And Mosheh gathered all the congregation of the children of Yisrael together, and said to them, These are the words which the LORD has commanded, that you shall do them. Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you a holy day, a Sabbath of rest to the LORD: whoever does work on it shall be put to death.
These words initiate parashath Wayaqhel, which deals not with the Sabbath, but with the erection of the mishkan and the various implements used therein. What is the link? It is from this parashah that the thirty-nine categories of work prohibited on the Sabbath are inferred (RMb"M, Commentary to the Mishnah, Shabbath 2:7). Just as God created the earth as an abode for man, man (the children of Yisrael) created an abode for God. Just as God rested from the creative acts which formed earth, the children of Yisrael rest from the creative acts used to form the mishkan.
The categories of work derived from the actions necessary for the preparation of the herbs and dies used to make the curtains of the Sanctuary are as follows: plowing, sowing, reaping, collecting sheaves, threshing, winnowing, separating, grinding, sifting, kneading, and baking.
From the work necessary for the preparation of fabric, we drive the following: shearing, whitening, beating, dying, spinning, making heddles, mounting the warp [of a loom], weaving, undoing woven fabric, tying, untying, sewing, and tearing.
The categories of building and demolishing are inferred from the placement of the boards in the Sanctuary.
The fashioning of the menorah is used to infer the prohibition on beating with a hammer.
The following eight categories are derived from what is necessary to prepare and write a scroll: trapping, slaughtering, skinning, processing [hides], removing hair, cutting [leather], erasing, and ruling lines.
Kindling and extinguishing a flame were necessary for the preparation of dyes and for keeping the fires even, and are thus included in the categories of prohibited work.
Since the materials for building the Sanctuary were carried from one domain to another, such actions are prohibited for us on the Sabbath.
The Moreh Nebuchim states the two purposes of the Sabbath, which are directly related either to how the building of the mishkan mirrors the creation of the world or directly to the exertion of the actual construction: Thus God commanded us to abstain from work on the Sabbath, and to rest, for two purposes; namely, (1) That we might confirm the true theory, that of the Creation, which at once and clearly leads to the theory of the existence of God. (2) That we might remember how kind God has been in freeing us from the burden of the Mizrim-The Sabbath is therefore a double blessing: it gives us correct notions, and also promotes the well-being of our bodies (Moreh Nebuchim 2:32).
Sa'adia Gaon speaks of rest as the highest goal of human conduct (thus, our rest based on the work of the mishkan mirroring God's rest after He, blessed is He, created the world): Certain people affirm that rest is the means of the recovery of the soul itself, besides making a person's nourishment effective and contributing to the body's growth and the strengthening of the senses. Whenever, indeed, a human being does fatiguing work, he longs for rest, which becomes the object of his striving. Seest thou not that kings are, of all men, those that rest the most? Were not rest, therefore, the greatest of all goods, they would not have chosen it for themselves. And what about the relaxation of the mind which it makes possible through the abandonment of all excitement and frivolity and care and worry? It suffices thee to note that rest has been used as a simile for [describing the effect of] the choice of the true religion. Scripture says, namely (Yirmeyahu 6:16) [Thus says the LORD, Stand on the highways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk upon it] and you shall find rest for your souls. Furthermore, rest has been prescribed on Sabbaths and holidays (Emunoth Wade'oth, Ideal Human Conduct, 16).
So it is, that we see a circle, beginning with God creating the world for us to dwell upon and resting, then us creating a Sanctuary for God to dwell in and resting. We see how rest is the ultimate goal for us (in the World to Come), which we are able to sample each week on the Sabbath.Shema`ryahu Yisrael Hasephardi bar Abraham Abinu
return to Tora page