Parashat Vayakhel


The greater part of our parshah of VAYAKHEL is devoted to a detailed description of how Betzalel and his fellow craftsmen made the Sanctuary and its vessels in accordance with the plan whose details we studied three parshahs earlier in TERUMAH. While TERUMAH taught how they were to be made when they were still on the level of thought — BE-KOACH, in POTENTIALITY — our parshah of VAYAKHEL teaches how they came to made BE-PHO’AL, in ACTUALITY, on the level of ASIYAH, action.

It is significant that all of the laws of what constitutes forbidden MELACHAH, labor, on Shabbos are learned from the 39 archetypal forms of labor that were involved in the making of the Sanctuary on the six days of the week. It is only when we abstain from performing forbidden labor on Shabbos BECAUSE IT IS SHABBOS that performing those labors “for G-d” on the six weekdays can be said to be truly intentional and meritorious. The labors that are forbidden on Shabbos are called MELECHET MACHSHEVET, a labor that involves MACHSHAVAH — i.e. it is intentional.

When we observe the Shabbos FOR G-D, abstaining from forbidden labors because that is His command, this gives the intentional labors that we perform on the other six days of the week in pursuit of our livelihood and all our other needs the sanctity of BUILDING THE SANCTUARY. Our intention in pursuing all these needs is that we may serve G-d, pray and keep the commandments. Our going about our daily lives in our homes, at work and elsewhere is all part of BUILDING THE TEMPLE, a dwelling place for G-d’s presence. For each one of us has our own contribution to make to the construction of this Temple. Each person’s mitzvah and good intention help to draw G-d’s Indwelling Presence into this world and within the sanctity of our homes.

According to a tradition handed down by the Kabbalah, Betzalel accomplished the “labors” required to build and construct the sanctuary vessels through manipulations of the 22 Hebrew Letters of Creation, as taught in Sefer Yetzirah. Successful manipulation of the letters to produce actual physical constructions in the world without performing any physical action requires the greatness of a Betzalel or the Maharal of Prague, who created a Golem. Nevertheless, even a simple Israelite has the power to “manipulate” the letters of creation by using them to compose prayers to G-d to bless his material efforts in the actual world of Asiyah with success. With the help of G-d, our very words themselves have the power to serve as vessels within which G-d’s presence can dwell in this world. Through our words we contribute to building the Sanctuary — the House of Prayer — to G-d.

May we soon be worthy to contribute to the Building of G-d’s House in Jerusalem quickly in our days. Amen.

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Shabbat Shalom!

Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum

PO Box 50037 Jerusalem 91500 Israel