vayakhail, pekudai

This Shabbos we read Parshas Vayakhail and Parshas Pekudai. In the beginning of Parshas Vayakail the Torah prefaces the story of the construction of the Tabernacle with instructions of keeping Sabbath. The commentaries expalin that the reason this is put here at this particular time, is to stress the importance of keeping Sabbath under all cicumstances. Even for a purpose as special as building a Tabernacle, we must refrain from working on the Sabbath.

When the Torah tells us about Sabbath, one prohibition in particular is mentioned. “You shall not kindle a fire in all your dwelling places on the Sabbath”. (Exodus 35:3) We know that there are 39 different categories of work that are forbidden on the Sabbath. Why does the Torah pick the prohibition of lighting a fire as the one example to talk about in regards to the Sabbath?

In the classic work Shelah, the author writes that the fire referred to here in the Torah is not only the physical fire that we see or can feel. Rather, the Torah also refers here to the fire of argument – machlokes. The Torah wants to warn us that we must be especially careful not to let ourselves get involved in arguments on Shabbos. The commentaries explain that this is especially necessary to be said regarding Shabbos, when people get together, when we have more free time than during the week, and thus we have time to argue and disagree. The possibility of machlokes – of arguments, is much greater on Shabbos. The Torah is telling us that we have to recognize this, and think ahead to prevent this from happening.

There is an old wise saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. If we can just acknowledge that Shabbos contains a very great danger of losing our calm and getting upset, we can hopefully prevent outbursts and shouting from occurring on Shabbos. We can hope that Shabbos will bring the serene calm and beauty that it should; and that we will be elevated with the true beauty that it presents us.