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Moses assembled the entire assembly of the Israelites and said to them… 'These are the things that G-d has commanded… work may be done on six days, but the seventh day shall be holy for you' (Ex. 35:1-2).
Rashi brings the tradition that the assembly took place on the day after Moses brought the second tablets of stone down from Mount Sinai. Following the Ramban, it signified G-d's forgiveness, and His renewed love of His people, despite the incident of the Golden Calf. That love made the time just right for them to commence building the Tabernacle. Moses did not just call the leaders and dignitaries and ask them to pass on the information, but he put it before the entire nation - men, women, and children. The Ramban says that was to encourage everyone to have a share in its construction.
Why does Moses prefix the building the Tabernacle with the laws of Shabbat, of all things? It would have made more sense to exhort them with the first two Commandments against idolatry, rather the fourth on the observance of Shabbat. After all, there is no implication that Shabbat was desecrated in the building of the Golden Calf.
The Rabbis bring a Halachic explanation - namely that the building of the Tabernacle may not take place on Shabbat. Observing Shabbat is an act of testifying that G-d is the Creator, whereas the Tabernacle was a means of serving Him.
In addition, the words 'Vayekhel Moshe' (Moses assembled) may be suggested to have a link with the last commandment in the Torah - the directive of 'Hakhel' - the command to 'assemble', where once every seven years the king was obligated to read the Book of Deuteronomy to the entire public (Talmud: Sotah 41a). The Torah instructs this ceremony in the following way:
Assemble together the people: the men, the women, and the small children… so that they will hear, and that they will learn, and fear G-d… and be careful to fulfill all the words of this Torah (Deut. 31:12).
That may also be the deeper purpose of Moses' assembly after the Golden Calf - so that they will hear, and that they will learn, and fear G-d… and be careful to fulfill all the words of this Torah, and not lapse into the paganism symbolized by the Golden Calf.
Why then, did Moses open with the content area of the fourth Commandment rather than the first two?
In answer - there are two approaches to correcting a person. Say, for example, a person is addicted to cigarettes. You can tell him to give up at once, with horror stories about lung cancer. You can take also take him skiing and let him discover for himself how his poorer-functioning lungs will not let him share the full thrill excitement of the facilities. He will give up smoking on his own accord in his desire to develop into a proficient man of the slopes.
That is the unique quality of Shabbat. Moses is telling the Israelites to 'taste and see' (Psalms 34:9) - to experience Shabbat in all its sublime qualities. And in concretizing it by being personally involved in the Tabernacle - they would exert their own self-motivation to keep away from paganism… they 'will learn, and fear G-d… and be careful to fulfill all the words of this Torah'.
For those after more comprehensive material, questions and answers on the Parasha may be found at www.shemayisrael.co.il/parsha/solomon/questions/ and on the material on the Haftara at www.shemayisrael.co.il/parsha/solomon/haftara/ .
Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: email@example.com for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.
Parashiot from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site: http://www.shemayisrael.co.il/parsha/solomon/archives/archives.htm
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