Ben Duncan - Dvar Torah


My Torah portion comes from Exodus, and it's called Vayak'hel

The first part of the portion is about how Moses called the Israelites together and spoke to them about the sabbath. He told them that they must not work and that they must not kindle a fire on the day of the sabbath. In the same way that God created the world in 6 days and then took the 7th day as a day of rest, Moses commanded the Israelites to rest on the 7th day.

The rules were very strict and you could be put to death if you broke the rules. To me this seems pretty harsh, lucky for us we don’t kill people if they work on the day of the sabbath, because there are only about 14 million Jews in the world and that number would be a lot smaller! The fact that this has changed says to me that Judaism is progressive, because it has progressed from an ancient practise of killing people to one which is more modern.

Personally I believe that a day of rest is good for the soul and spirit, especially because our lives seem so busy, taking a break from normal life gives us the time to “recharge”. It's also a time to be with our family, friends and community. What does it feel like to be fully rested?

To me it feels great, you have a positive angle towards life and a positive attitude. Religious or not, we should all have a day of rest and we should not undermine the sabbath.

One of my favorite ways to rest is by sitting on our couch in winter by the fire with a duvet staring at the rain. What is your favorite way to rest?

The second part of my torah portion is about the building of the Tabernacle, the sacred space that the Israelites would come together to worship God.

There was a great big list of all the things needed to make the Tabernacle, such as gold, silver, copper, blue and crimson wool, acacia wood, oil and incense.

Being an ex Waldorf child I know how precious coloured wool can be, all jokes aside the things that were needed would have been precious to the people at that time.

I found it very interesting as to how Moses asked for the offerings. He did not say give this stuff to me, he said only give if your heart is moved or if your spirit is lifted. To me this is a great reminder to always give with an open heart no matter what the gift.

Another interesting piece is that the whole community was involved in making a sacred space for communal use. What I like about this is that it speaks about the importance of teamwork and having a shared goal. This is a good lesson for the modern age, to work together to create something, because if we can never agree we can never create a better place for ourselves.

When preparing for my barmie I got the chance to give with an open heart by working at the Guide Dogs Association. “Giving with an open heart” is something that Moses said during the times of Exodus and is something that should happen in the present time. This is an old idea that has been kept for a good reason.

My barmie has also given me the chance to understand that other old fashion rules can be changed and modernised. Rules can be changed but in order for it to happen we have to work as a community and read and think to interpret the Torah and come to a shared conclusion.

Shabbat Shalom.

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