Vayakhel: Building the Shabbat

“The laws of Shabbat…are like a mountain being held up by a thread” (Chagigah 10a). Shabbat is the pivot around which Jewish life revolves. Its laws are vast and detailed, and are applicable week in and week out. Yet beyond the mitzvah to “remember” and “guard” the Shabbat, we are told next to nothing about how to observe it. One little verse—“Do not light a fire in all your dwelling places on Shabbat” (Shemot 35:3)—and that is about all we are told[1].

Vayakhel-Pekudei: What's In a Name?

"Moshe said to the Jewish people: See that G-d called in the name of Bezalel, the son of Uri, the son of Chur, of the tribe of Judah" (35:30). As is well known, Biblical names are much more than a way to call somebody. We often associate names with particular events: Yakov getting his name because he held on to the eikev, heel, of Eisav; Reuven and Shimon because G-d saw and heard Leah's pain; Moshe because he was drawn from the water (m'sheetuhu).

Vayakhel/Pekudei: ReCreation

The Netziv, in his introduction to Sefer Shemot, notes that there is Gaonic tradition that refers to Shemot as chumash sheni, the second chumash. While Sefer Breisheet details the creation of the world, humanity, and the Jewish people, the creation story concludes only at Sinai, as the purpose of creation is manifest. The Sinaitic experience was preserved as the Divine Presence rested in the Mishkan (the Tabernacle).

VaYakhel: Seven Days a Week

The primacy of Shabbat as the foundation stone of Judaism is self-evident. Shabbat is the culmination of the creation process; two distinct reasons for its observance—creation and the Exodus—are enumerated in the aseret hadibrot; Jewish law prescribes, in theory, the death penalty for its desecration, a punishment we do not have even for the desecration of Yom Kippur. The command to observe Shabbat appears in numerous places and contexts in the Torah.

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