Parsha VaYak’hel – “Moshe assembled….”

1 And Moses assembled all the congregation of the children of Israel, and said unto them: ‘These are the words which the L-RD hath commanded, that ye should do them. Shmoth (Exodus) 35.1

“These are the words that the L-RD commanded לַעֲשֹׂת אֹתָם [to complete, or finish] to make.”

The Parsha begins “Moshe assembled” – yet the Torah immediately warns of the “Sanctity of the Shabbat” taking precedent over הַמְּלָאכָה (the work or construction) of the Mishkan.

“These are the הַדְּבָרִים (the [prophetic] words) that the L-RD commanded to make” (to make – to finish, complete). la’Asoth לַעֲשֹׂת Make the Shabbat and the Mishkan!

First, the Torah tells us, “don’t work on Shabbat” and only after the warning not to work on Shabbat are we told of the construction of the Mishkan and it’s accoutrements.

“So what is melakhah? Rabbi Dr. Moshe Sokolow, one of my earliest teachers of parshanut and a student of Nechama Leibowitz, identifies melakhah as sharing a root with the word “malakh” or emissary. In contrast, avodah – or labor, shares a root with “eved” – slave. An emissary fulfills a mission as a free agent. A slave’s labor belongs to another. The Torah describes our labors as slaves in Egypt as “avodah.” Slaves never engage in melakhah.” Vayakhel 5774 The Mishkan and the Wide World Beyond; by Rabbi David Wolkenfeld.

The reason for all the Commandments, but specifically to rest on Shabbat is given in Parsha Tetzaveh 29.45, 46 “in order that I may dwell in their midst” –

“I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel and I will be their G-D. They will know that I, the L-RD, am their G-D, Who brought them out of the land of Egypt in order that I may dwell in their midst; I am the L-RD, their G-D.”

In the Torah there are three words which mean “make or create” – “Ba’ra, Yetzer and Ashoth” – the First, means to make, or create something from nothing, the Second means to form from something created; and the Third means to finish the created work!

In the latter case, it is connected to the finished work of the Mishkan: 39.43 “And Moses saw all the work, and, behold, they had done it; as the L-RD had commanded, even so had they done it. And Moses blessed them.”

The construction of the Mishkan parallels the Creation of the Universe:

For instance, Tehillim 104.2 says, “Who coverest Thyself with light as with a garment, who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain;”

“In Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer we read:

In ten sayings the world was created…and in three it was finalized. And these are they: Chochmah (Skill), Tevunah (ability), and Da’at (Knowledge); as it is stated: “The Eternal with Chochmah founded the earth, by Tevunah established the heavens, by His Da’at the depths were split asunder” (Proverbs 3:19-20). With the same three, the Mishkan was made, as it states [about Bezalel the craftsman for the Mishkan]: “I have filled him with the spirit of God, in Chochmah, Tevunah, and Da’at” (Exodus 31:3). With the same three qualities the Temple was built; “His mother was from Naftali, his father from Tyre, and he was filled with Chochmah, Tevunah, and Da’at.” (I Kings 7:14)”

Even as “HaShem blessed the Seventh Day and Sanctified it” (B’rashith 2.3), Moshe blessed them and sanctified the raising up of the Mishkan. (Shmoth 40.9)

Now where is it written that the Children of Yisrael made (past tense) the Shabbat?

Shmoth 31.16, 17:  “Wherefore the children of Israel made the Shabbat, to observe the Shabbat throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. 17 It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel for ever; for in six days the L-RD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day He ceased from work and rested.” {S}

35.21 Every man whose heart uplifted נָדְבָה him came, and everyone whose spirit inspired him to generosity brought the תְּרוּמַת (offering) of the L-RD for לִמְלֶאכֶת (the work) of the Tent of Meeting, for all its service, and for the holy garments. 22 The men came with the women; every generous hearted person brought bracelets and earrings and rings and buckles, all kinds of golden objects, and every man who waved a waving of gold to the L-RD.

35.29 Every man and woman whose heart inspired them to generosity to bring for all הַמְּלָאכָה (the work) that the L-RD had commanded to make, through b’Yad בְּיַד (the hand – prophetic authority) of Moshe, the children of Israel brought a ne’davah נְדָבָה (gift) for the L-RD.”

In the words of the Mishneh, there are 39 types of work that are prohibited on the Shabbat and Yom Kippur:

“The principal kinds of work are forty minus one.”

Here is the list of the 39 Melachot (main activities) prohibited on the Shabbat as listed in the Mishneh Shabbat 73a:

1. Zoreah – Sowing (seeding), 2. Choresh – Plowing, 3. Kotzair – Reaping (cutting),

4. M’amair – Gathering (bundling sheaves), 5. Dush – Threshing, 6. Zoreh – Winnowing,

7. Borer – Sorting (selecting, separating), 8. Tochain – Grinding, 9. Miraked – Sifting,

10. Lush – Kneading, 11. Ofeh / (Bishul) – Baking/cooking, 12. Gozez – Shearing,

13. Melabain – Whitening (bleaching),14. Menafetz – Disentangling, Combing,

15. Tzovayah – Dyeing, 16. Toveh – Spinning, 17. Maisach – Mounting the warp (stretching threads onto loom),

18. Oseh Beit Batai Neirin – Setting two heddles (preparing to weave), 19. Oraig – Weaving

20. Potzai’ah – Separating (removing) threads (Unweaving), 21. Koshair – Tying a knot,

22. Matir – Untying a knot, 23. Tofair – Sewing, 24. Ko’reah – Tearing (unsewing – ripping)

25. Tzud – Trapping, 26. Shochet – Slaughtering (Killing), 27. Mafshit – Skinning,

28. M’abaid – Salting/tanning process, 29. Mesharteit – Tracing (scratching) lines,

30. Memacheik – Smoothing / scraping, 31. Mechateich – Cutting (to shape),

32. Kotaiv – Writing two or more letters, 33. Mochaik – Erasing two or more letters,

34. Boneh – Building, 35. Soiser – Demolishing, 36. Mechabeh – Extinguishing (putting out a flame),

37. Ma’avir – Kindling (making a fire), 38. Makeh B’Patish – Striking the final blow (Finishing an object),

39. Hotza’ah – Transferring (transporting) from domain to domain (carrying).

So where is the TORAH source for the 39 Me’lachah (39 prohibited labors of the Shabbat)?

