Serving Him Through Serving Others

Parashat VaYaqhel (And He Assembled)
Shemot (Exodus) 35:1–38:20
Special reading for Shabbat Shekalim: Shemot (Exodus) 30:11–16
Haftarah: 2 Kings 11:17–12:17 (Sephardic)

We have a special reading this week for “Shabbat Shekalim”, which is the Shabbat before the Hebrew month of Adar. The Hebrew word “shekel” stands for the monetary currency that we use in Israel until today, although the shekel referred to in our reading was of greater value. 

As I read in preparation for writing this commentary, I was reflecing on the principle of a cheerful giver, which is something that we read about in this week’s Parashah. In it, we read the instructions for collecting an offering for the LORD in order to build and operate His dwelling place:

Moses spoke to all the congregation of the sons of Israel, saying, “This is the thing which the LORD has commanded, saying, ‘Take from among you a contribution to the LORD; whoever is of a willing heart is to bring it as the LORD’s contribution: gold, silver, and bronze…”
Exodus 35:4-5

It also says in Exodus 35:10: 

Have every skillful person among you come and make all that the LORD has commanded.

God required two kinds of giving here: material (monetary) and skills (volunteering). In order to be a cheerful giver, one needs to understand that everything we possess, from money to talents, is from God and for God. Furthermore, it is up to us if we will honor God with these things or use them for our selfish gain.

Here in Israel, the reality of our lives changed on October 7th. I am amazed and blessed to see so many people in our beloved country who have “stepped up” and are giving from their talents and means to help others. From helping families that have been forced to evacuate their homes, to donating clothes, shoes, toys, or providing transportation and support to grieving families, wounded soldiers, etc. it has been incredible to witness! There have also been many artists and musicians playing music and singing to encourage the wounded and others who are in need. People have prepared food, while others delivered it, and some are just there to support people with a smile and listen to their struggles. It is a true encouragement that brings a deep joy and unity. It is amazing to see what happens when someone chooses to focus more on giving rather than receiving. 

This reminds me of the people’s response in the Parashah; they gave so much that Moses had to tell them to stop giving (Exodus 36:5-7). That’s what I would call happy and generous givers.

In our special reading for this week from Exodus 30:11-16, we see a different type of giving:

The LORD also spoke to Moses, saying, “When you take a census of the sons of Israel to count them, then each one of them shall give a ransom for himself to the LORD when you count them, so that there will be no plague among them when you count them. This is what everyone who is counted shall give: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel is twenty gerahs), half a shekel as a contribution to the LORD. Everyone who is counted, from twenty years old and over, shall give the contribution to the LORD. The rich shall not pay more, and the poor shall not pay less, than the half shekel, when you give the contribution to the LORD to make atonement for yourselves. And you shall take the atonement money from the sons of Israel and give it for the service of the tent of meeting, so that it may be a memorial for the sons of Israel before the LORD, to make atonement for yourselves.”

What is interesting about this specific collection is that it was to be taken from anyone twenty years old and over, and there was no distinction between the rich and the poor; every person paid the same amount as a sort of ransom for himself. I understand this to mean that everyone will have to give an account for himself.  

We are all called to give and each of us has something that we can give, a place to which we can contribute. However, the heart’s attitude is also important; when we give with a cheerful heart, it is not a burden but rather a joy. As I wrote, the amazing way that the Israeli people are contributing today with a cheerful and giving heart, without needing to be in the spotlight, but instead focusing on others, is such an encouragement to me. It brings to mind the important role that we His followers have received from God.

He has entrusted each of us with talents in order to honor Him. I believe that we are called to be leaders in setting an example in the area of giving, not as something special that ultimately points back to us, but rather with a humble and pure desire to honor God.

Shabbat Shalom,

Check out previous blogs on this parashah!

Did you know? — Lone Soldier

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