Friday, March 16, 2012

Parshiot Vayakhel & Pekudei - פרשיות ויקהל ופקודי

In a similar manner to last week's Parsha, Ki Tisa, a lot happens in this week’s Torah reading. In both last week's and the first of this week's two parshiot, however, there are brief references to Shabbat. Almost right at the beginning of this week's reading, it is written:

“ששת ימים תעשה מלאכה וביום השביעי יהיה לכם קדש שבת שבתון לה' כל-העושה בו מלאכה יומת. – These are the things that Hashem commanded, to do them: On six days, work may be done, but the seventh shall be holy for you, a day of complete rest for Hashem; whoever does work on it shall be put to death.” (שמות ל'ה, ב-ג)

The language used here for the work of the weekdays is, “תעשה - te’aseh,” which means, “may be done” or “shall be done.” This seems odd; one would expect the word תעשה to be vowelized so as to read "Ta’aseh," which means “you shall do.” After all, it is talking about the work that one does to the week. Who else would do the work but the worker, the person this pasuk is aimed at. What is meant by this word?

I believe that it’s the Ba’al HaTurim who answers this question by explaining that the rest of this week’s Parsha deals with the building of the Mishkan. But first, it was essential to set out the rules for Shabbat, so that nobody would be confused and think that the building of the Mishkan should continue on Shabbat. Even for something as uniquely holy and important as the Mishkan, Shabbat comes first. And if that’s the case, kal v’chomer that we should not worry about mundane matters on Shabbat!

So the Ba’al HaTurim answers our question by explaining that for one who rests completely on Shabbat, and keeps his mind off his weekly tasks, his work “shall be done.” That is to say, he shall be more passively involved in his week’s work, and he shall not have to work so hard. (As opposed to the language of Ta’aseh, which is somewhat forceful and specific to the person.)

Another aspect I read on the mentioning of the Shabbat prior to the Torah’s description of the Mishkan derives from a D’var Torah I read last year from a facebook group called Inspiring Weekly Torah. (Go add yourself!) The D’var Torah I received states, “Shabbos and the Tabernacle both represent different types of Kedushah - sanctity. The Tabernacle represents Kedushat Makom – the sanctity of a certain space, while Shabbos typifies the notion of Kedushat Zman – the sanctity of a specified time.”

I would like to develop this point a bit. We all understand how Eretz Yisrael is considered holy. And we all know that within Eretz Yisrael, Jerusalem is considered holy, and within Jerusalem we consider Har Habayit, upon which the Bet Hamikdash stood, holier still. Within the Bet Hamikdash we had the Kodesh HaK’dashim, and within that space, we had one focal point of Kedushah between the K’ruvim’s wings. All this is in the space dimension. What about time?

Just as there are specific places that have Kedushah ascribed to them, so too there are certain times at which we may pray for example. (Any religious man will tell you how he has had to rush to minyan at times!) It is important that timing and location are recognised as both vitally important in the service of Hashem. Ultimately, when it comes to serving Hashem, we have to make sure that we settle ourselves down and take the time out (à la Shabbat) to connect with the Creator, and it is also vitally important that we ensure that our surroundings are conducive to prayer, that we are located in a place of Kedushah.

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