In Parshas Ki Sisa, after a full description of the Mishkan and the bigdei kehunah in Terumah and Tetzaveh, there are a few pesukim which talk about Shabbos: “But you shall keep My Shabbos for it is a sign between you and me for all generations in order that you know that I am your G-d Who makes you holy… And you shall keep the Shabbos for it is holy… Six days work shall be done, and on the seventh it is Shabbos, holy unto Hashem… And Bnei Yisrael shall keep the Shabbos… It is between me and Bnei Yisrael an eternal sign that Hashem created the world in six days and on the seventh day He rested” (Shemos 31:12-17).
Rashi there states that the juxtaposition of the two subjects comes to teach that “Although I have commanded you to build a Mishkan, do not take Shabbos lightly and violate it in order to build the Mishkan; rather, having commanded you to build a Mishkan, still, make sure you keep Shabbos.”
This occurs again in this week’s Parshas Vayakhel, where we read, “Six days shall you do work and on the seventh it shall be a holy day, Shabbos, for the sake of Hashem… Take from Bnei Yisrael terumah for Hashem… gold, silver…” And once again Rashi tells us, “The commandment about Shabbos precedes commanding the building of the Mishkan, to teach that Shabbos is not to be pushed aside for the building of the Mishkan.”
We thus have two parshiyos whose reason for being written is to teach that the building of the Mishkan does not push aside keeping the Shabbos. It is fascinating that this is the place in which Torah gives lengthy descriptions of the holiness of Shabbos, and says things about Shabbos not mentioned anywhere else, e.g., calling Shabbos a sign, the equivalent of a covenant between Hashem and the Jewish people (this is why we have no need to wear tefillin on Shabbos [Eiruvin 96a]); Shabbos is called a great gift given to Bnei Yisrael as a sign of Hashem’s boundless love for them (Shabbos 10b, based on Shemos 31:13); and reference is made to the concept of having a neshama yeseira on Shabbos (Beitzah 16a, based on 31:17). This requires explanation. One would have thought these great concepts would be taught where the primary place of Shabbos is found, i.e., the Ten Commandments, not where it is teaching an almost-side point.
Another interesting point is that in Parshas Ki Sisa, the commandment to keep Shabbos is written after the commandment of the Mishkan (in Terumah-Tetzaveh); whereas in Vayakhel, it is written before. Yet both purport to teach the same priority — that Shabbos is not to be violated for the building of the Mishkan. Why the differing placements?
Many commentaries ask this question. Most of the answers are based on the same principle, that the Terumah-Tetzaveh-Ki Sisa lesson is one that was taught before the sin of the Golden Calf (which appears later in Ki Sisa), while the Vayakhel lesson is taught after that sin, which takes issue with Rashi who states in Ki Sisa [31:18] that all commandments to build a Mishkan took place after the sin
I would like to share with you the approach of Rav Tzadok Hakohen Milublin, zt”l, in his sefer Pri Tzaddik. He cites a Gemara in Shabbos (69B) which talks about a man lost in the desert who has confused the days, and is unaware of which day is which. Rav Huna says he is to count six days, and then keep the seventh as Shabbos, similar to the way the world was created. Whereas Rav Chiya bar Rav says he is to count Shabbos, and then six days, similar to the way Adam Harishon found the world when he was created. (The basic explanation of why only these two options, and what logic governs the whole idea of his doing melachah six days and keeping an arbitrary Shabbos, is beyond the scope of this column.)
Rav Tzadok sees in their machlokes a deep concept, with which he explains the aforementioned difficulty. Briefly, there are two ways Shabbos can be perceived: as a Shabbos following six days of creation (as the world was indeed created), or as Shabbos followed by six days of creation (as Adam experienced his first Shabbos). Before Adam sinned, the world was in a state of perfection. As such, Shabbos kodesh comes at the end, to complete the cycle and raise that perfection to new heights, with Shabbos being the final touch. Once Adam sinned, though, once the world had become ruined and spoiled and acquired spiritual imperfection, Shabbos kodesh appears first, representing the final tikun of Olam Haba, and channeling that into the oncoming week, raising its mundane pursuits to a level of kedushah, as actions dedicated to doing the will of Hashem, making all those actions kodesh.
Rav Tzadok continues: Before the sin of the Golden calf, Klal Yisrael was actually ready to return the briah to the level of Adam before his sin. Thus, in a world without sin, we first speak about building the place for the Shechinah — the Mishkan — and then the “topping” — Shabbos. But after their sin of the Golden Calf, they were facing a situation similar to Adam after his sin. And so his, and their, experience had to be to first experience Shabbos, the world of tikun, and then to have that world be mashpiah over the world of building and doing and creating.
Thus, these parshiyos teach the same idea: Shabbos is a day of perfection — of ma’ein Olam Haba: an os, a covenant, a gift, a neshama yeseirah. And as such it perfects this world, and exists independent of a Mishkan; indeed, it remains forbidden to build the Mishkan while violating the holiness of Shabbos. In Hashem’s original creation, Shabbos was the culmination of a perfect world of six days of toiling, a toiling in the service of Hashem. After the sin of Adam, after the sin of the eigel, we need Shabbos first to serve as the role model of what we can and should be — and then to channel that potential into all of our actions in the flawed world, preparing for that ultimate perfection.