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SABBATH SALUTATIONS

by David Schulman    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

"You may do work during the six weekdays, but the seventh day must be kept holy as a Sabbath of Sabbaths to Hashem. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. You must not kindle a fire in all your dwelling places on the day of the Sabbath" (Exodus 35: 2-3).

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"You may do work during the six weekdays, but the seventh day must be kept holy as a Sabbath of Sabbaths to Hashem. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. You must not kindle a fire in all your dwelling places on the day of the Sabbath" (Exodus 35: 2-3).

In Parshat Vayakhel, the Torah, by juxtaposing the prohibition of working on Shabbat to the building of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) instructs the Children of Israel to refrain from constructing the Mishkan on Shabbat. Shabbat is so significant because it represents the covenant between the Children of Israel and Hashem. Our sages derived 39 forbidden categories of creative labor that correspond to the 39 acts of labor performed in the construction of the Mishkan. Since there are 39 forbidden acts on Shabbat, why does the Torah specifically mention "kindling a fire" in the above-mentioned verse? Rashi, the preeminent Torah commentator, explains that one mitzvah was singled out to separate the acts of labor into individual transgressions. In other words, a person would have to bring a korban chatat (sin offering) each time he accidentally transgressed any one of the 39 acts on Shabbat.

The Sefer HaChinuch, a classic 13th century work explaining all of the mitzvot, adds that "kindling a fire" was singled out to teach us that a man cannot be put to death on Shabbat. (The use of fire was one of the four ways a Jewish court enacted the death penalty.) Shabbat is a day for everyone, including the sinners. The verse adds, "that the seventh day shall be a Sabbath of Sabbaths to you." Why the double usage of the word "Sabbath"? To teach us that Shabbat does not contain one aspect, merely of a day when we rest from work; rather it is also a day to come closer to Hashem. As we learn in the book of Isaiah (58:13-14): "If you restrain your foot because it is the Sabbath; refrain from accomplishing your own needs on My holy day; if you proclaim the Sabbath a 'delight and the holy day of Hashem' honored, and you honor it by not engaging in your own affairs, from seeking your own needs or discussing the forbidden then you will delight in Hashem, and I will mount you astride the heights of the world; I will provide you the heritage of your forefather Jacob, for the mouth of Hashem has spoken." From these verses we learn that it is forbidden to discuss business matters on Shabbat and that the way one walks and eats should also be different than the rest of the week. Why? Because Shabbat is a day when we take ourselves out of the physical world and attempt to come closer to Hashem.

Hashem, in His great understanding, knew that people would be involved in their daily activities and would have very little time during the week to learn Torah. Therefore, Hashem gave us Shabbat, a day when our "business" is to do the service of Hashem. Our sages teach that experiencing Shabbat is like experiencing one-sixtieth of the World to Come. In Judaism, one-sixtieth is the threshold of perception. When we celebrate Shabbat in its proper way by infusing ourselves with spirituality we have a little taste of what awaits us in the World to Come.

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David Schulman, an alumnus of Yeshiva Atlanta, is studying in the Derech Program at Yeshivat Ohr Somayach in Jerusalem.

You are invited to read more Parshat Vayakhel & Pekudei articles.

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