This week’s Sedra, Vayakhel-Pekudei, continues with the theme of the Mishkan. It tells us more about the beautiful design of the Tabernacle, and the details of its construction. It also talks about the generosity of the Israelites. We read that alongside their skilled work on building the Mishkan, they donated a number of items to construct it with. These included, but were not limited to, gold, silver and copper, along with dyed wool and precious stones. They gave so much, in fact, that Moshe Rabbenu had to tell them to stop bringing materials.
This episode occurs near the beginning of the (extremely long) Parsha, and is followed by a number of other incidents, spaced out by descriptions of the Mishkan.We read about how it was built, and how the priestly garments were made, and then, near the end of the Parsha, we read of it’s completion, when it is brought to Moshe Rabbenu, who erects it and anoints it, before initiating Aharon and his sons into the priesthood. We then learn that a cloud appeared over the Mishkan, which signifies that the Divine presence dwelled within it.
But before all of this, there’s a section in the Parsha which seems entirely out of place. It seems to have nothing whatsoever to do with the Mishkan, and yet it is followed directly by Moshe’s repetition of G-d’s commands regarding its construction. Moshe gathers the people of Israel and reiterates the commandment to keep shabbes, telling them that for six days they may work, but on the seventh, they are required to rest and not perform any of the activities involved in the building of the Tabernacle. Perhaps Moshe Rabbenu is simply reminding them not to work on the Mishkan on shabbes- perhaps the explanation is that simple. But is there a deeper meaning to this seemingly out of place repetition of G-d’s command?
The Mishkan may have been a physical creation, made of gold and silver and goat hair, but it has an inherently spiritual importance. The external beauty is supposed to reflect the Israelites’ love and devotion to G-d, which elevates the mundane materials into something rather more special. Just as shabbes is a day of fine food and fine clothing- things we don’t partake in just for ourselves, but rather to show our love for the Holy day which G-d told us to set aside. The resemblance is now apparent.
What of the Divine presence? We learn that it resided in the Mishkan, symbolised by the cloud hovering above it- in exactly the same way as it clothes itself in the garments of the ‘Shabbes malkah’, the Shabbes queen. The Holiness of the day is the same Holiness which rested within the Tabernacle. And just as the Tabernacle travelled with the Israelites wherever they went, so does the day of rest. No matter what we are doing or where we are going, G-d’s gift remains with us, as an eternal covenant for the children of Israel.
Maybe, then, it’s no coincidence that these two topics shared a space in this week’s Parsha. Maybe there’s a message in there for us. Even though the Mishkan does not travel with us today, it’s non-physical counterpart does; Shabbes. And just as we dedicated ourselves to the construction and the upkeep of the Mishkan, so, too, should we glorify Shabbes with fineries and rejoice in its Holiness.