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Posted on March 9, 2023 (5783) By Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein | Series: | Level:

However, you must observe my Shabbos.[2]

Rashi tells us that this “however” serves to establish that the work of constructing the mishkan should not proceed on Shabbos. Indeed, all such uses of “however”/ach are restrictions and limitations on the extent of some halachah.

Seen from the perspective of mishkan construction, it is indeed a restriction. The work has to cease on Shabbos. But if you look at from the standpoint of Shabbos, it is not a restriction at all! To the contrary, the derashah serves to extend the prohibition of work/melachah on Shabbos to the mishkan project!

However (no pun intended), the Zohar’s depiction of Shabbos is well known. Shabbos is denotes completion. As Hashem is free of any deficiency whatsoever, “work” is irrelevant to Him. One works in order to produce something that would otherwise by lacking; there is no way that this can apply to Hashem.

On Shabbos, Hashem’s Elokus is revealed and spreads out to all of the Bnei Yisrael. One who insists on working on Shabbos shows that he is not really of the Jewish nation, in whom this weekly revelation occurs. The authentic Jew will see his business as complete, as Hashem’s perfection and completeness takes residence within him, and completely refrain from the irrelevance of melachah.

This applies not only to mundane matters, but even to toiling in holiness. Constructing the mishkan must cease on Shabbos because the purpose of the mishkan is to allow the indwelling of the Shechinah. But Shabbos itself assures that Hashem dwells within us. No work is necessary to bring that about. The completeness of G-d is so available and apparent on Shabbos, that the notion of work is entirely inconsistent with its presence.

Surely, though, not everyone merits to become a host to the Shechinah on Shabbos! Our aveiros and imperfections decidedly block and prevent His revelation to us! Indeed, this is so. One who is conscious of those shortcomings must put them out of his mind on Shabbos, lest they sadden or depress him. He should zealously heed the laws of Shabbos, finding joy in the fact that Shabbos is Hashem’s day of joy, when nothing prevents Him (as it were) from attaching Himself to Klal Yisrael in His fullness.

This will only be effective for a person who has stripped away feelings of importance from himself. Hashem favors the person of lowly spirit – the one who understands his nothingness. If he regards himself as nothing, he cannot be deficient. A non-entity cannot be deficient!

If he succeeds in comprehending his nothingness, he turns himself into a receptacle for Hashem’s Shabbos-revelation. He spends his time with perfection. He has no place for melachah – not even the melachah of the mishkan.

  1. Based on Meor Einayim by R. Menachem Nochum of Chernobyl zt”l
  2. Shemos 31:13