Bringing Peace into the Home
Vayakel begins with yet another reference to the laws of Shabbat, but focuses mainly on the building of the Mishkan (The Tabernacle). The second Sedra, Pekudei, centres around its assembly, after which the holy shechinah (God’s worldly presence) comes to rest inside and the temple is ready for action. These two sidrot end the book of Shemot; they lead nicely into Vayikra and the myriad of details regarding sacrifices.
As mentioned above, before detailing the building of the Mishkan, the Torah gives another explicit instruction to observe Shabbat. What is the reason for its placement here?
We all know how difficult it is to leave the work week behind, but the Torah wants to reiterate the fact that when the sun sets on a Friday Night, we must set aside our worldly pursuits and give quality time to our soul and our family. We put down our hammers (or in 2015, our mobile phones) and dedicate time to God and to the connection we are trying to create. We have to remember that we can become completely consumed by our weekly endeavours, but Shabbat stops all of that; it breaks our week and replenishes our very core.
To be a little more specific, the actual Shabbat violation being discussed here is ‘not to kindle a flame’. Why specifically this law of Shabbat? There is an empire of laws and details, but why be so explicit about this one?
Another way of looking at this verse is that it is referring to the ‘fire’ of anger. Moshe is warning us to avoid anger on Shabbat. Meaning that not only are we not allowed to kindle a flame or cook, but we should also do everything in our power not to ignite ourselves on this special and holy day. It should be a time of great serenity and tranquillity, truly expressing peace in the home.
The Torah is giving us some very practical advice. Not only does our food need to be prepared well in advance of Shabbat, but we do as well. If we prepared ourselves and our homes for the last minute rush or the usual end of week stresses and aggravation, how much more could we enjoy and appreciate Friday Nights? After putting so much effort into the beautiful meal and tasteful decor, there could be no greater honour than creating peace in our homes.
So when we are being taught the laws of building the Mishkan, the creative acts of ‘work’ which govern our lives, we also need to know and centralise the message of Shabbat, and the peace and sanctity it can bring.