vayakhel : Not commanded, not free, but obligated


© 2017 by Rabbi Zvi Aviner

Torah Classes for the Children of Noah/
VaYakhel-Pekudie (He Assembled, He Reckoned)

You may find this class very pertinent to Noahides.
At the beginning of the Parsha we read:

“And Moses assembled the entire congregation of the Children of Israel
And said to them: these are the words which YHVH has commanded
That you shall do them: Six days shall work be done
But on the seventh day there shall be to you a holy day,
A Sabbath to cease for YHVH, whoever does work on it shall be put to death
You shall kindle no fire throughout your settlements on the Sabbath day…” (Exodus 35: 1-3)

“And Moses spoke to all the congregation of Israel saying:
This is the thing which YHVH has commanded saying:
take from among you a contribution to YHVH
Whoever is of willing heart let him bring it…”
(Exodus 35:4-5)

Let’s first observe the location of this Prashah within the Torah. It is placed at the transition between the Book of Exodus and Leviticus. Moses comes down here from Mt Sinai, having spent on it 120 days, informs the people about G-d’s forgiveness of their sin of the Golden Calf, sets up that day as the annual Atonement Day, Yom Kippur, and orders the building of the Tabernacle.

The Tabernacle would be a Place to pray and achieve atonement. It was a concession to the people, recognizing their need a tangible Place for addressing G-d. It would be built in six months. As Moses conducts the final audit of the donations, the Book of Exodus ends. The following Leviticus is a pause, focusing on the Tabernacle’s offerings and services. The story of the Exodus is continued in the Book of Numbers (BaMiDBaR) in which the journey of the Israelites to the Promised Land is described.

Moses, as at the end of the Book of Exodus, comes down from the Mountain and prepares Israel for their journey. He envisions a magnificent camp comprised of four wings, with the Tabernacle at its center. It would travel with no map, blindly following the Heavenly Pillars of Fire and Clouds. No other such camp had ever traveled anywhere.

At this point, Moses assumes that Israel would reach the Promised Land within just a few months, soon after finishing the construction of the Tabernacle. They would not travel without it. He did not anticipate that another sin, the mishap of the spies, would delay this for 38 years. The road from Sin to Forgiveness to the Promised Land seemed short, but it would turn very long.

In fact, this road is taken by any sinner. The road from sin to forgiveness to the Promised Land may be short, or unexpectedly long. This is true for an individual, a nation as well as for humanity. Mankind is traveling in history from IDOLATRY to the era where the knowledge of YHVH would cover Earth like water that covers the sea. The entire world is moving, according to Genesis Chapter One, from the current Sixth Day to the Eternal Sabbath.

Let’s read the opening verse again:

“And Moses assembled the entire congregation of the Children of Israel”

This was obviously a huge event. What day of the week was it?
Tradition says that the Exodus took place on Thursday. The Sinai revelation took place 51 days later, on the Sabbath. Moses final descent from Mt. Sinai, 120 days later, occurred on Thursday. On that day he informed Israel about G-d’s forgiveness, and made that day Yom Kippur. He then assembled Israel the next day, Friday.

And what an extraordinary event it was! The assembled the entire “congregation” of Israel, all ages and genders. This event is called “ha-khel,” ASSEMBLING. He spoke directly to all people, “things that no ear had ever heard and no lips had ever uttered” (Rashi.) He delivered a new sermon that is not even mentioned in the Sinai Tablets. His subject was “matters pertaining to that day, told on that day” (Rashi.)
By this he instituted a custom where the king, or the leading rabbi, would assemble the entire congregation on a holiday, and speak to the people on issues pertaining to that holiday. King David is quoted to do the same. He too spoke to the people “things that no lips had ever said and no ear had ever heard,” meaning a new insight into the Torah. In other words: ORAL TORAH.

Thus Moses, addressing here Israel on this particular Friday, one day after Yom Kippur and one day before the Sabbath, was speaking to the assembly of Israel about issues unique to that day.
What could he say?

