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Vayakhel(Exodus 35:1-38:20)

Why Do It?

This week's Torah portion begins with a few verses about Shabbat, and then the entire remainder deals with the building of the Tabernacle. From this juxtaposition, the Sages derive that one cannot build the Tabernacle on Shabbat. One might think that since the Tabernacle is a means through which an individual attains a deeper relationship with God, the building of it overrides Shabbat. But this is not so. Why?

I think the reason is that "building" is ultimately a mundane act. And when we involve ourselves in the mundane - no matter for what meaningful purpose - we can too easily and quickly forget why we are doing it.

A nurse can take blood all day long and turn into a blood taker - not someone who is helping save human lives. A volunteer in the Third World, helping dig ditches for irrigation, can become a ditch digger, not a person contributing to the development of a nation. And someone building God's Sanctuary can come to look at himself as merely a builder.

Shabbat is the day to stop and remember. It is a day to stop doing what we are doing and remind ourselves why exactly we are doing it. If the answer is a good one, then Shabbat will help infuse meaning into the week. And if the answer is not a good one, then Shabbat will (hopefully) help steer our lives toward more meaningful accomplishment.

If we don't stop on Shabbat and refocus, then even the building of God's Tabernacle can lose its meaning to us. All the more so, the myriad other tasks we might find ourselves involved in. We vitally need that perceptive - every week, without exception.

December 25, 2007

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Visitor Comments: 4

(4) Jeff Leavitt, March 10, 2018 4:05 AM

Thank you!

Dear Rabbi,

You have taught me a valuable lesson in this commentary (like so many lessons that I have learned from your other commentaries).

Thank you!

(3) Anonymous, March 24, 2017 11:54 AM

Amen! Excellent article and very well written! Thanks for posting!

(2) Anonymous, March 12, 2015 1:50 PM

So so true! Especially nowadays with our distracted and busy lifestyle!

(1) Anonymous, February 20, 2014 12:48 PM


This is really great. Thanks for posting it!

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