Parashat VaYakhel וַיַּקְהֵל

Moshe  gathered Bnei-Yisrael and the word used here is VaYakhel (“ויקהל”), to teach us about a specific act by Moshe. Moshe separated Bnei-Yisrael from the Erev-Rav (the Egyptian converts), who joined for glory only, sinned during the time since they left Egypt, and caused Bnei-Yisrael to sin with Amalek, the meat, the water and when they asked to go back to Egypt (to name a few). In the last Parasha (Ki Tisa 32:1), the nation “gathered” (“ויקהל העם”) upon Aaron and threatened him in order to create the Golden-Calf. This time the Torah uses the same term to atone for the last gathering. The Zohar says that Moshe took those of the Erev-Rav who survived the plague after the Golden-Calf sin and included them within Bnei-Yisrael. We learn this from the word VaYakhel, as it has the same numerical value as a Mikva (“מקוה” – immersion) of 151. Moshe made them pure and holy again, and sanctified Hashem’s name. The Zohar says that since Moshe had the soul of Hevel, Shet and Noach, he understood that these Erev-Rav belong to Bnei-Yisrael. In my humbled opinion now that Bnei-Yisrael (the Erev-rav) sinned using gold for the Golden-Calf. HaShem gave them the opportunity to use gold for the Tabernacle.
By gathering the people of Israel, Moshe offered a distinctive assembly in order to rebuke and save them at the same time. Moshe came down with the second set of tablets on Yom Kippur (which happened to be Shabbat) and the next day he gathered Bnei-Yisrael to provide them with HaShem’s laws and Mitzvot. The Zohar says that by gathering Bnei-Yisrael, Moshe from above and Yehoshua from below, actually saved the people of Israel from a complete alienation by the serpent known as the force of impurity and idolatry (that was brought by Eve’s sin).
It is interesting to see that this Parasha is almost a repetition of Parashat Terumah; to teach us that after the Golden-Calf sin we need new rules to the Mitzvah of building the Mishkan. In the first verse the Torah uses two extra words – “Kol Adat” (“כל עדת”), teaching us that Moshe gathered only the twelve tribes. The numerical value of the word “Kol” (“כל”) is 50, which is the number of letters of the twelve tribes’ names. The word VaYakhel (“ויקהל”) comes from the word “Kahal”; in other words “Tzibur” (“צבור” – the general public), to teach us that there are three types of people, creating the acronym of the word “public” (“צבור”):
  1. Tzadikim – צדיקים – Righteous people 
  2. Benoniyim –  בנונים – Middle of the road people
  3. Ve’Reshaeim – רשעים – Wicked people
The Zohar teaches us that the Angel of Death was among Bnei-Yisrael after they sinned with the Golden-Calf, as many died. Satan was hiding among the women as he does in every funeral. Moshe saw the Angel of Death and he gathered only the men in order not to have the Satan amongst them. Only after the completion of the Mishkan did the Angel of Death leave Bnei-Yisrael. Rabbi Shimon Bar-Yochai teaches that we must never look at women during a funeral, as the Angel of Death is among them, dressed as a woman. Our Sages say that we should blow the Shofar while taking the dead to the cemetery in order to not provide the Angel of Death with power over the living. Bnei-Yisrael learned from such teachings that now they must rethink their basic understandings of their lives, knowing that the Erev-Rav is constantly in their midst, and they must adjust accordingly, as they are part of the evil inclination, and must be dealt with every day, especially when it comes to dealing with holiness and serving HaShem. Today, we must do the same as the Erev-Rav are still in our midst.
Moshe delivered HaShem’s first commandment speaking of the importance of Shabbat, not working or kindling fire. The question is why does the Torah single out the fire only and not the rest of the 39 “Melachot” (ל”ט מלאכות) prohibitions on Shabbat? The thirty-nine “Melachot” (types of work) that are forbidden on Shabbat are the same types of work that was done for the Mishkan. The reason the fire is single-out in this Parasha, is to teach us few lessons:
  1. The restriction of kindling fire on Shabbat is the only one that punishable by death.
  2. The other 38 restrictions are forgiven by offering a sacrifice, Korban “Chatat” and not death.
  3. Even though fire was allowed to be lit in the Mishkan, it was not allowed in any other place but the Mishkan on Shabbat.
  4. The fire is compared to a heated argument that can cause major disagreements and  destroy families, friends, partners, congregations and the entire Bnei-Yisrael. We must not bring fire/arguments on Shabbat and only speak of Torah matters.
  5. The fire was created after Shabbat by Adam after he was thrown out of Gan-Eden and experienced darkness. That is why we bless the fire during Havdalah (“הבדלה”) on Motzaei Shabbat.
It is interesting to notice that the total number of words in the first three verses in our Parasha is thirty-nine, same as the thirty-nine “Melachot” prohibited on Shabbat. In the third verse, the last letters of each of the words “Teva’aru Esh Bechol Moshvotechem” (“תבערו אש בכל מושבתיכם”) spell the word SHALOM (“שלום” – peace). It teaches us when we do not have fire in our midst we have peace. It is written “and give dew and rain“ (“ותן טל ומטר“); the numerical value of the word “Tal” (“טל”) is 39, “כנגד לט מלאכות שהם שבת”, the 39 forbidden jobs on the Shabbat. The numerical value of the word “Matar” (“מטר”) is 249, alluding to “HaShem’s finger” (“אצבע אלהים”) speaking of creation as the six days of the week. The word Beresheet (“בראשית“) also spells the words “ירא שבת”, keep the Shabbat.
