Va-Yakhel and Pekudei
Stop! Shabbat Ahead
For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day shall be your holy day, a shabbat of rest to the LORD (Shemot /Exodus 35:2).
This section of the Torah, which speaks of shabbat, comes just before the actual building of the Mishkan (English: Tabernacle). I do not think that this is coincidental. The people of Israel up to this point have been in a kind of survival mode. Having escaped Pharaoh's oppression in Egypt they journeyed through the wilderness, they camped in several locations until they finally arrived at their first major destination – the mountain where Moses said that they would worship God.
At Mt. Sinai God revealed his covenant with its regulations. He gave them detailed instructions as to the design and building of the Mishkan. Now they were ready to do something more than just travel, sleep, and survive. It was time to make something. This was a major development in their life as a nation. They were now moving from a passive to an active role.
And so just before gathering the materials for the Mishkan, God speaks about shabbat:
The word shabbat is derived from a word that means, "to cease." Most basically shabbat has to do with stopping regular activity. Just before the people were to get busy, God speaks to them about stopping. How easy it would have been for the people to work as quickly as possible to finish building the Mishkan. What would they do on their day off anyway? Why not finish the Mishkan as quickly as possible, so they could have some really great shabbats?
Shabbat challenges one of our biggest life misconceptions. We tend to think that we need every day at our disposal to accomplish our goals - even our God-given ones. By God calling us to stop from our labors one day per week, he undermines our attempt to get things done when and how we want. To give up a day per week from our normal activities forces us to trust God with our needs and wants.
In many of our societies, the day off is well entrenched. Most working people get at least two days off per week. But our 24/7 lifestyle doesn't really provide a time to stop. In fact many people use their days off to get the things done that the other days don't permit. The thought of just stopping is too intimidating for most people.
But to rest one day in six declares that we don't need to work, work, work to get by or get ahead. God, our provider, has promised to take care of us. If we would stop for a while we may even have some time to think about that.
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