A D’var Torah for Parashat Vayakhel


The time of miracles is upon us. With the approach of the month of Adar Sheni, the 2nd month of Adar in this leap year, we stand at a pivotal point in the calendar. Behinds us are the darkest days of winter, ahead the happiness that comes from the celebration of Purim, the redemption of Pesach, the revelation of Shavuot, not to mention the warming sun and, of course, baseball season.

Truly, this is the time of miracles.

When we seek to praise God for the miracles around us, we turn to the words of the Hallel, the Psalms of Praise. But, there are two Hallels in our tradition: the collection of psalms said during the service on festivals and Hallel Hagadol, the great Hall, psalm 136.

If you look at Psalm 136, you will see a list of 26 statements, many of which are references to acts which God has done which merit our praise. They range from the great acts of creation, to the miracles of the Exodus, to the simple statement at the end of the psalm: notayn lechem lichal basar, that God gives food to all of the creatures, for God’s hesed, God’s steadfast love is eternal.

A verse from this psalm is used as the basis for a beautiful midrash that appears in our daily prayers. Before the saying of the shema during schaharit, we say: Hamihadesh bituvo bichal yom tameed maaseh bereshit: God renews in God’s goodness each day the acts of creation. The proof text for this statement is found in Psalm 136: we should give praise l’oseh orim gedolim, to the one who makes great lights, not who made great lights, but who makes great lights proving that God is still creating the world, still creating the heavenly lights. As our tradition says about the giving of the Torah, creation is also an eternal event, one which occurs each and every day.

In the Talmudic tractate of Hagigah, we read a short statement whose context is puzzling but is deeply inspiring. Rabbi Yose said: “Woe to those creations which see but do not know what they see, which stand but don’t know upon what they stand”.

He might be referring to some species of animals but I don’t think so. I believe he is referring to those whose vision of the glory of creation is limited, whose appreciation of the grandeur of the earth and the entire universe is lacking. Rabbi Yose tells us all to look carefully and we will see.

What will we see? We will see that miracles don’t come only in the spring, miracles occur every day with the recreation of the world around us. And, miracles of a different sort are given the energy to continue when we recreate them each day.

This Shabbat, we read a portion of the Torah which contains enormous detail as it describes the completion of the work of the building of the Mishkan, the portable sanctuary in the wilderness. Frankly, for those who have read previous Torah portions, it is quite boring as all that it does is repeat in the past tense the list of the elements of the Mishkan that had been prescribed in previous parshiyot.

So, the creation of these items are all worded in the past tense. While the purpose of the Mishkan might be lasting, the objects that were in it could only be created once. Once made, they were finished.

Most human creations are created only once. However, the things are truly important must be created again and again: our love for those nearest to us, our commitment to improving the world, the values and priorities on which we base our lives. These aspects of our life which are the closest to divine and they. must be recreated, reemphasized, renewed each and every day.

Psalm 136 is a guide. It begins with the ancient acts of creation and redemption, offering praise to God who created the universe, split the sea and fed us in the wilderness. It ends with a simple statement of praise to God who feeds the entire world and who maintains the world in which we live.

Regarding feeding the world, our tradition reminds us that God did not make bread grow from the earth but gave us wheat to bake into bread so that we can be partners with God in creation.

As we approach this time of miracles, may we strive to appreciate that the miracle of creation continues and that we, as part of that miracle, owe God not only our praise but also our continued work at doing the little things which perfect the world in which we live and give meaning to our own little corner of the world.

2 thoughts on “A D’var Torah for Parashat Vayakhel

Leave a Reply