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Parshat Vayak'hel (5765)

This week's Torah reading deals with the complicated details of building the Tabernacle and its vessels.

But it Moses introduces this by gathering (VaYakhel) the Jewish people and telling them about....Shabbat!

"Six days work should be done and on the seventh day will be to you holy; Sabbath rest to G-d, all that do work on it will die."

Rashi explains the connection; G-d is telling the Jews that although the Tabernacle is important, nevertheless the Sabbath is more important, and therefore it is forbidden to build any aspect of the Tabernacle on Shabbat. (From here we learn the 39 types of 'work' forbidden to the Jews on Shabbat).

But this seems very strange; how can the Shabbat be more important than the Tabernacle? The Tabernacle (and later the Temples) was the essence of Judaism!

It was here that the Creator was actually REVEALED in this world, which is the goal of Judaism that Moshiach will accomplish (see last chapter of Maimonides)! How could Shabbat be more important than that?

Why didn't G-d just let the Jews work non-stop, finish the Tabernacle sooner and then start observing Shabbat?

Also the sentence about Shabbat is not clear. "Six days work should be done"? Why does is say it in the passive "should be done"? Why doesn't it say "Six days do work"?

Even more; why does it say it at all? There is no commandment to work six days!

To understand this here is a story. (Sefer Pela P'laim pg 62)

The Baal Shem Tov (Besht for short, originator of Chassidic Judaism some 350 years ago) once came to a certain town for a visit. All of the Jews in the area, young and old, turned out to greet him with joy and escorted him to the inn where he stayed.

It wasn't the first time he had visited here and previously he stayed in the inn of a Jew where he received the hundreds of people that came to seek his advice and blessings.

But this time when he arrived at the inn the owner intecepted him in the street and begged him not to enter.

"I fear for your life! Listen, you can here them! A gang of drunken hooligans took over the place A real bunch of murderers, over twenty of them and they are looking for trouble. This is no place for the holy Baal Shem Tov! Please, there is another inn in town and the owner is a good friend of mine, I hate to do it but please I'll take you there."

But the Besht just smiled, assured him it would be all right and motioned for his followers to accompany him.

He opened the door and the previously muffled noise blasted out loud and clear.

He took one step inside. When the ruffians saw the holy man standing in the door they froze in silence and in that moment the Besht motioned to a Jew standing behind him who was holding the hand of his small son, to step into the room and stand the boy on a nearby table.

The man did so and the 'gang' looked on in interest.

"Now, Moshele" Said the Besht to the child, "sing something happy for our friends. Something that will make them dance."

The ruffians looked at one another, then at one who was obviously their leader who winked back at them as to say 'what have we got to lose, let's see what happens' and the boy began to sing a lively Chassidic melody.

He had a beautifully clear voice, lively and full of pure happiness. The leader of the gang listened for a second then closed his eyes in drunken stupor and began to move his bowed head from side to side in rapture, a wide smile covering his face.

After a minute he opened his eyes wildly, threw his head and arms back, opened his mouth wide and, as though he just found a hidden treasure, let out a scream of joy and began to dance. Spinning and leaping like a man possessed to the music, jumping, sweating and pointing at the boy yelling, "You are Moshke and I am Ivan!! You are Moshke and I am Ivan!" while his friends whistled and clapped their hands in glee.

After a half-hour the Besht told the boy to stop. The leader, drenched in sweat and out of breath took a deep swig from a nearby bottle, approached the boy, took both of his hands in his own and said "you are Moshke and I am Ivan!! Thank you!!" All his men were smiling and laughing good heartedly.

The Baal Shem Tov miraculously had made peace.

The Besht had his bags taken to his room, then walked to the nearby Synagogue followed by all the people, and the entire episode with the gentiles was forgotten.

Twenty years passed and the boy grew up. He married, settled down, had many children and went into business, becoming a wealthy cloth merchant and traveling the world. His home was open to the poor and many Yeshivas owed their existence to his generosity while he considered the charity he gave to be the secret of his success.

One time he was traveling on a lonely forest road in his carriage on the way to a big business deal. His work was fraught with danger; travel was always a risky business.

