Weekly Dvar Torah on the Parsha
March 9, 2018
“We have no control”
The previous few Parshas spell out the structure of the Mishkan [Tabernacle], its various utensils, and the uniform of those who use those utensils and serve in the Mishkan. In this week’s Parsha, it is finally time to “pay up” and begin buildng. This is the intent ”Take from yourselves a portion for Hashem, everyone who is generous of heart shall bring it, as the gift for Hashem: gold and silver and copper…'” [Shmos 35:4-10]
However our Parshah does not begin with those words rather with the following “Six days work shall be done but the seventh day shall be holy for you, a day of complete rest for Hashem; whoever does work on it shall be put to death. You shall light no fire in any of your dwellings on the Sabbath day. [Shmos 35:2-3]”
The Shabbos laws were already mentioned in greater detail in last week’s parsha [31:12-17]. The repetition this week, at the beginning of Vayakhel, seems totally redundant! Why is it necessary to begin the section dealing with donating money to the Mishkan with this brief preamble telling us about Shabbos?
If you take a closer look at the words, it states “sheshes yamim tay-a-seh melacha” which literally means “six days WORK SHALL BE DONE”. A more common expression (as we indeed find elsewhere in the Torah) is “shashes yamim ta-a-seh melachtecha” (six days YOU SHALL DO YOUR WORK). It is peculiar to use the passive form of the verb for doing work. Perhaps by use of this expression, the Torah is teaching us a fundamental rule for anyone who is engaged in earning a livelihood: The amount of money a person makes is NOT connected with the amount of effort he puts into his job.
A person is indeed required to make an effort to earn a living and support a family. One who does not make that effort and expects “mann” or a miracle from heaven will be disappointed! However it is flawed to mentally make the equation that “the more work I do the more money I will make.” It does not work like that. We have a G-d who decides what each of us should earn. We can exhaust ourselves in our professions and either we will not succeed in earning as much as we feel we should earn or we perhaps will earn all that money and then lose it due to unforeseen expenses or poor investments, or a variety of other “unforeseen” circumstances. On the other hand, we can exert the normal amount of effort and the Almighty may bless the actions of our hands and we may earn large sums of money, far greater than what others who work much harder than we do earn.
This is a fundamental belief in our religion and it really is the essence of the Holy Shabbos. Common wisdom is that “Of course if one works seven days a week, he will make more money than if he works six days a week.” And yet, the Torah commands us to work only six days. If the Almighty wants to bestow upon us a certain degree of financial success, he will bestow it to us whether we expend six days of effort to earn it or we expend seven days of effort to earn it.
This is why the Torah here states “For six days work SHALL BE DONE”. The work must be done, but one should not think “you shall do work”. The “you” is not what gets the job done, it is the “He” that gets the job done and allows “you” to earn a living. Therefore the Torah omitted the “YOU” from this commandment of Shabbos.
This is the necessary preamble to asking the people to donate funds for the construction of the Mishkan and its associated vessels. Whenever people are approached for giving charity – whether for institutions or for individuals – it is hard for them to write the check. It is always challenging because “where is the money going to come from?”
Therefore Moshe had to provide the introduction to his effort to solicit the funds for the Mishkan with the expression that teaches that money is earned based on what G-d wills. After establishing the principle that in six days a person can earn the same amount that he would earn in seven days (because everything he earns comes from the Almighty), Moshe can proceed to ask for donations of gold, silver, copper, and so on. As the Rambam writes in Mishneh Torah, “no one becomes poor from giving charity.” Only then did Moshe ask for contributions to the Mishkan.
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