Rabbi Dr. Yoel Bin Nun, in The Textual Source for the 39 Melachot of Shabbat 

cites Midrash HaGadol which derives the 39 Me’lachah from the items used in the construction of the Mishkan, the Kohen HaGadol’s Service Vestments and the clothing worn by Aharon’s sons:

“Rabbi Shaul Baruchi, showed me that the idea had already been anticipated by R. Menachem Mendel Kasher, who found it in the Midrash HaGadol of David bar Amram al-Adani (14th century Yemen).[19] (Although the work is late, it is an exceedingly important collection of midrash that preserves some very early midrashim that survive nowhere else.)

In truth, Midrash HaGadol does bring the list of 39 Tabernacle items, exactly as I did above, although only citing the list from Vayakhel.

The Midrash HaGadol adds the following:

These 39 commands [to create these items for the Tabernacle in Exod. 35:11-19] correlate with the 39 categories of labor forbidden on Shabbat. From where do we know that the Israelites were commanded to create these 39 items? The commands were stated earlier (in the parashiyot of Terumah and Tetzaveh).

[19] See: Torah Sheleima vol. 23, Supplements to Parashat Pekudei, pp. 118-119.”

Rabbi Dr. Yoel Bin Nun lists the following as the 39 Melachah necessary for the construction of the Mishkan, the Kohen HaGadol’s Service Vestments and the clothing worn by Aharon’s sons:

Vayakhel (35:11-19)[14]                                    Pekudei (29:33-41)
1. The Tabernacle                                                        They brought the Tabernacle to Moses
2. its tents                                                                    with the tent
3. and its coverings                                                     and all its furnishings
4. its clasps                                                                  its clasps
5. and its planks                                                          its planks
6. its bars                                                                     its bars
7. its posts                                                                    its posts
8. and its sockets                                                         and its sockets
9. the ark                                                                     the covering of tanned ram skins
10. and its poles                                                          the covering of tachash skins
11. the cover                                                               and the curtain for the screen
12. and the curtain for the screen                              the Ark of the Pact
13. the table                                                                and its poles
14. and its poles                                                          and the cover
15. and all its utensils                                                 the table
16. and the bread of display                                       and all its utensils
17. the lampstand for lighting                                   and the bread of display
18. its furnishings                                                        the pure lampstand
19. and its lamps                                                         its lamps—lamps in due order
20. and the oil for lighting                                          and all its fittings
21. the altar of incense                                                and the oil for lighting
22. and its poles                                                           the altar of gold
23. the anointing oil                                                    the oil for anointing
24. and the aromatic incense                                     the aromatic incense
25. and the entrance screen for the entrance            and the screen for the entrance
of the Tabernacle                                                        of the Tent
26. the altar of burnt offering                                    the copper altar
27. and its copper grating                                           with its copper grating
28. its poles                                                                  its poles
29. and all its furnishings                                            and all its utensils
30. the laver                                                                the laver
31. and its stand                                                          and its stand
32. the hangings of the enclosure                               the hangings of the enclosure
33. its posts                                                                  its posts
34. and its sockets                                                       and its sockets
35. and the screen for the gate                                    the screen for the gate
of the enclosure                                                           of the enclosure
36. the pegs for the Tabernacle                                   its cords
37. the pegs for the enclosure                                    and its pegs
38. and their cords                                                      all the furnishingsfor the service of the
Tabernacle, the Tent of Meeting
39. the service vestments for officiating                     the service vestments for officiating
in the sanctuary                                                     in the sanctuary

[14] All translation of biblical verses follow the NJPS translation with some adaptations.

“An Alternative Approach: Using Gematriot
The Jerusalem Talmud contains a pair of derashot that derive the number 39 from gematria. The first is the suggestion of R. Chanina of Sepphoris (j. Shabbat 7:2). He bases the derasha upon the gematria (numerical value) of the phrase (Exod. 35:1), “these are the things (אלה הדברים).” “Things” is plural, so that equals 2. “The things,” with the addition of the definite article, equals 3. The word “these (אלה)” has a numerical value of 36 (alef = 1, lamed = 30, hey = 5). 36 from “אלה”+ 3 from “הדברים” = 39 melachot.[12]  

An even more forced interpretation than the above is that of the Rabbis of Caesaria that comes as a response to R. Chanina of Sepphoris. They say that there is no need to use the extra 3 from “the things.” Instead, they say that the word אלה itself can be given a gematria of 39 since, following the Galilean pronunciation, the hey can be considered a chet. (In the Galilee, during the Talmudic period, all the gutturals were pronounced in the same manner.) Since the gematria of chet is 8, the missing 3 is made up and the number 39 reached. The Talmud then states that, “Rabbis don’t avoid treating hey like chet in derashot.” ”

[12] In Rashi’s understanding, this view appears in the Babylonian Talmud as well, once in the name of R. Nathan (Shabbat 70a) and once in the name of Rabbi [Yehudah HaNasi] (Shabbat 97b). See Rashi in both places, where he explains the Bavli’s more cryptic description along the lines of R. Chanina’s more explicit one in the Yerushalmi.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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