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Two Minutes of Torah: Vayakahel-Pekudei - Take a Break

Have you ever found yourself so immersed in a project that you forget to stop for lunch.  Sometimes we’re working on something that we become so engrossed in what it is we’re doing, so focused on the work at hand that we forget about everything else.  We forget to eat, we forget to sleep, we forget to drink, everything becomes secondary to the task with which we are faced. 
And we know that this is really not the best way to work, and that it’s not good for our productivity  and it’s probably not good for the project with which we’re involved.  But there’s something about it that just keeps us hooked. To the exclusion of everything else.

We might imagine that for the Israelites in the wilderness as they were given the task of building the Tabernacle, of building God’s dwelling place on earth, that this would be the kind of project which would be all consuming.  With all of them dedicating their time and effort round the clock to complete the building project and to have God dwell amongst them.  And, we know that the people were very moved by the project and that they gave more than Moses required and that, ultimately, he had to tell the people to stop in this week’s Torah portion.  Telling them to make no further contributions towards the sanctuary.  

But at the beginning of this week’s Torah portion, in the midst of the description of the building of the tabernacle, we suddenly get the command of Shabbat.  Moses brings the whole Israelite community together and says to them these are the things that Adonai has commanded you to do, on six days work may be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a Shabbat with complete rest - Holy to Adonai. 

It seems strange to get the command of Shabbat once again amidst the building of the tabernacle we’ve had this command and instruction already and yet here it is restated in the Torah.  For the rabbis’ the positioning of the Shabbat command here in the midst of the tabernacle building was a clue as to what types of work are prohibited on Shabbat.  And the list of forty works less one, effectively 39 works, come from the work involved in creating the tabernacle.

But I want to suggest, instead of coming here to tell us about what work is, the Shabbat command was included here to tell us how important it is to take a break from our work.  Whatever the project we’re working on, whatever it is that we’re engaged in, is it as important as building the tabernacle, as building God’s dwelling place on earth?  Because even in the midst of that building project, the people knew that they had to take at least one day off a week.  A day of Shabbat, a day of rest for themselves and the community. 

For us, in our lives, they can serve as the inspiration and the reminder that whatever it is we’re doing, however important we feel the project is, however engrossed we are in our work, we still have to take a break.  Shabbat comes as a weekly reminder that while we might consider our work important, to rest is sacred.  And commanded by God.

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Rabbi Danny
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