A Willing Heart

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 was reading and praying in preparation for writing this commentary, God showed me some timely principles in the various readings, which I believe still hold true today. One is that He truly does love a cheerful, generous heart and two, that we are to be upright and transparent stewards of His money.

In our Parashah, 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

The people’s response was so tremendous, that Moses had to tell them to stop giving (Exodus 36:5-7). They gave too much! 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. 

The Haftarah portion also deals with the issue of money but in relation to the priests’ usage of funds that were designated for the Temple repair:

“…the priests are to take it for themselves, each from his acquaintance; and they shall repair damage to the house wherever any damage is found.” But it came about that in the twenty-third year of King Jehoash, the priests had not repaired any damage to the house. So King Jehoash summoned Jehoiada the priest, and the other priests, and said to them, “Why do you not repair damage to the house? Now then, you are not to take any more money from your acquaintances, but give it up for the damage to the house.” The priests then agreed that they would not take any more money from the people, nor would they repair damage to the house. Instead, Jehoiada the priest took a chest and drilled a hole in its lid and put it beside the altar, on the right side as one comes into the house of the LORD; and the priests who guarded the threshold put in it all the money that was brought into the house of the LORD. When they saw that there was a great amount of money in the chest, the king’s scribe and the high priest went up and tied it up in bags, and counted the money that was found in the house of the LORD And they handed the money which was assessed over to those who did the work, who had the oversight of the house of the LORD; and they paid it out to the carpenters and the builders who worked on the house of the Lord; and to the masons and the stonecutters, and for buying timber and cut stone to repair the damage to the house of the LORD, and for everything that was laid out for the house to repair it.However there were not made for the house of the LORD silver cups, shears, bowls, trumpets, any receptacles of gold, or receptacles of silver from the money which was brought into the house of the LORD; for they gave that to those who did the work, and with it they repaired the house of the LORD.Moreover, they did not require an accounting from the men into whose hands they gave the money to pay to those who did the work, because they acted faithfully. The money from the guilt offerings and the money from the sin offerings was not brought into the house of the LORD; it belonged to the priests.” 
2 Kings 12:5-16 (12:5-17 in Hebrew)

The main issue that I see here is the priests’ lack of accountability, and the misuse in some ways of God’s money specifically in His house (the Temple). Some historical accounts claim that the Temple had not been repaired for an estimated 140 years! If we recall, in Exodus 30:11-16, God commands that His dwelling place (Tent of Meeting, the Temple) was to be repaired yearly, and for this, the special collection was to be taken.

I believe that Yeshua, Himself, also dealt with a similar issue when entering the temple, where God’s house was used as a marketplace rather than for His glory:

And Yeshua entered the temple grounds and began to drive out those who were selling, saying to them, “It is written: ‘And My house will be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.”.
Luke 19:45–46

It is so important that we keep God at the center of everything, especially in areas of service or ministry. When He is more important than any other thing, humility and integrity guide us, which not only protects us from misusing His money, but also helps us to be joyful and generous givers. We have seen throughout history what happens when human beings take over God’s rightful place, and it never turns out well. Let’s take time this weekend to examine our lives and repent for any places that we have become the center. Then, let’s put God back where He belongs — in the center of our hearts and lives so that He can dwell in His rightful place.

Shabbat Shalom,

Check out previous blogs on this parashah!

Did you know? — Lone Soldier

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