The Torah reading of Vayakhel begins by relating how Moshe assembled the entire Jewish people. After first communicating G‑d’s command to keep Shabbos, he goes on to relate G‑d’s command that they donate objects for the construction of the Mishkan , the Tabernacle.1 Rashi2 explains that Moshe prefaced the commandment regarding the Mishkan with the commandment of Shabbos to inform the Jews that, notwithstanding the supreme importance of building the Mishkan , it still may not be built on Shabbos.

Still, since the main theme of Vayakhel is the construction of the Mishkan , it seems that the command to build it should have been stated first, with the qualifier added that it may not be built on Shabbos.

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

How so?

Although 39 categories of creative labor are prohibited on Shabbos,3 Moshe singled out the making of fire.4 Clearly, the main aspect of Shabbos observance as a preparation for the Mishkan lay in the command “Do not burn a fire.” How does this command — more than any other — specifically relate to building the Mishkan ?

Additionally, why did Moshe find it necessary to first assemble the entire nation — men, women and children — (something he rarely did) and only then relate the commandments concerning Shabbos and the building of the Mishkan ?

The overall purpose of the Mishkan was to make for G‑d “a Sanctuary so that I may dwell among them,”5 thus revealing the Divine Presence below. As the Midrash states:6 “When did the Divine Presence reveal itself in this world? On the day that the Mishkan was erected.”

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

The revelation of the Divine Presence even 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 cause. Thus it was that Moshe first united all the people, and then related the command to construct the Mishkan.

Moreover, one of the principal causes of dissension in this world is disagreement over money, for people panic over the potential loss of their wealth7 Thus, when all Jews came together to give money for the construction of the Mishkan , it revealed their profound unity.

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

The concept of Shabbos ingrains within us the realization that G‑d is the Creator of and responsible for the entire world, including man.8 This knowledge has a profound impact on our conduct during the six weekdays, for it helps us understand that the work we do to earn our sustenance merely acts as a vessel for G‑d’s blessings.

The result is that while we will 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 our study of Torah, performance of mitzvos and service of G‑d.

This theme is emphasized by the prohibition against “creating fire in all your dwelling places,” thus instructing us that the “places” where a person generally “dwells” must be without “fire” — without consuming passion.

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

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