Most of parshas Vayakhel deals with the construction of the Mishkan. However, before the Torah even mentions the Mishkan, Moshe addresses Bnei Yisroel concerning the laws of Shabbos. Rashi explains that the reason the parsha begins this way is to demonstrate that all of the work involved in the building and use of the Mishkan is forbidden to us on Shabbos.
Rashi commented similarly in last weeks parsha, to which the Abarbanel made the observation that since the construction of the Mishkan was primarily a demonstration of the bond between Bnei Yisroel and Hashem, we might have thought that its construction and service would take precedence over all other mitzvos, including the laws of Shabbos. Furthermore he notes that B’nei Yisroel could easily have concluded that “action” in general is more important than “resting”, particularly concerning the Mishkan. On their own, they might therefore have continued the Avodah of the Mishkan on Shabbos. For these reasons, he argues, the laws of Shabbos are mentioned first and throughout the instructions concerning the building of the Mishkan to indicate that keeping Shabbos is of primary importance.
Still, we, ourselves, might wonder why Shabbos observance should take precedence over the laws concerning the Mishkan. One reason is because the Mishkan, and later the Beis Hamikadash, would not always be available to us throughout our history. Yet Shabbos would. Thus, even though the Mishkan and Beis Hamikdash enable Bnei Yisroel to rise to the highest stages of sanctified life, there never is an actual break in our connection to Hashem specifically because of the enduring nature of Shabbos. It is on Shabbos that we are able to set aside the entire physical world and really connect to the spiritual realm.
A second reason why the observance of Shabbos is most important is based upon a further comparison between “time” and “space”. Because Shabbos was consecrated by Hashem following the creation of time, while the Mishkan was only built by man subsequently, as a space for HaShem, we recognize that the holiness of time, Kedushas Z’man, is more important than the holiness of space, Kedushas HaMakom. In other words, the holiness of time is inherent in Creation, while the sanctification of space is not. In fact, our responsibility as Hashem’s servants actually is primarily expressed within time, on certain days, weeks, months, etc.
May we all be privileged to see the building of the Beis Hamikdash speedily in our days, after which we will be able to fulfill our service to Hashem optimally in both “time” and “space”. Amen.
Student Studying in Mevaseret