Whether as a therapeutic tool or used when playing a fun family game, we all utilize associations. I say cat, you say dog; I say sun, you say moon. It’s the way our minds work. The Torah also advances associations. One that is front and center in Parshat Vayakhel is the association between Shabbat and the Mishkan-Tabernacle. Let’s take a look.

In Exodus Chapter 35: 2 we read:

שֵׁ֣שֶׁת יָמִים֮ תֵּעָשֶׂ֣ה מְלָאכָה֒ וּבַיּ֣וֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִ֗י יִהְיֶ֨ה לָכֶ֥ם קֹ֛דֶשׁ שַׁבַּ֥ת שַׁבָּת֖וֹן לַה כׇּל־הָעֹשֶׂ֥ה ב֛וֹ מְלָאכָ֖ה יוּמָֽת׃ 

On six days work may be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a Sabbath of complete rest…

And then in verse 5 we are back into construction mode of the Tabernacle:

קְח֨וּ מֵֽאִתְּכֶ֤ם תְּרוּמָה֙ לַֽיהֹוָ֔ה כֹּ֚ל נְדִ֣יב לִבּ֔וֹ יְבִיאֶ֕הָ אֵ֖ת תְּרוּמַ֣ת יְהֹוָ֑ה זָהָ֥ב וָכֶ֖סֶף וּנְחֹֽשֶׁת׃ 

Take from among you gifts to G-d; everyone whose heart is so moved shall bring them—gifts for G-d gold, silver, and copper.

What is the meaning behind this association?

There is a legal association whereby all the creative productive actions employed by the Israelites in the building and functioning of the Mishkan are the categories of actions that Sabbath Observant Jews abstain from on Shabbat until today.

On a philosophical level the association relates to G-d. Shabbat is the day that reminds us that there is a Creator of our world who concluded the Creation before the first Shabbat, and infused the first Shabbat with blessing and sanctity. The Mishkan is the unique space dedicated to serve G-d and experience His presence.

It is noteworthy that this association is made twice first in Chapter 31, and then again in Chapter 35. However, in 31 the building of the Mishkan is mentioned first, and in the chapter 35 Shabbat is mentioned first. Why?

The Kli Yakar Shlomo Ephraim ben Aaron Luntschitz (1550-1619) Prague, explains: in Chapter 31, G-d is speaking and mentions the Mishkan first because it was built for His children to experience His presence. In Chapter 35, Moshe is speaking and commanding the Israelites so he mentions Shabbat first demonstrating honor and reverence for G-d who rested on the first Shabbat. 

This demonstrates the mutual love between G-d and Israel. Moshe, the leader of Israel puts G-d first, and G-d puts His children first. Just as a loving spouse puts his/her partner first, so too G-d and Israel.

This Shabbat concludes the book of Shemot and the five passages regarding the Mishkan. Once there is a dwelling place for G-d in our midst in time = Shabbat and in space = the Mishkan we are ready to journey forward through the desert on our way to our homeland Israel.

We are blessed to have the opportunity to greet Shabbat each week.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Epstein
Community Scholar in Residence