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Thought for the Day: All of Hilchos Shabbos Is Learned from Not Building the Mishkan on Shabbos

Before the ugly affair of the cheit ha'eigel/sin of the golden calf, the Torah instructs us regarding the final details of building the Mishkan/tabernacle.  According to most, the commandment to build the Mishkan came as a response and remedy to that tragic national error.  The building the Mishkan, therefore, was an opportunity to "start over" and rebuild the relationship between HaShem and the Jewish people that had been almost fatally wounded.  As if often the case, the Torah decided to put the instructions for the Mishkan before the the narrative of the cheit ha'eigel.  Perhaps in this case the juxtaposition and order can be understood as a fulfillment of the overarching theme that the r'fu'ah/cure comes before the makah/trauma.

The instructions for building the Mishkan end with a strongly worded admonition that the process of building of the mishkan is in no way to violate Shabbos.
HaShem said to Moshe to say over (the following message): You (Moshe) are to speak ("דבר"; using strong/stern language) to the Jewish people ("בני ישראל"; an expression of intimacy with His nation, as a father to a son), and this is what you are to say: However ("אך"; an exclusion), Guard/Keep My Sabbaths, for it (Shabbos) is sign between you and Me for all your generations to know that it is I, HaShem, Who infuses you with sanctity.  Sh'mos 31:12,13
The message is clear: violation of Shabbos would undermine the entire relationship.  It is the fulfillment of Shabbos that transforms the physical structure of the concrete Mishkan into that spiritual mansion that it represents.  In fact, we learn all of hilchos Shabbos -- that is, precisely which activities are proscribed -- from the building of the mishkan.

The Torah is written on four levels, known by its Hebrew acronym: פרדס; which literally means "orchard", but stands for פשט/simple meaning, רמז/hint, דרש/exposition, and סוד/secret or foundation.  The G"ra would not render פשט until he understood all of the layers of meaning, down to the סוד.  The S'porno explains to us how these few p'sukim/verses explain all there is to know about Shabbos.

First, Shabbos is a sign/symbol of our relationship with our Creator, damage that and there is no spiritual reality for the physical Mishkan to explicate.  Second, on a very dry, halachik level, it doesn't make sense for the fulfillment of a positive commandment (build the Mishkan) to push of the fulfillment of the positive and negative commandment (Shabbos both infuses holiness -- positive, and its desecration is a capital crime -- negative).  Moreover, the violation of Shabbos is much more than simply a capital crime, the violators soul is actually cut off from her Source and her people.  Why?  Because one who violates Shabbos denes that the world was created  -- thereby nullifying his relationship with the Creator and forfeiting his connection to the One True Existence.  Finally, there are six days during which the Mishkan can be constructed, so there is no necessity in violating the Shabbos; the only mitzvos that override Shabbos are those that have a fixed day, such as bris mila (another sign/symbol, by the way).

Philosophy, halacha, exposition, simple meaning... all in those few verses and lived each week from kiddush Friday night to havdalah 25 hours later.  No wonder it's called an orchard; beauty, serenity, and sustenance -- all in a beautiful package.


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