This week’s parshah, Vayakel, is about how community creates a dwelling place — a mishkan — for God. The middah we learn from the parshah is “to approach your work with care.” The parshah teaches several ways to approach work with care. The parshah 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 endless; that it has a higher purpose of appreciation and holiness. When we can see the higher purpose for our work, we care more about it. Then parshah then 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, a desire to contribute, and to build a community. Generosity arises in our heart when we work for a communal purpose. Next, the parshah teaches how each person should contribute his or her special skills to building the mishkan. At our Heschel Adult Torah Study program this week, one participant observed how 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 Pharaoh commanded. But 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 a free will.