moses instructs the people of Israel:

Six days shall work be done; but on the seventh day there shall be to you a holy day, a sabbath of sabbaths to G‑d . . .

Not “six days shall you work,” but “six days shall work be done.” The passive form suggests that even during the week’s six workdays, when the Jew is permitted and obligated to work, he should be occupied with, but not preoccupied by, his material endeavors.
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This week’s Torah reading tells how Moses commanded the Jewish people to build the Sanctuary for G‑d in the desert and how the Jews eagerly responded, giving and working to construct this dwelling for G‑d.

The reading is called Vayakhel, “And he gathered,” and begins by relating that Moses gathered together the entire Jewish people. This teaches an important lesson: When building a Sanctuary where G‑dliness will be revealed, one must establish unity among the Jewish people.

In our prayers we say: “Bless us our Father all as one.” The commentaries explain that when we are “all as one,” then we have created a fit setting for G‑d’s blessing to be manifest.

To explain this concept in the personal sphere: There are individuals who pride themselves on spiritual sensitivity and refinement. Such refinement must be reflected in better and more encompassing relations with their fellow man. It is only through self-transcendence that one can appreciate the spiritual. And the most practical experience of self-transcendence is relations with others.

And sequence is also important. We begin with Vayakhel , establishing togetherness. Begin by breaking down the barriers that separate one Jew from another and this itself will make it possible for the barriers preventing the manifestation of G‑dliness in this world to be overcome.
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A Journey

This week’s Torah reading concludes the Book of Exodus. The final passage of that book tells us: “The cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of G‑d filled the Sanctuary.... For the cloud of G‑d would be on the Sanctuary... before the eyes of all of the House of Israel throughout their journeys.”

The Book of Exodus begins with the narrative of the Jews’ enslavement in Egypt, recounts the story of their redemption, and tells of the giving of the Torah and the construction of the Sanctuary. It is a story of constant growth.

Following the attainment of physical freedom, they proceeded to Sinai where G‑d gave them the Torah and they witnessed the revelation of spiritual truth. At Sinai, every person experienced a direct bond with G‑d. This enabled them to appreciate a path of life that made possible a connection with Him, not only on a mountain in the desert, but within the day-to-day realities of ordinary life. This is accomplished through the mishpatim, the realm of Torah law that can be rationally understood and that governs interpersonal relations.

Moreover, this spiritual awareness is given concrete expression through the construction of the Sanctuary. The Jewish people took material entities — gold, silver, wood, and brass — and made them into a dwelling for the Divine presence. The conclusion of this process — and of this entire sequence of ascent — came when “the glory of G‑d filled the Sanctuary.” Despite the limitations of our mortal existence, mankind was able to create a place that G‑d could call home, a place where His very essence was revealed.

The Torah emphasizes, however, that this sequence of growth does not lead to a dead end. Directly afterwards, it states: “When the cloud arose... the children of Israel set forth on all their journeys.” Divine service requires constant progress. We can never “rest on our laurels,” but must instead continually undertake new and greater goals. Just as G‑d is infinite and unbounded, so too, our relationship with Him knows no limitations.
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A Lesson in Leadership

Although Moses was the one who erected the Sanctuary, he did no other work in its construction. Instead, all the vessels were made by other people. He conveyed the commands and instructed the people how to build the Sanctuary and all of its utensils, but he did none of the actual work himself. It was all performed by others. Why? If it was supposed to be built by Moses, why did he delegate the responsibility?

This, teaches us a unique lesson concerning leadership. A leader walks a delicate tightrope. Of course, he must not sit back and give orders like an absentee landlord. On the other hand, the intent is not that he do everything himself. Instead, he should share his mission with his people, giving them not only a glimpse of his goals from afar, but an active role in bringing about their consummation. They should not merely cheer him to his accomplishments or carry out his commands like robots. But instead, they should internalize his message and learn to share his inner motivation. For the fundamental element of leadership is giving one’s people a mission that elevates them above their ordinary understanding and imbues their lives with meaning and purpose.

That was Moses’ intent in involving the Jews in the construction of the Sanctuary: to give them the opportunity to share his understanding and take an active role in making the world fit for the indwelling of G‑d’s presence. When commanding the Jews to build the Sanctuary, G‑d stated: “Make Me a Sanctuary and I will dwell within.” The term used for within is plural, implying that the Divine presence was intended to dwell not only within the structure of the Sanctuary, but within each member of the Jewish people. By taking part in the construction of the Sanctuary, the Jews internalized this purpose, making it part of their inner being.
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Making This World a Sanctuary for G‑d

When G‑d wanted the Tabernacle to be built, He showed Moses a completed Tabernacle, made of fire. G‑d was saying to Moses, “Everything already exists spiritually, but in order for My Essence to be revealed on earth, the Tabernacle must be of this world and its physical materials.”