Every Shabbat is special, and as a rabbi, of course, I would tell you that each and every week. But, this Shabbat is one whose message is timely and meaningful. As we continue in the narrative of the book of Exodus, we come to the end of the book in a double portion of Vayakhel/Pekudei. The main objective of the reading seems to be to describe in detail the building of the tabernacle – what wood to be used to build the ark, the jewels to collect, the artisan's details, the role of the people. Yet, the parashah opens a bit differently – with yet one more appeal to the people about the importance of Shabbat: " And Moses assembled all the congregation of the children of Israel, and said unto them: ‘These are the words which the LORD hath commanded, that ye should do them. Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you a holy day, a sabbath of solemn rest to the LORD…" (Exodus 25:1-2)
Rashi teaches us that this ordering of the verses is deliberate and intentional, meant to emphasize that the building of the Sanctuary is less important than observing Shabbat. The Sabbath, the day for remembering God's creation and for resting from work is so important that even the holy work of building God's holy temple must stop.
This Shabbat is also Shabbat Hachodesh, the Shabbat in which we call attention to the pending arrival of Passover and on which we include the special Torah reading re-establishing the first mitzvah given to the collective people of Israel, the commandment to count time.
Time and space…. Where do they come from? What does it mean that they are somehow connected?
Abraham Joshua Heschel, in his work The Sabbath, writes:
"When history began, there was only one holiness in the world, holiness in time. When at Sinai the word of God was about to be voiced a call for holiness in man was proclaimed: "Thou shalt be unto me a holy people." It was only after the people had succumbed to the temptation of worshipping a thing, a golden calf, that the erection of a Tabernacle, of holiness in space, was commanded. The sanctity of time came first, the sanctity of man came second, and the sanctity of space last. Time was hallowed by God; space, the Tabernacle, was consecrated by Moses.,,,The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time. It is a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal in time, to turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation, from the world of creation to the creation of the world."
Solemnize Shabbat, count the new month, Celebrate the Passover… imagine the innovation as it may have been in the original moment. God, the incorporeal, whose presence is manifest through faith (and not necessarily physical proof or buildings or places) invites us to join in surpassing the physical of our world and live for brief moments in a realm of the infinite. Unlike places or building, no one owns time or can claim that the day belongs to them alone. And, so it was and is that time – Shabbat - is in of itself a sanctuary, where the self, God, and community gather to reconnect, to reflect, and to marvel in the beauty of creation. Shabbat is our entry into the eternal, into the unique, into the special, into the transcendent.
This is our calling, this is our gift – this Shabbat and each and every Shabbat. Ken yehi ratzon – so may it be!