Exodus 38:21–40:38; 1 Kings 7:51–8:21; Hebrews 8:1–12
When Rosh Chodesh (the new month) occurs the day after Shabbat, then that Shabbat is called Machar Chodesh (tomorrow is the [new] month).
Since that is the case this Shabbat, a special reading (1 Samuel 20:18–42) is added that relates to an event concerning David and Jonathan during the new moon celebration.
“Then Jonathan said to David, ‘Tomorrow is the New Moon feast. You will be missed, because your seat will be empty.’” (1 Samuel 20:18)
While observing a new moon feast is not widely practiced today, this passage of Scripture reveals that it was in Biblical times, since David and Jonathan discussed it as though it were a regular occurrence.
Today, however, only a special blessing for the new month is recited during the Torah service in the synagogues.
The cantor (leader of liturgy & prayers) holds the Torah scroll in his arms, announces the day during the coming week that the new moon will occur, and then entreats the Lord for His blessing upon the upcoming month.
May we all be diligent to commit our times to the Lord.
“But I trust in you, Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in Your hands.” (Psalm 31:14–15)
“These are the accounts of the tabernacle [pikudei ha’mishka], even the tabernacle of the testimony, as they were rendered according to the commandment of Moses, through the service of the Levites, by the hand of Ithamar, the son of Aaron the priest.” (Exodus 38:21)
Last week, in Parasha Vayakhel, Moses assembled the Israelites to teach them the Torah he had received on Mount Sinai. Moses told the people that the Lord had called for a freewill offering (terumah) for the building of Mishkan (Tabernacle).
The reading for this Sabbath begins with an accounting of the contributions for the Tabernacle which would be used to the complete the Sanctuary.
Because every adult Jewish male was required to give half of a shekel toward the Ohel Mo’ed (Tent of Meeting), this Sabbath is called Shabbat Shekalim (Sabbath [of] Shekels).
The special Torah portion read on Shabbat Shekalim is Exodus 30:11–16.
“This they shall give, every one that passes among them that are numbered, half a shekel after the shekel of the sanctuary—the shekel is twenty gerahs—half a shekel for an offering to the LORD.” (Exodus 30:13)
The Haftarah (prophetic portion) for Shabbat Shekalim, 2 Kings 12:1–17, carries on with the theme of contributing toward the upkeep of the Holy Temple through the efforts of King Joash.
In the 9th century BC, King Joash took the throne of Israel at the young age of seven.
Scripture tell us that he tried to do what was right in the eyes of the Lord. Indeed, he attempted to use the people’s contributions to repair the Temple.
“Joash said to the priests, ‘Collect all the money that is brought as sacred offerings to the temple of the LORD—the money collected in the census, the money received from personal vows and the money brought voluntarily to the temple. Let every priest receive the money from one of the treasurers, then use it to repair whatever damage is found in the temple.’” (2 Kings 12:4–5)
However, by the 23rd year of the reign of King Joash, the priests still had not repaired the Temple.
Jehoiada the priest, therefore, created a chest (or offering box) and placed it beside the altar for the purpose of collecting the people’s contributions. This money was used to restore the Temple.
“With it they paid those who worked on the temple of the LORD—the carpenters and builders, the masons and stone cutters. They purchased timber and blocks of dressed stone for the repair of the temple of the LORD, and met all the other expenses of restoring the temple.” (2 Kings 12:11–12)
Those supervising the work and in charge of paying the workers acted with such integrity and honesty that they were not even required to report how the money was spent.
In the Brit Chadashah (New Testament), we have an account of Yeshua (Jesus) sitting beside the offering box at the Holy Temple observing what people were contributing.
“Yeshua sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury.” (Mark 12:41)
Many rich people made generous contributions, but when a widow gave only two copper coins, the equivalent of a few cents, Yeshua said she had contributed more than all the rest.
“Calling His disciples to Him, Yeshua said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.’” (Mark 12:43–44)
The Scripture portions for Shabbat Shekalim are read in preparation for the festival of Purim, which occurs in the month of Adar (March 16, 2014).
It is customary to give a contribution of three coins in “half” denominations to charity on the Fast of Esther (March 13, 2014).
