Torah Pearls #22 – Vayakhel (Exodus 35:1-38:20)

Torah Pearls Vayakhel, Exodus 35:1-38:20, Torah Pearls, torah portion, Nehemia Gordon, tabernacle, wilderness, Jewish, hebrewThis episode of The Original Torah Pearls is on the Torah portion of Vayakhel (Exodus 35:1-38:20). We begin with asking what it means to "kindle a fire" on the Sabbath.  Then they ask what it means for someone's heart to be stirred, and how the various traditions understand this, leading to a wonderful discussion on how and why we give to God. There is a fascinating discussion of the nature of Polygamy in the Torah, which leads to an exciting examination of the nature of Paleo-Hebrew.

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Prophet Pearls - Vayakhel-Pekudei (1 Kings 7:40-8:21)
How to Keep Shabbat

18 thoughts on “Torah Pearls #22 – Vayakhel (Exodus 35:1-38:20)

  1. Kindle a fire” is T’va’aru in Exodus 35:3, whose root word is ba`ar (בָּעַר) and throughout scripture we see this word connected to; strife;evil;lashonhara;jealousy; anger. I believe this has to do with ‘anger’ on the Shabbat and not a literal ‘fire’ otherwise I would freeze on Shabbats and wish it were over so I could warm myself again as the wood stove is all I have for heat and so then how could I call Shabbat a delight? See:Kindle a Fire on the Sabbath Day by… Teshuva
    Shabbat Shalom

  2. I have an interesting perspective about kindling a fire on Sabbath. If the correct understanding is that firewood should not be sought out and gathered, or if the understanding is that fire is not to be started, or if the understanding is fire that has been started should not be fed…..and any or all of those things are a violation of the Sabbath, then why did Moses have to go ask YHVH anything? Why seek out the answer to whether this man violated the command when its an obvious violation?
    My point is that maybe all along, the violation of the Sabbath command is solely about the kind of work that results in provision or livelihood. Isn’t the command to Sabbath (rest) all about allowing our Father to have a day, we rest from providing and trust He will not only make up that provision for that day but exponentially provide beyond what we could have worked to do for ourselves anyway?
    Therefore, the reason Moses had to inquire from YHVH was to assess the man’s motives. If his motive was to keep warm or cook a meal (certainly allowed on Sabbath as stated during a Feast) then this is not the work of provision. But if he was gathering wood to do his “work”, Moses would not know this without YHVH’s council. YHVH knows the heart and would be the only One to assess the answer.
    Kindling a fire in Ex 35 would then relate to kindling a fire for the purpose of the work one does during the week for his livelihood…..and not simply keeping warm in the middle of winter in case his fire went out or warming his soup or baking some matzah.

    • Your post is where I have pitched my tent on this matter. I believe Shabbat is a “Date with Dad” and He doesn’t like me staring at my Smartphone while He’s seated across the table desiring dialogue.I do better with interpreting matters of Shabbat from that perspective. Thank you for such a thoughtful post.

    • … some understandings tie kindling a fire to the man who was killed for gathering wood on Shabbat as he was doing work.

      Numbers 15:32-35
      And while the children of Yisra’ĕl were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day. And those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Mosheh and to Aharon, and to all the congregation. And they put him in under guard, because it had not been declared what should be done to him. And יהוה said to Mosheh, “The man shall certainly be put to death, all the congregation stoning him with stones outside the camp.”

      How does Scripture define work? If we are to look at the Word in context, then we should also be looking at verse 2.

      Exodus 35:2
      Work is done for six days, but on the seventh day it shall be set-apart to you, a Sabbath of rest to יהוה. Anyone doing work on it is put to death.

      It’s understandable why these two can seem to be related. The man was gathering wood on the Sabbath – he must have been working, right? but for now we submit that the two are not related. Why?

      Jeremiah 7:18
      The children are gathering wood, the fathers are lighting the fire, and the women are kneading their dough, to make cakes for the sovereigness of the heavens, and to pour out drink offerings to other mighty ones, to provoke Me.

  3. On the Fire issue, I used to take a casual approach on Shabbat, but after going thru Firefighting Academy and agreeing with the instructors; Fire is a living, breathing organism that can turn into a monster. Scripture regards fire as something special. In short; DON’T PLAY WITH FIRE(especially on the Sabbath). Regarding the humor, you guys are obviously happy to be here and enjoying what you do. Levity and word-plays often arise, and those of us with a sense of humor can identify, and sometimes even learn from it. What we file away in the ‘trivia box’ today, may one day be the answer to ‘Final Jeopardy’.

  4. Nehemia, thank you for being ‘controversial’!!!! This topic/issue of the multiple wives has been a hot one with my husband and me (guess who’s for it, lol). He really won’t see my point because it’s coming from ME, a woman (so OF COURSE I would be against it he says). I love the Torah Pearls and Prophet Pearls, they are a HUGE blessing to me. Praise Yah!

  5. On the subject of the sabbath, work to be more exact, clearly it talks about fire. The subject of electricity is brought up and whether or not to flip on a light, but my question is even if you leave a light on during the sabbath or only benefit from air conditioning, should we be enjoying such things like electricity on a day we should not be working yet someone else has to for us to have it? Is this being hypocritical to say that we should not work but benefit from the work of others? And dont stop the jokes, it keeps our attention.

  6. Around 12:30 in this discussion, (I believe it was Nehemiah’s voice) it was stated that “work” was mentioned in verse 2, where kindling was mentioned in verse 3.

    When were the separations of sentences (with numbers) implemented? And why would one want to ignore a statement in a previous sentence as having nothing to do with the following sentence?

