by Rabbi Yisrael Kaniel – February 23, 2011
The Torah section of Vayakhel begins, “And Moses assembled the entire assembly of the children of Israel and said to them, ‘These are the things that G-d commanded ’” (Sh’mot 35:1). Moses then goes on to describe what the Israelites are enjoined to do for the construction of the holy Mishkan (Tabernacle) and its inauguration – much that has already been described in the prior Torah sections of Terumah and Tetzave.
The repetition in the Torah narrative seems rather redundant and superfluous. In fact, in his commentary on the Torah (Sh’mot 36:6), Nachmanides notes, “It would have been sufficient in this whole subject for the Scripture to have said, ‘And Moses told the whole congregation of the children of Israel all the work which G-d had commanded him [as appears in the prior Torah sections],’ and then say, ‘And the children of Israel did according to all that G-d had commanded Moses, so did they. And Moses saw all the work, and behold they had done as G-d had commanded.’” Nachmanides points out how several chapters in the Torah section of Vayakhel and the following Torah section of Pekudei could have been condensed into just a few sentences. Why then all the repetition?
Nachmanides proceeds to explain, “All this repetition in the account of the Tabernacle is a sign of love and distinction, showing that G-d desires the work, and He mentions it in His Torah many times in order to increase the reward of those who engage themselves in its study. This is similar to what the Sages have said in the Midrash: ‘The ordinary conversation of the servants of the patriarchs’ homes is more pleasing to the Holy One, blessed be He, than even the Torah discourses of their children, for the section about Eliezer [as he recounts his journey] comprises two or three columns in the Torah [whereas many important principles of the Torah are derived from only slight references in the text]’.” Nachmanides explains that the account of the Israelites’ working together to construct a beautiful edifice along with ornate vessels and tapestry in the hot dry desert for the sole purpose of the glorification of the Al-mighty warranted extra mention and repetition to emphasize G-d’s appreciation, recognition and love for their work.
Additionally, Nachmanides notes that, upon reading the details of the Israelites’ preparation of the Mishkan and its components, we see that “they brought everything in order and no one brought his work to Moses until the whole work had been completed … After it was finished, they all gathered and showed it to Moses in order, saying at first, ‘Our teacher, here is the Tent and there are its vessels,’ and afterwards they said, ‘Here is the ark and here are its staves,’ and so on with everything.” Nachmanides stresses thereby the extant of the Israelites’ working together for this cause. There was utmost cooperation. All of the shevatim (tribes) were working together in complete harmony towards the fruition of this holy project. No one sought to outdo the other. No one tried to race past the other or “beat the other to the punch”. No jealousy was exhibited. There was full orderly uninhibited harmony and cooperation, a source of “love and distinction” in G-d’s eyes so great that it bears repeating – more than once.
When G-d asks us to fulfill His will, we should do so gladly, without ulterior motives or competition. We should be working together as a group towards the common goal of executing the Al-mighty’s Will, whether it be to provide for those in need or to visit the sick or to settle His Land or any other of His commandments or injunctions to our people, and we should do so in harmony and complete cooperation. When we act in this manner, in harmony and cooperation for the sole sake of fulfilling G-d’s Will, like our ancestors when constructing the Mishkan, G-d will admire us and look upon us with “love and distinction”.