Parashat Vayakhel- “They Left From Moshe’s Presence”
Parashat Vayakhel begins by telling of the assembly that Moshe Rabbenu held after the incident of the golden calf. At this assembly, Moshe relayed God’s command to observe Shabbat, and the command to build the Mishkan. The Torah writes that when Moshe finished speaking, “Va’yes’u Kol Adat Beneh Yisrael Mi’lifneh Moshe” (“The entire congregation of Beneh Yisrael left from Moshe’s presence” – 35:20).
A number of Rabbis addressed the question of why the Torah found it necessary to emphasize that the people left “Mi’lifneh Moshe” – from Moshe’s presence. Quite obviously, they had been in front of Moshe hearing him speak. The Torah could have simply informed us that they left to bring materials for the Mishkan. Curiously, though, the Torah made a point of stressing the fact that they left from Moshe’s presence.
Rabbi Eliyahu Lopian (England-Israel, 1876-1970) explained that even after the people took leave of Moshe, it was evident that they had been in Moshe’s presence. Often, the way a person walks is an indication of where he had just been. A person who staggers as he walks through the street is very likely coming from a bar. Somebody coming from a gym might walk with a certain vigor and gusto. The Torah emphasizes that Beneh Yisrael left “Mi’lifneh Moshe” to express the fact that their conduct after leaving Moshe reflected that they had just been in Moshe’s presence. The experience of being near Moshe and listening to his teachings had an impact upon them. The people did not just leave and resume their ordinary routine. They left inspired and uplifted, profoundly impacted by the experience of being in Moshe’s presence.
When we leave the synagogue or a Torah class, we cannot be the exact same people we had been beforehand. The experience must impact the way we behave in all areas of life. Our conduct when we are not in the synagogue or learning Torah must reflect the fact that we had spent time praying and studying. It is our responsibility to ensure that when people see us leaving the synagogue, they admire our conduct, and realize that involvement in Judaism has a meaningful, positive effect upon a person’s character. When we take leave of the synagogue or Bet Midrash, it must be “Mi’lifneh Moshe,” evident that we were influenced and uplifted by the experience.
Torah life is not only about our conduct in the synagogue – it is about our conduct everywhere, and in every aspect of our lives. The way we act in any situation must be a reflection of the Torah we study and Misvot we perform. It cannot be “business as usual” after we leave the synagogue. The experience must change us, inspire us, and impact upon who we are and what we do in every area of life.