So enthusiastic were the people in donating to the construction of the Mishkan, the portable Tabernacle, they had to be told to stop. Informed by the wise-hearted people overseeing the project that they had sufficient supplies, Moses had to ask them to stop doing more work or bringing any more materials.

To understand the significance of this, we must note two recurring themes in Vayakhel: Melacha or creative activity and chacham leiv, wise-hearted people. Both were necessary for the Mishkan construction as the work was carried out by those with the wisdom necessary to produce the desired end result.

Melacha is also mentioned at the beginning of the sedra and relates to the prohibition of creative activity on Shabbat. Our sages derive that the types of work employed in making the Mishkan are forbidden on the Sabbath day.

But it’s the theme of chacham leiv that provides us with a deeper link. It took a degree of wisdom for those involved in the Mishkan to recognise that, sometimes, less is more.

Surely that’s also the message of Shabbat – although working seven days may appear to be more productive than working six, those who are wise-hearted understand that isn’t the case. The success of any project, be it a temporary desert structure or life itself, depends as much on putting in the hard work as it does on knowing when to say enough.

Sometimes, having too much does not enhance what we are trying to achieve endangers it and so being conscious of that subtlety is the true hallmark of wisdom.

υ Alex is minister of Ilford Federation shul and
the Children’s Rabbi – childrensrabbi.com