Midreshet Amit


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Parsha Thoughts

By: Rabbi Jonathan Duker

This week's parsha begins with the commandment "For six days work should be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you a holy day, a Shabbat rest for the Lord…" followed by instructions on building the Mishkan. Rashi commenting on this juxtaposition states, "The rules of Shabbat preceded the commandment of building the Mishkan, to teach that [the work involved in the building of the Mishkan] does not override [the commandment to rest] on Shabbat."

The implication of Rashi's statement is that had not the Torah implied the precedence of Shabbat observance to the building of the Mishkan, the people could have reasonably assumed that the building of the Mishkan should not stop on Shabbat. This assumption would likely be based on the central role that the Mishkan played in the worship of God, as the pasuk says "They shall make me a Sanctuary and I will dwell within them." The Mishkan served as the focal point for the people to recognize God's presence. But if it is truly that important, why does the observance of the Shabbat put a stop to its construction?

One possibility could involve the dual nature of the Shabbat. Like the Mishkan, Shabbat gives people the opportunity to focus on the Divine, as Yehayahu says "If you restrain yourself on the Shabbat from pursuing your business on my holy day and call the Shabbat a delight and honor the holy day of Hashem…then shall you delight yourself in Hashem." From the perspective of contemplating the Divine (bein adam l'makom), Mishkan and Shabbat may be equal. Shabbat, however, has another aspect, which is kindness towards others (bein adam l'chaveiro). As the pasuk says "You shall not do any work, neither you… nor your manservant, nor your maidservant….so your manservant and your maidservant may rest as well as you. Remember that you were a servant in the land of Egypt." Shabbat does not only serve as an opportunity to contemplate the Divine, but as a protection of those less fortunate to insure that they have the occasional respite from work that the Jews in Egypt were not fortunate enough to obtain. Thus Shabbat, which includes this ethical element as well, overrides the importance of the Mishkan, which solely relates to God.

On Shabbat, besides the time we spend in prayer and Torah study, we should all take time to focus on how we can improve our relationships with our fellow human beings as well. May we all merit to observe both of these aspects of the Torah.