More interesting is to point out that in the Kiddush over the wine on Friday evening there is a hidden code; “יום השישי ויכולו השמים והארץ וכל צבאם ויכל אלהים”; counting from the second “Yud” in the word “השישי”, and skipping every seven letter,  we find the word Israel (“ישראל”).
The Midrash tells us that the Shabbat was mentioned first before the Mishkan in order to elevate the Shabbat and all that HaShem stood for. We learn these teachings by the first word in the Torah, “Beresheet” (“בראשית”) as it is has the words “ירא שבת“ (“Respect the holy Shabbat”). The Shabbat complained to HaShem that Bnei-Yisrael were focusing only on the Mishkan and might sin again, if they are not reminded about the Shabbat and they need to stop all work and rest on the seventh day. Bnei-Yisrael were so excited to build the Mishkan that they focused all their efforts on this task. HaShem gave the Torah on Shabbat (Yom Kippur) to emphasize the importance of this day and its holiness. Only after such a day Bnei-Yisrael were allowed to perform the Mitzvah of gathering donations for the Mishkan and keep the Shabbat.
After “clarifying” the importance of Shabbat, Moshe told Bnei-Yisrael about the items needed for the building of the Mishkan. Moshe used the words “Ze Hadavar” (“זה הדבר”), meaning these are the items. The numerical value of the word “Ze” (“זה”) is 12, as all of the twelve tribes are required to donate. Then the extra word “Hadavar” (“הדבר” – one item) is added to the twelve, in order to equal the thirteen items listed in the Torah (verses 25:3-7). HaShem ordered all of Bnei-Yisrael to donate as much as their heart desires both in materials and knowledge to help build the Mishkan. These thirteen items also represent the thirteen Attributes of Mercy of HaShem, and by giving Bnei-Yisrael guaranteed HaShem’s mercy.
The response was so overwhelming; Bnei-Yisrael gave too much and Moshe had to ask them to stop. The leaders, the presidents of each tribe decided to wait and see what was given and then to donate the missing items. To their surprise Bnei-Yisrael rushed to fulfill the Mitzvah and provided all that was needed (and then some more). HaShem was disappointed with the presidents and they were allowed to only give one gem stone each, called Shoham (“שהם”). These stones “rained” from heaven and were to be used on the Kohen Gadol’s Ephod (apron) and the Choshen (breastplate). The word Shoham encompasses three names: HaShem, Moshe and Shoham. These stones were engraved with the names of the twelve tribes to be blessed and served by the Kohen Gadol. The Torah (verse 27) uses the word “they brought” rather than “they gave” to teach us that they were asked to bring, as they did not donate first. HaShem was not happy with the presidents of the tribes and He removed the letter “Yud” from the word “Nesiim” (“נשאם” – presidents); without the letter “Yud” it can also spells the word “Sena’am” (“שנאם” – hated), alluding to HaShem’s feelings about them.
When HaShem gave the Torah to Bnei-Yisrael He granted them the privilege of having His presence dwells among them. They were so happy understanding such greatness that they gave so much and so fast, to have the Mishkan built as fast as humanly possible. They understood the gravity of the Golden-Calf sin and how they almost lost HaShem’s Divine Presence as a result of their sin. They now rushed to give and build in order to guarantee HaShem’s presence among them, the Shachinah (which is rooted in the word Mishkan). To express their willingness, for the first time Bnei-Yisrael did not care for any of their “physical possessions” and actually “fought” to give everything that needed.
Again, we see the greatness of the Jewish Women who single-handedly saved Bnei-Yisrael many times thanks to their unshakable belief in HaShem, beginning with Miriam who convinced her father Amram to get back with her mother, after he divorced her, and having Moshe as a result; continuing with the women elevating their husbands’ spirits while being enslaved in Egypt, and not participating in the Golden-Calf; through their being the first ones to give and donate all that was needed for the building of the Mishkan. We all should all learn from such Emunah in HaShem.
HaShem rewarded the women (“נשים”) of Bnei-Yisrael with early redemption from Egypt, after only 210 years compared instead of the original 400 years promised to Avraham. The numerical value of the word “nashim” (“נשים”) is 400, and thanks to them we merited the early redemption from Egypt.
Below are some of the women who helped save Bnei-Yisrael with removing bad decrees:
  1. Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel and Leah
  2. Miram and Yocheved
  3. Roth
  4. Devorah
  5. Yael
  6. Yehudit
  7. Ester
To name a few who helped with removing a bad decree from Bnei-Yisrael with their persistence and belief in HaShem.
HaShem provided Bnei-Yisrael the opportunity to repent and do a full Teshuvah, by participating in the building of the Mishkan. We learn that from the words “tabernacle of testimony”, which come to teach us that the Mishkan will be a “witness” to their Teshuvah. HaShem forgave Bnei-Yisrael for their sins by saying to Moshe “they gave enough”, teaching us that He accepted their sincere repentance. Giving faster to the Mishkan than to the Golden-calf also helped expedite their Teshuvah. Moshe described to Bnei-Yisrael the entire process and parts of the Mishkan, along with everything that HaShem commanded. Moshe began with the roof of the tabernacle and finished with the holy garments; to teach us that the heavenly top/roof and the earthly garments are connected in spirituality as one.

Yoram Dahan

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