The Temple Institute: Temple Talk: 29 Adar 1, 5768/March 6, 2008

"Moses saw all the work, and, behold, they had done it."
(Exodus 39:43)

The first book of Torah, the book of Genesis, opens with the grandeur of the six days of creation which is sealed and crowned by a description of the sabbath:

"And the heaven and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day G-d finished His work which He had made; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made. And G-d blessed the seventh day, and hallowed it; because that in it He rested from all His work which G-d in creating had made." (Genesis 2:1-3)

The second book of Torah, Exodus, draws to a conclusion with a reminder of the commandment to keep the shabbat, which is then followed by a detailed description of the fashioning and assembling of the mishkan - tabernacle - by the children of Israel. What is the Torah trying to teach us with this compelling parallel? What common denominator exists between G-d's creation of all existence in six days, and the building of the tabernacle in the desert?

In order to explore this question, we first need to understand the relationship between shabbat and the construction of the tabernacle. Indeed, why is the sabbath mentioned here? The Israelites have already been commanded to observe the sabbath. What extra information is transmitted by its insertion right before the account of the tabernacle? Our sages teach us that this juxtaposition comes to teach the Israelites that their construction of the tabernacle, albeit a positive commandment involved in the creation of a holy place whose purpose is to enable the performance of the Divine service, must be restricted solely to the six days of the week. All activity connected to the building of the tabernacle must cease on the sabbath.

From this we learn a great secret: the nature of those labors that are forbidden on shabbat. For the very processes of change that were required to produce and process the raw materials, assemble them and create the tabernacle define the processes of change, (poorly translated as "work"), that we must refrain from on shabbat. Just as G-d created the world in six days, and on the seventh day "rested from all His work" (ibid 2:2), so too the children of Israel created the tabernacle during the six days of the week and on the seventh observed the shabbat.

Just as the six days of creation conclude with the creation of man, so too the construction of the tabernacle concludes with a description of the splendid garments fashioned for the High Priest. (Exodus 39)

Just as the creation of the world was the manifestation of G-d's word, so too the completion of the tabernacle was achieved through the fulfilling of G-d's commandments: "According to all that HaShem commanded Moses, so the children of Israel did all the work." (ibid 39:42)

Just as G-d completed His work and saw that "it was very good," (Genesis 1:31), so too we are told that "Moses saw all the work, and, behold, they had done it; as HaShem had commanded, even so had they done it. And Moses blessed them." (Exodus 39:43)

Just as G-d created a world through which He could bestow His infinite goodness upon mankind, so too the children of Israel, in creating the tabernacle, and later the Holy Temple, created a microcosm through which man can strive to perfect himself and thereby fulfill the will of G-d and draw closer to Him.

Tune in to this week's TEMPLE TALK to hear Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven discuss parashat Vayakhel, the completion of the mishkan, and the upcoming month of Adar II.

Click to hear:

Part 1
Part 2