Let’s focus again on the opening verse: “And Moses assembled the entire congregation…” The Hebrew verb here actually means: “he made the Children of Israel assembled” (Rashi.) He excited them to come on their own. Not assembled by hands, but making them coming (Rashi).
The Midrash says it better: Israel came to listen to Moses

“not by an order, not as a free choice, but rather by the obligation of the heart.”

This beautiful opening motto, we’ll see, permeates everything Moses said on that day.

In fact, Moses not only assembled Israel, he rather established the CONGREGATION of Israel. To pray and achieve atonement, it is more effective to stand before G-d as a part of a Congregation, rather than as individuals.
And what is th e base of the Congregation: people join it “not by command, not by free choice, but rather by the duty of the heart.” The strength of the Congregation depends on the commitment of the individual, without being commanded. On the other hand, the Torah expects every individual to join, by feeling the duty in his or hers heart.

Hence the new ‘creature,’ the Assembly of Israel (Knesset Israel) is created by Moses on Friday, before the Sabbath. Israel’s congregation moves towards the Sabbath.
Humanity moves the same way. Adam and Eve after all were also made on the Sixth Day, before the Sabbath. Israel, along with Mankind, is moving in history towards the Sabbath.

But Israel wouldn’t be able to travel to the Sabbath, without a Tabernacle (Temple.) One needs a Place to pray and receive atonement, to start fresh. Without this opportunity to wipe out our sins, we would stand before ELKM’s Judgment, who, without the advent of the Merciful YHVH, would terminate the world to kahlah, nothingness (see out IDOLATRY classes.)
This is why Moses orders on that awesome day to build a Tabernacle. It would be based on donations given “not by command, not freely, but by the duty of Israel’s heart.”

Hence both the Assembly of Israel and Humanity are traveling in history towards the Sabbath. Indeed, Moses, speaking on Friday, continues saying:

“And Moses…said to them: these are the words
which YHVH has commanded tThat you shall do them:
Six days shall work be done,
but on the seventh day there shall be to you a holy day,
A Sabbath To Cease (“Shabat, shabaton”) for YHVH,
Whoever does work on it shall be put to death
You shall kindle no fire throughout your settlements on the Sabbath day…”
.(Exodus 35: 1-3)

As expected, Moses speaks here on the Sabbath. But there is a problem: we’ve said that

“Moses spoke on that day, on issues related to that day…” (Rashi)

But the Sabbath was the next day! While he was supposed to speak on issues of the sixth day!

Indeed, the Oral Torah says that in this verse Moses speaks on something unique: ON THE EXTENTION OF THE SABBATH INTO THE SIXTH DAY.
The words “Shabath Sabaton” means “Shabath, and a ‘little Shabath,’ which is the extension of the Shabath into the preceding Friday.

Explanation: it is inhuman, beyond our capacity, to tell exactly when the Friday is over and the Sabbath has arrived. The transition period is vague.
Yes, everyone can tell for sure that the Sabbath has arrived when the Sixth day has gotten dark and at least three bright stars are clearly discerned in the dark sky. This is when night has arrived and Friday has gone.
Everyone can also tell that the sixth day is still going on, if the sun is still bright.
But there is a period of uncertainty of “twilight zone” when we, humans, can’t be sure if it is still Friday or Saturday.
Comes Moses and says “something that no lips had ever said and no ear had ever heard.” And that is THE EXTENTION OF THE HOLINESS OF THE SABBATH INTO THE SIXTH DAY.
In other words: Moses tells us that we should start the Sabbath a bit earlier on Friday, when daylight is still on.
How long is the extension? Tradition says: just a few minutes.
But Moses allows Israel also to ADD on this extension many more minutes. In Jerusalem, they accept the Sabbath 45 minutes prior to the Twilight Zone.
Now what is the status of this extension? Is it as holy as the Sabbath proper?
For that, Moses continues: “You shall not kindle fire on the Sabbath,” implying that on the Sabbath we should NOT enkindle fire, but we may enkindle it ON FRIDAY, FOR THE SABBATH” (Nachmanides.)
How should we enkindle it? The RaMBaM (Maimonides) says: “Lightening the candles before the Sabbath is not a commandment, and it is not discretional, but is an obligation (by the duty of your heart).”

