During creation of the world, G-d sanctified the seventh day as the holy day of Shabbos. Years later, after our freedom from Egypt, G-d chose us, the Jewish nation, to be privileged to serve Him by observing Shabbos which reflects on the sanctity that G-d infused in the holy day!
The Torah, in our portion, juxtaposes the laws of Shabbos with the building of the Mishkan/Temple that the Jews were commanded to build while they were in the desert. This is to teach us that as holy as the construction of the Temple was, the sacredness of the Shabbos superseded it. All activities and work needed for the creation of the Temple stopped for the honor of Shabbos.
Our Sages defined 39 categories of creative activities that were needed to build the Mishkan. Since these 39 categories were not permitted to be done for the Temple’s construction on Shabbos, we learn that these are the forms of work we have to refrain from on Shabbos.
Had the Torah not linked the weekly Shabbos to the construction of the Temple, we never would have entertained the thought to halt its building in the face of Shabbos. After all, Shabbos is holy and the Temple is holy and it would seem that they would complement each other with its creation overriding the laws of Shabbos. G-d tells us otherwise.
Even more so, once the Temple was built and became functional, the Kohanim / priests were engaged in slaughtering the sacrificial offerings and burning the sacrificial portions and incense on the Altars of the Temple on the Shabbos. As we know, these are some of the 39 activities that we are forbidden to do on Shabbos, yet they were permitted by G-d’s command once the Temple was functional and officially the House of G-d.
The Torah therefore emphasizes the sacredness of Shabbos in regards to the Temple’s construction to teach us that it does not override the laws of Shabbos.
This year is a Shemitta/Sabbatical year in the land of Israel. No active planting or improvement of the fields or lawns is allowed to be done. Also produce that is grown during the Shemitta year is rendered ownerless and no commerce can be done with it.
The first time the Torah mentions the Mitzvah of the observance of Shemitta, it also links it up with the Mitzvah of observing the weekly Shabbos.
The Medrash points out that the Torah specifically mentions the laws of Shabbos because one might think that since I am observing a Shabbos – the Shemitta /seventh year – in my fields for an entire year, perhaps, the observance of the weekly Shabbos is relaxed and its observance is not necessary. Therefore the Torah specifically places the Mitzvah of Shabbos right by the Mitzvah of the Sabbatical year to teach us the weekly Shabbos must be observed during the Sabbatical year.
The Shem Mishmuel asks, there are so many laws regarding all facets of creative activities on Shabbos, such as not building, cooking, baking, sewing, writing etc. while the Sabbatical laws only impact on the agricultural laws and only in the Land of Israel. So why would we even think that the weekly Shabbos should be disregarded during the Sabbatical year? After all, the weekly Shabbos has so many more restrictions than what is prohibited on Shemitta.
The Shem Mishmuel explains by pointing out that each time the Torah speaks about the Holy day of Shabbos it speaks about the six days that precede it. The six days of the week are not only a time when there are no restrictions on creative activities, we are actually encouraged to perform them. This is so that when the holiness of the Shabbos sets in on Friday there is a recognizable and clear distinction of our mode of behavior – we are fully engaged in work during the six days – then on the Shabbos we stop. The six days of work are therefore necessary to show the distinction of the holiness of Shabbos.
Now, since during the Shemitta/seventh year – the agricultural development of the fields are forbidden and the usual contrast of work done during the six days of the week and lack of thereof on Shabbos is missing, we may have entertained that without this contrast we cannot observe Shabbos. Therefore the Torah emphasizes that even during Shemitta – the observance of the holy Shabbos prevails.
This Shabbos we add an extra portion detailing the contribution of a half Shekel coin that each male was obligated to contribute to the Temple treasury annually to finance the communal offerings brought during the year.
This portion is specifically read on the Shabbos that precedes Rosh Chodesh Adar as a call and reminder to contribute during the upcoming month of Adar.
The question is why was the obligation specifically a half–Shekel coin – no more or no less?
Doesn’t giving just a half a Shekel seem inadequate?
An answer given is, on the contrary, the half Shekel is significant, so that each person should feel they are part of a whole. To properly qualify serving G-d and humanity one should not feel that he has to or needs to do it all on his own, one needs others and needs to include others to complete a task.
One’s half Shekel signifies his joining with others to either facilitate or complete specific goals and accomplishments!