|March 13, 2010
Vayakhel-Pekudei - Shabbat HaChodesh
This is one of the weeks when the dictates of the calendar override the normal Shabbat reading. This week is Shabbat HaChodesh the last in a series of four special Sabbaths that precede Passover. Shabbat HaChodesh received its name because the opening taken from the book of Exodus begins “This month shall mark for you the beginning of months.” (12:2) This portion contains the commandment to offer a paschal lamb and it indicates the laws that are to be followed on the 14th of Nisan. The selection from Ezekiel similarly refers to the paschal lamb and the sacrifices that should occur during the same week. Both the special Torah and haftarah reading are linked thematically and stress the Passover ceremony and the festival of unleavened bread. Shabbat HaChodesh is also the date for International Men's Club Shabbat. On this Shabbat hundreds of Men's Clubs/Brotherhoods in North America lead Sabbath services, deliver dvrei Torah and sponsor educational events. Men's Club Sabbath is an opportunity for Jewish men to demonstrate their involvement and commitment to Jewish life.
The interplay between Torah and Haftarah reveals two different visions of the Passover experience. In the Exodus version read we experience the creation of our festival of freedom. Hundreds of years later the vision of Ezekiel seeks to embellish this festival with further purification and more ritual functions. Yet the Torah actually has two different Passover stories one in Exodus and another in Deuteronomy. Ezekiel offers us a third. The first Passover story in the Torah is the one we read today in the book of Exodus. The second one occurs in the book of Deuteronomy and reflects a celebration that is closer to the seder experience we make in our homes. Ezekiel's Passover differs yet again and reflects his vision of what a Passover would be once the Third Temple was constructed. The quest to understand and to envision freedom changes from generation to generation.
1 Kings 7:51-8:21
The haftarah for Vayakhel-Pekudei challenges our concept of sacred space.
Just a few weeks ago on February 20th the haftarah read in conjunction with parshat Terumah told us about the preparation that Solomon had to undergo in order to be able to build the Temple. He taxed and levied our people and contracted with Hiram King of Tyre for timber. Our story continues this morning because Solomon has finished his task. The completion of the Temple and the transfer of the Tent of Meeting to it reflects a major event in the history of our people. The haftarah for this parasha informs us how Solomon gathered our people and announced that this event fulfilled the promise made to his father David. David had desired to build God a house but God deferred the plan to a future descendant. (2. Samuel 7:12-13). With the Temple's dedication Solomon declares himself David's legitimate heir and with the placing of the Tent of Meeting in the Temple establishes Jerusalem as the sacred center of the nation.
Just as Moses constructed a place for God to dwell and a central institution around which the people rallied, so too did Solomon construct a central place of worship for Israel. In the first instance the Tent was portable and when God entered it a cloud settled over it. Similarly, when God dwelt in Jerusalem “the priests came out of the sanctuary because a cloud of the Lord covered it.”
The haftarah attempts to draw parallels to the Torah portion in order to legitimize a new form of worship and to strengthen Solomon's claim and reputation as a leader. Is it fair to compare Solomon to Moses? Is it fair to compare or the leadership of one age to another?
On a more mundane but important level nonetheless, consider the implications for community building that the construction of a sanctuary creates. Members of the community invest their time and their wealth in creating a sacred place for them to congregate, worship and study. When we consider community needs we need to ask which model would better serve our existing and potential constituency? A simple movable flexible structure or a fixed object constructed from wood and stone. Both serve important purposes. Each makes a statement to the Jewish and non-Jewish world. The haftarah of Vayakhel-Pekudei asks us to consider for whom do we wish to build and how do we wish it to be perceived.
This week's Haftarah commentary was written by
Rabbi Charles Simon,
Executive Director of the FJMC and author of
"Building A Successful Volunteer Culture: Finding Meaning in Service in the Jewish"
Jewish Lights Publishing.
Translation of the Haftarah may be found here: http://www.jtsa.edu/PreBuilt/ParashahArchives/jpstext/
The FJMC weekly haftarah commentary is one of the few haftarah commentaries available on line. The USCJ through its Fuchsberg Center in Jerusalem has also been posting a weekly haftarah commentary for a number of years. We highly recommend it. If you are interested you can find a link on the left side of our weekly commentary and click through.
In 2003 the FJMC commissioned a Sefer Haftarah, a scroll consisting of all the Haftarot which follows the Haftarah order that appears in the USCJ and Rabbinical Assembly Torah translation and commentary Etz Hayim. The FJMC Sefer Haftarah visits a different synagogue in North America every week.This scroll contains vowels and cantillation and allows the haftarah reader to experience the Haftarah in a more personal way. FJMC also produces individual personalized Haftarot for those who wish to recognize a special occasion. Scrolls of Haftarot have been in use since the early middle ages.