Moses has a great vision: the camp of Israel traveling to the Promised Land, with the Tabernacle in its center. The Tabernacle would assure the safe arrival of Israel to her Land.
But something else occurred on that awesome day, one day after Yom Kippur.
As it is told earlier in the Book of Exodus, on that day Yithro, Moses’ father in law, a Noahide, came to visit him (see Rashi in parhat Yithro.)
Seeing Moses judging the people alone, all day long, Yithro advised Moses to set up a Judiciary system comprised of “officers of hundreds, of thousands, and of ten thousands. Moses followed his advice. Thus the judiciary system in Israel, the “glory of Israel” (Tifereth) was initiated by the input of a Noahide.
Moreover, it is said (Numbers) that Moses asks Yithro to join Israel’s camp in traveling to the holy land. Be our eyes,” he begs Yithro.
Yithro agrees. By joining Israel, he represents a Noahide camp that surrounds Israel’s camp.
In fact, there were six wings to Israel’s camp: Four tribal wings, the central Levite wing, in which the Tabernacle stands. Yithro comprised the Seventh Camp.
In Yithro time, this seventh camp was made of a single person (or a family)
But in the future, as Israel travels in the wilderness of history, Yithro shall comprise of the entire Mankind.
Now we understand the picture that Moses had on his mind:
Traveling to the Promised Land, Israel needs the Tabernacle at the center.
But Israel does not travel alone. Noahide seventh camp surrounds it, supporting it, serving Israel’s eyes.
Israel needs the Tabernacle.
Noahides need Israel.
Together we are all bound in our journey to the Promised Land, and in our journey from the SAixth Day of CREATION towards the Sabbath.
The sons of Aaron serve as priests to Israel
And Israel is a kingdom of Priest serving the Congregation of the Children of Noah.

It comes out that Noahides may accept any commandment on themselves, besides the obligated seven of Noah. But they do this OUT OF THE DUTYO F THEIR HEART, without saying “Bless you HaSheM who commanded us..”

So far so good. Moses has a plan. But look what he saw next:
At the beginning of the next parshah it says:

“These are the accounts of The Tabernacle, Tabernacle of the Testimony
As they were accounted by the words of Moses…”
(Exodus 38: 21)

On the surface it sounds a simple statement, saying that Moses audited the money invested in the Tabernacle project.
But there is an unbelievable miracle embedded in these words.
As it turns out, the numerical value of the word “Tabernacle,” Mishkan, is 410, which is the numbers of years the First Temple of King Solomon stood.
Similarly, the numerical value of the words “The Tabernacle,” HaMishkan, is 415, which is the number of years the Second Tempe of Ezra stood (420 minus five things that were missing in it: (1) The Holy Ark (2) The Shechinah of YHVH (3) The Fire from heavens (4) the urim and tumim (5) prophecy.)

Moreover, the numerical value of the word “testimonial,” Ha-eduth, is 479 which is the number of years that Moses’ Tabernacle stood (it was incorporated into King Solomon’s Temple.)

Hence Moses counted not only monies, but also the number of the Temples Israel would have, as well as their life term.
Moses foresees two Temples, and the length of their life.
But as if this is not enough, the word Ha-eduth (testimonial) is split into DAT which appears in the Scroll of Esther, as well as the number 70. Hence Moses “foresees” even the 70 years interval between the First and Second Temples, about which Jeremiah prophecies.

Think about it: while ordering the building of the Tabernacle, Moses foresees also the end of it, and that of all the Temples after it.
Hence he knows that the Templles alone would not be enough to sustain Israel camp in history. Nor would it support Mankind traveling in history.
What then would sustain Israel?
The answer: The prayers, the ‘work of the heart,’ acting by the duty of the heart, by setting congregations based on the Holy Sabbath, and by sympathetic Noahides who support Israel forever.