Torah with an Occupation

Don't quit your day job to become a Torah scholar. When Torah study is not combined with an occupation, it amounts to nothing and leads to sin.

Concept of person busy with occupation (Image: © Bigstock)

Vayakhel

Special Shabbat Reading

Shabbat Shekalim: Special readings are applicable this Shabbat.

  • Shabbat Shekalim (שקלים | Shekels)
  • Torah: Exodus 30:11-16
  • Haftarah: 2 Kings 11:17-12:17
  • Gospel: Matthew 17:22-27

Shabbat Shekalim ("Sabbath [of] shekels" שבת שקלים) requests each adult male Jew contribute half of a Biblical shekel for the upkeep of the Tabernacle, or mishkan (משכן). The Torah portion Exodus 30:11-16 (the beginning of Parasha Ki Tisa) is read. This Shabbat takes place on the Shabbat before the 1st of the Hebrew calendar month of Adar, or on the 1st of Adar itself if it falls on Shabbat. In leap years on the Hebrew calendar, when there are two months of Adar, Shabbat Shekalim is on the Shabbat before the 1st of Adar II (or on the 1st of Adar II itself if it is Shabbat).

Regular Shabbat Readings

Read / Listen to these Portions

  • Vayakhel (ויקהל | He gathered)
  • Torah: Exodus 35:1-38:20
  • Haftarah: 1 Kings 7:40-50
  • Gospel: Matthew 12:1-13

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
  • 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.


When the people of God join together with a common goal, we can do great things. The joint effort of the people of God working together to fulfill His commandments created a spiritual house worthy of God's Dwelling Presence.

And all the skillful men who were performing all the work of the sanctuary came, each from the work which he was performing. (Exodus 36:4)

The building of the Tabernacle required each person to contribute to the work from his own skill set. The tanners did the tanning, weavers did the weaving, carpenters did the carpentry, metal smiths did the smithing and so on. Each person had something to offer from his own unique vocational skills.

The Torah life is not just a life of religious rituals and scripture study. God encourages all of us to develop our own unique vocational skills so that we can each be self-sufficient and contribute to the common good of the community. Paul instructs each believer to lead a quiet life, attending to his vocation, working with his hands so that he may win the respect of those outside the community and not be dependent upon anyone. He teaches us to find some productive field of work so that we will have adequate resources to share with others who might be in need. These guidelines teach us that making a living is part of living out Torah. The early rabbis agreed with these sentiments:

The study of Torah is excellent when it is combined with a worldly occupation because the effort required by both keeps sin out of a person's mind. But where there is no worldly occupation the study of Torah amounts to nothing and leads to sin. Let everyone who works in the community work for the sake of the Name of Heaven. (m.Avot 2:2)

According to this view, a person should always combine his pursuit of spirituality with the pursuit of an income. To concentrate solely on religious matters is out of balance and will eventually lead to ruin. Instead a person should regard his job a religious duty performed for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Paul illustrated this principle in his own life by supporting himself with his work in tent making.

The building of the Tabernacle illustrates the "tent making" concept well. The combined efforts of the people of God as they labored in all their respective fields resulted in the building of God's house.

Adapted From: Torah Club Commentary Set: Unrolling the Scroll. 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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