Every time I encounter this Parasha I am struck by wonder and amazement at the amount of “coverage“ the Torah gave to the details related to the building, preparation and “set-up” of the Mishkan, our “desert temple”, and its vessels, or “holy furniture”. Where most Mitzvot receive only fleeting references with a few sentences placed here and there, the Mishkan gets four complete “Parshas” (Teruma , Tetzave, Vayakhel and Pekuday) and much of the book of Vayikra deals with the laws related to the actual Mishkan/Temple service! Compare this to Shabbat, a Torah “big ticket item”-not even one Parsha is dedicated to this weekly event which is considered one of the foundations of our religion, nay existence! Just a few numbered verses in The Ten Commandments and a few more sprinkled elsewhere. Tefilin? Sukka? Matza? Shofar? Four Species? The Torah is mum on the details of what these fundamental aspects of our spiritual practice should look like, and how they are practiced. Yet these are Mitzvot that are repeated weekly, annually, regardless of the era, location and circumstance of our Jewish existence. The Mishkan on the other hand, was a very temporary “desert” dwelling, hardly intended to be used for millennia-and even our two temples have only been in existence for eight hundred years (give and take), while Judaism has been alive for at least three thousand!
How do you understand this?
Consider another irony. While we derive the Mitzvos of Shabbos from the manner of building and “creating” the Mishkan, our ultimate building, once the Mishkan was actually in holy operation -the laws of Shabbat became suspended! Sacrifices, involving slaughter and fire- “Shabbat prohibited activities”, all happened on Shabbat! How can this be? And to add fuel to the fire (pun intended), even though service in the Mishkan and Temple involved “Melachot” and normally prohibited activities, the Torah specifically forbade building the Mishkan (or the Temple) On Shabbos. Actual service-yes, building the physical structure-no. Incredible, no?
Here is an idea for your Shabbos table: We all understand that the prohibition of Melacha, or “work” On Shabbos is not an issue of labor or energy. One can carry a sofa up and down the stairs and set up tables throughout the house all day long without a Melacha violation, without breaking Shabbos. It’s CREATION that is prohibited. “Yetzira”. Just as Hashem ended his creation of the world Friday eve, so do we. But it doesn’t stop there. I’d argue that it’s not all creation that is outlawed. Rather it is creation in the physical and material world that is the problem. Hashem and The Torah were here well before this physical world. It is the manufacture of the physical realm that occurred during the six days-and which stopped on Shabbos. At Friday’s end, we are bid to cease our creative energies and efforts dedicated to the physical: Not that we should cease to be a creative force, but so that we can devote our energies to creation in the spiritual realm. It’s a time to shift focus from building our portfolios to building our souls. Crafting, forming the Neshama, our character, our family and its values, our spiritual essence-that is what can and should be developed, built and perfected-“created” on Shabbat.
Says the Torah: the pinnacle of human achievement is growth and creation In the spiritual world. So much so that we derive the laws of “Melacha” from those acts that were necessary in the building of the holy Tabernacle -the center of worldly spirituality. But, while we are warned about Shabbat not becoming a time to focus creation in the material sphere, weare demanded to spiritually grow on Shabbat. Therefore, while erection of the physical structure of the Mishkan was never permitted on Shabbos, The SERVICE, the Avoda, the actions that feed our souls and bring us closer to godliness-the Korbanot, are not only sanctioned, but required to occur in Shabbat.
Surely now we can understand why the Torah went into so much detail about the creative process of the Mishkan, spending much of the “scribe’s ink” on this area alone-to bring this idea home BIG: The purpose of all of “creation” really is to create a physical home from which we can incubate and develop our Neshama, our spiritual essence, our true selves. Therefore, the Torah spent thousands of of words, hundreds verses on the part of the Torah that is solely and singularly directed towards the development of our spirituality and our efforts to connect to G-d. That is of course, the part that details the place for that service, the Mishkan/Temple, and the details of its practice.
What is our take-home lesson? As we contemplate a day of rest, let’s never allow the peace and serenity promised by a beautiful Shabbat lull us into simply seeking refuge and respite from a hard, maybe difficult week. Let’s make sure Shabbos becomes a true and total respite from this world because we are engaged in spiritual pursuits during this time. Because we use this “Temple of time” to focus on what really matters-things and people that and who will change our souls-and the spirit of the entire world. Believe me, if the events of this week are any evidence, the world so truly needs it….
Shabbat Shalom Umevorach!