The 'Church' at Mount Sinai

We often see pictures of Jesus in church, but in reality, Jesus himself never set foot in a church. He attended synagogue services, and He assembled along with all Israel at the Temple.

Moses on Mount Sinai, an oil-on-canvas painting by Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824–1904). (Image credit: Wikimedia Commons.)


Special Shabbat Reading

Shabbat HaChodesh: Special readings are applicable this Shabbat.

  • Shabbat HaChodesh (החדש | The Month)
  • Maftir: Exodus 12:1-20
  • Haftarah: Ezekiel 45:16-46:18
  • Gospel: Luke 22:1-13

Shabbat HaChodesh ("Sabbath [of the] month" שבת החודש) precedes the first of the Hebrew month of Nisan during which Passover is celebrated. Exodus 12:1-20 and the laws of Passover. On the first day of Nisan, God presented the first commandment of how to "sanctify the new moon" (kiddush hachodesh) for the onset of Rosh Chodesh and thus Nisan becomes the first month of the Jewish year (counting by months).

Regular Shabbat Readings

Read / Listen to these Portions

  • Vayakhel-Pekudei (ויקהל/פקודי | He gathered/Countings)
  • Torah: Exodus 35:1-40:38
  • Haftarah: 1 Kings 7:40-50 *
  • Gospel: John 13:1-19; Luke 16:1-13

Note: The regular readings are often interrupted with special readings on Jewish holidays, special Sabbaths, and Rosh Chodesh. Refer to the annual Torah Portion schedule for these special portions.

Portion Outline

  • Torah
    • Exodus 35:1 | Sabbath Regulations
    • Exodus 35:4 | Preparations for Making the Tabernacle
    • Exodus 35:20 | Offerings for the Tabernacle
    • Exodus 35:30 | Bezalel and Oholiab
    • Exodus 36:8 | Construction of the Tabernacle
    • Exodus 37:1 | Making the Ark of the Covenant
    • Exodus 37:10 | Making the Table for the Bread of the Presence
    • Exodus 37:17 | Making the Lampstand
    • Exodus 37:25 | Making the Altar of Incense
    • Exodus 37:29 | Making the Anointing Oil and the Incense
    • Exodus 38:1 | Making the Altar of Burnt Offering
    • Exodus 38:9 | Making the Court of the Tabernacle
    • Exodus 38:21 | Materials of the Tabernacle
    • Exodus 39:1 | Making the Vestments for the Priesthood
    • Exodus 39:32 | The Work Completed
    • Exodus 40:1 | The Tabernacle Erected and Its Equipment Installed
    • Exodus 40:34 | The Cloud and the Glory
  • Prophets
    • 1Ki 7:13 | Products of Hiram the Bronzeworker

Portion Summary


The twenty-second reading from the Torah and the second-to-last reading from the book of Exodus is called Vayakhel (ויקהל), which means "and he assembled." The name comes from the first words of the first verse of the reading, which could be literally translated to read, "And Moses assembled all the congregation of the sons of Israel ..." (Exodus 35:1). This portion from the Torah describes how the assembly of Israel worked together to build the Tabernacle. In most years, synagogues read Vayakhel together with the following portion, Pekudei.


The twenty-third reading from the Torah and last reading from the book of Exodus is called Pekudei (פקודי), which means "Accounts." The first words of the first verse of the reading could be literally translated to read, "These are the accounts (pekudei) of the Tabernacle" (Exodus 38:21). The last reading from Exodus begins with an audit of how the contributions for the Tabernacle were used. The portion goes on to describe the completion of the Tabernacle and its assembly and concludes by depicting the glory of the LORD entering it. In most years, synagogues read Pekudei together with the previous portion, Vayakhel; therefore, the comments on this week's reading will be brief.

Moses returned from atop Mount Sinai, radiating the glory of God. As soon as he arrived in the camp, he “assembled all the congregation of the sons of Israel.” This Torah portion takes its name from the first Hebrew word of Exodus 35:1, “vaykhel.” The verb kahal (קהל) means “to assemble,” so vaykhel (ויקהל) means “and he assembled.”

The descent of Moses at the end of the previous Torah portion alludes to the second coming of the Messiah. Just as Moses assembled Israel at the time of his appearing, when Messiah comes again, He will gather together the assembly of Israel from the four corners of the world. Then the whole nation of Israel will be called the assembly of Messiah.

This concept helps us understand the meaning behind the New Testament word “church.”

As a noun, the Hebrew word kahal means “assembly,” “congregation,” or “community.” The Torah refers to the community of the tribes of Israel as the kahal, i.e., “the assembly,” a common Bible term denoting all Israel. The word kahal passes into the Greek Septuagint version of the Bible as ekklesia (ἐκκλησία). The Greek word ekklesia appears throughout the Greek version of the Old Testament to speak of the assembly of Israel or an assembly of worshippers in the Temple. However, when it occurs in the New Testament, English translators rarely render it as “assembly.” Inexplicably, English translators substitute the theologically charged term “church.”

The “church” translation of ekklesia has misled us. Because of the double standard in translation, it appears to most readers that “the church” first appeared in the New Testament, completely disconnected with the Old Testament and the nation of Israel. After all, the word “church” never appears before the book of Matthew. In reality, the word “church” does not appear in the Bible at all. By translating ekklesia as “church,” our English Bibles have led us to believe that “the church” is a new institution outside of Judaism and the Jewish people.

All of this information about the original languages implies that the New Testament church needs to be understood in continuity with the Jewish people, not as a disjuncture. In the broad sense, the church is the nation of Israel. The Messiah will gather all Israel into His assembly. In the narrow sense, the church is a subset of the larger assembly of Israel, consisting of believers who have identified Yeshua as the Messiah and cast their allegiance with Him.

Adapted From: Torah Club Commentary Set: Shadows of the Messiah. Learn more about Torah Club and how you can start a Club of your own, or join a Torah Club in your area. Visit TORAHCLUB.ORG

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