The Parasha starts with Moshe Convoking the entire nation as he has a very important message to deliver directly. “These are the things Hashem commanded you to do.” Hashem commanded us to keep His laws, they were given at Mount Sinai. However, Hashem commanding us “things” is very unusual. It must be unimportant laws in order to be referred as “things”. Then, why this departure from the normal process to inform the Jewish people? Usually, Moshe would tell Aaron, who in turn would instruct the Elders etc. Why did Moshe feel the urge to instruct the whole nation himself? Surprisingly, the 2 commandments Moshe orders are essential to the sustainability of the Jewish nation. Shabbos and the Mishkan. How could he refer to them as “things”? Shabbos is so important that it was repeated 8 times in the Torah and needless to describe the importance of the Mishkan, as the original light of the creation [Ohr Haganuz], which is also the light of the Redemption, would reside there.
The Zohar (Exodus 149a) notes, on the day the Tabernacle was set up on, the Pasuk states a surprising event “Moshe was not able to enter the Tent of Meeting, because the cloud abode thereon” (Exodus 40:35). What was that cloud? It was a thread from the original light, which, issuing forth joyously, entered the Shechinah and descended into the Tabernacle below. After the first day of creation this light was never again made fully manifest until the creation of the Tabernacle. Given the importance of the laws of the Mishkan, it’s confusing why Shabbos laws were repeated here and preceding the rules of the Tabernacle.
It’s interesting to note that the commandment of Shabbos is never repeated in the same language. Three main languages are used: “Six days you shall work and do all your work, but the seventh day is The Sabbath of Hashem your God” (Exodus 20:8). “Six days work will be done, but on the seventh day there shall be a Sabbath of complete rest, holy to the Hashem” (Exodus 31:15). “On six days work may be
done, but on the seventh day you shall have a sabbath of complete rest, holy to the Hashem” (Exodus 31:2). Why these changes when referring to the weekdays?
The Mekhilta explains that our level of safekeeping the Shabbos determines our weekly workload. Someone “lenient” in his keeping of Shabbos, will have a heavy workload with a “light” bottom line. Someone more serious about his partaking in Shabbos sanctity, will only have to initiate the work and it will be completed by itself. However, someone who’s keeping Shabbos scrupulously, his work will be done by itself. Undoubtably, Shabbos constitutes the main blessing in our lives, and is indeed critical to the Jewish Nation existence. However, why mentioning it at the onset of the Parasha, which deals exclusively with the building of the Mishkan?
The Ramban expounds on the theme of the Book of Exodus (in his introduction to Parashas Shemos). He presents the thesis that the Book of Exodus should really be called the Book of Redemption. It begins by describing the descent of the tribes to Egypt, and it ends with the descent of the Cloud of Hashem’s Presence onto the Mishkan erected by their progeny, who had in the interim assumed the dimensions of a great nation. The descent to Egypt, which marked the beginning of exile, also represents the loss of the special grace of Hashem’s Presence that accompanied the Patriarchs. In contrast, Parashas Pikudei signifies a return to this special state of grace. Redemption is the closing off this circle of separation and reunion.
The nature of this redemption involves human existence itself rather than just the release from bondage of a group of individuals. It represents a giant step forward in the development of the relationship between man and Hashem. Indeed, rather than entertaining a “dark” relationship based exclusively on “trust and belief”, they were awarded a “live” relationship with a real-time interaction with Hashem. Now we can understand why Moshe convened the entire nation to share the secret of Shabbos powers. As Shabbos has the capacity to bring the final redemption as stated in Talmud [Shabbos 118b] “If Jews were 2 keep 2 Shabbos they would immediately be redeemed”. The Talmud Yerushalmi [Taanis 1:1] goes even further, “Even if they all only kept one Shabbos they would be immediately redeemed.” Besides, Shabbos represents the key to success to all endeavors, the key to “Success and being healthy”. Shabbos in the foundation of our sustainability in this world, as
it’s the source of all the blessings, the better we keep it the greater its powers are unleashed.
The Zohar [Tikun 21:6] adds that the light shining on Shabbos is depending upon us. On that day the very same light that was in the Mishkan is available, the primordial light, the Ohr Haganuz. The very light that enables prophecy and live interaction with Hashem. It’s depending on our diligence to keep Shabbos. As on that day the person remains no longer within the boundaries of the lower world but is transported to the upper world. He can take from there whatever he choses to better his weekly life.
Considering the above, we understand Moshe’s stress to share directly this secret with the entire nation. Then our verbatim translation “These are the things” should be corrected to “These are the promises” [Devarim could mean either “things” or “paroles” in the sense of promises]. Actually, the numerical value of “These are the things” equals “The Godly promise”.
By Rabbi Shimon Fridmann