In this week’s Parsha, Moshe assembles the B’nei Yisrael and relays to them the instructions given to him by Hashem on how to build the Mishkan. Before Moshe begins his instructions, he warns the people not to work on Shabbat:
שמות פרק לה
(ב) שֵׁשֶׁת יָמִים תֵּעָשֶׂה מְלָאכָה וּבַיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי יִהְיֶה לָכֶם קֹדֶשׁ שַׁבַּת שַׁבָּתוֹן לַיקֹוָק כָּל הָעֹשֶׂה בוֹ מְלָאכָה יוּמָת:
Six days work may be done, but the seventh day shall be holy for you, a day of complete rest for Hashem; whoever does work on it shall be put to death (Shemot 35:2).
Rashi comments the following:
רש"י שמות פרק לה פסוק ב
(ב) ששת ימים הקדים להם אזהרת שבת לצווי מלאכת המשכן, לומר שאינה דוחה את השבת:
Six days — He first told to them the prohibition in reference to the Sabbath before the command about the building of the Mishkan in order to say that it does not override Shabbat.
One could think that the work to build the Mishkan would take precedence over Shabbat. It was to contain the Kodesh Hakodashim, the holy of holies, where Hashem’s presence would rest. By stopping for Shabbat the work would take longer to complete. Furthermore, surely the time when the B’nei Yisrael were building the Mishkan would be considered holy yet it is the seventh day, Shabbat, when they refrain from working that is called holy. What is so special about Shabbat that makes it override this divine service?
In the previous Parsha, Ki Tisa, Sforno comments on Hashem’s commandment that the building of the Mishkan should not override Shabbat:
‘(Shabbat is) a symbol serving as a reminder of our mutual relationship. If you were to ignore this symbol by building a residence for Me on this day, there would be no point in doing so as I would not then take up residence in that Mishkan.’ (Sforno on Shemot 31:13)
In other words, if we forget Shabbat and our relationship with Hashem then He would not dwell among us anyway. To understand this further the Midrash HaGadol gives the following mashal:
A king was overseeing the building of a new palace for himself. He would spend all day consulting with architects and builders. The queen noticed with displeasure that he thought about his palace day and night. During one of his meetings she slipped into the room and complained ‘you are so engrossed in your plans you never give me a single thought!’ The king recognised that he had been neglecting his queen so the following day, he held a party in her honour. (Midrash HaGadol on Shemot 35:2)
We can become so engrossed in our weekly work, whether it is religious or secular, that we can forget what the purpose of it all is. Kodesh doesn’t just mean holy, it means separate. Shabbat is a day apart from all the others when refrain from our weekly work. Anyone who has studied for an exam knows how important it is to take regular breaks to refocus the mind. This is what Shabbat is for; a time when we can stop and contemplate our relationship with Hashem which goes all the way back to creation. Shabbat even takes precedence over the building of the Mishkan because without it we would lose sight of what we are doing it all for. Sadly we no longer have the Mishkan but we still have Shabbat and this very special connection that cannot be lost or destroyed and it is something to cherish every week.שיעורים נוספים ניתן למצוא בקטגוריות הבאות: ויקהל (פרשת שבוע)
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