Skip to main content

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.


Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

Thought for the Day: Sometimes a Food Loses Its Identity When It Loses Its Bracha; Sometimes It Doesn't

Let's start with a question: Why are We Allowed to Drink Coffee and Whiskey Made by Non-Jews?  Before you ask,"Why would I think that I shouldn't be able to drink whiskey and coffee made by non-Jews?", I'll tell you. Simple, we all know that Chazal made a decree -- known as בישול עכו''ם/bishul akim -- that particular foods cooked by non-Jews are forbidden.  There are basically two criteria that determines if a dish falls into this category:
Is not consumed raw.Fit for a royal banquet. Cooked carrots, therefore, are not a problem since they can be eaten raw (I actually prefer them that way).  Baked beans are find because the are not prestigious enough.  (For great synopsis of the laws, see the article on the Star-K site, FOOD FIT FOR A KING, by Rabbi Moshe Heinemann, shlita.)  There are lots of cool questions and details (baked potatoes are prestigious, does that make even potato chips and issue?) which are for another time.  Clearly, though, both coffee an…

Thought for the Day: Coming Into This World for Torah, Avodah, and Acts of Loving Kindness

This TftD is so self-serving that I should be embarrassed.  But I am not... talking about grandchildren is always off budget.  I have, bli ayin hara, a beautiful new grandson; born at 6:11 PM CDT last Friday night.  The secular (aka -- by me, anyway -- slave) date is October 20, 2017 CE.  The Hebrew (aka Real) date is certainly Rosh Chodesh חשון/Cheshvan and certainly in the year 5778 since Creation.  The date, you ask... good question!

Sundown on Friday night was 6:01 PM CDT, which means he was born either at the end of the last day of תשרי or the beginning of the first day of Cheshvan; a period know as בין השמשות/twilight.  What's the big deal, you ask... I am so glad you asked.  We all deal quite handily with בין השמשות every week and every holiday; we're just stringent.  We start Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov before בין השמשות; that is, before sundown.  Likewise, we end Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov after בין השמשות; some 42, 50, 60, or 72 minutes after sundo…