Two Minutes of Torah | Vayak’heil | Exodus 35:1–38:20

Isaac Abravanel, a 15th century scholar, reveals a cornerstone of Jewish life and practice through an insightful question about this week’s Torah portion. “Commandments pertaining to Shabbat have already been imparted in the Ten Commandments as well as in portion Mishpatim. Why repeat them here in connection with the construction of the Tabernacle?” We might, he challenges us, believe that actual work is a more eloquent witness of our beliefs than cessation from it, since action is positive and inaction a negation. Wouldn’t building the traveling sanctuary, investing time and energies in the service of God, be the highest form of religious activity? Yes, but…

The Tabernacle, even if the most transcendent of human creation, is compelled by the realities of the world. Normal deterioration, accidents, or acts of malice could detract from even that which is most holy. Shabbat, on the other hand, rises above the challenges of the material world. It is an island, a refuge, and a respite from not only space but time and thus has a durability to top the Jewish hierarchy. Shabbat abides, and the Jewish community with it, when we commit to investing our efforts and energies in the transcendent rather than the temporal.
– Rabbi Aaron Meyer

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