Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Mrs. Shira Smiles
There is an intriguing juxtaposition in Parshat Ki Tisa and Parshat Vayakel. In Vayakel, Hashem first tells Moshe to command the Jews about the mitzva of Shabbat and he singles out the prohibition of kindling a flame. He then tells the people about the mitzva of building the Mishkan. In contrast, Parshat Ki Tisa, which is a culmination of Parshat Terumah and Tezaveh and the building of the Mishkan, begins with the mitzva of Shabbat. Why the switch and why does the Torah continually connect Shabbat with the Mishkan?
The Siftei Chaim notes that Adam lived a pure existence before the sin of eitz hadaat. Every action he performed, even if it was physical, was entirely sanctified. His only goal was to do the will of Hashem. After the sin, Adam was thrust into a world of confusion. Suddenly he acquired busha (shame), which is a contradiction between what one knows to be correct and his actions. Every action from then on contains a mixture of good and evil, to the extent that man could now never say that his motives were completely altruistic. Before the sin, Adam’s food did not require preparation. After the sin, producing bread became a long arduous process. This reflects life in microcosm. Life is about working with a mixture of good and evil and extracting the grains of goodness.
On Shabbat we can reach the state of Adam before the sin. All week long we mimic building the Mishkan by taking the physical and elevating it for Hashem. On Shabbat we enter a dimension of Gan Eden where we don’t need to work and can still achieve this same level of spirituality. Shabbat is about rejoicing with the kingship of Hashem. On this day we crown Him as master. Our sages say that on Shabbat we receive an extra soul, an expansiveness of the heart. We can enjoy physical pleasures and our souls will not despise them because on Shabbat both the physical and spiritual work in tandem. Rav Wolbe notes that this level can be reached with the first kezayit of challa at the meal. If you consume it as if you are eating that first piece of matza at the seder, you can experience a foretaste of The World To Come.
At matan Torah, when the Jews completely nullified themselves before Hashem, they reached the state of Adam before the sin. After chet ha’egel they lost this level again. However, our Sages say that Moshe retained it. The parsha notes that he had a keren or, his face shone and he needed to wear a mask in order to speak to the Jewish people. His face, a reflection of his inner being, embodied a perfect melding of physical and spiritual. On Shabbat we return to this level.
The Netivot Shalom teaches that Shabbat is a propitious time for teshuva. The mask we wear all week long is lifted. We can return to our inner essence. Shabbat is a time to meditate on our true selves. Every Jew can recognize that life is about elevating the physical to the spiritual and about coming closer to Hashem. Our challenge is to take this message into our week and create a Mishkan for Hashem. The models of this were the women in Mitzrayim. They knew how to live Shabbat during the week. The Ibn Ezra writes that they were so committed to Hashem that they donated their mirrors, signifying their preoccupation with physicality, and came to the Ohel Moed to pray and learn.
Rav Kanatovsky notes that the reason for the reversal in the Parshiot is to teach us that we need to buttress the fundamental aspect of Shabbat-connection to Hashem, with action. Shabbat is the focus of Jewish belief. We need to recognize that we are not in control. Our job is to do our part, but ultimately the results are up to Hashem. This is why the Torah singles out fire. Fire symbolizes man’s mastery over the universe. The suspension of this act represents relinquishment of control. Shabbat is about recognizing that there is a larger force behind our everyday actions. Similarly, the word vayakhel means community. We belong to something bigger than ourselves.
The Klei Yakar writes that Ohel Moed reflects the womens’ tents. The greatest accomplishment of a woman is dedicating herself to a greater aspect of self, namely her home and family. May our efforts to reach these lofty levels bring ourselves, those close to us, and all of Klal Yisrael to true sheleimut.