This week, our Parshat HaShevua, Vayakhel is being co-sponsored by Rabbi Raphael and Vivianne Willig and family dedicated in honor of the Bar Mitzvah of his nephew Yehoshua Willig and Rabbi Barak and Honey Saffer and family dedicated lilui nishmas for Barak’s Mother Yita Trana bat Yitzchak. Both families are from Ramat Beit Shemesh. To the Willig and Saffer families, many thanks for your sponsorship and for your continued kindnesses.
You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate aYahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.
Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.
The word Vayakhel — Assembling together of Kol B’nai Yisrael, introduces the building of the Mishkan (Tent of Meeting), the forerunner of the Beit HaMikdash, which would serve as a kappara (atonement) for the Eigel Zahav (Golden Calf). Our parsha opens by teaching B’nai Yisrael about Shabbos which has always, until recent times, been the unifying, defining factor of Judaism.
Shabbos seems a gateway to all else — Kashrut, the Chaggim, Torah learning and Ethics, Yishuv HaAretz, Kiddushin, Family Purity, etc. It symbolizes the Jew’s faith in Hashem. And the melachot involved in the construction of the Mishkan were meant to define the paradigms and parameters of melachot prohibited on Shabbos.
The parsha begins by stating that “Moshe assembled the entire congregation of B’nai Yisrael…” (Perek 35, Posuk 1) Torah’s loshen (language) “Adat B’nai Yisrael”, in the context of learning the laws of Shabbos by way of the construction of the Mishkan, seems to indicate a unity — the Assembly of the B’nai Yisrael as if one single entity. The “Sapirstein Edition, The Torah with Rashi’s Commentary” (page 488) cites Rashi as indicating that Moshe’s “gathering” of the people was done by his speaking to them, as “he does not gather people by hand.”
The opening p’sukim of Parsha Vayakhel (as rendered in the “Sapirstein Edition, The Torah with Rashi’s Commentary”, page 488):
“…These are the words that Hashem commanded, to do them: For a period of six days, work may be done, but the seventh day shall be holy for you, a day of complete rest for Hashem…” (Perek 35, posukim 1 and 2)
is not merely an introduction but a rectification, a kapparah for the Chait HaEigel.
Rabbi Daniel Yormark of the Young Israel of Etingville, New York, wrote in a National Council of Young Israels D’var Torah on Parshat Vayakhel on 25 Adar I, 5755 — 25 February, 1995:
The imperative “six days you shall labor” tells us that in all that one does one should strive to have The Creator in mind…. We see that the subjects addressed in the pasuk, the six days and Shabbat, are really based on one theme. Because it is only when creation is perceived as a sanctuary of Hashem that our abstention from the labors of the Mishkan mirrors the Creator’s abstention [on Shabbos] from creating the universe.
But there are questions: Was Vayakhel — the assembling of the entirety of Am Yisrael, and the learning of the halachot (Torah laws) of Shabbos meant only as a Mitzvah in the times of Moshe Rabbeinu and the building of the Mishkan, as well as during the period of the Malchei Yisrael? Or were both Vayakhel and the laws of Shabbos also meant to have application for B’nai Yisrael throughout our all of our subsequent generations, throughout our travails in Galut through to our current troubled times where divisiveness, me-first self-centeredness, ego, envy, self-desire, lust for monetary riches and more all carry the consequence of indifference and insensitivity toward one’s fellow Jews? Were Vayakhel and the laws of Shabbos meant to apply as mussar regarding one’s tendency to pursue their self-interests and their self-aggrandizement amidst a bitter war against murderous Arab/Islamic terror which threatens to destroy us from within in ways that the Arabs alone would never be able to accomplish were we truly “Adat B’nai Yisrael”?
Back in the “Old Country”, this author recalls that Kiruv Rabbanim placed heavy emphasis on Shabbos as the embarkation point — the beginning of one’s teshuvah journey to come close, to come closer to HaKadosh Borchu. However, recalling past history of the past approximately 130 years, Shabbos, for many, became a point of disembarkment.
When the Jews emigrated to America in large numbers around the turn of the 20th century and had difficulty finding parnossa in their new residence: when the work was a six day job (before laws were passed regarding the five day work-week), the newly arrived Jew found himself with a huge test of emunah and hishtadlut (expending effort) — keep Shabbos, or earn money to feed, clothe and house one’s family. It was a tough call and many failed the test. The results of this test, failed by many, were that after crying rivers of tears, they gradually distanced themselves from Hashem. The weight of the test led many to working on Shabbos, then to eating non-kosher food, to secular marriage without marriage ketubot, to generations with little or no Torah footing or learning, and ultimately to inter-marriage and more. Bitul (nullification, desecration) Shabbos has brought about the evolution to where we are today — massive numbers of Jews in America, and throughout the nations are ever more distant from Torah, with huge numbers of offspring of the burgeoning inter-marriage rate who are NOT Jewish and lost to Judaism, despite the mushrooming kiruv movement of the 1960s through today.
Rabbi Yormark adds in his D’var Torah on Parshat Vayakhel:
Shabbat is not merely ‘a day off’…. It is not merely a day where there are so many things that I cannot do. It is a day when the Jew enters the realm of The One Above. It is a day when the theme is Oneg, pleasure and delight. It is a day where even our indulging in physical pleasure can be elevated and becomes an integral part of mirroring Hashem. It is a day when concerns for mundane and ephemeral pursuits is inappropriate…. Shabbat is a Matanah Tovah — a very special gift.
But today, in our contemporary State of Israel, we are collectively in danger, from both sides of the political/governmental isle, of seeing and having our Jewishness subverted in the name of “separation of religion and state” with regard to Shabbos observance. In a Jewish state, l’chatchila (the way things ought to be), we define ourselves by our Jewishness and emulation of Hashem. There is no other aspect of Yiddishkeit which so defines a Jew, both in his own eyes and in the eyes of his brethren, as well as in the way the world sees him and the Jewish nation, as the keeping of Shabbos. Thus Shabbos, as with no other Halacha or Mitzvah, can not be treated benignly or subject to so-called “separation of religion and state.”
When a national leader advocates the principle of “separation of religion and state”, even in a benign way, silently acquiescing to any type of Shabbos desecration, whether actively government subsidized or by way of private organizations, he is already down that slippery road of compromise leading to secular companies compelling their employees to work on Shabbos, and much more. Over the years, in viewing jobs listed by various Israel job lists, this author has noted a number of such job posts which call for work over 7 days. A benign position regarding issues of bitul Shabbos will inevitably undermine Halacha and Torah and will lead, over time, to gross bitul Shabbos in multitudes of other areas including employment. It will also ultimately lead to even greater erosion of Jewishness than exists today. “Separation of religion and state” may go among the nations. But in a true Jewish sovereignty in a Jewish State in Eretz Israel, the line where separation of religion and state may be seen as valid principle must be drawn with and at keeping Shabbos. Hashem’s Purpose in Leading-off the laws of constructing the Mishkan thus seem obvious.
May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard be liberated and truly free — only upon his return home to Israel, and that Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of 1 1/2 years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.