In the first of this week’s double parsha, VaYakhel-Pekudei, Moshe “gathers the whole community of Israel…” (Shemos 35:1) to teach them, once again, about the Mishkan- but he also, once again, begins by restating the concept and mitzva of Shabbos. The mitzva of Shabbos and the building of the Mishkan are completely intertwined over the whole second half of the book of Shemos and many of the meforshim discuss how these two pillars of Jewish life are totally interdependent.
Rabbi Mordechai Yosef Leiner, the Ishbitzer Rebbe, explains in the Mei HaShiloach, that the concept of Shabbos is one of the core mitzvot of Judaism and the underlying essence of all of the mitzvos that are done for the sake of Heaven, L’sheim Shamayim. Anytime a person acts solely l’shem Shamayim, they are tapping into the energy and concept of Shabbos. On Shabbos we acknowledge that this is Hashem’s world, we stop our individual work and we spend the day serving Hashem through the boundaries that we place on ourselves and the special things that we do to elevate the day.
This same energy was present during the building of the Mishkan. When the artisans among Bnei Yisrael were forming the pieces and tools for the Mishkan, they had the intention to serve Hashem through their work. Every item that was made was purely for use in the Mishkan so that the Shechina would rest among Bnei Yisrael.
As the artisans were doing their work, they admired it greatly, thinking that they had truly used their talents in the ultimate way and in the service of Hashem. But when they brought all of the pieces together another dimension was added to their service. They saw how perfectly each one fit into the others (so much so that it looked like it was all created by one hand!) and they understood that really everything was from Hashem, that Hashem had guided their hands to form the objects in such a way that they fit together so perfectly. As a result, none of them could or did feel any superiority over the others. For, how could they when it was all so clearly the work of Hashem?
In addition, the Shechina would not have come to rest in the Mishkan if even one tent peg was missing or not formed properly. Every piece of work was absolutely essential for the purpose of the Mishkan to be realized. On that level, no one piece of the Mishkan was more important than any other. This understanding enabled an incredible feeling of unity to descend upon Bnei Yisrael.
We are the inheritors of that event and that truth. We too can tap into that reality- that every one of us is essential to the purpose of this world and that the purpose of this world is to serve Hashem with whatever tools He gave uniquely to each one of us. When we are cognizant of this knowledge, we enable ourselves to rid our hearts of jealousy and/or superiority. It’s hard work. And it is holy work. With every effort we make, we inch closer to that way of living and that way of looking at the people around us.
In the unimaginable situation we are in at the moment, we can find new meaning in this event- “VaYakhel”. The possuk says that Moshe “gathered” Bnei Yisrael and the Ishbitzer is explaining that the gathering happened on an emotional level in addition to the physical level. Bnei Yisrael were “gathered” in their hearts through the understanding of how great and important every single one of them was. They were “gathered” by their desire to serve Hashem. We are also “gathered” in our hearts through this desire. We are “gathered” knowing that even though we are separated physically, we are all in this together. This Shabbos may we be gathered truly on all levels and merit the coming of Moshiach Tzidkenu!