Vayak’hel (He Assembles) and P’kudei (Accounts)

In this portion, Moses addresses the entire nation and charges them with the privilege of building the Tabernacle. Much of the text is a repetition of the directions given in the previous chapters. Israel’s ability to create a setting for יהוה’s Presence is a measure of its greatness and, indeed, a primary reason for its very existence. Its future history would revolve around its worthiness to have the Temple in its midst. When Israel was unfaithful to its trust, יהוה’s Presence would depart from the Temple, leaving it an empty shell, devoid of its inner sacredness. Once that happened, destruction and national exile came quickly.

 Exodus 35:1 And gathered together Moses את־ all the congregation of the Children of Israel and said to them, These are the words which יהוה has commanded that you should do אתם them. 2 Six days will work be done, but the seventh day will be a sacred day, a Sabbath of rest to ליהוה: whoever does work on it will be put to death. 3 You will kindle no fire throughout your dwellings upon the Sabbath day. C-MATS

 Question: What does it mean, “You will kindle no fire throughout your dwellings upon the Sabbath day”? This verse comes right after the law to not work on Sabbath. The word “kindle” means to start a fire by lighting wood or paper. Only collecting and gathering wood for a fire is considered “work”. Cooking from scratch would be forbidden, if you must work by collecting wood to start a fire. Reheating food left over from the Sabbath meal seems not to be prohibited.   We are expected to make every possible effort to prepare for the Sabbath ahead of time to keep it from being just another day of laborious work. There is no prohibition against enjoying the light and heat of a candle or other source of light where work is not involved.

Question: Why does the Torah place the commandment to cease work on Shabbat next to the work of the Tabernacle? It is to teach the Israelites that nothing is more important than keeping Sabbath, even completing the Tabernacle. Thus the Tabernacle not only defines the type of work forbidden on Shabbat, but also the type of work the Israelite is engaged in on the other six days of the week: the work of building a home for יהוה out of the materials of our own physical life. (Chumash)

#22 Vayakhel P’kudei