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Parshas Vayakheil-Pekudei-Chodesh 5759

Outline Vol. 3, # 17

by Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein

Parshas Vayakheil is the source of many of the Shabbos laws.

The concept of Shabbos and the laws of 'melacha' -- forbidden labor -- has been discussed previously in the Torah. For some reason, when Parshas Vayakheil again mentions Shabbos, the only forbidden labor mentioned specifically is 'havara' -- kindling fire. Why is only lighting fire mentioned here?

Rashi refers to the argument in the Talmud regarding the legal reasons for isolating kindling.

Ramban, however, raises the point: perhaps kindling is mentioned, not because of the uniqueness of this type of labor, but because of the uniqueness of the Shabbos. Shabbos has been singled out, to the exclusion of the Yomim Tovim -- the festivals.

In Parshas Bo, on the eve of the exodus, Moshe had first begun explaining the commandments. When he reached the laws of the Pesach holiday, he used a new expression. Instead of 'melacha' -- forbidden labor -- the expression used for Shabbos, he referred to 'melechas avodah' -- servitude labor.

Shabbos and Yom Tov use mutually exclusive terms. Moshe quickly explained the difference: Preparation of food is permitted on Yom Tov. Slaughtering the animal, preparing the meat and cooking it, became a basic aspect of the Yom Tov experience. When the laws of Shabbos were given, however, no such exceptions were stated.

Ramban writes that this is the reason that kindling was mentioned in our parsha. The typical preparation of food is by cooking and heating, which requires a flame. To indicate the distinction between Shabbos and Yom Tov, it had to be clarified that kindling or increasing the flame, would be prohibited on Shabbos, as well as any of the other types of 'melacha' -- even if food preparation is involved.

The Se'uda

Certainly, meals are a very significant aspect of Shabbos and Yom Tov. Yes, people enjoy eating. But what is the religious significance of a meal? Why are the meals, specifically, a vital requirement?

On Purim night, Rav Boruch Benzion Twersky, shlita, explained the importance of "s'euda". Typically, when people eat, indulging in their food and prosperity, their hearts are lifted in pride. When the Jew eats, he submits himself to a higher authority.

From Rav Twersky's words, Divre Torah said at a meal take on a special significance. The Torah is not for our own sense of accomplishment, but to remind us of the One Who is really in charge.

The Chasidishe Tisch, or any meal where a Talmid Chachom speaks, becomes self-explanatory. Rather than coming to fill their stomachs, the guests come to submit to the authority of Torah and age-old tradition.

This can easily be seen during Pesach. The Matza and Moror are dry and bitter. The food isn't that great -- but the spirit, the Hallel, the songs of praise, the Torah that each person recites, fill us with 'simchah' -- joy. The simchah is not the recognition of our wealth and might, but the submission to the Power of the world.

Shabbos vs. Yom Tov

The distinction between Shabbos and Yom Tov is well known. Yom Tov had to be determined by the Beis Din, so it was dependent on people. Shabbos, on the other hand, is "k'viyah v'kaimah" -- set and fixed, every seventh day. Siduro Shel Shabbos explained the difference. Every mitzvah requires an act from humanity -- except for the Shabbos. Shabbos was the completion of creation -- it is independent of our observance. It is always there, every seventh day, whether we realize it or not.

Nonetheless, the Kli Chemdah notes that the verse expresses the necessity of mankind's active participation in the Shabbos: "The Children of Yisrael shall keep the Shabbos -- to make the Shabbos for their generations -- a 'Bris Olam' (perpetual covenant.)"

This was only after the Calf. It now became a necessity to 'make' the Shabbos, in order to atone.

[Rashi and Seforno are of the opinion that the Mishkan (Sanctuary) only became a necessity after the Calf, when the people needed atonement. The laws of Shabbos are derived from its connection to the Mishkan. There is a similarity to them: the Mishkan is a central source of kedusha -- sanctity -- being a place of holiness. Shabbos, too, is holy -- sanctified in time, instead of locale. Each of these mitzvos convey the ability for a person to sanctify himself. (See Ta'am V'daas, Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch, and, further, Divre Yoel)]

The only day in the account of creation for which it does not state 'it was evening and morning, day number so and so' is the seventh day. Yom Tov had to be fixed by the court, but the Shabbos was beyond the confines of time. Yom Tov is dependent upon man -- who is limited by time, but Shabbos was determined purely by Hashem, who is unbound by time constraints.

The Talmud states "anyone who celebrates the Shabbos receives an unbounded inheritance." The commentaries explain that this is for one who celebrates the Shabbos, not for one who indulges himself for the celebration of Shabbos. The Kli Chemdah wrote that for a person not to have any thought of personal benefit is an extraordinary quality, and not everyone is expected to be able to do so.

The Kli Chemdah explains: The Shabbos was supposed to be beyond the confines of time, but after the Calf, man had to uphold it. It is beyond nature to surpass time -- man is of course limited by time; hence his reward is limited as well. In order to receive "an unbounded inheritance" however, one would have to defy his own nature, and eat purely for the honor of the day. However, anyone who honors the Shabbos, surely receives reward. (Kli Chemdah, B'reishis, 5, also see Parshas Vayakheil)

Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
11 Kiryas Radin
Spring Valley, NY 10977
Phone: (914) 362-5156

Good Shabbos!

Text Copyright © '98 Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein and Project Genesis, Inc.



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