Some synagogues set out a plate with half silver dollars that people can purchase to make their donation in commemoration of the half-shekel contribution of each Jewish male to the Holy Temple.
The Glory of God
“Moses inspected the work and saw that they had done it just as the LORD had commanded. So Moses blessed them.” (Exodus 39:42–43)
Parasha Pekudei addresses the mystery of how an unlimited, eternal God who transcends all time and space can possibly take up residence within the limitations of a manmade building.
Once Moses and the people finished the work of constructing the Mishkan, the Glory of God filled it:
“So Moses finished the work. Then the cloud covered the meeting and the glory [kavod] of God filled the tabernacle.” (Exodus 40:33–34)
The word for glory in Exodus 40:34 is kavod, and it is related to the Hebrew words for honor (kaved) and heavy (kaved).
When we give someone kaved, it means to give them honor or respect—to treat them as a person of substance, importance, of great value. This same word used in the Ten Commandments, “Honor (kaved) your father and your mother.” (Exodus 20:12)
In this Torah reading, God chose to place His Glory or Shekhinah in the finite space of the Mishkan (Sanctuary). His presence was unmistakable and of great substance. It was heavy and inspired reverence.
The presence of the Lord was so weighty, in fact, that Moses himself was unable to enter.
“And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of meeting, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.” (Exodus 40:35)
As the children of Israel carried on from the foot of the Mount Sinai, where they received the revelation of the Torah, the manifestation of God in cloud and fire that hovered over the mountain now moved with them to cover the Tabernacle.
This sign reassured the people of His continual presence and guidance throughout all the rest of their journeys.
“For the cloud of the LORD was upon the tabernacle by day, and there was fire therein by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys.” (Exodus 40:38)
Similarly, Yeshua will always be with us. He promised, “I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
As Believers in Yeshua, we do not need to drift aimlessly upon a storm-tossed sea of trials and tribulations alone; the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) has been sent to lead and guide us and to be with us forever.
“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever.” (John 14:16)
The Glory of God Falls on Solomon’s Temple
“When the priests withdrew from the Holy Place, the cloud filled the temple of the Lord. And the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled his temple.” (1 Kings 8:10–11)
In the Haftarah (Prophetic portion) for this week, the Shekhinah Glory of Adonai filled the Temple in Jerusalem once the work had been completed, just as it had filled the Mishkan in the wilderness when the work was completed.
As in the Parasha reading, it was the end of the work that brought the supernatural outpouring of God’s presence, not the beginning.
Starting any kind of project is usually relatively simple, if accompanied by zeal and enthusiasm, but the true blessing comes upon finishing the work. This requires patience, diligence, and endurance.
Like the Israelites, Believers have also been given a job to finish:
“My only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Yeshua has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” (Acts 20:24)
The Author and Finisher of Our Faith
When Yeshua died on the Roman execution stake, His final words were, “It is finished.”
He knew that He had completed the work He had been sent to this world to accomplish. He had fulfilled His calling; He had glorified the Lord, which was His heart’s earnest desire:
“I have glorified You on the earth; I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.” (John 17:4)
That work involved being the author and FINISHER of our faith! (Hebrews 12:2)
He is the Aleph and the Tav, the beginning and the end.
We can be secure in the knowledge that God always finishes what He starts. He did not just begin the work of creation; He finished it:
“Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.” (Genesis 2:1)
God is faithfully at work in each one of us, as well. He will bring the work He began in us through to perfect completion.
“Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Messiah Yeshua.” (Philippians 1:6)
When we come to the end of our lives, even if it seems like there is yet much work to be accomplished here on earth, may we be able to declare like the apostle Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7)
From Slavery to Freedom
The book of Exodus (Shemot) begins with the Israelites enslaved in Egypt. It ends with a visible demonstration of the Shekhinah Glory of Elohim!
Those who follow the Master, Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Messiah), have personally experienced freedom from slavery.
Before we knew Yeshua, we were enslaved to sin, longing to be delivered from the kingdom of darkness.
Now His Torah is written on our hearts and His Ruach HaKodesh dwells within us, transforming us into the people He has called us to be.
“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)