How can I experience Oneness directly through Jewish Meditation? Insights from Parshat Vayakhel and the letter ע Ayin...
Parshah Summary – P’shat (literal level)
The parshah opens with Moses assembling the Children of Israel and reviewing the mitzvah of Shabbat, followed by instructions for constructing the Mishkan (Tabernacle). The Israelites bring the materials for its construction in abundance: gold, silver and copper; blue, purple, and red-dyed wool; goat hair, spun linen, animal skins, wood, olive oil, herbs and precious stones. They actually bring too much, and Moses has to tell them to stop.
A team of “wise-hearted” artisans build the Mishkan and its furnishings (as described in the previous Torah readings of Terumah, Tetzaveh, and Ki Tisa): three layers of roof coverings; 48 gold-plated wall panels, and 100 silver foundation sockets; the parokhet (veil) that separates between the Sanctuary’s two chambers, and the masakh (screen) at the fron, the ark, and its cover with the cherubim; the table and its showbread; the seven-branched menorah with its specially prepared oil; the golden altar and the incense burned upon it; the anointing oil; the outdoor altar for burnt offerings and all its implements; the hangings, posts and foundation sockets for the courtyard; and the basin with its pedestal, made out of copper mirrors…
Torah of Awakening
וַיַּקְהֵ֣ל מֹשֶׁ֗ה אֶֽת־כל־עֲדַ֛ת בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֲלֵהֶ֑ם אֵ֚לֶּה הַדְּבָרִ֔ים אֲשֶׁר־צִוָּ֥ה יְיְ לַעֲשֹׂ֥ת אֹתָֽם׃ שֵׁ֣שֶׁת יָמִים֮ תֵּעָשֶׂ֣ה מְלָאכָה֒ וּבַיּ֣וֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִ֗י יִהְיֶ֨ה לָכֶ֥ם קֹ֛דֶשׁ שַׁבַּ֥ת שַׁבָּת֖וֹן לַיי כׇּל־הָעֹשֶׂ֥ה ב֛וֹ מְלָאכָ֖ה יוּמָֽת׃
Moses assembled the whole assembly of the Children of Israel, and said to them: These are the things that Hashem has commanded you to do: On six days work may be done, but on the seventh day, it shall be for you sacred; a Sabbath of Sabbaths for the Divine; whoever does any work on it shall die…
- Shemot (Exodus) 35:1, 2 Parshat Vayak’hel
The Maggid of Zlotchov taught on this verse in which Moses is recounting the giving of the Ten Commandments: אָ֠נֹכִ֠י עֹמֵ֨ד בֵּין־יְהֹוָ֤ה וּבֵֽינֵיכֶם֙ – “I stood between the Divine and you…” -Devarim (Deutermonomy) 5:5.
“The ‘I’ stands between God and us; when you say ‘I,’ a wall stands between you and the Divine. But for one who offers the ‘I’ – there is no barrier. And this is what the words in the Song of Songs are referring to: אֲנִ֣י לְדוֹדִ֔י וְעָלַ֖י תְּשׁוּקָתֽוֹ – I am my beloved’s and his desire is toward me – when my ‘I’ has become my beloved’s, then it is toward me that His desire turns.”
The “Beloved” is nothing other than Reality; everything is God. Each moment we remember that everything is God, we are instantly and effortlessly reunited with the Beloved. It is not that God has gone anywhere; there is nothing but God, only you have become used to It. It is like walking with a lover, hand in hand. At first, you are on fire with love. But, if you keep walking, at some point you start to think about something else. Eventually you wouldn’t even notice that you are holding hands. To be reunited, in such a case, is to become aware of what is already present.
שֵׁ֣שֶׁת יָמִים֮ תֵּעָשֶׂ֣ה מְלָאכָה֒ – Six days shall work be done… It doesn’t say, “six days you shall work (ta’ase),” but rather “six days work shall be done (te’ase).” The passive form hints that a person should not identify with the work; there should be no sense of “I am doing this work.”
וּבַיּ֣וֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִ֗י יִהְיֶ֨ה לָכֶ֥ם קֹ֛דֶשׁ שַׁבַּ֥ת שַׁבָּת֖וֹן – and on the seventh day, it should be for you sacred; a Sabbath of Sabbaths . . . It doesn’t say there should be a Sabbath among the weekdays, but rather a Sabbath among Sabbaths! Meaning, even the weekdays should be Sabbaths, in a sense. Work is being done, but there should be no sense of a “me” doing the work. There is only the One doer, and the One includes all the different beings doing their different jobs. That’s why one of the Divine Names is Elohim, which is a plural word, meaning “powers.” God is the Oneness of the many.
שַׁבַּ֥ת שַׁבָּת֖וֹן לַיי כׇּל־הָעֹשֶׂ֥ה ב֛וֹ מְלָאכָ֖ה יוּמָֽת׃ – A Sabbath of Sabbaths to the Divine – all who work on it shall die… On the surface it seems to be saying that if a person does work on Shabbat they will die or be executed. But there is a different way to read the verse: not whoever does work on it, shall die, but rather, whoever does work, on it shall die. In other words, the “doer” of work during the week – the “I” that thinks it is the doer – should “die” on Shabbat. That is its gift and power – once you are able to “put yourself to death” as the “doer” on Shabbat, this also opens the possibility of dis-identifying with the “doer” on weekdays as well. Then all of life is Shabbat – that is liberation…
How do you do it?
Whenever you do anything, you can remind yourself: your strength is a gift. Your intelligence is a gift. Even the desire to do anything at all is a gift. It all comes from Beyond; everything comes into being through an infinite string of efforts from a vast עֲדַת adat – an assembly of countless beings…
וַיַּקְהֵ֣ל מֹשֶׁ֗ה אֶֽת־כׇּל־עֲדַ֛ת – Moses assembled the whole assembly…
And yet, there is only one person who can command this awareness from you, and that is you! That’s the paradox – you must be like Moses, assembling the entire assembly of Being before your mind in each moment. This is ע ayin – seeing the deeper Reality; the One that both includes and transcends the Many.
May this week of Shabbat Vayak’hel-Pekudei be all Shabbat, so that Shabbat be a Shabbat Shabbaton. May we offer our “I” to the “Beloved” and know the One who is both the Doer and the Doing, both the One and the Many. May this realization move the world toward healing all the sufferings caused by the endlessly hungry “me.”
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