Dedicated Leilui Nishmat Yoseph ben Zakiya, Joseph Levy A’h by Alan Levy and Family
Repairing the Sin of the Golden Calf
In last week’s parasha, before the sin of the golden calf, Hashem spoke to B’nei Yisrael about the importance of Shabbat. And now this week’s Parashat Vayakhel 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.
The Or HaChaim explains that idol worship constitutes a repudiation of all 613 mitzvot. Therefore, for B’nei Yisrael’s teshuvah for the golden calf to be complete, and for them to merit the Mishkan in their lifetime, they had to once again accept all the mitzvot upon themselves. Shabbat is 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 HaChaim 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 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 works of art to the magnificent gift of Shabbat that Hashem kept in His treasure house and gave to us at Har Sinai? It’s impossible. So why don’t we treasure the gift of Shabbat that Hashem gave us as we would any other earthly riches?
The answer is that we don’t understand the magnitude of the gift of Shabbat, so we 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!
Shabbat in Vayakhel
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 they received when they had accepted the Torah with the words naaseh ve’nishmah. 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 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 in Olam Habah but will reap the benefits of that gift in Olam Hazeh as well.”
In the Torah it says, “On six days, work may 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 Shabbat day (35:2).” The Shabbat laws were already mentioned in greater detail in last week’s parasha (31:12-17). The repetition this week, at the beginning of Vayakhel, seems redundant. Why is it necessary to begin the section dealing with donating money to the Mishkan with this brief preamble about Shabbat?
Many commentaries deal with this question. Rav Naiman notes in his Sefer Darkei Mussar a peculiarity in the expression “Sheshet yamim taaseh 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 taaseh melachtecha” which means “For 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.
Intentions are extremely important. A person is indeed required to try to earn a living and support a family. One who does not make that effort and expects “maan” from heaven will be disappointed! However, it is flawed to 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, one can exert the right amount of effort and the Almighty may bless the actions of his hands to earn large sums of money, far greater than others who work much harder.
This is a fundamental belief in our religion and it really is what Shabbat observance is all about. Common wisdom is, “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.
“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 makes the money, it is the “He” (Hashem) allows “you” to earn a living.
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 was kept throughout the generations is the secret that preserved the Jewish nation until this very day.
Do Not Kindle a Fire
Moshe conveys to B’nei Yisrael G-d’s command to observe Shabbat, and he specifies the particular prohibition against kindling a flame. “Do not kindle fire in any of your residences on the day of Shabbat (35:3).” Rabbi Mansour asks why Moshe would single out this specific prohibition.
He answers that this verse alludes to the fire of anger. While we are to always strive to avoid anger, this is especially important on Shabbat, and so Moshe warns in this verse that we not “kindle” the “fire” of anger on Shabbat.
Whenever we prepare to do something great, the Satan tries to sabotage the undertaking. This is one reason given for the custom to break a glass at a wedding ceremony. Knowing that the Satan will try to disrupt this sacred, precious moment, we offer the Satan a “bribe,” breaking an expensive glass, as though telling the Satan, “Here, something went wrong, something valuable was broken. You got what you wanted, so now leave us alone.” This true of Shabbat, as well. The Chida wrote that there is a special yetzer hara that sets in during the final few hours before Shabbat on Friday afternoon. Knowing the immense spiritual benefits of Shabbat, the Satan slyly steps in to interfere on Friday afternoon in order to create tension and strife in the home.
Electricians can attest that more ovens break in Jewish homes on Friday than on any other day of the week. Plumbers will tell you that they get more calls about leaks and clogs on Friday than at any other time. This is very real, and it is no coincidence. This is the Satan trying to arouse anger and tension in the home to prevent us from receiving the precious spiritual blessings that Shabbat offers us.
Let us commit ourselves to foil the Satan’s weekly scheme by being especially patient and calm on Erev Shabbat, by avoiding anger so we can then receive the great benefits of Shabbat and bring Hashem’s presence into our homes.
A girl from a non-observant family had become a ba’alat teshuvah. Her father was in the retail lighting business, and each of his children was required to work one day a week in his store. It so happened that this girl’s turn fell on Saturday. She was torn between her father and Shabbat, not knowing which to honor.
Finally, she decided that she would honor her father – but in her own way. Every Saturday morning, she walked to the store and politely stood behind the counter waiting for customers. But when they asked her how much an item cost, she quoted prices so preposterous that the customers immediately walked out. The girl was very satisfied; she obeyed her father but never made a single sale, and so she was never mechalelet Shabbat.
After three weeks, her father began to wonder why he was doing zero business on Saturdays. He decided to spy on his daughter. Just then, a man entered and inquired about a $180 chandelier. “That chandelier is very special,” the girl said. “It costs $1,000.” The man said the price was too high and he left. The girl was relieved, until she saw her enraged father coming toward her. “Why did you do that?!” he bellowed. “Do you know how much money you’ve lost me?” The next day, the father was surprised to see the same man walk back into the store. “I realize that $1,000 is a lot of money,” he said, pointing to the $180 chandelier, “but I really had my heart set on it. I looked all over the city for one like it and found nothing else. So here,” he added, reaching for his checkbook, “I’l1 give you $1,000 for it, all right?”
Stunned, the shopkeeper sold him the chandelier, but only at its true price. He then called his daughter and announced that he had witnessed a supernatural event. “It came from Shamayim,” he said, and it imparted a profound message. “From this day forward,” he declared, “the whole family will be shomer Shabbat, like you.”
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! May we all stay safe and healthy and have an easy time ahead of us in the coming weeks and years! Amen!
Rabbi Amram Sananes as written by Jack Rahmey
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Do we treasure Shabbat as much as we do our earthly possessions?
We must understand the magnitude of the gift of Shabbat, so we don’t take it for granted, because the degree to which we elevate the Shabbat spiritually is the same level of beracha that we will receive from Hashem!
A person is indeed required to try to earn a living and support a family. One who does not make that effort and expects “maan” from heaven will be disappointed! However, it is flawed to make the equation that “The more work I do the more money I will make.” The Torah commands us to work only six days.
Moshe conveyed the commandment of not kindling a fire on Shabbat. We learn he was referring to the fire of anger. Knowing the immense spiritual benefits of Shabbat, the Satan slyly steps in to interfere on Friday afternoon in order to create tension and strife in the home. Let’s avoid anger so we can receive the great benefits of Shabbat and bring Hashem’s presence into our homes.
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