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Vayakhel / וַיַּקְהֵל Weekly Parsha Overview: Building Begins!

שְׁמוֹת / shemos / shemot / Exodus 35:1-38:20

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This is a basic overview of the parsha story in a “Q&A” format adaptable for kids of any age. Answers in brackets are traditional responses, from parsha text and midrash. Be open to anything your child might have to say!

Please see the Vayeishev overview for how we use these narratives  in our homeschool.  There are also copywork sheets to go with the weekly parsha… enjoy!

Parshas Vayakhel / וַיַּקְהֵל


“Build me a Mishkan and I will live there.”  Hashem said it before; now, it was time to get building.

The only problem was:  Moshe still didn’t have any of the special building materials Hashem had asked for!

What did he need?  (gold, silver, copper, wool, fabric, animal skins, jewels and oil)

But there was something that was even more important than building the Mishkan – Shabbos!

Even Hashem’s house, the holiest thing on earth, had to wait while everybody kept Shabbos.


image Moshe told bnei Yisrael the things they should bring to build the Mishkan.

Did Moshe say, “Shmuli, you bring gold; Rivky, you bring silver”?  (no, he did not!)

He didn’t tell people exactly what to bring.  He let them decide!

Did Moshe say, “Rich people, you bring gold; poor people, bring goat skins”? (no, he did not!)

Moshe didn’t tell the people what to bring, or how much.  It was entirely up to them!


Moshe just said:  “wise-hearted people, come help.”  What does it mean when a person is “wise-hearted”?

Sometimes, we think about doing something good; this is called “good intentions.”

Good intentions doesn’t mean everything you do will be good; sometimes, what you do turns out NOT good.

In last week’s parsha, bnei Yisrael decided to serve Hashem by building a golden calf – that was NOT good.

Later on, in parshas Shemini, we’ll learn about Nadav and Avihu, who also did something BAD with good intentions.

That’s why Moshe says “wise-hearted”:  he meant “you need good intentions, but also a good plan.”


image A good plan also needs a good LEADER.  Maybe more than one leader!

Moshe told bnei Yisrael again the name of the leader:  Betzalel ben Uri ben Chur

His grandfather, Chur, was a tzaddik, killed for trying to stop bnei Yisrael from building the egel hazahav (golden calf).

Betzalel would also have a helper:  Oholiav ben Achisamach, from Shevet Dan.

Oholiav was a simple person from the least important Shevet; anybody can become great by serving Hashem!


Why wasn’t Moshe the leader to build the Mishkan?

We already know that Moshe was very busy judging the people from morning to night, but also…

Just because Moshe was a good teacher and judge doesn’t mean he was a good builder and supervisor!

Even if a person is a very good teacher or artist or dentist or bus driver (maybe even THE best), he still wants…

·         A good plumber if his pipes are leaking,

·         A good architect if he wants a house that will stand up properly,

·         A good baker if he wants to buy some bread or cake, and

·         A good doctor (maybe the BEST!) if he gets sick.

Moshe was a good teacher, and a good leader, but he still needed the BEST person to supervise the building project.

Everybody should do the things he is best at, and choose the best person for the things he can’t do!


Now the leaders were ready, and everybody started bringing the supplies Moshe asked for.

They started … and then brought more… and more… and more.  Rich and poor:  everybody gave what they could!

“Stop!” cried Betzalel and Oholiav to Moshe.  “We have more than we need!”

“Stop!” Moshe told bnei Yisrael.  “We have all the materials we need.  Now the craftspeople can go to work!”

Expert men and women went to work right away with the materials – they made everything just as Hashem told them.


Never wait to give tzedakah!

Some people say the princes, the leaders of shevatim, didn’t bring materials right away when Moshe asked.

“We will wait,” they said, “and see what is needed later on.”  But they never got a chance!

Right away, the people brought too much, until Betzalel and Oholiav cried out “Stop!”  They had all that they needed.

“You should have brought your gifts right away,” Moshe told the princes.  “Never wait to give tzedakah.”

Still, Moshe told the princes they could bring the jeweled stones for the choshen mishpat, the oil for the menorah, and the spices to mix the ketores.  All of bnei Yisrael, great and small, should have a part in building the Mishkan.


How would bnei Yisrael know they’d built the Mishkan exactly right?  In next week’s parsha, Pekudei, we’ll find out!