This Week’s Parasha: Vayakhel, Exodus 35:1–38:20

This week’s Torah portion is Vayakhel, Exodus 35:1–38:20. Last week’s Torah portion covers Exodus 30:11–34:35. Watch live.

* Chayenu on Exodus 1: “After Joseph settled his brothers and their families in Goshen, their extraordinary fertility quickly aroused the concern of Pharoah, who feared what he perceived as an imminent demographic time bomb. He lost no time in doing his best to instill the nascent Jewish people, who in any case were grateful guests in his kingdom, with feelings of patriotic loyalty to Egypt. But fearful that this would not be sufficient, he initiated a program of voluntary public service, which soon became obligatory and was subsequently transformed into outright slavery.”

The Jews reacted to this persecution by deciding to not have any more kids until they were persuaded otherwise by the women.

I wonder if white birthrates have gone down as whites have felt increasingly pessimistic about their future in America.

What is your first priority as a people? Survival, prosperity or acting morally, even if it means your own extinction?

* Why does skin pigmentation matter? We’re all God’s children. Skin pigmentation matters for the same reason insignia on computers they matter — they signal a different operating system. You don’t want to try to install Window products on an Apple computer and vice versa.

* Who wrote the Torah? God or people?

*The presence of God comes with a price — divine justice. (Dennis Prager)

* When we study Torah, are we mainly studying the progression of ideas (such as monotheism) or the development of a particular people with a particular genetic code interacting with other particular peoples in particular environments? Culture is a product of genes and environment.

* One key Torah idea may be that the land of Israel demands a certain level of holiness and decency from the people living there, and if they don’t live up to this demand, the land vomits them out. Or is that an elaborate justification and propaganda for kicking out the original inhabitants to make it a Jewish homeland? Is the Torah fair to the natives of Canaan by describing them as child sacrificers? Or is this propaganda? Chaim Potok claimed this was propaganda.

* Is Jewish cohesion and love based on commonly shared ideas or on peoplehood (genetic ties aka kinship)? When you go to shul, people are not divided up, generally speaking, based on their ideas about abortion.

* This week’s parasha is about creating a place for God to dwell among the people and repeats sections of the three previous parshiot.

* From last week’s parasha, Ki Tisa, Artscroll says: “The equal participation of all of the people symbolizes that all Jews must share in achieving the national goals, that everyone should pass through the census by giving up his selfish, personal interests for the sake of the nation. One who does so gains infinite benefit, because the mission of Israel is dependent on the unity of the whole.” That the welfare of the nation is more important than the happiness of the individual, well, if the goyim talked like this, it would sound fascist and dangerous to Jews.

Artscroll: “There is great power in the unity of a nation striving toward a common goal.” Judaism prefers that men pray in a quorum (minyan) rather than alone.

* Last December in Texas, Rabbi Matt Rosenberg said to Richard Spencer: “You come here with a message of radical exclusion. My tradition teaches a message of radical inclusion, as embodied by Torah. Would you sit down and study Torah with me and learn love?”

“Do you really want radical inclusion into the State of Israel?” Spencer responded. “Jews exist precisely because you did not assimilate to the gentiles… I respect that about you. I want my people to have that same sense of themselves.”

* Ex. 34:6: 6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”

8 Moses bowed to the ground at once and worshiped. 9 “Lord,” he said, “if I have found favor in your eyes, then let the Lord go with us. Although this is a stiff-necked people, forgive our wickedness and our sin, and take us as your inheritance.”

10 Then the Lord said: “I am making a covenant with you. Before all your people I will do wonders never before done in any nation in all the world. The people you live among will see how awesome is the work that I, the Lord, will do for you. 11 Obey what I command you today. I will drive out before you the Amorites, Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 12 Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land where you are going, or they will be a snare among you. 13 Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and cut down their Asherah poles.[a] 14 Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.

15 “Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land; for when they prostitute themselves to their gods and sacrifice to them, they will invite you and you will eat their sacrifices. 16 And when you choose some of their daughters as wives for your sons and those daughters prostitute themselves to their gods, they will lead your sons to do the same.”

* When God tells Israel to not make peace, and not make a covenant with the people of the land, it illustrates to me that for every people, there are opposing people who are poison, just as there are invasive species that are poison for natives. Cats, for example, are poison for millions of birds. You have to push out other nations for your own nation to thrive. Israel has this problem with its millions of Arabs. If your people wants to prosper, they sometimes have to lay the hurt on other people. If Native Americans wanted to prosper, they had to resist the invasion of Europeans. If the Abos and Aztecs wanted to prosper, they had to get rid of the Europeans coming to their shores.

If you want a safe community without drug dealers and criminals and disruption, you have to keep out those likely to engage in socially destructive behavior. If you want a consistently tranquil hotel or restaurant, you need to keep out people likely to be loud and disruptive.

How does one reconcile religious tolerance with God’s command to destroy the altars of other religions? When the Allies won WWII, they forbade any resurgence of Nazism in Germany and any resurgence of fascism in Japan and changed Japan’s flag.

* Kevin Grace said, “politics, as conventionally understood, died in that bunker in Berlin when Hitler put a bullet in his brain.” What does that mean?

* Casey: My opening is from Confucius: “He who by reanimating (literally ‘warming up’) the Old can gain knowledge of the New is fit to be a teacher.”

Confucius: “Govern the people by regulations, keep order among them by chastisements, and they will flee from you, and lose all self-respect. Govern them by moral force, keep order among them by ritual and they will keep their self-respect and come to you of their own accord.”

–compare all that to Aaron smelting a golden calf and Moses chastising in Ex 32:2-4 and 32:31 (where he doesn’t quite chastise the people directly, but…)

Could Moses have been a better leader? How? More like Trump? More like… Patriarch Kirill?

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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