Dvar Torah for Parshat Vayakhel


Based on Likutey Halakhot, Hilkhot Birkhot Reiyah 4:1

'Moses gathered the entire Israelite community and said to them, ÔThese are the matters that God has commanded to do them. You may do work during the six weekdays, but Saturday must be kept holy as a Shabbat of tranquillity to God. Whoever does any work on [Shabbat] will be put to death. Do not ignite any fire on Shabbat, wherever you live.'Ó
Exodus 35:1ø3

'This [gathering] took place the day after Yom Kippur. Moshe Rabbeinu (Moses) did not gather the people by hand, but by speaking to them.Ó

A number of commentators (Ramban, Or HaChaim HaKodesh, Kli Yakar) point out that the significance of when this gathering took place is the element of peace that was involved. Yom Kippur, after people made amends with friends, neighbors and family; after Hashem (God) forgave the Jews for the sin of the golden calf, and the spirit of the Torah revelation was renewed. This was–and must be–the state of mind and the state of affairs that has to be in effect for the Mishkan, Hashem's home, to be built.

The necessity of peace is not just a technical factor that allows a physical structure to be erected nor is it a matter of 'making niceÓ with one another so that there is no open animosity in our house of worship. Peace is the source of holiness. The Holy Land is holy because it is the site of Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) and the Beit HaMikdash, both of which are named 'ShalomÓ (see Genesis 14:18 and Psalms 76:3).

The most sacred place in Eretz Yisrael, in Yerushalayim, in the Beit HaMikdash is the kadosh hakadoshim (Holy of Holies). Its holiness was accessible but once a year–on Yom Kippur. Only the kohen gadol (high priest) was permitted to enter and he was allowed to do so only because of the fast of Yom Kippur. Peace is achieved by 'fasting.Ó

'FastingÓ is not just about going without food for a period of time. Fasting means controlling the desire to have and to consume. The raging beast within may want many things: pleasure, control, revenge, territory. Hashem may not want a person to have any of that. 'On that very day [of Yom Kippur] afflict your soulsÓ–humble your heart so that it will attach its will to God (cf. Leviticus 16:29, 23:27; 3 Zohar 68b). If one can subjugate her will to God's, she can get along peacefully with others. This is especially so in regard to the desire to own things.

In case you haven't noticed, there is a lot of confusion in the world. In particular, there is this notion that by talking peace can be achieved. Rebbe Nachman teaches that the opposite is the case: As a result of peace it is possible for people to talk with one another. Certainly people can hurl words at others in an attempt to threaten or manipulate them into 'making peace,Ó but dialogue to bring another member of the human race closer to truth can only take place if those conversing are already at peace (Likutey Moharan I, #27).

Moshe Rabbeinu demonstrated this lesson when he assembled the Jewish people. He did not 'gather them by hand,Ó by force. He used words because there was a great degree of peace among the Jews following Yom Kippur and following the resolution of their financial litigation (see Kli Yakar).

As great as our peace may be, as powerful as the holiness of the Mishkan/Beit HaMikdash may be, warned Moshe Rabbeinu, we must be aware that there is a higher degree of peace, an even more powerful holiness, the holiness of Shabbat. To partake of that holiness we have to observe Shabbat by refraining from melakhah (loosely translated as 'workÓ). Adam ate of the forbidden fruit due to a lack of inner peace. Therefore he was cursed 'by the sweat of your brow you will eatÓ (Genesis 3:19).

On Shabbat we refrain from all melakhah. We have to work on ourselves so as to be at peace with the situation at hand, whatever it may be, and allow God to resolve whatever needs to be resolved.* The peace we (ought to) feel is so great we sing Shalom Aleikhem (which is based on Shabbat 119b):

Peace to you, ministering angels, messengers of the Exalted One, the King Who reigns over kings, the Holy One, blessed is He.
Come in peace, angels of peace, messengers of the Exalted One, the King Who reigns over kings, the Holy One, blessed is He.
Bless me with peace, angels of peace, messengers of the Exalted One, the King Who reigns over kings, the Holy One, blessed is He.
Go in peace, angels of peace, messengers of the Exalted One, the King Who reigns over kings, the Holy One, blessed is He.

The peace is so great, not only do we eat, but we are enjoined to feast! To help keep things in perspective it's good to remember (and repeat!) Reb Shlomo Karliner's short prayer: Hashem! You gave us challah** for Shabbos. You gave us fish for Shabbos. Now give us Shabbos for Shabbos!

agutn Shabbos!
Shabbat Shalom!

*The concept of muktzeh is that we are so at peace we don't even have to 'touchÓ anything to improve it. This is a tikkun for 'nor may we touch itÓ (Genesis 3:3).
**Challah is a special bread baked in honor of Shabbat.