In the opening verse, "Vayakhel Moshe" (Exodus 35:1), Moses gathers the entire congregation of the Jewish people. The word "Vayakhel" gives us pause. Usually the text reads "Moses spoke", or "Moses commanded". However, that word, "Vayakhel" was the rallying call to the people to fashion a golden calf, and now the time had come to make tikun - rectify that grievous wrong. With the very same words with which the nation was enticed to sin, they are now summoned to perform the sacred task of constructing the Tabernacle. Thus, the "Vayakhel" of the Tabernacle comes to make atonement for the "Vayakhel" of the golden calf, and that is the true essence of tshuva -- to convert the sins into mitzvahs and to harness all our energies in the service of G-d. Parshas Pekudei, (Exodus, Chapter 38) In connection with the construction of the tabernacle, we find the expression, "Ka'asher tziva HaShem es Moshe " "As G-d commanded Moshe" written eighteen times. Today, we no longer have the Tabernacle, but those eighteen affirmations of G-d's Will remain. They have been engraved upon our souls and have spanned the centuries through the Shemoneh Esrei - the eighteen blessings of the Silent Amidah Prayer that we recite thrice daily.Even as Moshe and the people complied precisely with all the detailed laws of the Tabernacle, so too must we be cautious that our prayers be sincere and that we recite them with proper kavanah -- concentration, so that they may invoke mercy and forgiveness for us. This message is especially urgent today, as our beleaguered brethren in Eretz Yisrael are struggling with crises after crises and we witness a terrible escalation of anti-Semitism throughout the world. We must be sensitive to the pain of our people and intensify our prayers and cry out to our Heavenly Father for salvation.
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