Weekly Dvar Torah: Vayakhel-Pekudei

The Power of One, The Power of Many

We often talk about the concept of Jewish unity – how Am Yisrael is one unified people. There is so much emphasis on community, the whole, but we often overlook what makes this whole so powerful and so special.
This week’s Torah reading, Vayakhel-Pekudei, is a combination of two separate portions which describe the materials, processes and people involved in building the Mishkan, the Sanctuary. “Vayakhel” is translated as “And he assembled”. The portion explains how Moses assembled the people of Israel and conveyed G-d’s commandments regarding observing Shabbat and building the Mishkan. Then, the portion recounts how the people of Israel generously donated materials for construction and how talented artisans undertook the task of creating the Mishkan and its furnishings. “Pekudei” means “the counted things”. This portion begins with an accounting, or an audit, of all the precious metals that were donated and used in building the Mishkan. Here we see specificity in numbers; certain amounts of certain materials were used to contribute to the final products being constructed.
So what is the significance of all of this?
There seems to be a tension between these paired portions. Vayakhel, or assembling, relates to the term Kehillah, which means community. It is about the whole. All of the people of Israel are coming together to contribute to the greater goal of building the Mishkan. Pekudei is about the smaller parts, the individual items, the counted things, that ultimately come together to make up the final product. The Chabad Rebbe explained, and I couldn’t agree more, that this tension between community and individuality is in fact a necessary combination. The reason why the power of one has the potential to be so special, is because of the pekudei, the power of many.
When we strive to be one united community, it does not mean lose yourself in the community. It means bring who you are to the community. Bring your smile. Bring your creativity. Bring your intelligence. Bring your interpersonal skills. Bring your introspective nature. Bring your empathy. Bring your patience. The combination of the unique traits of many is what makes our community thrive.
Shabbat Shalom!
Joelle Chandler is a third year student studying Adult Development. She is a member of Guelph Hillel’s Jewish Education Committee. What she loves about Hillel is the variety of Jewish and social programming provided for students, and the sense of togetherness felt when attending events!