This week we read a double portion of VaYakhel Pekudei. The parsha, which largely contains guidelines for the building of the Tabernacle/Mishkan, opens with a large gathering of the people. “Moses assembled all the congregation of the Israelites and said to them: These are the things that the Lord has commanded you to do/וַיַּקְהֵל מֹשֶׁה אֶת כָּל עֲדַת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם, אֵלֶּה הַדְּבָרִים אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה ה' לַעֲשֹׂת אֹתָם.” Rashi explains this is all happening, Moses’ second descent from the mountain with the second set of tablets followed by the building instructions, the day after Yom Kippur.
The Sfas Emes teaches that the People of Israel were in mourning over their actions that resulted in the Golden Calf. And now that they had repented and done teshuva, The Holy Blessed One, in all of His mercy, gave them the commandment/mitzvah of giving generously for the sake of the mishkan in order to make them happy. As it says in the Talmud, all mitzvot that were accepted joyously, are still done joyously to this day.
Maintaining relationships is difficult. Especially if there has been a fracture. Our involvement in the Golden Calf greatly hurt God, and when we reflected on what we had done, we needed to ask forgiveness in order to mend our union. However, that is only the beginning. In my experience, saying sorry is only one part of the process towards renewed trust and engagement. It takes positive interactions after having a fight with somebody to normalize the relationship again; to remind all parties about why they got together in the first place. Practically, this may mean trying to get somebody to laugh and smile after a conflict has been resolved. It will soften the heart and bring back positive feelings.
The same is true with our relationship with God. It makes sense that we would still be walking on eggshells after what we did with the Golden Calf. That is why it is so wonderful to appreciate the kindness done to us by God in giving us the opportunity to give of ourselves with a generous and open heart. After we atoned for our mistakes on Yom Kippur, we are immediately given the holiday of Sukkot, on which God commands us to be happy. As the Sfas Emes explains, the work of the mishkan and the holiday of Sukkot are ultimately the same matter. The joy that one experiences in serving God after teshuva is an everlasting joy.
Service performed from a place of fear and obedience may be important and serve a purpose. And this week we are reminded that fear is often not a long-lasting motivator. Happiness, fun and camaraderie are what sinks roots into the hearts and minds of a person. This week let us continue the ecstatic work of creating holy spaces in our communities. Our joy creates the ideal dwelling place for the Divine Presence/Shekhina. And that delightful dwelling place will be an everlasting structure.
 Ex. 35:1
 Shlomo Yitzchaki (Hebrew: רבי שלמה יצחקי; Latin: Salomon Isaacides; French: Salomon de Troyes, 22 February 1040 – 13 July 1105), today generally known by the acronym Rashi (Hebrew: רש"י, RAbbi SHlomo Itzhaki), was a medieval French rabbi and author of a comprehensive commentary on the Talmud and commentary on the Tanakh.
 Yehudah Aryeh Leib Alter (Hebrew יהודה אריה ליב אלתר, 15 April 1847 – 11 January 1905), also known by the title of his main work, the Sfas Emes (Yiddish) or Sefat Emet שפת אמת (Hebrew), was a Hasidic rabbi who succeeded his grandfather, Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Alter, as the Av beis din (head of the rabbinical court) and Rav of Góra Kalwaria, Poland (known in Yiddish as the town of Ger), and succeeded Rabbi Chanokh Heynekh HaKohen Levin of Aleksander as Rebbe of the Gerrer Hasidim
 Ex. 35:4-5: “Moses said to all the congregation of the Israelites: This is the thing that the Lord has commanded: Take from among you an offering to the Lord; let whoever is of a generous heart bring the Lord’s offering…”
 BT Shabbat 130a
Rabbi Ezra Balser has been the rabbi at Temple Beth Sholom since July 1, 2016. He received his “smicha” (ordination) in June 2017 from Hebrew College while also earning a Master’s Degree in Jewish Studies. He has also received the iCenter's Certification in Israel Education.