ENOUGH ALREADY! – Vayak’hel – Ex. 35-38:20 – by Rabbi Baruch Cohon
Many events chronicled in the Torah are first-time, and will reoccur again and again throughout history. Battles between tribes, domestic quarrels, slavery, rebellion – they all repeat themselves the world over. One exception, of course, is the Revelation on Mount Sinai, certainly a singular event in all history. This week provides another one-timer. Not to be compared with the Sinai experience, it still can leave us shaking our heads in wonder – and perhaps a little humor too.
Less than two months passed since the Israelite people received the Torah, and during that time they already violated the law they accepted, by worshipping a Golden Calf. Now that Moses and his Levite vigilantes whipped the people back in line, they are commanded to devote themselves to building the Tabernacle in the desert. First of all the Jewish houses of worship, this portable sanctuary had to be constructed with whatever the people could contribute. Not money, but building materials, from cut wood and hewn stone to turquoise, precious metals and jewels, woven wool and linen. The tribal princes bring their treasures, and those who have no treasures bring their skills, “craftsmen, weavers and embroiderers.”
Where did they get it all? True, we remember that when they left Egypt they were able to take some plunder with them. But more significant is the question of what made them suddenly so generous. Did a powerful sense of guilt move them? In any case, they made and brought whatever they could. Under the leadership of the master designer Betzalel, they showed up every morning with more contributions.
Finally we will read that the supervisors of the work came to Moses and told him the people were bringing much more than the job required. So, at Moses’ order, they passed the word in the camp: “Let no man or woman do any more for the holy Sanctuary!” And the people stopped bringing.
Truly a one-time event. When, in all the centuries since Moses, did a leader have to proclaim Enough already! Stop giving!? What a magnificent outpouring that was – and not one donor is named in the Torah. No plaques in the Tabernacle.
We moderns have our share of golden calves. Arguably one of them is personal credit. Plaques, stained glass windows, ads in the newspaper – all glorify donors. If your telephone rings less than 10 times a day with appeals, and promises of personal plaudits in return for writing a check – consider yourself lucky.
Perhaps when we are moved to turn the tables and build a sanctified house of the future, the Messiah will tell us to stop giving and just enjoy.