D’var Torah Vayakheil, Mar.1, 2019

In reading from the Torah scroll, we are confronted with a text without vowels.  Sometimes we have to be very careful because two words can have the exact same letters, but different vowels, changing the meaning entirely.  For example, the first word in this week’s parasha and also the name of the parasha is “vayakheil.”  This five letter word also appears in last week’s parasha in the Golden Calf story.  In that story, the word is “vayikaheil,” the people “gathered against” Aaron and demanded a molten god.  In this week’s story, the word is “vayakheil,” Moses “gathered” the people in a solemn assembly to learn how to make the Mishkan, the tabernacle in the wilderness.  Rabbi Kenneth Weiss points out that in the first case, an angry mob gathers to confront Aaron.  In the second case, a community is being formed for a sacred purpose.  Two very different meanings for the same 5 letters and two very different outcomes: The tabernacle endured for decades; the golden calf was immediately destroyed.  Weiss concludes:  It is only when people gather as a community united in heart and mind for creating or building that the purpose of the gathering endures.  (D’var Torah from 2004 in Voices of Torah, p. 260)