Parasha Inspiration – HaChodesh/Vayakhel-Pikudei

וַיַּקְהֵ֣ל משֶׁ֗ה אֶת־כָּל־עֲדַ֛ת בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֲלֵהֶ֑ם אֵ֚לֶּה הַדְּבָרִ֔ים אֲשֶׁר־צִוָּ֥ה יְהֹוָ֖ה לַֽעֲשׂ֥ת אֹתָֽם: שֵׁ֣שֶׁת יָמִים֘ תֵּֽעָשֶׂ֣ה מְלָאכָה֒ וּבַיּ֣וֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִ֗י יִֽהְיֶ֨ה לָכֶ֥ם קֹ֛דֶשׁ שַׁבַּ֥ת שַׁבָּת֖וֹן לַֽיהֹוָ֑ה כָּל־הָֽעֹשֶׂ֥ה ב֛וֹ מְלָאכָ֖ה יוּמָֽת:

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 is the Shabbat immediately preceding the beginning of the month of Nissan, Shabbat HaChodesh. The Maftir portion is from Exodus 12:1, which establishes Nissan as the first month. The first of Nissan is, therefore, one of four new years of the calendar. This is taken from Bavli Rosh Hashanah 2a.

The parsha this week begins with instructions for making and building the Mishkan and all its tools and utensils. The first instruction in the building of the Mishkan is to be certain to keep Shabbat. Therefore, the first instruction is not what to do to build the Mishkan, rather, it is what not to do in building the Mishkan. We are instructed not to violate Shabbat even for the construction of the Mishkan. The sages then ask themselves, what are the Melachot (acts of work), specifically, that we are instructed to avoid on Shabbat with regard to the construction of the Mishkan?

The sages conclude that there are 39 Melachot, acts of work, that are involved in the construction of the Mishkan which we are not allowed to do on Shabbat. These 39 Melachot form the basis of our understanding and identification of what is allowed and not allowed on Shabbat. The 39 Melachot include things such as writing, carrying, sewing, tearing, dying, weaving, and 33 other items. If we are not allowed to violate Shabbat to do these things, even in the process of building the Mishkan, how much more so must we not do these things violating Shabbat in our normal daily lives.

Shabbat supersedes even the building of the Mishkan. Shabbat guides us and directs us down the path of righteousness. This is why Yeshua said that the Shabbat is made for man. In no way does this mean that we each get to decide whether working on the Shabbat is allowed or not. Rather, we do not work on Shabbat, we do not to the 39 Melachot because Shabbat was made for man, to guide us and teach us. Shabbat shalom.

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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.