Rabbi Steven Pik-Nathan for Jewish Reconstructionist Communities
Reconstructing the Prohibitions of Shabbat
Rashi (12th c. France) comments on the reminder that after six days of working we are required to rest on Shabbat by stating that God "prefaced the instructions about the Mishkan work with the warning about Shabbat, to tell them that the Mishkan does not supercede Shabbat." As Aviva Zornberg then states in her analysis (The Particulars of Rapture, p. 462) "an intimate tension is set up between Shabbat and the Mishkan: before even beginning to speak of the building work, it is necessary to articulate a kind of 'anti-Mishkan' principle. One might indeed have thought that the Mishkan does displace Shabbat, that that the crafts that go to create the holy space would continue through the weekly day of sacred [or holy] time. Therefore Moses speaks of Shabbat before the Mishkan work, to counteract perhaps a natural hypothesis." Furthermore, Zornberg reminds her readers that the beginning of the verses concerning the building of the Mishkan begin with the words 'eileh ha-devarim' (these are the things) the 39 letters of this phrase are viewed by the Sages as pointing to the 39 categories of work involved in the building of the Mishkan which then become the 39 categories of work forbidden on Shabbat.
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