(Torah Portion Vayakail/Pekudai) We Make it Tangible!
A Jewish marriage ceremony is called Kiddushin – Sanctification, because the couple begins living a sanctified life. This sanctification comes about by the many aspects of the laws of family purity that breathe holiness into one’s marriage and home.
There are also other Mitzvos – commands – that add sanctity to one’s being and home. The first time the Torah speaks of Holiness is in the description of the Seventh day of creation – when G-d ceased from all creative activities. Our Sages explain that the essence of a word used in the Torah is conveyed the first time the word or concept appears in the Torah, thus the epitome of sanctity has to do with the sanctity of Shabbos.
This is the reason that the Torah begins the law of sanctifying the holy day of Shabbos before instructing the Jews to create and build a Mishkan – Temple. This also teaches us that the building of the Temple does not override the holy day of Shabbos.
In fact, the laws detailing the actions prohibited on Shabbos are derived specifically from the 39 procedures and creative activities that were required to construct the Temple.
We see here an amazing concept concerning our Shabbat observance. When we observe Shabbos in our home, community, synagogue and environment we are like those involved in the construction of the Temple – for we are restricted from performing those same activities on Shabbos. Thus our Shabbos observance attests to the greatest sanctity and commitment to G-d’s prescribed holiness.
A question is raised, why was the building of the Temple forbidden on Shabbos? After all, we recite in our Mussaf prayer on Shabbos the various sacrifices that were slaughtered and offered on the Altar fire on the Shabbos, although slaughtering, burning and kindling a flame are forbidden on Shabbos. If bringing sacrifices on Shabbos is permitted in the Temple why is the construction of the Temple forbidden?
Rabbi Meir Simcha of D’vinsk o.b.m. explains: Yes, true there is a Mitzvah in the Torah to erect a Temple. However, the Mitzvah of building the Temple is only a prerequisite to perform the service and sacrifices in the Temple, and a Mitzvah that is only a prerequisite is prohibited on Shabbos if it entails forbidden activity. However once the Temple was functional, the actual offerings and services could be performed on the Shabbos.
The Talmud relates that on the day the Temple in the desert was erected, G-d’s joy was akin to the joy He had when He created the heavens and earth. Our Sages explain that the building of the Temple was a microcosm of the six days of creation, and that Betzalel, the chief architect of the Temple, knew the code G-d used to create the world.
Since the creation of the Temple was, on a small scale, similar to creation of the world, we can understand that its construction would be prohibited on the Shabbos – the day G-d ceased from all creative activities.
While the Jews were traveling in the desert their food was miraculously provided in the form of Manna from heaven. The Torah relates that the portions of Manna would only last one day; anything left over for the next day would turn putrid, thus, the Jews were reliant upon G-d’s benevolence each day. Saturday was the exception, the Manna did not appear on Shabbos, and on Friday they each received a double portion for Friday and Shabbos.
When the word Kodesh – sanctified – first appears in the Torah (pertaining to Shabbos), the great commentator Rashi explains that G-d sanctified the day of Shabbos by not actively providing our ancestors with Manna on the Shabbos.
The Manna presented a tangible and visual difference between the weekdays and Shabbos, for during the week everyone saw the Manna falling and on Shabbos it did not appear.
After the Jews completed their 40 year journey through the desert and entered into the land of Israel the tangibility of the Kedusha – sanctity of Shabbos was reliant upon each Jew, family and community. Only through sanctifying their appearance, food preparation and relaxation, and by refraining from engaging in creative activity did the sanctity of Shabbos become tangible.
Shabbos is our unique testimony of G-d’s holy presence in our lives – and the uplifting experience it provides is open for every Jew to enhance and embrace.
Wishing you a most enjoyable and uplifting Shabbat!
Rabbi Dovid and Malki Saks and family