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By Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein | Series: | Level:

Six days you shall work, and on the seventh day it shall be holy for you…Moshe said to the entire congregation of the Bnei Yisrael…take from yourselves a donation for Hashem… all wise of heart of you should come and make all that Hashem commanded: the mishkan….

Meshech Chochmah: The Torah juxtaposes Shabbos and the construction of the mishkan in two nearby parshios. In our parshah, Shabbos takes pride of place, followed by the mishkan. Earlier,[2] however, order was reversed, with Shabbos following on the heels of the mishkan.

Constructing the mishkan does not fit neatly into one of the other known categories of mitzvos that come into conflict with the laws of Shabbos.  On the one hand, the avodah itself trumps the restrictions of Shabbos. Parts of the avodah that require the performance of one of the 39 types of forbidden labor go ahead on Shabbos just as they do during the week.

Building the mishkan, however, is not at all comparable to the avodah. The mishkan is the place where the avodah takes place, but the sundry procedures in putting it together are preparatory to the  avodah, but they are not the avodah itself.

On the other hand, it is well established that procedures that prepare for the avodah, but are not part of the  avodah per se, do not override the strictures of Shabbos. We might be tempted to see mishkan construction, then, as a set of preparatory activities that facilitate the avodah, but do not rise to the level of avodah that can set aside the prohibitions of Shabbos.

We would be incorrect in making that argument. While preparatory activities for other parts of the avodah cannot be performed at the price of violation of a Torah precept, we could argue that the mishkan project is exceptional. There is no escaping the presence of Shabbos in the operation of the avodah; the avodah goes on as usual. Because the mishkan regularly displays business-as-usual on Shabbos,  we could easily reason that its very construction also continues unabated on Shabbos.

Let us develop the thought.  Why is it that Shabbos seems to lose out in asserting itself against the avodah? The answer might well be that the mishkan itself complements and enlarges upon the essential themes of Shabbos!  Shabbos reminds us that the world came into existence only because Hashem created it ex nihilo. By its very nature, the mishkan unequivocally states that Hashem’s Will sustains the world, and His providence directs the course of all events.  Because His Shechinah resides in the mishkan, we respond to that Presence with unceasing service of Hashem, and with the symbolic references to enlightenment, to sustenance, to connection with Him. It should not be surprising that some preparatory activities to the avodah, e.g. the cutting of the barley for the omer offering the next morning, do in fact push aside considerations of Shabbos.[3] The avodah doesn’t so much ignore the restrictions of Shabbos as it makes their case in a different way.

Why, then, do we not treat construction of the mishkan the same way? Why does our parshah tell us, according to the way Chazal understand it, that the mishkan-construction project ground to a halt on Shabbos?

The mishkan speaks the same language as Shabbos only when the Shechinah takes up residence within it, and the homage we pay it then teaches the lessons we mentioned above. The Shechinah does not make that move, as it were, until the mishkan is completed. Before that time, building the mishkan is on a lesser plane in relation to Shabbos than preparatory activities of the mishkan after the mishkan’s inauguration!

It was only after the sin of the Golden Calf, however, that the Shechinah would be localized in a small area in the mishkan. Prior to that tragic event, the Presence of the Divine was felt all over. “Every place that you mention my Name, I will come to you and bless you.”[4]  No mishkan was needed to proclaim the reality of G-d through His Presence. Hashem was equally accessible all over. The mishkan’s function was different than what it was after the sin. It was to act simply as a place to serve the Shechinah that was manifest throughout the community. At that point in time, the process of building the mishkan was as much an “avodah” – and not just a necessary precursor – than what we would call mishkan later.

In Ki Sisa, prior to the chet ha-egel, the Torah places the building of the mishkan before Shabbos, because it, too, – and not the actual  avodah – overrode the laws of forbidden labor on Shabbos. Only after the chet, when the Shechinah restricted itself to a much smaller area, was a completed, functioning mishkan necessary to house the Shechinah, and for that Presence to supplement the truth that Shabbos declares. Therefore, in our parshah, Shabbos is listed first.

