Commentary for Vayakhel

7 Mar

The large majority of this week’s parshah deals with the construction of the Tabernacle. Most of the past few weeks have been God giving Moses instructions and specifications about the various items to be constructed and Moses relaying that information to the Israelites. This week and next week, we read of the actual construction, with the Israelites following God’s specifications. To show that God’s specifications were followed exactly, much of this week’s parshah is a phrase for phrase repetition of the pertinent parts of the last few weeks, but with the future tense “they will build” changed to the past tense “they built” as the Israelites have now actually constructed the Tabernacle.

 

After God has finished giving the Israelites the instructions, the Israelites are commanded to observe Shabbat, and from the introductory phrasing of the this command “however, you must observe My Shabbats (Ex. 31:13)” and its placement right after the instructions for building the Tabernacle, we derive that the tasks required for building the Tabernacle are prohibited on Shabbat.

 

In this week’s parshah the Israelites are reminded to observe Shabbat as well, but unlike last week, this reminder comes at the very beginning of the parshah, before construction on the Tabernacle begins. Rashi explains that this reminder is given because, in their enthusiasm to serve God by building the holy Tabernacle and its holy implements, the Israelites might assume that the building of such important and holy things overrides the prohibitions of Shabbat, and thus they are given a reminder of the importance of Shabbat right before the construction begins.

 

The impulse that Moses is trying to combat in this week’s parshah is not one that humans have grown out of. Often, in our zeal to do something right, we often perform a wrong as well. Sometimes we rush to action without thinking things through, or sometimes we make incorrect assumptions about the importance of our project as compared to other factors and decide that our project is important enough to bend the rules just this once. In these moments, we should recall Moses’ reminder to the Israelites and carefully consider all of the factors before moving to action.

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