Spirituality Never Stops
The connections between building the Tabernacle and Yom Kippur reminds us that all aspects of our spirituality are connected.
Provided by KOLEL--The Adult Centre for Liberal Jewish Learning, which is affiliated with Canada's Reform movement.
Parashat Vayekhel tells the story of the actual building of the Mishkan [Tabernacle]; before this, we've only read the instructions for building it. Upon Moses' instructions, the people bring all the materials necessary: skins, wool, special woods, precious metals and stones. Master craftsmen do the specialized tasks.
"Moses assembled the entire Israelite community and said to them, 'These are the words that God has commanded for [you] to do...'" (Exodus 35:1)
In the previous three Torah portions, Moses has received from God the instructions for the Mishkan, or portable Sanctuary. Moses now gathers the people together to give them the instructions he has received--the word Vayekhel literally means "gather together." Moses could not build the Mishkan on his own, but needed the participation of the entire people.
Rashi makes a cryptic comment on the building of the Mishkan which may raise more questions than it answers:
Moses assembled the entire Israelite community--on the day after Yom Kippur, after he came down the mountain.
What Rashi seems to be doing here is linking the previous story to the building of the Mishkan. In chapter 34, after the Golden Calf, Moses goes back up the mountain, and asks to see God's "face." Instead, receives a revelation of God's merciful and forgiving aspects. He then brings two new tablets down the mountain; rabbinic tradition has him returning to the people, with the symbol of God's forgiveness and a renewed covenant, on the day that would eventually be Yom Kippur.
OK, so far, so good, at least in the world of midrash. Rashi, then, wants to make a midrash that Moses gathered the people immediately (well, the next day) after coming back to them with the new tablets of the covenant. Aside from solving certain rather academic chronological problems, what could Rashi be trying to teach here?
One possibility which occurs to me is that Rashi is subtly comparing building the Mishkan to building a Sukkah, the "booth" which many Jews build during the harvest holiday which begins several days after Yom Kippur. To show that the "work" of religious observance and spirituality never ceases, even after a peak experience like Yom Kippur, many people symbolically begin to build their Sukkah right after breaking their Yom Kippur fast--maybe they just put in a nail or two, but they want to demonstrate that spirituality doesn't stop, even for a day.