Parashat Vayakhel

Holiness Is Not Intrinsic

The Tabernacle and Shabbat are vehicles for infusing all space and time with holiness.

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Nothing is Intrinsicly Religious

What they failed to understand, explains the Meshech Chochmah, is that nothing possesses intrinsic religious significance. People, places and things are valuable only insofar as they further one’s commitment to God and to Torah. For this reason, Moses reacted to the sin of the Golden calf by breaking the luchot (tablets), a dramatic demonstration to the Jewish people that their failure to uphold the commandments of God, caused the very words fashioned by His own Hand to lose their significance.

This tragic misconception left open the dangerous possibility that the Jewish people might once again attach themselves to an entity that appeared to possess intrinsic kedushah--the Mishkan. Was this not the dwelling place of God Himself? Such thinking, which distracts one’s focus from the proper emphasis on personal responsibility to God, had already brought disaster and tragedy once, and the Torah wanted to prevent it from reoccurring. Hence, Shabbat.

With the introduction of Shabbat at the beginning of our parashah, we are taught that although particular times and places possess Divinely-granted kedushah, ultimately our primary responsibility lies in our allegiance and commitment to fulfilling God’s will, which infuses that very kedushah into the totality of our lives.

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Rabbi Aaron Cohen is the rabbi of Congregation Tifereth Israel in Passaic, New Jersey.