 

[1] Based on Meshech Chochmah, Shemos 35:2

[2] Shemos 31:2

[3] Rambam, Temidin U-musafim7:6

[4] Shemos 20:21

Taking a Back Seat to the Mishkan[1]

Six days you shall work, and on the seventh day it shall be holy for you…Moshe said to the entire congregation of the Bnei Yisrael…take from yourselves a donation for Hashem… all wise of heart of you should come and make all that Hashem commanded: the mishkan….

Meshech Chochmah: The Torah juxtaposes Shabbos and the construction of the mishkan in two nearby parshios. In our parshah, Shabbos takes pride of place, followed by the mishkan. Earlier,[2] however, order was reversed, with Shabbos following on the heels of the mishkan.

Constructing the mishkan does not fit neatly into one of the other known categories of mitzvos that come into conflict with the laws of Shabbos.  On the one hand, the avodah itself trumps the restrictions of Shabbos. Parts of the avodah that require the performance of one of the 39 types of forbidden labor go ahead on Shabbos just as they do during the week.

Building the mishkan, however, is not at all comparable to the avodah. The mishkan is the place where the avodah takes place, but the sundry procedures in putting it together are preparatory to the  avodah, but they are not the avodah itself.

On the other hand, it is well established that procedures that prepare for the avodah, but are not part of the  avodah per se, do not override the strictures of Shabbos. We might be tempted to see mishkan construction, then, as a set of preparatory activities that facilitate the avodah, but do not rise to the level of avodah that can set aside the prohibitions of Shabbos.

We would be incorrect in making that argument. While preparatory activities for other parts of the avodah cannot be performed at the price of violation of a Torah precept, we could argue that the mishkan project is exceptional. There is no escaping the presence of Shabbos in the operation of the avodah; the avodah goes on as usual. Because the mishkan regularly displays business-as-usual on Shabbos,  we could easily reason that its very construction also continues unabated on Shabbos.

Let us develop the thought.  Why is it that Shabbos seems to lose out in asserting itself against the avodah? The answer might well be that the mishkan itself complements and enlarges upon the essential themes of Shabbos!  Shabbos reminds us that the world came into existence only because Hashem created it ex nihilo. By its very nature, the mishkan unequivocally states that Hashem’s Will sustains the world, and His providence directs the course of all events.  Because His Shechinah resides in the mishkan, we respond to that Presence with unceasing service of Hashem, and with the symbolic references to enlightenment, to sustenance, to connection with Him. It should not be surprising that some preparatory activities to the avodah, e.g. the cutting of the barley for the omer offering the next morning, do in fact push aside considerations of Shabbos.[3] The avodah doesn’t so much ignore the restrictions of Shabbos as it makes their case in a different way.

Why, then, do we not treat construction of the mishkan the same way? Why does our parshah tell us, according to the way Chazal understand it, that the mishkan-construction project ground to a halt on Shabbos?

The mishkan speaks the same language as Shabbos only when the Shechinah takes up residence within it, and the homage we pay it then teaches the lessons we mentioned above. The Shechinah does not make that move, as it were, until the mishkan is completed. Before that time, building the mishkan is on a lesser plane in relation to Shabbos than preparatory activities of the mishkan after the mishkan’s inauguration!

It was only after the sin of the Golden Calf, however, that the Shechinah would be localized in a small area in the mishkan. Prior to that tragic event, the Presence of the Divine was felt all over. “Every place that you mention my Name, I will come to you and bless you.”[4]  No mishkan was needed to proclaim the reality of G-d through His Presence. Hashem was equally accessible all over. The mishkan’s function was different than what it was after the sin. It was to act simply as a place to serve the Shechinah that was manifest throughout the community. At that point in time, the process of building the mishkan was as much an “avodah” – and not just a necessary precursor – than what we would call mishkan later.

In Ki Sisa, prior to the chet ha-egel, the Torah places the building of the mishkan before Shabbos, because it, too, – and not the actual  avodah – overrode the laws of forbidden labor on Shabbos. Only after the chet, when the Shechinah restricted itself to a much smaller area, was a completed, functioning mishkan necessary to house the Shechinah, and for that Presence to supplement the truth that Shabbos declares. Therefore, in our parshah, Shabbos is listed first.

 

[1] Based on Meshech Chochmah, Shemos 35:2

[2] Shemos 31:2

[3] Rambam, Temidin U-musafim7:6

[4] Shemos 20:21


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