The New Shul

Parshat Vayak’hel

In this week’s parashah, Vayak’hel, Moshe gets the children of Israel started on the work of building the mishkan, which will become God’s dwelling place on earth. But first Moshe reminds them that they will have to interrupt their work each seventh day to rest. Moshe’s language seems a little awkward. He says:  “Uvayom ha-sh’vi’i yih’yeh lakhem kodesh” — which literally means  “On the seventh day for you shall be holy.

Why the strange formulation? Rabbi Hayim Yosef David Azulai interpreted Moses’s words to mean that, on the seventh day, that which is for you shall also be holy — that is, it shall be for God as well. The relaxation, the special meals, the extra time with family and community, shall be not only for our your enjoyment, but for a higher purpose too.

On Shabbat, taking care of our own needs is not just about ourselves. Honoring our humanity –giving ourselves space to feel more human — is a way of honoring the God in whose image we are created. Restoring our own dignity as human beings reminds us of where that dignity originally comes from. That which is “for us”points us toward that which is greater than us.

May our enjoyment of Shabbat restore our souls.