Parshas Vayakheil is the source of many of the Shabbos laws.
The concept of Shabbos and the laws of 'melacha' -- forbidden labor -- has
been discussed previously in the Torah. For some reason, when Parshas
Vayakheil again mentions Shabbos, the only forbidden labor mentioned
specifically is 'havara' -- kindling fire. Why is only lighting fire
Rashi refers to the argument in the Talmud regarding the legal reasons for
Ramban, however, raises the point: perhaps kindling is mentioned, not
because of the uniqueness of this type of labor, but because of the
uniqueness of the Shabbos. Shabbos has been singled out, to the exclusion
of the Yomim Tovim -- the festivals.
In Parshas Bo, on the eve of the exodus, Moshe had first begun explaining
the commandments. When he reached the laws of the Pesach holiday, he used a
new expression. Instead of 'melacha' -- forbidden labor -- the expression
used for Shabbos, he referred to 'melechas avodah' -- servitude labor.
Shabbos and Yom Tov use mutually exclusive terms. Moshe quickly explained
the difference: Preparation of food is permitted on Yom Tov. Slaughtering
the animal, preparing the meat and cooking it, became a basic aspect of the
Yom Tov experience. When the laws of Shabbos were given, however, no such
exceptions were stated.
Ramban writes that this is the reason that kindling was mentioned in our
parsha. The typical preparation of food is by cooking and heating, which
requires a flame. To indicate the distinction between Shabbos and Yom Tov,
it had to be clarified that kindling or increasing the flame, would be
prohibited on Shabbos, as well as any of the other types of 'melacha' --
even if food preparation is involved.
Certainly, meals are a very significant aspect of Shabbos and Yom Tov.
Yes, people enjoy eating. But what is the religious significance of a meal?
Why are the meals, specifically, a vital requirement?
On Purim night, Rav Boruch Benzion Twersky, shlita, explained the
importance of "s'euda". Typically, when people eat, indulging in their food
and prosperity, their hearts are lifted in pride. When the Jew eats, he
submits himself to a higher authority.
From Rav Twersky's words, Divre Torah said at a meal take on a special
significance. The Torah is not for our own sense of accomplishment, but to
remind us of the One Who is really in charge.
The Chasidishe Tisch, or any meal where a Talmid Chachom speaks, becomes
self-explanatory. Rather than coming to fill their stomachs, the guests
come to submit to the authority of Torah and age-old tradition.
This can easily be seen during Pesach. The Matza and Moror are dry and
bitter. The food isn't that great -- but the spirit, the Hallel, the songs
of praise, the Torah that each person recites, fill us with 'simchah' --
joy. The simchah is not the recognition of our wealth and might, but the
submission to the Power of the world.
Shabbos vs. Yom Tov
The distinction between Shabbos and Yom Tov is well known. Yom Tov had to
be determined by the Beis Din, so it was dependent on people. Shabbos, on
the other hand, is "k'viyah v'kaimah" -- set and fixed, every seventh day.
Siduro Shel Shabbos explained the difference. Every mitzvah requires an act
from humanity -- except for the Shabbos. Shabbos was the completion of
creation -- it is independent of our observance. It is always there, every
seventh day, whether we realize it or not.
Nonetheless, the Kli Chemdah notes that the verse expresses the necessity
of mankind's active participation in the Shabbos: "The Children of Yisrael
shall keep the Shabbos -- to make the Shabbos for their generations -- a
'Bris Olam' (perpetual covenant.)"
This was only after the Calf. It now became a necessity to 'make' the
Shabbos, in order to atone.
[Rashi and Seforno are of the opinion that the Mishkan (Sanctuary) only
became a necessity after the Calf, when the people needed atonement. The
laws of Shabbos are derived from its connection to the Mishkan. There is a
similarity to them: the Mishkan is a central source of kedusha -- sanctity
-- being a place of holiness. Shabbos, too, is holy -- sanctified in time,
instead of locale. Each of these mitzvos convey the ability for a person to
sanctify himself. (See Ta'am V'daas, Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch, and,
further, Divre Yoel)]
The only day in the account of creation for which it does not state 'it was
evening and morning, day number so and so' is the seventh day. Yom Tov had
to be fixed by the court, but the Shabbos was beyond the confines of time.
Yom Tov is dependent upon man -- who is limited by time, but Shabbos was
determined purely by Hashem, who is unbound by time constraints.
The Talmud states "anyone who celebrates the Shabbos receives an unbounded
inheritance." The commentaries explain that this is for one who celebrates
the Shabbos, not for one who indulges himself for the celebration of
Shabbos. The Kli Chemdah wrote that for a person not to have any thought
of personal benefit is an extraordinary quality, and not everyone is
expected to be able to do so.
The Kli Chemdah explains: The Shabbos was supposed to be beyond the
confines of time, but after the Calf, man had to uphold it. It is beyond
nature to surpass time -- man is of course limited by time; hence his
reward is limited as well. In order to receive "an unbounded inheritance"
however, one would have to defy his own nature, and eat purely for the
honor of the day. However, anyone who honors the Shabbos, surely receives
reward. (Kli Chemdah, B'reishis, 5, also see Parshas Vayakheil)