Vaykahel (Exodus 35:1-38:20) A Shabbat For Our Soul

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            The older I become, and the more I realize the restlessness of my soul, the more I accept for myself the Day of Rest. *

            This week’s portion continues the lengthy number of chapters that outline the construction of the Mishkan. We meet Betzalel, the chief architect and manager of the project and are reminded again, as we saw in previous portions, of the call for people to be part of this epic undertaking as “their heart so moved them”. Yet, a curious part of this portion, often overlooked, is the very beginning.

            In Exodus 35:2 we read that we shall work six days, but that seventh shall be a “sabbath of complete rest” (shabbat shabaton). No work shall be done. If you do, then death is the punishment. Quite a penalty! But a comment in Etz Hayim clarifies this as a death of the soul and thus “they become dead to the spiritual dimensions of life”. (p.552) Think about that for a moment considering our world today. In an ideal world, we would all observe some aspect of Shabbat. Indeed, there are some aspects of our community that do that, to the best of their ability. But, as for the overwhelming numbers of our community, we do not.

            That is why that Buber quote above strikes a note. We are all so busy in so many ways constructing our life, that we often lose track of the need to have a Shabbat for our soul. It may not be an entire day, but there is a realization as we get older that, as busy we may be, there is a need to allow our bodies and souls to recharge and rest.

            I know many people of our generation, busy and active, who come to the realization that their bodies tell them that there is a need to slow down a little and recharge. Thus, this idea of a Shabbat can be, and is often reexamined and reinterpreted for individuals depending in the context of their lives. Many of us are learning to deal with aspects of loss that all too often demand that we see a personal Shabbat in new ways.

            Thus, a message for us this Shabbat, drawn from the first verses of the portion is a not-so-subtle reminder that we all need, in our own way, or as our heart tells us, to take some time for us, for our soul to recharge and to celebrate the life that we have been given.

Savor those moments and Shabbat shalom.

Rabbi Richard F Address

(* =  “A Year With Martin Buber”. Rabbi Dennis Ross. JPS, p.94)

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