Interesting how this portion begins with Moses explaining that God says that every Israelite must observe the sabbath by not working and not kindling a fire. And further, if any Israelite does work on the sabbath they will be put to death. Pretty serious offense. Really serious consequence.
Then, in the next paragraph, Moses begins a list of all of the very specific items that God wants brought by the Israelites to contribute to the building of the tabernacle. He calls these items gifts. And they should only be brought by those whose hearts are moved to do so. The Israelites are commanded to bring gifts, but only if they want to. Kind of a contradiction of sorts.
So that gets me thinking. There have been so many rules laid out in the last few chapters. Very specific rules, many of which must be followed under penalty of death. Then God wants a bunch of gifts, and there is no consequence to not fulfilling this request.
We make lots of rules as parents. Lots of rules that our kids must follow. My kids have to do homework before they do other things. They have to eat at the table. They aren’t allowed to lie. Often I make them come with me to the synagogue, even when they don’t want to. Maybe that’s wrong. Maybe God was making a distinction between the kinds of rules that must be followed, so that society works, and recommendations that benefit us more as individuals. I’m not sure. There’s a definite distinction here, and it’s not yet clear to me.
Is God wanting the Israelites to dwell with him only if that is where there heart brings them? I did not grow up in a religious home. I came to religion by choice and it fulfills me. Maybe if it had been forced on me, I would not embrace it the way I do. Maybe it’s time to let my children make their own choice about participating. Although I will make my youngest continue with religious school through his bar mitzvah. At that point, he can make a choice about how he wants to continue. But maybe, outside of school, it should be up to him. Maybe that’s what God is saying.