Parashat Vayaqheil – One body, One Sanctuary

Review of Terumah

The Last two portions in the book of Exodus (Shemot) are basically a repetition of Terumah and Tetzave respectively. In this week’s portion we read again of the working of the Tabernacle (Mishkan). Only thing that changes basically is the verbal form, from “You shall make” to “he made”. In Short, the last two portions of Exodus (Ch 35 to 48) could be summarized in one single sentence: “And Israel made the Tabernacle according to God’s instructions”. So why the repetition?

  • The first answer would be that the Building of the Tabernacle served as a retribution for the sin of the Golden Calf. That’s why Moses said: “God has commanded me to say to you: take contributions from among yourselves” (Ex 35:4), because Moses was not involved in the sin and the Divine Presence didn’t depart from him (in fact his physical body became almost angelical), so technically he had no need for a Tabernacle (cf. Likutei Sikhot 6, pp. 221-233).
  • The Second answer has to do with Hebrew culture. In Hebrew language as well as Jewish culture, the repetition of something indicates emphasis and importance. For example, phrases such as: “you must surely do” in Hebrew are written: “Do you must do”. And do you remember what Yosef interpreted when Pharaoh dreamed twice the same dream? (Gn 41:32). It’s not surprising that the last book of the Torah is Deuteronomy, which is basically a Repetition of the Torah.

In Terumah we read:

They will make me a Sanctuary, and I will dwell within them” (Ex 25:8).

This was not a command like that of the pagan idols to make a nice cage of stone and gold to keep them there. As the inner perspective of this command revealed, God was expressing his desire that we will become a home, a Sanctuary, a good place to stay, for the Divine Immanence (the Shekhina); ultimately, our own body and life is a Living Temple for the Divine Presence.

For this, God showed Moses a Heavenly Spiritual Abstract pattern of the kind of Sanctuary and Furniture he desires, as it’s written: “You must make according to all that I show you, the pattern of the Tabernacle and of the furniture” (Ex 25:9). And “Make them after the pattern which is being shown in the Mount” (Ex 25:40).

In our Parasha, Moses then gathered the people and made them turn the abstract vision into a specific physical reality. The head of the project was Betzalel.

About Names

There’s an interesting curiosity when comparing the names of this week’s Parasha and next one. The name our sages chose for each one of the weekly portions is normally taken from the first verse of the portion (for example the first portion is called ‘Bereshit’ – in the beginning – because that’s the first word of the Bible, ‘Noah’ is called so after the first verse that says:

These are the generations of Noah, Noah… etc).

But “Names” (especially the Hebrew ones) reflect the inner essence of a thing, since nothing is incidental; there are no coincidences in Judaism because everything is under the Divine Providence.

Talking of coincidences, our sages noticed that when a letter of the Hebrew alphabet appears as a root-word for the very first time in the Torah, it reflects one of its essential meanings; for example: the first time “Alef” ‘א appears in a root-word in the Torah is in the Name “Elokim” (God), and incidentally Alef stands for “Aluf” (great, ruler). “Mem” ‘מ stands for “Mayim” (water) and incidentally, its first apparition is in the word “water”… and we could go on with all the letters.

In the same manner we have noticed that the name given to each Parasha reflects an important aspect of its essence.

So it’s not causality that the last two readings of Exodus, which deal with the construction of the Tabernacle are called “Vayaqheil” and “Pekudei” (Assembly and Individuality). These two portions therefore teach us that we are to create a Sanctuary both: individually and in unity.

Many Pieces, one Sanctuary

This portion explains how the many individual instruments and materials that compose the Tabernacle were made and put in their place. Each component fulfilled its own individual mission and had its own holiness, and yet, its value as a sacred object lay, only, in that all the pieces together formed a Sanctuary. The vessels of the Sanctuary were holy, not because they were made of gold, but because they were the vessels of the Sanctuary. The screen for the court’s gate was not sacred for being cute or expensive, but because it was part of the Sanctuary. Nothing had a sacred value per se, but when assembled together for a unique purpose, there was holiness in it.

As we are meant to make – not only our lives, but the whole world – a Sanctuary for God on earth, we must learn that we all are connected; each one of us is part of a collective reality. We all are here to make reality the ideal perfect Sanctuary that God showed Moses on the Mount. Even though each one of us has their own mission in life and their own individual function, but we are ultimately one. It means I need you as much as you need me, and there’s no one on earth that is not connected to the others.

