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Parashat Vayakhel

Dedicated Leilui Nishmat Eliyahu ben Esther and Adele bat Behiyeh By Joey L. Setton

Parashat Vayakhel


In last week’s parasha, before the sin of the golden calf, Hashem spoke to B’nei Yisrael about the importance of Shabbat. This teaches us that violating Shabbat is equal to the sin of the golden calf.

This week’s parashat Vayekhal opens with, “And Moshe gathered the people of B’nei Yisrael and said to them, ‘These are the things that Hashem commanded...On six days, work may be done, but the seventh day shall be holy for you, a day of complete rest for Hashem!’” We see that the Torah brings up Shabbat again; but this time it’s discussed prior to the construction of the Mishkan. Rashi explains that this is to inform the nation of Shabbat’s magnitude, that even building the Mishkan cannot take precedence over Shabbat.

Repairing the Sin of the Golden Calf

The Or HaHayyim explains that idol worship constitutes a repudiation of all 613 mitzvot. Therefore for B’nei Yisrael’steshuva for the golden calf to be complete, and for them to merit the Mishkan in their midst, they had to once again accept all the mitzvot upon themselves. Shabbat is reckoned as equivalent to the entire Torah. Hashem repeated the mitzvah of Shabbat to give B’nei Yisrael the means to accept all 613 mitzvot.

The Or HaHayyim continues and says that the first passuk ends with… “These are the things that Hashem commanded, to do them,” which can also be interpreted as, “to repair them” — because the commandment of Shabbat was a means to repair the damage of the sin of the golden calf!

Hashem’s Hidden Treasure

If you would ask any wealthy man today where he keeps his most treasured possessions, he might tell you that he has his precious jewels in his safe. Another will say that he has his magnificent coin or stamp collection in his safety deposit box in the bank, along with his cash, and yet another will say that his priceless art collection is hidden safely in his vault. There’s an amazing Gemara in Masechet Shabbat (10b), that says “Hashem said to Moshe... ‘I have a wonderful gift in My treasure house and its name is Shabbat. I wish to give this precious gift to the Jewish people...go and inform them!’”

Hashem is telling us that He has a special treasure that He has hidden away and wants to give it to us, the Jewish people. How can we even try to compare the treasures of humans, like jewels, coins, and famous works of art to the magnificent gift of Shabbat that Hashem keeps in His treasure house, that He gave to the Jewish people at Har Sinai? It’s impossible. So why don’t we at least treasure the gift of Shabbat that Hashem gave us as we would any other earthly treasures like money, jewels, art etc.?

The answer is that we don’t understand the magnitude of the gift of Shabbat, so we continue to take it for granted and we don’t treat it as we should. We must understand that the degree to which we elevate the Shabbat spiritually is the same level of beracha that we will receive from Hashem!

It’s Worth it to Keep Shabbat

The Arizal says the reason that Shabbat comes right after the episode of the golden calf is because when B’nei Yisrael sinned with the golden calf they lost the crowns that they received when they had accepted the Torah with the words naase ve’nishma. Those crowns brought so much beracha for health and prosperity. If we keep the Shabbat in the proper way, we will merit to get some of the lights of those crowns back!

Another Gemara in Masechet Betza (16a) says that, “Hashem placed an additional soul in all of us on Erev Shabbat and it’s taken away from us when the Shabbat ends.” In Masechet Shabbat (118a) it says that “Those who delight in the Shabbat are given a boundless inheritance which will come to us in Olam Habba, but we will reap the benefits of that gift in Olam Hazeh as well.”

In the Torah it says...”Six days work shall be done but the seventh day shall be holy for you, a day of complete rest for Hashem; whoever does work on it shall be put to death. You shall light no fire in any of your dwellings on the Sabbath day. [Shmos 35:2-3]” The Shabbat laws were already mentioned in greater detail in last week’s parsha [31:12-17]. The repetition this week, at the beginning of Vayakhel, seems totally redundant. Why is it necessary to begin the section dealing with donating money to the Mishkan with this brief preamble telling us about Shabbat?

Many commentaries deal with this question. Rav Naiman notes in his sefer Darkei Mussar a peculiarity in the expression “sheshet yamim tay-a-seh melacha” which literally means “six days WORK SHALL BE DONE”. A more common expression (as we indeed find elsewhere in the Torah) is “sheshet yamim ta-a-seh melachtecha” (six days YOU SHALL DO YOUR WORK). It is peculiar to use the passive form of the verb for doing work. The Darkei Mussar suggests that by use of this expression, the Torah is teaching us a fundamental rule for anyone who is engaged in earning a livelihood: The amount of money a person makes is NOT commensurate with the amount of effort he puts into his job.

A person is indeed required to make an effort to earn a living and support a family. One who does not make that effort and expects “mann” from heaven will be disappointed! However it is flawed to mentally make the equation that “the more work I do the more money I will make.” It does not work like that.

The Almighty decides what each of us should earn. We can exhaust ourselves in our professions and either we will not succeed in earning as much as we feel we should earn or we perhaps will earn all that money and then lose it due to unforeseen expenses or poor investments, or a variety of other “unforeseen” circumstances. On the other hand, we can exert the normal amount of effort and the Almighty may bless the actions of our hands and we may earn large sums of money, far greater than what others who work much harder than we do earn.

This is a fundamental belief in our religion and it really is what Sabbath observance is all about. Common wisdom is that “Of course if one works seven days a week, he will make more money than if he works six days a week.” And yet, the Torah commands us to work only six days. If the Almighty wants to bestow upon us a certain degree of financial success, he will bestow it to us whether we expend six days of effort to earn it or we expend seven days of effort to earn it.

