Parasha Vayakhel & Parasha Pekudei
This Shabbat is unique for many reasons. First we read not one but two Torah portions. There are 54 Torah portions. Why not 52? Because some years are Jewish leap years which have an extra month at the end of the year. When a year is not a leap year it requires that some Shabbats have two Torah portions to be read so the Torah can be completed in a year. There is another reason why Torah portions are sometimes joined together. If a festival falls on a Shabbat, then the reading is postponed to the following week. The same must be done for the two Shabbats that fall during the Festival of Unleavened Bread and the Festival of Tabernacles which have their own special readings.
Parashat Vayakhel : Exodus 35:1-38:20
Parashat Peudei: Exodus 38:21-40:38 (the end of the book of Exodus)
This is another Special Shabbat called Shabbat Chodesh (the Sabbath before the Month of Nissan), therefore we are reading a special portion in the Torah (Maftir) before the reading from the prophets.
Maftir: Exodus 12:1-10
Haftarah: Ezekiel 45:16-46:18
In this week’s Blog I have selected one of the opening verses of Parashat Vayakhel to be studied. The Torah portion begins with some of the instructions concerning Shabbat observance.
“You shall not light a fire in any of your dwelling places on the Sabbath day.” Ex. 35:3
The purpose of this article is not to point my finger at you and tell you how you should observe the Shabbat, although it is always fun to play judge and jury. Rather, my purpose is to respond to many of the questions I receive in regard to Shabbat. One needs to know that according to Jewish Law, electricity has the same status as fire. This commandment in the verse we are discussing is not a prohibition on benefiting from fire or electricity, but it is a prohibition on lighting a fire or releasing electricity as one turns on a switch or press buttons to start an electrical appliance.
Fire was used as commonly as electricity is today. In order to observe this, it takes a little planning and a good memory of what day it is. Perhaps this is why HaShem gave us this command, to cause us to think all day that it is Shabbat. Others have pointed out that this prohibition also makes work difficult to be done, which may be another reason why HaShem instructed His people not to kindle fire on Shabbat.
I have found that observing Shabbat is not a burden, but a blessing to be free for one day from many of the things that can cause one not to focus in on the purpose of the Day. What is this purpose? The purpose is to draw close to the Living G-d and focus on His word. I am very thankful that one day a week the phones, computers, and television are turned off and my children have nothing else to do than to talk to Mom and Dad. Shabbat has been a great blessing for my family.
If you asked, do I have to keep the Shabbat? You have missed my point. It is not a matter of whether I have to, but I get to apply Shabbat truth to my life. Why do I not want to use the phrase, “to keep Shabbat”? Because the Shabbat cannot be kept today. In fact most of the 613 Torah commandments cannot be observed today. Why? Because there is not a Temple. One needs to remember that Torah commands that each Shabbat that special offerings be offered (see Numbers 28:9-10) in the Temple or prior to the building of the Temple, in the Tabernacle. This is why we read in this week’s Torah portion about the Shabbat commandments in context of the Tabernacle service. Since there is no altar to offer up sacrifices today, followers of Messiah Yeshua have the privilege of utilizing the wisdom of the Law not in an obligatory manner, but as Paul taught in the book of Romans,
“In order that the righteousness of the Torah should be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh; rather according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:4
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