Parashas Vayakhel-Pekudei

Parashas Vayakhel begins with the following passage (Shemos 35:1–2):
Moshe assembled the entire congregation of the Children of Israel, and he said to them: “These are the things that Hashem has commanded, to do them – ‘On six days, work may be done, but the seventh day shall be holy unto you, a day of complete rest unto Hashem.’”
In connection with this verse, the Midrash relates that Hashem instructed Moses as follows (Yalkut Shimoni I:408):
Gather for yourself large assemblies, and publicly expound upon the laws of the Sabbath before them, so that future generations will learn from you to convene assemblies on each and every Sabbath, and to bring them into the houses of study to teach and instruct the People of Israel in the words of the Torah – the  forbidden and the permitted – so that My great Name will be praised among My children.
We see that the Sages stress the connection between Shabbos and Torah study. The Maggid elaborates on the matter. He quotes the following Gemara (Shabbos 86b):
All agree that the Torah was given to the Jewish People on Shabbos. For regarding Shabbos it is written (Shemos 20:8): “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy,” while elsewhere [regarding the Exodus] it is written (Shemos 13:3): “And Moshe said to the people, ‘Remember this day, on which you went out from Egypt ….’” Just as the second statement was made on the very day it was referring to, so it was with the first.
Hashem gave us Shabbos specifically to give us a chance once a week to concentrate on strengthening our bond to Him through Torah study, prayer, and contemplation, thereby making up for the spiritual work we are unable to do during the week because we are occupied with the mundane work we have to do for our livelihood. When Hashem commands us to “remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy,” He is telling us to strive on each Shabbos to maintain the same level of sanctity as we experienced on the day this command was first issued – the day the Torah was given, which was also a Shabbos. The same idea underlies the parallel command to “safeguard the Sabbath day to keep it holy, in the manner that Hashem your God commanded you” (Devarim 5:12) – we should keep Shabbos as a holy day in the same manner as when Hashem commanded us about it, the day of the Giving of the Torah. On this pivotal day, we were all assembled before Hashem to hear His holy words. So, too, the Midrash teaches, on each and every Shabbos we should assemble together to hear words of Torah from Torah scholars. In this way, every Shabbos will be like the Shabbos on which Hashem gave us the Torah. We are told: “On six days, work may be done, but the seventh day shall be holy unto you, a day of complete rest unto Hashem.”
The Maggid brings out the point further with a parable. A man moved to a city far away from his hometown. He constantly hoped that some visitor from his hometown would come, so he could ask him how his family was doing, but for a long time no such visitor came. Finally, one day, a traveling beggar came to his door, and he recognized him as a man from his hometown. He was very glad to see this man, and he wanted to chat with him about how his family was doing. The beggar protested: “Why are you holding me up? I came to this town to collect charity. Why should you cause me a loss?” The man of the house asked: “Tell me, how much did you figure to collect here?” The beggar replied: “An amount equal to two or three gold coins.” The man responded: “I’ll give you these three gold coins if you sit down with me and tell me the news about my family.” The beggar agreed. He sat down and started telling his host about the happenings in his family, but shortly afterward he was overtaken by sleepiness and began to doze. He then said to his host: “Since you have taken me in, I ask you please to give me a bed where I can lie down and sleep.” The host railed: “I relieved you from your collecting today so that you could tell me how my relatives are doing. What business do you have sleeping now?”
The parallel is as follows. Hashem placed within each of us a lofty soul, quarried, as the Zohar puts it (e.g., Raiya Mehemna, parashas Tzav), from beneath His throne of glory. Our souls descended to earth, far away from their place of origin. Hashem yearns, so to speak, all week long to hear from our souls, but we are preoccupied with our mundane activities. So Hashem set aside Shabbos as a day when He could enjoy our company. He provides us with extra provisions during the week – like the extra portion of manna that He gave on Fridays to the Jews of the wilderness generation – so that we would be free on Shabbos from all distractions and be able to enjoy Hashem’s closeness to us and rejoice in His love. And so Hashem had Moshe tell us: “On six days, work may be done, but the seventh day shall be holy unto you, a day of complete rest unto Hashem.” Hashem wants us to set Shabbos aside exclusively for Him. He granted us rest on Shabbos from our mundane chores not so that we could pass the day in slumber or empty pursuits, but so we could be together with Him.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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