סדר ויקהל

ויקהל משה וכו’ אלה הדברים אשר צוה ה’ לעשת אתם ששת ימים תעשה מלאכה

And Moses gathered all the congregation of the people of Israel together, and said to them, These are the words which the Lord has commanded, that you should do them. Six days shall work be done 

Exodus 35:1-2

If the only explicit commandment is not to do work on the Sabbath, the question arises what was it that the Eternal commanded to be done (אשר צוה ה’ לעשת אתם)? Aware of this problem, our Sages interpreted the verse as a reference to the work of the Tabernacle, which was to be performed only on the other six days of the week, not on the Sabbath. But why the Scripture wrote “תֵּעָשֶׂה” (shall be done) instead of “תַּעֲשֶׂה” (you shall do) remains unclear. Perhaps the intention was to show that the work of the Tabernacle was not really performed through the exertions of the workers, but that even though their hands moved, the work was performed of its own accord, as it is written (Exodus 35:31): “And He has filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, and in knowledge, and in every kind of workmanship.”

See Midrash Rabbah (Exodus 52:4): When Solomon built the Temple everyone was helping him, including both man and spirits, because it says (1 Kings 6:7), “וְהַבַּיִת בְּהִבָּנֹתוֹ אֶבֶן שְׁלֵמָה מַסָּע נִבְנָה וּמַקָּבוֹת וְהַגַּרְזֶן כָּל כְּלִי בַרְזֶל לֹא נִשְׁמַע בַּבַּיִת בְּהִבָּנֹתוֹ” (When the House was built, only finished stones cut at the quarry were used, so that no hammer or ax or any iron tool was heard in the House while it was being built). It was built of its own accord; therefore it must have been built miraculously. Similarly, when the Tabernacle was erected, it also rose up miraculously.

Nevertheless, the Scripture says not to do even such work (performed of its own accord) on the Sabbath. And it our master explains that the Scripture is referring to a person who places his trust in the Eternal, and whose belief in God is so strong that he would perform no work unless the Torah commanded him to harvest your crops (וְאָסַפְתָּ דְגָנֶךָ), which means that even a person on this level is obligated to conduct himself in the normal way of the world (הנהג בהם מנהג דרך ארץ), so that “you shall blessed you in all that you do” (וּבֵרַכְךָ ה”א בְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר תַּעֲשֶׂה). For such a person, when the Sabbath comes, rest comes to him, and he takes pleasure in the Eternal with a generous heart and a willing spirit, for his faith in the Eternal is strong, and although he rests from his work, he lacks for nothing. Not so is the one whose faith in the Eternal is weak, and who says in his heart: “my power and the strength of my hand have achieved this wealth.” Even if he does observe the Sabbath and does no work owing to fear of punishment or to embarrassment before his fellow man, he nevertheless finds no rest for his soul, and his rest does not please him, because his heart is not in accord with his actions.

This is the meaning of “אלה הדברים” (these are the words), which, according to the Sages, are the thirty-nine categories of work “אשר צוה ה’ לעשת אתם” (that the Eternal commanded to perform them), because one must conduct oneself according to the normal way of the world. That is why it is written “ששת ימים תעשה מלאכה” (six days shall work be done). If you work six days of the week only because God commanded you to conduct yourself according to the way of the world, but had you not been commanded to do so, you would not have worked because of your faith in the Eternal, then “וּבַיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי יִהְיֶה לָכֶם קֹדֶשׁ שַׁבַּת שַׁבָּתוֹן” (on the seventh day there shall be to you a holy day, a Sabbath of solemn rest to the Lord) when you observe the Sabbath with pleasure and great joy. See in the comment of Rashi in parashat Ki Tisa on the verse (Exodus 31:15) “שֵׁשֶׁת יָמִים תֵּעָשֶׂה מְלָאכָה וּבַיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי יִהְיֶה לָכֶם קֹדֶשׁ שַׁבַּת שַׁבָּתוֹ)” (Six days may work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest): “מנוחה מרגוע ולא מנוחת עראי” (a rest of repose, not a rest of happenstance). (שביבי אש)

לא תבערו אשׁ בכל משבתיכם ביום השבת

You shall kindle no fire throughout your habitations upon the Sabbath day 

Exodus 35:3

Our Sages have discussed why this specific type of work (kindling a fire) was enumerated. But our master suggests a further allegorical explanation related to how the Sages interpret the verse: “And Moses assembled all the congregation of the children of Israel” (וַיַּקְהֵל מֹשֶׁה) to teach us that they should come together in gatherings on the Sabbath and Festivals. These gatherings should be holy convocations for the sake of the Eternal, for Torah and for testimony. But these gathering should not be unruly gatherings for frivolous purposes and dissipation that lead people astray igniting their passions or stirring up contentiousness and strife. Therefore, after the commanding them to call a halt to work on the Sabbath, the Scripture says “you shall kindle no fire in your habitations upon the Sabbath day.” This is meant to teach us that the meetings in which they gather together on the Sabbath should not lead them to kindle the fire of jealousy and strife or to engage in any immodest conduct. Instead, the meetings should be gatherings appropriate for the righteous and for all. (שביבי אש)

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