The Torah reading of Vayakhel begins by describing how Moshe assembled the entire nation and, after first relaying G‑d’s command to keep Shabbos, conveyed His desire that the Jews donate objects for the construction of the Mishkan.1

Rashi2 explains that Moshe prefaced the commandment to construct the Mishkan with the command to keep Shabbos in order to inform the Jews that, notwithstanding the supreme importance of building the Tabernacle, this activity may not be pursued on Shabbos.

One might think that, since the main theme of Vayakhel is the construction of the Mishkan , the command to build it should have been stated first. Why is the order reversed?

The relationship of Shabbos observance to the construction of the Mishkan is not only a negative one (i.e., that the Mishkan may not be built on Shabbos), but also a positive one — that Shabbos observance serves as a preparation for the building of the Mishkan.

How so?

Although 39 general categories of creative labor are prohibited on Shabbos,3 Moshe singled out the lighting of a fire.4 How does the command to not light a fire — more than any other — relate to building the Mishkan ?

Also, why did Moshe find it necessary to first assemble every Jewish man, woman and child — something he rarely did — and only then relate the commandments of Shabbos and the construction of the Mishkan ?

Consider. The overall purpose of the Mishkan was to “Make for Me a sanctuary so that I may dwell among them,”5 i.e., the revelation of the Divine Presence here below. As the Midrash states:6 “When did the Divine Presence reveal itself in this world? On the day the Mishkan was erected.”

Unlike the revelation of the Divine Presence at Sinai, which was mainly G‑d’s initiative, the Jews’ labor and service in building the Tabernacle — as well as the preparation for its construction by all Jewish men, women and children — resulted in the completed state of Divine revelation manifest within the Mishkan.

The revelation of the Divine Presence within this world denotes G‑d’s absolute unity. Since this revelation was brought about by the Jewish people, it followed that they had to be united in this common cause. Thus it was that Moshe assembled all the people before relating the command to construct the Mishkan.

Moreover, one of the principal causes of dissension and disunity in this world are disagreements over money, for people tend to panic over the potential loss of wealth.7 Thus, when all the Jews acted together to give money for the construction of the Mishkan , it revealed the depth of their unity.

This unity was further emphasized by Moshe’s emphasis on the laws of Shabbos, and particularly on the prohibition against creating a fire.

The underlying concept of Shabbos is to ingrain within us the knowledge that G‑d created and is responsible for the entire world.8 This knowledge should have a profound impact on our conduct during the six weekdays, for it helps us understand that the work we do during the week to earn our living is merely a vehicle and a vessel for G‑d’s blessings.

The result of this knowledge is that, while we work hard during the week to provide the receptacle for G‑d’s blessings, the work will not consume us; our heads and hearts will remain immersed in the study of Torah, the performance of mitzvos and the service of G‑d.

This theme is stressed by the prohibition against creating fire “in all your dwelling places,” i.e., that the physical “places” in which a person generally “dwells” must be without “fire” — without consuming passion.

When a person lives life in this manner, knowing that G‑d’s blessings are responsible for his livelihood, he will not become consumed by a desire for wealth, and his ability to unite with his neighbor to build a Mishkan will be immeasurably enhanced.

Based on Sefer HaSichos 5749, Vol. I, pp. 292-298