This week we have a double Torah portion: Vayakhel and Pekudei, which make up Exodus 35:1 – 40:38, and with it, we conclude the Book of Exodus.
Vayakhel begins by discussing the “town hall” meeting that Moses had arranged after the sin of the Golden Calf. At this meeting, Moses reminds the people of the commandment to observe the Sabbath as well as telling them to build the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, the portable synagogue that the Jews took with them during their 40 years of wandering in the desert.
When the meeting was over, the verse says, “The entire assembly took leave of Moses’ presence.”Why does the Torah emphasize that the people left “Moses’ presence?” We know from the previous verses that they were in Moses’ presence! Why mention it again?
It is explained that even after the meeting ended, onlookers could tell that they had been in Moses’ presence. In other words, they were affected by the experience.
When a person goes to a bar to have a few drinks, it remains obvious for several hours that he or she was in such an environment. So, too, in the case of the meeting with Moses, it was clear that the people were in an environment of holiness. They were moved. They spiritually matured. They grew. They conducted themselves with dignity. Indeed, it is not possible to be in the presence of holiness and not be affected. Having been in Moses’ presence, the people were inspired.
The lesson is clear: We are affected by the places we visit and the people with whom we associate.
It is said that if you want to find out what is in a person’s head, see what books he reads. We are affected by everything in life – what we see, what we hear, even what we eat! We must strive to find positive influences in life and to befriend good people.
The good things we experience in life will change and inspire us, and with that, we will be able to influence others and make a difference.
By: Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below.
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