While promises flow freely when inspiration strikes and enthusiasm runs high, the Jewish people’s steadfast commitment to building the Mishkan provides a powerful lesson about staying the course in the long run.

By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel

This week, there is not one Torah portion, there are two Torah portions that are read in the synagogue. With this double-reading of Vayakhel and Pekudei (Exodus 35:1 – 40:38) we conclude the book of Exodus.

The Torah portions open up with a review of the construction of the Mishkan – the portable synagogue in which the Jewish people worshiped during their 40 years of wandering in the desert. We are told that when Moses requested donations from the people toward the construction of the Mishkan, they responded quite enthusiastically. People brought their gold, precious stones, jewelry, cloth, linens, and more. As the verse says: “Every man and woman whose heart was inspired to bring donations for the work … brought a donation to God.” (35:29)

It is noted that this verse seems to be redundant and even odd. What does it mean that “the people who were inspired to bring donations brought donations”? Isn’t this an obvious flow of events? What’s going on over here?

Among the many interpretations offered to answer this famous question is that the Torah is simply emphasizing how enthusiastic the people were. But even more so, it is telling us that not only did the Jewish people make pledges for the construction of the Mishkan, they actually kept their word!

I am sure we all know of people who make pledges, promises, and commitments, but are not always faithful to keep their word. Here, EVERY person was faithful to their word! Unlike those who make promises and pledges when they feel inspired, but don’t follow through on them, the Jewish people were “inspired to bring donations…and brought their donations,” without having to be nudged and reminded!

Another interpretation is that the verse in question refers to the children. We are told that when the people came with their donations, they brought along their children to be a part of the experience. They wanted the children to feel like they too were involved in the construction of the house of God!

The parents wanted the children to witness history in the making.

This is an important lesson for parents. Teaching your children is certainly wonderful and commendable – and possibly even sufficient. But getting your children involved, giving them hands-on-experiences, making them feel special: that’s priceless. That is an added dimension in parenting and education.

This is especially true in the performance of mitzvot (Torah commandments). Don’t just tell your children about how matza is made – take them to watch how it’s baked! Don’t just tell your children how a Torah is written – take them to real life scribes so they can see how it’s done, and so on!

One verse, two messages: (1) we must keep our commitments with the same enthusiasm with which we make them, and (2) we must give our children real-life experiences as we educate them!

For more insights by Rabbi Ari Enkin on this week’s Torah reading, click on the links below: