In Parshios Ki Sisa and Vayakhel we find a connection between the
building of the Mishkan and keeping Shabbos. In Ki Sisa (Perek 31:12) Hashem tells Moshe
to tell the Jews: "Ach-Only (limitation) keep My Shabbos for it is a sign between Me
and you....". Rashi clarifies that "ach" comes to exclude the Shabbos from
the work of the Mishkan; even though the Jews are very eager to complete the building of
the Mishkan, they shouldn't suspend Shabbos because of that.
The Chofetz Chaim gives a wonderful parable which really makes us
understand how the mitzva of Shabbos is a special sign that we are chosen by Hashem. In
Gemara Shabbos it says that Hashem had a good present in his storage house and desired to
give it to the Jewish people. This is similar to a bride and groom who exchange gifts when
they are engaged. If after this they stop seeing each other and it is questionable whether
they have broken up or there is just some simpler reason for their not meeting, one can
just see if the bride is still wearing her ring, then she is still engaged even if they
don't meet. So too with the Jews who are, so to say, Hashem's bride. We may not always
keep all the mitzvos so well, but as long as we keep Shabbos that is our sign that we
still belong to Hashem despite any other discrepancies. The Mishkan, as we have mentioned
previously, was a sign for the Jews that Hashem forgave them for the Golden Calf and once
more rested His Presence amongst them. Everyone could see that Hashem is close to the Jews
and we are His people - a sign, just like Shabbos is a sign that the Jews are Hashem's
people. On Shabbos we stop the important work of building the Mishkan, but the sign is not
gone. It is replaced by the sign of Shabbos.
The Mishkan served as a spiritual pipeline for Hashem's blessings
(Torah, livelihood, etc.). When Shabbos comes then Shabbos brings down the blessings for
us ; as we say in Lecha Dodi: "Let us go forth to greet the Shabbos for she is the
source of the blessing." (This is in direct contradiction to those who feel that they
will lose their livelihood, etc., if they start keeping Shabbos. When Hashem bestows His
Presence in the Mishkan he constricts Himself in a spatial way to a certain place. On
Shabbos we have the same holiness of Hashem constricted in time to a certain day, the
The holiness of the place, the Mishkan, and the time, the seventh day
Shabbos, are comparable. In the Mishkan the Cohanim dressed in special clothes and had to
be particular about every single action in their service. That made the place holy. On
Shabbos we too dress specially, and we too must be particular about every minute action we
make because Hashem's holiness is with us the whole day.
In Parshas Vayakhel the prohibition of Shabbos is taught by Moshe to
the Jews first, before the commandment to build the Mishkan. This, Rashi says, teaches us
that the latter does not supersede the laws of Shabbos. In fact the 39 categories of
prohibited labor on Shabbos are derived from the categories of work in the Mishkan.
Why did Moshe merit to have Shabbos specifically attributed to him?
Because, as the Medrash says, he was the one who suggested to Paroh in Egypt that the Jews
have one day a week off from their slaving, and he picked Shabbos.
When Hashem spoke about the Mishkan he used the word "li-to
me" and the Yalkut in Parshas Teruma tells us that when the word "li" is
used the subject will be established forever. Now we all know that the Bais Hamikdash
(Mishkan) was destroyed, so how do we resolve this "li"? Recall that our Sages
said: "If the Jews will keep two Sabbaths, they will be redeemed". Back to our
verse "ach"-only-with this condition of keeping Shabbos will you be redeemed and
then the Mishkan will truly last forever.
This is what Rashi means by excluding Shabbos from the work of the
Mishkan (above). Since the eternal existence of the Mishkan depends on the keeping of
Shabbos, then certainly Shabbos is greater and it isn't proper that Shabbos be pushed
aside in order to continue work on the Mishkan. (Kli Yakar).
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