Moses calls all the people to him and asks that they offer up, each according to his or her own desire, the materials needed to build the Ark of the Covenant and the Tabernacle. Everything from wood to precious metals, base metals and gemstones were required, as well as cloth and people to do the work. God names Bezalel and Oholiab, from the tribes of Judah and Dan (respectively) to oversee the work because of their skills, and to teach others how to do the work needed. They were to be both the skilled craftsmen and skilled instructors.
The rest of this parashah, in fact, most of the rest of the book of Exodus, is a very detailed and exacting narration about the construction of the Tabernacle and the Ark, and of the other items associated with the Tabernacle.
There is always a message, even in what seems to be a simple description of constructing the Tabernacle. The contributions came from the old, from the young, from men, from women, from the common people and from the nobles. In chapter 35 we read about how every man who had wood brought it, every woman who could spin spun the linen, and the rulers brought the stones needed for the ephod. Both common and ruler, men and women, any and all who had what was needed brought their possessions (much of which they received when they left Egypt) and didn’t just hand them over, but gave them to the workers, gladly and eagerly. Shaul tells us in 2 Corinthians, 9:7 (which he is quoting from the Septuagint) that God loves a cheerful giver, and all the people gave cheerfully. So much so, in fact, that in 36:5 the workers ask Moshe to tell the people to stop bringing stuff- they already have way too much!
Yet, what? Only a month or so before this these same people who are happily and faithfully obeying the Lord, were dancing and reveling before a Golden Calf! Can they really be as faithful as they appear, given their proclivity to change faith and belief with the changing of the wind?
Yes, they can. Yes, they do, and yes, they did. I am not a “people person”- I have been in customer service in one form or another most of my career, and I have been (and am, now) in a position of leadership at the place where I worship, yet I am not really all that interested in “people.” A friend once told me that humanity is a wonderful thing: it’s the people that screw it all up! I couldn’t agree more.
And after having confessed my lack of compassion for and trust in people, I am still happy to say that I believe the message (at least, for me) in this parashah is not so much about the building of the Tabernacle as it is about the people giving so cheerfully and selflessly so soon after such a terrible sin. The difference between then and now is only one thing: they repented. They repented and God forgave them, and now they are cleansed.
Ever get so dirty that you can’t remember what clean felt like? I have, many times. Not just working around the house for a day, but when I was in the Marine Corps and we did training in the field. I was in woods, in desert, covered with dirt, sweat, and camouflage paint. You get used to it, and when you get back home you spend a good amount of time in the shower, cleaning everything two or three times. Then, when you come out all squeaky clean and neat, you feel GREAT!!
I imagine that is how the people felt, after they did T’Shuvah (turning from sin) and Moshe told them that God had forgiven them and would maintain His presence among them.
Sin is like a crust of foul smelling and filthy dirt that covers us, and when we are in it long enough we don’t smell it anymore. It’s only after being cleansed that we remember how good it feels to be clean. So, even after a terrible sin such as the one with the Golden Calf, being cleansed can make us more joyful and faithful than we thought possible.
The more we live in dirt the less we remember what it feels like to be clean. The more we allow sin to rule our lives, the dirtier we get, and the further from the joy and peacefulness we can feel only when in God’s presence. We may not smell the sin, but God does. He will not associate with sin and will not allow sinfulness in His presence, so when we stink from sin we can’t get close to God.
The Grace He provided through Yeshua is what cleans us so that we can come into His presence, and allows us to experience the joy and peace His “touch” brings.
We all sin, we are sinners from our birth, but we can also be cleansed. Yes, this is a job for Clorox- spiritual Clorox, that is. And that Clorox of the spirit is called Grace, and it is delivered by the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit). This Clorox isn’t bleach- it is the blood of the Messiah, Yeshua. And whereas bleach cleans your clothes, the blood of Yeshua cleans your soul. Whiter than Clorox could ever get it, too!
We will sin, we will fall, but we can also get up. That is what happened at Mt. Sinai. They learned the temporary nice feeling we get from sinning is nothing compared to the complete and overflowing joy we get from obeying the Lord.
Sin feels nice for a little while, but the joy of the Lord feels great all the time. Which would you prefer?