But on the other hand, that was why people were willing to pay handsome prices for his wares and he firmly believed that his charity and good deeds would protect him. They always had.

It was an uneventful ride at first and after an hour he was already feeling safe, he had two strong, fresh horses and his driver was the best. Then suddenly the carriage stopped. He opened the door to see what had happened. A log had fallen across the road; he and the driver would have to move it. He got out and removed his coat.

Suddenly several frightening looking men armed with swords and knives popped out from behind trees and rocks all around them; it was a robbery!

Seconds later Moshe and his driver were lying on the ground bound and gagged. All their belongings had been confiscated and their carriage was being ransacked for money.

At first he was shaking with fear but then he regained his composure. "If now is the time for me to die" he said to himself, "then this is what G-d wants. So I should be happy. And if G-d wants to do a miracle, I should also be happy. And if He me to somehow get out of this by my own wits, then being sad and afraid certainly won't help. So in any case I have to be happy!"

And he began to sing a lively song.

One of the robbers yelled out at him, "Hey, shut up! What do you think, this a party?" Another scoffed over his shoulder "Hey, if he wants to sing his last song, well why not!" and the others laughed.

Then, suddenly, a third robber ran over to Moshe pulled out his knife and bent over him. He was like an animal. He smelled of whisky. 'This is my angel of death' Moshe thought to himself.

"Moshke! Moshke!!" the robber almost whispered. "You are Moshke and I am Ivan. Right?? Right Moshke?!" He removed the gag from Moshe's mouth and cut the ropes that bound him and continued as his eyes filled with tears.

"Sing Moshke, Sing!!! I know your song! You are Moshke. Right?" He was yelling now. "I know that song!"

He was almost crying. "That song you sang in the inn twenty years ago was...there was never...I can never forget it. It was the happiest moment of my life. That music made me crazy! For twenty years I have been crazy! I am Ivan!! Do you hear Moshke!!"

Now Moshe was standing up and rubbing his wrists where the ropes had been.

"Release the driver!" Ivan yelled out "and give them back everything; the carriage, the horses, their money… everything!"

He even tried to give Moshe bags of money and jewels as a present but Moshe refused.

"Listen Moshe" Ivan said when everything had been given back. "Come here." He motioned that Moshe should follow him into the woods.

When they were far from the others he said, "Listen, Moshe. It is a miracle that you are here. Something is driving me mad. Do you hear? I can't understand why that song of yours back then made me so crazy. It did something to me. I can't explain it. I felt like my soul was going to explode; like crying and laughing at once. I've never been the same. I must understand it. What was so special about that song? I must know!"

The only thing Moshe could think to say was to ask the Baal Shem Tov. "The Besht also helps gentiles, surely he’ll help you."

And so it was. One week later they met at the entrance of Besht's synagogue in Mezibuz.

Ivan the robber felt completely out of place here and if it wasn't for that song he would have left in an instant but there was no turning back now. They entered the Besht's room and before Ivan had a chance to open his mouth the Besht spoke.

"Since that day in the inn twenty years ago I have been waiting for you.

"Ivan is not your name" the Besht continued. "It is Avraham…. You are a Jew. Yes a Jew. And your father used to sing that song.

"Your parents, Chaim Lev and Sara Sterna, were killed by Ukrainians in a Pogrom some fifty years ago when you were three years old. You escaped by running into the woods and lost your memory when you fell and hit your head on a rock. But you were discovered by an old gentile peasant and his wife who nursed you to health and raised you as their son.

"With your restless, intelligent soul, powerful body and lack of education it was inevitable that you turned to crime and succeeded. But now the time has come for you to return to the G-d of your fathers. Do not worry, Avraham, It is never too late; especially because all your sins were done due to 'temporary' insanity.

Ivan-Avraham began weeping, his body began to shake and bitter tears of repentance ran down his cheeks.

"Good!" said the Besht. "Cry. It's good to cry over sins. But you must never forget to be happy. A lack of happiness brought you to be a criminal and happiness brought you back. Remember, Avraham, you are a Jew! You can serve the Creator. But it must be with joy.

