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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Pkudei

Shmot Draws to a Close

Parashat Vayakhel-Pekudey

Genesis; Torah=Strength; Shabbat
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1. Genesis
2. Torah=Strength
3. Shabbat


GENESIS
The Book of Bereishit (Genesis) examines the creation of the world, in which the Holy One, Blessed-be-He reveals Himself as the Designer and Creator of this, the natural world. This is the story of the forefathers of our nation; their service of God came to them intuitively, prompting them to perform meticulously even rabbinically-ordained commandments. It was through their unique service of God that Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya'akov served as vehicles for drawing God's presence into this world.

With the guidance and inspiration of the forefathers, the private family of Ya'akov became a nation. At the start of Sefer Shmot (Exodus), we read: "And these are the names of the Children of Israel..." The Book of Shmot, as its Hebrew name indicates, is a book that deals with names. A name reveals the inner essence of the bearer of the particular name. As Sefer Shmot opens, we are informed of the name of this nation-in-formation, "Bnei Yisrael" - the Children of Israel - and of the unique name of God: "El Shaddai" that guides them...

In the book of Bereishit, God appears as the ultimate Director of the natural world. This role of God matches the "natural style" in which our forefathers served God. In the book of Shmot, however, God reveals himself to the nation as a whole. It is in this context that a clearer, more explicit type of revelation is needed - a supernatural, miraculous one. The supernatural guidance of the world, unique to the Book of Shmot, starts with the ten plagues meted out to the Egyptians and later intensifies with the splitting of the Red Sea. It is there that even a common maidservant experienced Hashem more clearly than the great prophet Yechezkel did not at the height of his vision of the Divine Chariot. The climax of this acceleration towards the supernatural is no doubt the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai. This was an event, our sages teach, during which the People of Israel heard God's voice boom from north, south, east, west, up, down, to the point where they asked, "What is the source of this wisdom?" The Children of Israel, like any other human beings, had until that time only experienced limited, human voices. At the giving of the Torah, God's voice revealed itself as being unlimited by space, direction, even language.

TORAH = STRENGTH
The giving of the Torah had a major impact not only on Israel, but also on the other nations of the world. Our sages teach us that when the gentile peoples heard the voices, the thunder, and the shofar at the time of Matan Torah, they trembled; turning to the sorcerer Bil'am, they asked: "Has God decided to bring another flood?" Does God wish to destroy the world once more? To this, Bil'am replied: "God will give strength to His nation, God will bless his nation with Peace." The term "strength" in this verse connotes Torah. Our sages teach us that when the Megilah states that, after the defeat of Haman, the Jews experienced light and happiness and joy.." - this "light" was actually Torah. The Sfat Emet thus asks why the Megilah did not simply say that the Jews "experienced Torah." His answer: "to teach us that Torah is light." Along the same lines, the verse did not say, "God will give Torah to His people," in order to teach us that Torah is a source of strength for our nation. Torah study and mitzvah performance unite our people, they give us a common goal - the rectification of the world through adherence to the Divine Will. This unity is a source of strength to us, and is esssential to internal, domestic, peaceful relations between Jews.


SHABBAT
At the opening of this week's Torah portion, Moshe gathers the nation and commands it regarding the construction of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and the observance of Shabbat. >From the juxtaposition of the passages, our sages learn that the 39 creative acts of labor required for the building of the Mishkan are the same ones that are forbidden on Shabbat. The work done during the period of the Mishkan's construction was no mere mundane labor. It was labor designated for a lofty purpose, the holy service of the Tabernacle. From these acts of labor, we derive the prohibition to perform "melachot" on Shabbat; the Sabbath is a Divinely-fashioned reality in which God bestows his beneficence on the world without our having to even lift a finger! Each week, we are bidden to refrain from work on the seventh day, in order to permit God to bestow His holy bounty upon us.

People are used to thinking that the six days of the week during which we work is our "natural state," and that on Shabbat, God prevents us from working. This perspective places the six weekdays as central, and Shabbat as peripheral, as a day in which man leaves his natural state as a worker and "tiller of the soil." This philosophy, however, is not a Torah perspective. In the eyes of the Torah, Shabbat is the culmination and pinnacle of the week, with the other days drawing their strength from it. In several places in the Torah we learn that, for six days of the week, "melacha may be done." In other words, Hashem gives us special permission to work during the week. On Shabbat, melacha is not prohibited to us, but rather the permission granted to engage in creative labors that applies during the week is not renewed for a 24-hour period . Shabbat provides man with an opportunity to just sit back and appreciate that "The Earth and everything in it is the Lord's.
Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed
Rosh Yeshiva of the Bet El Yeshiva, was the head of the Yesha rabbis board and rabbi of Bet-El, founder and head of Arutz 7.
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