The two parshas which come immediately after the episode of the golden calf and which, this year, form a double parashiyot, are marked by their brightness and serenity. They begin with Moses asking the people to contribute to the building of the Tabernacle. From then on, everything that happens is good, with the people giving either of their possessions or of their labour. They bring bracelets, earrings, ornaments, sky blue, dark red and crimson wool, fine linen, skins and leathers, silver, copper, and acacia wood. As for the tribal leaders, they bring precious stones, fragrances and their best olive oil. Such is the enthusiasm and generous energy of the people that Moses has to tell them not to bring more. Now, with all necessary materials assembled, it seems that everyone is busy, as craftsmen and workers hammer and mould, carry and carve. The camp is filled with the noise of busy, happy work. The step-by-step description, first of the building, sculpting, weaving and sewing, followed by the assembly of the Tabernacle, with all its parts – Ark, Table, Lamp. Incense Altar, Drape and Altar, Washstand, and Enclosure – has a mesmerising effect. The narration is imbued with a kind of tenderness springing from a people joyful in God’s work. It is a tenderness which, despite all the setbacks and backsliding which will characterise our history, is realised in the Psalms of David and Songs of Solomon and even in the words of the Prophets, when they remember that God will remember His people. In more modern times we continue to add to this store with new songs and prayers, particularly during Shabbat.
It is good that the Book of Shemot, which starts with the fight to leave Egypt, should end on such a positive note, made most patent by the maftir describing the cloud covering the Communion Tent and God’s glory filling the Tabernacle.
And so on to Va-yikra, God calling to Moses and, through him, to the people. We start with the laws of sacrifice, and who better to introduce these than Pat Lipert, who is deep in her thoughts and her books in order to give you a service to remember this Saturday at 10.30.