Sedra: Vayakhel

Sedra: Vayakhel

With Rabbi Alex Chapper.

IT IS hard to believe but, 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 who were overseeing the project that they had sufficient supplies, Moses had to direct the nation to desist from doing any more work or bringing any more materials because they had amassed more than enough.

The Torah records this incredible situation: “And the work was sufficient for them for all the work, to do it and to leave over. “Then all the wise- hearted people of the per- formers of the work made the Mishkan…” (Shemot 36:7-8).

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

Interestingly, melacha is also mentioned at the beginning of the sedra and relates to the prohibition of creative activity on Shabbat and, from the connection to the Mishkan, our sages derive that the types of work employed in the latter are forbidden on the former. However, it is the second theme of chacham lev that provides us with a deeper link.

It took a degree of wisdom for those involved in the Mishkan to know when enough was enough, to recognise that sometimes less is more and that you can spoil the pudding if you overegg it. Surely that is also the message of Shabbat, although working seven days may appear to be more productive that working only six, those who are wise-hearted understand that is not 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, but endangers it and so being conscious of that subtlety is the true hallmark of wisdom.

• Rabbi Alex Chapper is minister of Ilford Federation Synagogue and is the Children’s Rabbi

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