    Is every single thought its own unique paragraph, never to be confused with nor expanded upon by any other thoughts?

    your servant… again

  7. The humor is greatly enjoyed. I can only imagine the pure laughter with which The Most High God freely expresses Himself. I am sorry that Phil and Linda (?) or anyone desires a dry reading only, BUT, such brethren are crucially invaluable to take and maintain precise accountings… a necessity that they themselves derive great enjoyment from, while those whose joy is overflowing, would find excruciatingly tenuous.

    I find your laughter to be healing.

    your servant,

  8. Dear Nehemia;

    looking at ex 35:3, I wonder if all traditions are not missing the point, but that it is a simple prohibition against burning the trash on shabbath? This speculation is based on an apparent piel form of baar rather than hiphil, and the shared meaning of “baar” between burn, remove completely, and be stupid. It seems to me possible the word “th’vaaru” might be translatable as “incinerate”, a specific type of burning that requires little intelligence, and has the one purpose of removing completely. Your thoughts?

    • Spot-on Walter!
      We saw this as a possible meaning quite some time ago but ‘left it on the shelf’ until other witnesses were found (or not…).

      As in all study of scripture, CONTEXT is all-important in setting the scene for delving into the meaning of any passage; the context here is clearly the building of the Tabernacle, for which detailed instructions were about to be given. The people were enthusiastic for the task and it would have been easy to get carried away and work ceaselessly seven days a week because this was clearly ‘God’s work’. As any good trainer would do today, YHVH first prefaced his instructions with the important reminders:- that the task was NOT to be worked on on Shabbat but He also gave a reminder of what else wasn’t to be done. Given that He knew what time and effort was required to complete the task, the priority of keeping the Shabbat was simply re-stated as it is many, many times in His instructions – it is one of the key markers for who His people are, He wants us to rest with Him on this day.
      Interestingly, to our knowledge, this is the ONLY place in scripture where the prohibition on kindling (or ‘consuming’) with fire is given; here your word study makes great sense… Was YHVH simply instructing Israel that He didn’t want the aroma of burning rubbish to be wafting around the camp and up His ‘nostrils’ on Shabbat because the people took a break from Tabernacle building on that day and may use the day off to burn the trash that accumulated over the week?
      So pleased that there is at least one other who has been lead to see that this understanding is possibly the intent. There are many winter Shabbats where the lack of a fire to heat the home or food makes for a truly miserable and uncomfortable day – not restful at all. For some of our people living in extreme climatic zones this could even be damaging to health. Maybe the distinction is being drawn between using fire for necessary things versus using it for work-related activities, burning trash kind of sits in the middle of these two?
      As in all things however, we must continue to prayerfully seek the truthful understanding of scripture – this one is pretty radical and has potential to be divisive through argument of “right and wrong”. I really appreciated Nehemiah’s point that the process of seeking truth is the most important and gives honour to YHVH; knowing the truth will have to wait until one who has the authority given by YHVH can teach us…

      Many blessings in your search for things that please our Father, shalom, shalom…

      • Thanks Alan & Kathryn; it is great to know I am not all alone on this one. And yet there are cases like this, where literally NO translation follows the base language text. Keeps us amateur translators hopeful that we too can contribute to Yah’s work. Even if they did not have much noxious plastic in those days, it would have been a needless effort and risk to neighbors to have a “dumb” fire burning on into the shabbath.

      • the root word for kindle/burn is Baár and throughout scripture it is linked to:evil; jealousy; strife; lashonhara; anger etc, and the man gathering wood was killed/stoned NOT for working on the Shabbat but for making offerings to other gods…
        Jeremiah 7:18
        The children are GATHERING WOOD, the fathers are LIGHTING THE FIRE, and the women are kneading their dough, to make cakes for the sovereigness of the heavens, and to pour out drink offerings to other gods, to provoke Me.

        We see here the children GATHERING WOOD for the purpose of making offerings to other gods, and this provokes YHVH’s anger (or kindles his fire/Baar). Following Numbers 15 what do we read in Ch. 16? Korah’s rebellion.

        During the winter I light my wood burning stove every day including Shabbat as it is the only heating source I have in my home here in Colorado, if I’m freezing to death on the Shabbat, how can I call Shabbat a delight? LOL

  9. Shalom! i would like to thank you again for the get insight in these Torah portions and special thanks for the Prohet pearls that have given us a push to study the prophets as we go along their Torahporton parallels. It is so sad-you-see (sadducees) that imposters are trying to spoil this great assignment! and we at Beit Midrash Nissi continue to support and encourage in this work The LORD Yehovah poured his spirit upon you two, a Karaite and a Methodist to bless His Name, let no imposter pull you down!
    1) what day is Passover 2015? we want you with Keith Johnson to teach us how we should celebrate Passover!
    Basing on your discussion Exo. 35:3 “Ye shall not kindleI no fire…” is it ok to light candles on Erev Sabbath?

  10. My understanding, Stephen, is that these things were brought from Egypt where it is written in the Torah that God told the Hebrews to ask of the Egyptians to give them gold, silver, clothing, etc. and that the Egyptians gave so much it was written that the Hebrews “plundered” the wealth of Egypt.

  11. Hi Nehemia,

    First, let me say I like your show very much and listen to your Torah portions almost every Shabbat.

    Since this week Torah portion is Vayakhel which talks about contributing materials of all sorts (except the gold & silver) for building the ‘Tent of Meeting’. My question to you is, “Where did these people get all the materials from since they all lived in the desert of Mount Sinai at that time which was a barren place all around?” If you would elaborate on it, much appreciated!

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