The theme of the Torah portion, Vayakhel, is community. The parasha begins with Moses convening the people in order to join in the building of the Mishkan, the portable sanctuary that would accompany the people in their journey toward the Promised Land.
Clearly, Moses cannot build the Mishkan on his own. Though God gives him explicit instructions on the dimensions of the Tabernacle and all of its features, Moses himself isn’t a builder. So God assures him that Betzalel, who is blessed with skill and insight, will serve as chief contractor for the project. There is even an assistant chief contractor, Oholiab, who is named in this week’s portion.
But even with these two men overseeing the building of the Mishkan, it is clearly a communal project in which everyone contributes. Men and women, young and old, all participate. No longer slaves to a cruel Pharaoh, the people joyfully bring gifts of their own free will for the construction of the Mishkan.
Indeed they gave so generously that Moses has this proclamation made throughout the camp: “Let no man or woman make further effort toward gifts for the sanctuary…..for their efforts had been more than enough for all the tasks to be done.” (Exodus 36.6-7)
What a wonderful moment in our people’s history, symbolizing unity, cooperation, and generosity. The building of the Mishkan represents everything that can be accomplished when people share freely of their gifts of heart and mind, as well of their material resources. This idyllic moment in our past is the essence of a Kehilla Kedusha, a sacred community. It is an ideal toward which every congregation strives to emulate.