The Besht turned to Moshe, "sing the joyous song you sang back then!"

Moshe began singing and the Besht motioned for him to take Avraham's arm and dance with him. He yelled out;

"Moshe! sing! Faster! Avraham, dance!! Until finally Avraham was crying and laughing at once; like when he heard the song twenty years ago.

The Besht had miraculously returned another Jewish soul.

Now we can understand why the Tabernacle and Temples were not built on the Sabbath.

The Temple is where we remind ourselves that it's all up to us: we have to build the building and its vessels, we keep the fire going, we bring the sacrifices and we do all the other service.

But Shabbat is the day when we remember that really G-d is doing it all; He alone is creating us and the entire universe. He gives us power and talent and, in fact, there is nothing but Him.

So without an element of Shabbat in the building of the Temple we might get so involved in our own achievements (even spiritual ones) that we forget the truth; that our accomplishments are really miracles; a product of G-d's kindness.

And that is why "Six days work should be done" is written in the passive:

G-d wants to remind us that even on the days that we DO work and that we MUST work….. so-to-speak we aren't doing it; everything is happening passively. In reality it is all being DONE miraculously by Him

Therefore, although we must work, we should not sink our entire souls into making a livelihood. And certainly we should set times daily for learning Torah, praying with our hearts, sincerely and doing all we can to make a better world.

Just like in the story; although Moshe had to do the work…. After all it really was all miracles.

But we mustn't forget that the real star of our story was the Baal Shem Tov.

Without him none of the miracles would have happened. Just as without Moses the Jews wouldn't have left Egypt.

So too Moshiach will build the Third and final Temple and without him the Jews cannot leave the exile they are in now.

This is the Moshiach we are waiting for impatiently; someone like the Besht who will bring EACH and EVERY human being to reveal their unique potentials and open the eyes of all mankind to see the miracles that occur every instant.

But it all depends on us! One more good deed, word or even thought can bring the world back to the truth that will make us laugh and cry at the same time in the Third Temple with...

Moshiach NOW!!This week's Torah reading deals with the complicated details of building the Tabernacle and its vessels.

But it Moses introduces this by gathering (VaYakhel) the Jewish people and telling them about....Shabbat!

"Six days work should be done and on the seventh day will be to you holy; Sabbath rest to G-d, all that do work on it will die."

Rashi explains the connection; G-d is telling the Jews that although the Tabernacle is important, nevertheless the Sabbath is more important, and therefore it is forbidden to build any aspect of the Tabernacle on Shabbat. (From here we learn the 39 types of 'work' forbidden to the Jews on Shabbat).

But this seems very strange; how can the Shabbat be more important than the Tabernacle? The Tabernacle (and later the Temples) was the essence of Judaism!

It was here that the Creator was actually REVEALED in this world, which is the goal of Judaism that Moshiach will accomplish (see last chapter of Maimonides)! How could Shabbat be more important than that?

Why didn't G-d just let the Jews work non-stop, finish the Tabernacle sooner and then start observing Shabbat?

Also the sentence about Shabbat is not clear. "Six days work should be done"? Why does is say it in the passive "should be done"? Why doesn't it say "Six days do work"?

Even more; why does it say it at all? There is no commandment to work six days!

To understand this here is a story. (Sefer Pela P'laim pg 62)

The Baal Shem Tov (Besht for short, originator of Chassidic Judaism some 350 years ago) once came to a certain town for a visit. All of the Jews in the area, young and old, turned out to greet him with joy and escorted him to the inn where he stayed.

It wasn't the first time he had visited here and previously he stayed in the inn of a Jew where he received the hundreds of people that came to seek his advice and blessings.

But this time when he arrived at the inn the owner intecepted him in the street and begged him not to enter.

"I fear for your life! Listen, you can here them! A gang of drunken hooligans took over the place A real bunch of murderers, over twenty of them and they are looking for trouble. This is no place for the holy Baal Shem Tov! Please, there is another inn in town and the owner is a good friend of mine, I hate to do it but please I'll take you there."

But the Besht just smiled, assured him it would be all right and motioned for his followers to accompany him.

