Torah Weekly

For the week ending 21 March 2020 / 25 Adar II 5780

Parshat Vayakhel - Pekudei

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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Moshe Rabbeinu exhorts Bnei Yisrael to keep Shabbat, and requests donations for the materials for making the Mishkan. He collects gold, silver, precious stones, skins and yarn, as well as incense and olive oil for the menorah and for anointing. The princes of each tribe bring the precious stones for the Kohen Gadol's breastplate and ephod. G-d appoints Betzalel and Oholiav as the master craftsmen. Bnei Yisrael contribute so much that Moshe begins to refuse donations. Special curtains with two different covers were designed for the Mishkan's roof and door. Gold-covered boards in silver bases were connected, forming the Mishkan'swalls. Betzalel made the Holy Ark (which contained the Tablets) from wood covered with gold. On the Ark's cover there were two figures facing each other. The menorah and the table with the showbreads were also of gold. Two altars were made: a small incense altar of wood overlaid with gold, and a larger altar for sacrifices made of wood covered with copper.


The Book of Shemot concludes with this parsha. After finishing all the different parts, vessels and garments used in the Mishkan, Moshe gives a complete accounting and enumeration of all the contributions and of the various clothing and vessels which had been fashioned. Bnei Yisrael bring everything to Moshe. He inspects the handiwork and notes that everything was made according to G-d’s specifications. Moshe blesses the people. G-d speaks to Moshe and tells him that the Mishkan should be set up on the first day of the first month, i.e., Nissan. He also tells Moshe the order of assembly for the Mishkan and its vessels. Moshe does everything in the prescribed manner. When the Mishkan is finally complete with every vessel in its place, a cloud descends upon it, indicating that G-d's glory was resting there. Whenever the cloud moved away from the Mishkan, Bnei Yisrael would follow it. At night the cloud was replaced by a pillar of fire.


Upgrading Shabbat

“But the seventh day shall be holy for you, a day of complete rest for G-d.” (35:2)

No one ever complained about the hotel that lets you check in to your room at eight in the morning and lets you stay there until nine at night on the day you leave.

No one ever complained about the tailwind that reduced the four-and-a-half hour flight from London to Tel Aviv by half-an-hour.

Or what about the audience with the Queen of England that starts ten minutes before schedule and goes on half-an-hour longer than you were told? No one ever said, “Excuse me your Majesty, I’m sorry, but I’ve got to run out and do a little shopping. See you!”

When something is special and important, we want it to go on forever. And when it’s a burden, it can never be too brief.

There are two places where the Torah lists the Ten Commandments: in the Torah portion of Yitro and in the Torah portion of Vaetchanan. In Parshat Yitro the Torah says, “Remember the Shabbat day to make it holy…” whereas in Parshat Va’etchanan it says, “Guard the Shabbat day to keep it holy…” The Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni, Yitro 295) explains, “Remember it beforehand, and guard it afterwards…” — meaning that Shabbat is so special and important that we should begin it early and finish it late.

We find the same idea in this week’s Torah portion.

“But the seventh day shall be holy for you, a day of complete rest for G--d.”

In this verse, the word “holy,” kodesh, precedes the word Shabbat; however in Parshat Beshalach (16:23), in a virtually identical expression, the word Shabbat precedes kodesh. In other words, in our parsha the Torah says the kodesh should come before the Shabbat — the holiness of Shabbat should begin early, whereas in Parshat Beshalach the kodesh comes after the Shabbat, meaning that we should extend our Shabbat well into Saturday night.

It all depends on how you look at Shabbat. Is your Shabbat a 25-hour airline flight in Economy, or is it an uninterrupted audience with the Shabbat Queen?

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