Parasha Inspiration – Vayakhel-Pekudei

Moses called the whole community of the children of Israel to assemble, and he said to them: “These are the things that the Lord commanded to make. Six days work may be done, but on the seventh day you shall have sanctity, a day of complete rest to the Lord; whoever performs work thereon [on this day] shall be put to death.”

Exodus 35:1-2

            This week’s parsha outlines the construction of the Mishkan. We see in the first two verses that the very first commandment regarding the construction of the Mishkan is a reiteration for the children of Israel to keep the Shabbat. At first glance, this does not seem like an instruction for building the Mishkan at all, but in fact this is the most important instruction regarding the building of the Mishkan.

            Remember Shabbat, guard Shabbat, keep Shabbat. If you do not, you will be put to death. If you do any work on Shabbat, you will be put to death. This seems both dramatic and drastic. If someone murders, they are to be put to death. If someone commits adultery, they are to be put to death. These mishpatim (judgments) are understandable. But doing work on Shabbat? Why is it that Hashem invokes the death penalty? Why is it that the first instruction in building the Mishkan is to not violate Shabbat?

            The answer to these questions is at the core of Israel’s relationship to Hashem. It is something we must take to heart, even today. “The children of Israel must keep the Shabbat, as an everlasting covenant. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel forever, that in six days Hashem made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he ceased from work and rested.” Hashem gave us the Shabbat to do, not as a command given from on high, distancing ourselves from him. Rather, it is a commandment that we be like Hashem. The reason we cease from work on the seventh day is because Hashem ceased from work on the seventh day. The concept is that we, of our own free will, may choose to be like Hashem.

            It is our choice: life and death, the blessing and the curse. If we choose to ignore Shabbat, or treat it casually, we are choosing death and curse. If we choose to honor Shabbat, guard Shabbat, remember Shabbat, we are choosing life and blessing. Not blessing for us as individuals, rather, blessing for Israel. This idea is so important that even the most holy construction project. Throughout history, the children of Israel must stop and honor Shabbat. Why? Because, we choose to be like Hashem.

            This is the first lesson in being like Hashem. The lessons of being like Hashem culminate in the life of Yeshua the Mashiach. The entire purpose of Yeshua’s life here on earth is to show us how to be like Hashem. The Torah was given to us in order for us to learn to be more like Hashem. Yeshua came to show us how to follow Torah and be more like Hashem. This week’s parsha shows us that the first basic step in following Yeshua, in following Torah, is to remember and protect Shabbat. In this one commandment, we truly see how to both love God and love our neighbor as ourselves.

            Since everything is going to be destroyed like this, what kind of people should you be? You should lead holy and godly lives,as you wait for the Day of God and work to hasten its coming. – 2 Peter 3:11-12

            How do we lead holy and godly lives in order to hasten the day of God? We keep the Shabbat. Jewish tradition tells us that if all of Israel keeps Shabbat to Shabbatot in a row, Mashiach will come. If we keep Shabbat, if we lead holy and godly lives, we hasten the return of Yeshua, we bring Mashiach.

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Rabbi Steven Bernstein

Rabbi Steven Bernstein

Steve was born on Lag B’Omer in Ann Arbor, MI but was raised in Gainesville, FL. The son of two University of Florida professors, he excelled in the sciences in school. In addition to his normal academic studies, he pursued his Jewish education studying with many Rabbis and professors of Judaic Studies from the University including visiting Rabbis such as Abraham Joshua Heschel and Shlomo Carlebach.