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Shabbat building

Parshat Vayakhel

Exodus 35:1-38:20

This week in our Torah we read Vayahkel.  It seems as if it is a repetition of the earlier instructions and descriptions of building the Mishkan, the Tabernacle.  It is straightforward and to the point.  Tradition teaches us that there is no extraneous information in the Torah.  So why then do we have to sit through a second recounting of the details of the building of Mishkan and the elements that will be built by Bezalel and Oholiab?  One answer by our commentators is that the first time it is in the Torah in parshat Terumah, God is describing this to Moses on Mt. Sinai.  The second version here in Vayakhel Moses is telling this to the people and the Israelites are doing the actual building and work to make the Mishkan.  The opening verses tell us that Moses called the people together and told them about what God had commanded.  “Moses called the whole community of the children of Israel to assemble, and he said to them: “These are the things that Adonai commanded to make.”

So the first version in Terumah is the command from God and the second time here in Vayakhel is the communication to the People of Israel.


But these instructions for building and weaving and forging the items that will make up the Tabernacle are preceded by an instruction to observe Shabbat. Moses reminds the people first of the sacred nature of the Sabbath day. Listen if God is commanding you, asking you to build a home for the Divine One you might think that you better rush to do the job!  After all the incident of the Golden Calf has just took place, Moses had to go back up the mountain and start all over.  The people had to start all over with their covenant with God.  And now Moses says that God is telling them to build! These laborers with memories of Egypt as well might revert back to what they knew.  So Moses reminds them at the outset, that this holy building project requires their new selves. It requires a holy day of rest.

We too need reminding.  Don’t work every day-24/7.  Disconnect. Don’t send work emails on Shabbat.  Take a walk. Pray. Come to Temple on Shabbat and create a few hours of respite. Laugh. Enjoy your family and friends. Eat leisurely rather than slam down some fast food or a quick smoothie.  Linger.  This is what this week’s portion is trying to remind us. Yes there is holy building to do. But there is holy resting to do as well.   Try it.

Ironically as we are commanded to build-we build in Shabbat!