This week’s parshah, Vayakhel, considers how when we create community we also create a dwelling place—a mishkan—for God.
The middah we learn is “to approach our work with care.” The parshah teaches several ways to do this. It begins with the commandment to do creative work—melakhah—for six days, and then, on the seventh day, to practice a Shabbat—a day of holiness and appreciation.
To approach our work with care, we need to know that our creative work is not simply creative for its own sake; it has a higher purpose of appreciation and holiness. When we can see the higher purpose for our work, we care more about it.
Next, the parshah teaches that each person with a generous heart—nadiv libo—should bring an offering to contribute to building the mishkan. Approaching our work with care has a lot to do with coming to our work with a spirit of generosity and a desire to contribute and build community. Generosity arises in our hearts when we work for a communal purpose.
Finally, the parshah teaches how each person should contribute his or her special skills to building the mishkan. This teaching honours the unique individuality of each person in relation to her or his labour. As slaves to Pharaoh, people were required to do whatever work Pharoah commanded; however, as free people, each person is able to bring unique talents, abilities, and interests to communal work.
As we approach Shabbat, the day on which we join our community in appreciation, let us consider how we can approach our creative work with purpose, generosity, skill, and free will.