The Midrash says that the Sanctuary was made in the likeness of the human body; in Kabbalah this mystical Sanctuary is called ‘the Body of Adam Kadmon’; the Primordial man created in the mind of God, before space and time, before words and speech, before darkness and light. Each one of us is part of this mystical body. There are many members but only one body.

  • Yosef is the Place of the Covenant.
  • Aaron and Moses are the legs.
  • Isaac and Abraham are the arms.
  • Israel is the heart.
  • Messiah is the head.

And we all have a job to do as part of this body, and we cannot say that the head doesn’t need the feet, or the heart doesn’t need the head. And each part of the body is also made of other smaller (but equally important) parts, just like a hand is made of a palm and five fingers, and each finger is made of many other components essential to give them their shape and movement, and also the Head is made of many components, thus our sages said:

“All Israel are responsible for one another” (cf. Shavuot 39a).

For a proper functioning of the body every person is essential, just as every detail of the Tabernacle was essential.

Therefore the opening of our Portion says:

Moses assembled the entire congregation” (Ex 35:1) [Vayaqheil Moshe et Kol adat];

just like all the pieces of the Tabernacle needed to be assembled, the people of Israel needed to be assembled too. The people had to build the House of God as a collective whole, not as individuals.

Even the wealth and materials that the people donated became a ‘community wealth’, part of a whole.

The Force of Messiah ben Yosef

“All the women, whose heart inspired them with wisdom, spun the goats’ hair” (Ex 35:26).

They were not commanded to do so, but they did it on their own because they knew how to do it. What does it teach us? That each one of us is skilled with different abilities (and sometimes they don’t seem important), but with the proper heart we will realize that those abilities or aptitudes can be a tool for contributing into the transformation of this world into a Sanctuary for the Divine Presence.

 “And everyone who was willing… came and brought a tribute to HaShem for the work on the Tent of Meeting (Ohel Moed)” (Ex 35:21).

All the nation contributed to the construction of the Sanctuary with what they had. But a few verses later we read that God appointed Betzalel as the leader of the work (Ex 35:30).

‘And Betzalel and Oholiab shall work, and every wise-hearted man’ (Ex 36:1).

Betzalel was chosen to build the Tabernacle because God gave him the three attributes by which Heaven and Earth were created (Prov 3:19-20): Wisdom, Understanding and Knowledge (Ex 35:31). These three attributes are given to Messiah in a Double Measure (cf. Pirkei Eliezer ch 3; cf. Is 11:2). Therefore the expanded Gematria of Betzalel is the square of Messiah (ie, in a double measure) (= 775).


בצלאל = בית + צדי + למד + אלף + למד = 775

משיח = מ*מ ש*ש י*י ח*ח + 1 = 775


By this we learn that the Temple is built by the spiritual power of Messiah ben Yosef. For it’s written:

“Says HaShem to his Messiah, to Cyrus” (Is 45:1), and then:

“he [his Messiah] will say of the Temple: let its foundations be laid” (Is 44:28).

After being called “My Messiah” and “Shepherd”, it’s written of Cyrus: ‘I awakened him with righteousness’ (Is 45:13), meaning he embodies the aspect of Messiah ben Yosef – who is called the Righteous one (Am 2:6) (cf. Kol haTor 2:109).

Just like Messiah ben Yosef is rooted in the Sefirah of Yesod (foundation) – for it’s written: ‘the Righteous is Yesod’ – Betzalel is rooted in Yesod too, as is hinted by the Gematria of Betzalel, which equals “Yesod haKhaim” (Foundation of Life).


בצלאל = יסוד החיים = 153


So in many different levels, Messiah ben Yosef is the attribute by which the Sanctuary is established. Therefore the Gematria of “Tent of Meeting” (Ohel Moed) equals “Yosef”, and so do the Gematria of “and all wise-hearted men” (veKol Hakham Lev) (Ex 35:10).

יוסף  = וכל חכם לב = אהל מועד = 156


Need another proof? What about this? Those who build the Tabernacle must be ‘wise’ as it’s written: “wise-hearted” and “in whose heart HaShem had put wisdom” (Ex 36:2) and also “and all the wise men came” (Ex 36:4).  Question: Where’s the first time the word “Wise” (Hakham) appear in the Bible? When Yosef plans to save the land from famine and says: ‘Let Pharaoh look a man discrete and wise’ (Gn 41:33). And what did Pharaoh answer?

‘There’s no one intelligent and wise like you [Yosef]’ (Gn 41:39).

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