This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Vayak'hel-Pekudei (5762)
This week (in addition to being " Parshat HaChodesh") we read a double section telling about the actual building of the Tabernacle.
The reading opens with a commandment about keeping the Sabbath.
"Six days your work will be done and the seventh day is holy, a Sabbath to G-d: anyone who does work will die."
At first glance this is not so clear:
Firstly; why is the building of the Tabernacle so important that there are there four chapters in the Torah devoted to it? Even more, in the days of the Temple all the Jews in Israel went up to Jerusalem three times a year on each of the Holidays. One of the main things that they would come away with was JOY.
Yes, the Holy Temple would make everyone Happy! Here is the same question; what made them happy? The main attraction in the Temple was the bloody business of slaughtering and sacrificing animals, hardly a joyous scene. What caused the happiness?
Secondly: Why does the Torah introduce the building of the Tabernacle with the commandment of Shabbat?
Thirdly; Why, in the commandment of Shabbat, does it say work must be done six days; is it a commandment to work?
Lastly; Whyis the punishment for transgressing the Sabbath death? Isn't that a bit severe?
To answer this, here is a story.
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Bredichivhad many followers. He was a great scholar and a holy " Tzadik", but most of all he was a very humble and down-to-earth Jew.
The story is told that one morning he arrived in the " Shul" (synagogue) in a very uplifted mood, and announced that he wanted to lead the prayers.
Of course, the news spread like wildfire, everyone wanted to hear the soulful joyous prayers of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, and the Shulfilled up in no time. But you can imagine how surprised they were when the great Tzadikomitted a blessing!
It is a custom for Jews to begin the morning prayers with fifteen blessings, praising and thanking G-d, and the Rabbi left out the one that says "Thank you G-d for not making me a gentile."
Everyone noticed it, but they hesitated to complain. Was it possible that he could make such an obvious mistake? Finally one of the old Chassidim approached him and just pointed to the skipped blessing in the Rabbi's prayer book.
But RavLevi Yitzchak just nodded his head knowingly and gestured indicating not to worry and that everything was under control.
After the prayers were over he called the old Chassid over and explained to him, and the crowd of people that had come, went over to listen as well.
"When I woke this morning I thought to myself how wondrous it is that G-d created me to be a Jew. In fact the thought filled me with such joy that I couldn't wait till I went to the Shul. So I stood up and said the blessing out of order!!"
What made RavLevi Yitzchak so happy? What is so great about being a Jew?
This is what makes us happy and this is the message of the Jews to the world; G-d is ONE. G-d is the source of all life, He alone creates the heavens and the earth constantly...But the happy part is that He favors the EARTH.
This is why the Temple is so important, and why it made everyone happy; it made them feel that G-d is not just spiritual (and far away) but infinitely close, creating and enlivening each one of us every instant and caring for every detail and every deed in this PHYSICAL world.
And G-d is the source of life, and life is joy. (That is why children are naturally happy and it makes us happy to see them).
Rav Levi Yitzchak was such a holy person that he felt this infinite life-force and happiness even without the Holy Temple, and we, by being attached to such Tzadikimcan feel it also (to some degree).
But the Temple also holds another, even more important lesson. The Temple was a place of serious work. It teaches us that we too must WORK to reveal this truth. AND EVERYTHING WE DO CAN BE HOLY AND IMPORTANT.
That is why Sabbath is the perfect introduction to the Temple. Because the Sabbath teaches us this exact same lesson constantly; that although the world seems to be an autonomous natural system, it isn't.It is all a miraculous, constant creation of G-d. And the job that G-d has given uniquely to the Jewish people is to reveal it through learning Torah, doing the commandments and good deeds and thinking like Jews.
That is what the Torah means by saying "Six days your work must be done"; we must reveal the holiness in the other, seemingly mundane days of the week even in our most mundane acts.
And the Torah even tells us what attitude to have. It doesn't say "Six days do work" as though it all depends on us, but rather "Your work will be done". Implying that if our inner intention when earning money and doing other "normal" things is to make the world into a holy Temple, then G-d will help us in our personal lives and it will be as though our work is "done" on it'sown.
That is why the punishment for transgressing the Shabbat is so severe. Because the entire world was created only in order that the Jews do this job, and one who refuses has contradicted the reason for his very existence.
This is also the message of Parshat HaChodeshthat we read this Sabbath which talks about the first commandment given to the Jewish people; sanctifying the Months. The purpose of this commandment is also as above; to reveal that such mundane things as the moon and the months are really miraculous, supernatural creations of G-d.
Interestingly, these very things; The Sabbath, the Holy Temple and the moon, are connected intimately with Moshiach: The days of Moshiach are called "the day that is Entirely Sabbath" (last Mishna, Tamid). "He, and only he, will build the third Temple" ( Rambam, Melachim11:1) and "in his era the moon will shine like the sun" (Kiddush Levanain the siddur).
But bringing Moshiach, just like the Sabbath, the Temple and sanctifying the Months, depends on our Joy and our hard work.
May this Sabbath give us the inspiration and happiness to bring ...
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