He opened the door and the previously muffled noise blasted out loud and clear.

He took one step inside. When the ruffians saw the holy man standing in the door they froze in silence and in that moment the Besht motioned to a Jew standing behind him who was holding the hand of his small son, to step into the room and stand the boy on a nearby table.

The man did so and the 'gang' looked on in interest.

"Now, Moshele" Said the Besht to the child, "sing something happy for our friends. Something that will make them dance."

The ruffians looked at one another, then at one who was obviously their leader who winked back at them as to say 'what have we got to lose, let's see what happens' and the boy began to sing a lively Chassidic melody.

He had a beautifully clear voice, lively and full of pure happiness. The leader of the gang listened for a second then closed his eyes in drunken stupor and began to move his bowed head from side to side in rapture, a wide smile covering his face.

After a minute he opened his eyes wildly, threw his head and arms back, opened his mouth wide and, as though he just found a hidden treasure, let out a scream of joy and began to dance. Spinning and leaping like a man possessed to the music, jumping, sweating and pointing at the boy yelling, "You are Moshke and I am Ivan!! You are Moshke and I am Ivan!" while his friends whistled and clapped their hands in glee.

After a half-hour the Besht told the boy to stop. The leader, drenched in sweat and out of breath took a deep swig from a nearby bottle, approached the boy, took both of his hands in his own and said "you are Moshke and I am Ivan!! Thank you!!" All his men were smiling and laughing good heartedly.

The Baal Shem Tov miraculously had made peace.

The Besht had his bags taken to his room, then walked to the nearby Synagogue followed by all the people, and the entire episode with the gentiles was forgotten.

Twenty years passed and the boy grew up. He married, settled down, had many children and went into business, becoming a wealthy cloth merchant and traveling the world. His home was open to the poor and many Yeshivas owed their existence to his generosity while he considered the charity he gave to be the secret of his success.

One time he was traveling on a lonely forest road in his carriage on the way to a big business deal. His work was fraught with danger; travel was always a risky business.

But on the other hand, that was why people were willing to pay handsome prices for his wares and he firmly believed that his charity and good deeds would protect him. They always had.

It was an uneventful ride at first and after an hour he was already feeling safe, he had two strong, fresh horses and his driver was the best. Then suddenly the carriage stopped. He opened the door to see what had happened. A log had fallen across the road; he and the driver would have to move it. He got out and removed his coat.

Suddenly several frightening looking men armed with swords and knives popped out from behind trees and rocks all around them; it was a robbery!

Seconds later Moshe and his driver were lying on the ground bound and gagged. All their belongings had been confiscated and their carriage was being ransacked for money.

At first he was shaking with fear but then he regained his composure. "If now is the time for me to die" he said to himself, "then this is what G-d wants. So I should be happy. And if G-d wants to do a miracle, I should also be happy. And if He me to somehow get out of this by my own wits, then being sad and afraid certainly won't help. So in any case I have to be happy!"

And he began to sing a lively song.

One of the robbers yelled out at him, "Hey, shut up! What do you think, this a party?" Another scoffed over his shoulder "Hey, if he wants to sing his last song, well why not!" and the others laughed.

Then, suddenly, a third robber ran over to Moshe pulled out his knife and bent over him. He was like an animal. He smelled of whisky. 'This is my angel of death' Moshe thought to himself.

"Moshke! Moshke!!" the robber almost whispered. "You are Moshke and I am Ivan. Right?? Right Moshke?!" He removed the gag from Moshe's mouth and cut the ropes that bound him and continued as his eyes filled with tears.

"Sing Moshke, Sing!!! I know your song! You are Moshke. Right?" He was yelling now. "I know that song!"

He was almost crying. "That song you sang in the inn twenty years ago was...there was never...I can never forget it. It was the happiest moment of my life. That music made me crazy! For twenty years I have been crazy! I am Ivan!! Do you hear Moshke!!"

Now Moshe was standing up and rubbing his wrists where the ropes had been.

"Release the driver!" Ivan yelled out "and give them back everything; the carriage, the horses, their money… everything!"

He even tried to give Moshe bags of money and jewels as a present but Moshe refused.