I have a friend who was always Shomer Shabbat but his store was opened for business through a non-Jew on Shabbat. When he was getting married, he decided that he would take the next and most difficult step to completely close his store on Shabbat and all the Chagiim. He made this decision despite the fact that he was in a very busy shopping area and all the other stores around were open on Shabbat. As he made his calculation of the days he would be closing his store, it added up to over 60 days of business that he would be missing but his decision was final and he would stick to it! At the end of the first year, he was astonished to see that not only did he do the same business as when he was opened all those extra days...he was pleasantly shocked to see that he actually doubled his business from the previous year while not being opened all those days! Hashem blesed him for passing this test!

This is why the Torah here states “For six days work SHALL BE DONE”. The work must be done, but one should not think “you shall do work”. The “you” is not what gets the job done, it is the “He” (Hashem) that gets the job done and allows “you” to earn a living.

The following story of mesirat nefesh as told by Rabbi Shlomo Brevda shows the sacrifices made by our gedoliim and the previous generations that they had to endure in order to keep the Shabbat and should be an inspiration for us to realize the wonderful gift that we have today to be able to keep the Shabbat properly and without suffering....

The Steipler Rav, Horav Yaakov Kanievsky, zl, was a gaon and a tzaddik. His brilliance and encyclopedic knowledge of Torah was only overshadowed by his righteousness and total devotion to serving Hashem. Prior to his engagement to the sister of the Chazon Ish, he shared an incident with her that happened to him in Siberia. He felt it was important that his intended be fully aware of his mesirat nefesh for mitzvot.

As a solider conscripted into the Czar’s army, the Steipler was forced to perform back-breaking labor in the frigid cold of the Siberian winter. Regardless of the overwhelming toil and below-freezing conditions, he performed the difficult work because he knew it was the only way that he could continue to serve the Almighty. The problem was that army demanded that everyone work seven days a week. This obviously created a problem on Shabbot. The Steipler emphatically declared that by no means was he going to work on Shabbat. The Russian officer did not need more than one insolent Jew who had the gall to refuse his orders. He predictably flew into a rage, typical of the anti-Semitic brute that he was. Suddenly, he stopped screaming, as a diabolical smile crossed his face.

Yes, he would grant the Steipler’s request on the condition that the he pass a little test. If he could prove himself to be a strong warrior, he would be permitted to observe Shabbat. The test was “simple.” The captain ordered his soldiers to form two rows opposite each other, arming themselves with wooden planks. The Steipler was to “attempt” to make it from one end of the row to the other as the soldiers beat him mercilessly with their planks. If he survived the ordeal, he would be allowed to observe Shabbat.

The Steipler understood the situation. He was probably risking his life, but Shabbat was worth the ordeal. He put his hands over his head as protection, whispered a heartfelt prayer and forged ahead. The guards began to beat him with all they had: no mercy, no sensitivity, just pure brutal malevolence. The pain was intolerable, but the reward of keeping Shabbat was the pot of gold at the end. Inch by Inch, he trudged forward, blinded by pain and covered with blood. He reached the end of the line and collapsed.

With a faint smile on his lips. He made it! The Shabbat that he cared about so much must have surely protected him. The captain reluctantly gave in to the Steipler’s demand to observe Shabbat. The Steipler lay on the ground, bloodied and broken. Nobody bothered to pick him up, but he did not care. He had triumphed over the cruel officer. He had triumphed over the yetzer hara, the evil inclination. He had won Shabbat Kodesh!

The Steipler concluded the story, looked at his intended kallah and asked, “Are you prepared to join me in a continuous quest of self-sacrifice for Torah and mitzvot? This is the life I plan to lead.” The future rebbetzin, the mother of today’s pre-eminent gaon, Horav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, replied in the affirmative, and they became chattan and kallah.

There’s a famous saying that goes “As much as the Jews kept Shabbat, the Shabbat kept the Jews!” The Shabbat that we keep today and that we kept throughout the generations is the secret that has kept the Jewish people alive as a great nation until this very day.

May we all learn to appreciate the Shabbat and keep it to the highest standards that we possibly can, because it is the true source of all our berachot. May we also see the fruits of our Shabbat berachot through the Shabbatot that we enjoy with our children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren! Amen!

Shabbat Shalom!

Discussion Points:

· What would you have done if you were in the same situation as the Steipler?

Rabbi Amram Sananes as written by Jack Rahmey

Leiluiy Nishmat....

Eliyahu Ben Rachel Rabbi Shimon Chay Ben Yaasher

Sarah Bat Chanah Esther Bat Sarah

Shulamit Bat Helaina Rabbi Meyer Ben Chana

Batsheva Bat Sarah Esther Rafael Ben Miriam

Rav Haim Ben Rivka Moshe Ben Mazal

Yitzchak Ben Adele Avraham Ben Mazal

Chanah Bat Esthe Ovadia Ben Esther

Moshe Ben Garaz Rahamim Ben Mazal

Avraham Ben Garaz Avraham Ben Mazal

Yaakov Ben Rachel Avraham Ben Kami

Meir Ben Latifa Moshe Ben Yael

Malka Bat Garaz Mordechai Ben Rachel

Yaakov Ben Leah Saadia Ben Miriam

Chacham Shaul Rachamim Ben Mazal

Natan Ben Rachel

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