By Rabbi Dr. Meir Tamari
At the outset of the parsha we find written the matter of Shabbat, even
though it had already been declared at Marah, repeated at Ma'amad Har
Sinai, then at the beginning of the Mishkan and in Ki Tisah. Why was it
necessary to repeat it here? Furthermore, the verse, "These are the words
that you shall command," that refers to the commandments of the Mishkan,
is presented both before and after the matter of Shabbat.
We can accept the words of the Ramban that Israel received with great joy
and spiritual elevation Moshe's transmission regarding the Mishkan and its
laws, when he descended for Sinai with a message of their forgiveness for
the Golden Calf and the granting to them of the covenant that Hashem would
reside in their midst and that He would do great miracles for them. These
words simply make the question of repeating the subject of Shabbat more
significant, as the center of Moshe's commands to them had to do with the
Mishkan that they received in such joy.
However, two important laws will explain the necessity of the Shabbat
reference at this particular time, since without this reference we would
not know them.
Firstly, now when the laws of the Mishkan were given to the Children of
Israel, in contrast to Parshiot Trumah and Tetzaveh when they had been
given to Moshe alone, they had to be told that the work of the Mishkan did
not abrogate any of the types of work forbidden on Shabbat (Shmot, 35:1-
3). Furthermore, the use of the term' in all your habitations' in the next
verse teaches that the laws of Shabbat apply not only in the Land of
Israel but also in the Golah. To these laws was added the injunction
against fire on Shabbat (Shmot, 35:3). This injunction also forbids the
making of 'ochel nefesh' on Shabbat even though it is permitted on the
Secondly, although the making of fire was permitted in the Mishkan for the
korbanot, the reference to the laws of Shabbat at this juncture
highlighted the intrinsic difference between the kedushah of the Mishkan
and the rest of the world. [The Shem Mi Shmuel has a similar idea when he
uses this intrinsic difference to explain why we do not blow shofar when
Rosh Hashanah is on Shabbat while but they did so in the Mikdash. The
shofar represents the appeal to open the hearts of men to Hashem. However,
Shabbat is wholly wisdom of the mind and the brain of men, which is
something contradictory to the emotions, joys and ecstacy of the heart.
The Mikdash has the ability to merge the contradictory roles of the heart
and the mind, so that there the Shofar can be blown even when Rosh
Hashanah falls on Shabbat. However, that ability does not exist outside
the Mikdash, so there the shofar does not have a place on Shabbat].
The use of 'chacham lev' to represent the skilled artisans (verse 10) is
strange, since these skills are acquired by training and study, which are
functions of the mind and the intellect rather than of the heart. However,
Israel never had the opportunity to acquire these skills in Egypt, so all
they had was the innate talents that spring from the heart and these they
freely donated to the work of the Mishkan. In their honor the text repeats
the list of all the vessels of the Mishkan as well as the coverings, the
amudim that were made by the free will offerings of these inspired
artisans. These were in addition to the gifts brought by the women and men
of Israel. The text is careful to mention the women first and from this we
may learn that the men actually lagged behind their women in their
devotion and philanthropy. All the gifts and donations were "offerings
unto the Lord; whoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it, an
offering of the Lord" showing that these were not poll tax of a fixed sum
binding on all nor taxes based on income or wealth. Rather they were to be
the outpouring of the individuals generosity. Furthermore, unlike the
pattern that was the norm throughout the generations, then the people
themselves brought their gifts rather that having the gabbai tzedakah
collect them. The fact that they were 'offerings unto the Lord' signifies
that the people brought them out of love and dedication to their holy task
rather than out of considerations of public status or honor. [These free
will donations are in contrast to Bet Hamikdash that was funded by royal
funds and built by means of a labor tax. Furthermore, there the skilled
labor was provided by artisans from Phoenicia. Rabbi S. R. Hirsch see in
these difference the reason why Bet Hamikdash was able to be destroyed
whereas the Mishkan just sort of faded away].
We may conclude as did Rashi that the bigdei hasrad (verse19) refer to the
cloths that were used to cover the vessels during the journeys. However,
from the repletion in pekudei we would rather infer that theyt refer to
the cloths that were used to clean and shine the vessels of the Mishkan.
They had no intrinsic spiritual worth unlike the vessels themselves who
all were symbols of important religious and elevated ideas.
Text Copyright © 2005 by Rabbi Meir Tamari and Torah.org.
r. Tamari is a renowned economist, Jewish scholar, and founder of the Center For Business Ethics (www.besr.org) in Jerusalem.