"Listen Moshe" Ivan said when everything had been given back. "Come here." He motioned that Moshe should follow him into the woods.

When they were far from the others he said, "Listen, Moshe. It is a miracle that you are here. Something is driving me mad. Do you hear? I can't understand why that song of yours back then made me so crazy. It did something to me. I can't explain it. I felt like my soul was going to explode; like crying and laughing at once. I've never been the same. I must understand it. What was so special about that song? I must know!"

The only thing Moshe could think to say was to ask the Baal Shem Tov. "The Besht also helps gentiles, surely he’ll help you."

And so it was. One week later they met at the entrance of Besht's synagogue in Mezibuz.

Ivan the robber felt completely out of place here and if it wasn't for that song he would have left in an instant but there was no turning back now. They entered the Besht's room and before Ivan had a chance to open his mouth the Besht spoke.

"Since that day in the inn twenty years ago I have been waiting for you.

"Ivan is not your name" the Besht continued. "It is Avraham…. You are a Jew. Yes a Jew. And your father used to sing that song.

"Your parents, Chaim Lev and Sara Sterna, were killed by Ukrainians in a Pogrom some fifty years ago when you were three years old. You escaped by running into the woods and lost your memory when you fell and hit your head on a rock. But you were discovered by an old gentile peasant and his wife who nursed you to health and raised you as their son.

"With your restless, intelligent soul, powerful body and lack of education it was inevitable that you turned to crime and succeeded. But now the time has come for you to return to the G-d of your fathers. Do not worry, Avraham, It is never too late; especially because all your sins were done due to 'temporary' insanity.

Ivan-Avraham began weeping, his body began to shake and bitter tears of repentance ran down his cheeks.

"Good!" said the Besht. "Cry. It's good to cry over sins. But you must never forget to be happy. A lack of happiness brought you to be a criminal and happiness brought you back. Remember, Avraham, you are a Jew! You can serve the Creator. But it must be with joy.

The Besht turned to Moshe, "sing the joyous song you sang back then!"

Moshe began singing and the Besht motioned for him to take Avraham's arm and dance with him. He yelled out;

"Moshe! sing! Faster! Avraham, dance!! Until finally Avraham was crying and laughing at once; like when he heard the song twenty years ago.

The Besht had miraculously returned another Jewish soul.

Now we can understand why the Tabernacle and Temples were not built on the Sabbath.

The Temple is where we remind ourselves that it's all up to us: we have to build the building and its vessels, we keep the fire going, we bring the sacrifices and we do all the other service.

But Shabbat is the day when we remember that really G-d is doing it all; He alone is creating us and the entire universe. He gives us power and talent and, in fact, there is nothing but Him.

So without an element of Shabbat in the building of the Temple we might get so involved in our own achievements (even spiritual ones) that we forget the truth; that our accomplishments are really miracles; a product of G-d's kindness.

And that is why "Six days work should be done" is written in the passive:

G-d wants to remind us that even on the days that we DO work and that we MUST work….. so-to-speak we aren't doing it; everything is happening passively. In reality it is all being DONE miraculously by Him

Therefore, although we must work, we should not sink our entire souls into making a livelihood. And certainly we should set times daily for learning Torah, praying with our hearts, sincerely and doing all we can to make a better world.

Just like in the story; although Moshe had to do the work…. After all it really was all miracles.

But we mustn't forget that the real star of our story was the Baal Shem Tov.

Without him none of the miracles would have happened. Just as without Moses the Jews wouldn't have left Egypt.

So too Moshiach will build the Third and final Temple and without him the Jews cannot leave the exile they are in now.

This is the Moshiach we are waiting for impatiently; someone like the Besht who will bring EACH and EVERY human being to reveal their unique potentials and open the eyes of all mankind to see the miracles that occur every instant.

But it all depends on us! One more good deed, word or even thought can bring the world back to the truth that will make us laugh and cry at the same time in the Third Temple with...

Moshiach NOW!!

Copyright © 1999-2017 Rabbi Tuvia Bolton. All rights reserved. No unauthorized reproduction or copying of this material shall occur without prior permission.

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