Parashat Vayakhel

Wow: Rebecca, the boys and I returned last week from the most wonderful of vacations. The four of us, along with my parents, my in-laws, Rebecca’s dad’s wife’s two grandchildren, and family friends of ours traveled on a four-night Disney cruise to the Caribbean. Wow. “How was the vacation?” you might ask. 85 degrees and sunny, every day. “How was the vacation?” you might ask. Meaningful family time sharing in our children’s excitement for Disney characters, Disney shows, and countless trips on the Aquaduck: a water coaster that boasts a thrilling 4-deck drop that safely carried us over the side of the ship and back. “How was the vacation?” you might ask. Moments of quality adult time resting in the sun while our children were lovingly cared for by the Disney staff. “How was the vacation” you might ask. P-R-E-T-T-Y good.

Vacations are truly a blessing (and I’m grateful to CSZ for the opportunity to go!). They give us the opportunity to re-connect with our family and our friends, to refresh our energy, to enjoy some old-fashioned fun, and to gain perspective on our lives. But, thanks-be to God, vacations are not the only chance we have for fun, family and reflection. We read this week Parashat Vayakhel, as we are in the midst of a lengthy section of our Torah dealing with the construction of the Mishkan: the ancient tabernacle in the Wilderness through which our ancestors connected with God during their forty-year trek from Egypt to Israel and from slavery to freedom. Repeatedly in the section of talking Tabernacle, though, God also reminds us of the commandments regarding Shabbat. “These are the things that the LORD has commanded you to do,” Moses teaches us. “On six days work may be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a sabbath of complete rest, holy to the LORD” (Exodus 35:1-2). Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel famously explained that in addition to the sanctuary of physical space that the Tabernacle represents, the Jewish people are instructed to maintain a “sanctuary in time.”

It is one day out of every week–Shabbat–that we are supposed to carve for ourselves meaningful family time and quality alone time with our spouse. It is one day during the week–Shabbat–that we are supposed to create opportunities for spiritual refreshment. It is that one day–Shabbat–in which it is actually a mitzvah to drink and be merry (as it were). And it is that one day in the week–Shabbat–in which we ought to make time for thought and reflection, for learning and community. Shabbat is our sanctuary in time–if we build it. Just as the tabernacle in the Wilderness and the Temple in Jerusalem did not build themselves, so too Shabbat does not “just” happen. We must work in order to truly enjoy the Sabbath. But the rewards of such work are, well, eternal.

What is one step you might take today in order to construct for yourself a sanctuary in time? Is it planning to light Shabbat candles, preparing a special meal, or coming to Shaarey Zedek for services? Is it turning off the cell phone, the computer or the television to block out the distractions of the work/school week in order to focus on that which is most important? For each individual it is different, but for all of us even one step can make a difference in our lives. When we truly “make Shabbos,” we can have that Disney experience each and every week of our lives … minus, perhaps, the 85 degrees weather while cruising along the Aquaduck. This Shabbat of Parashat Vayakhel, let us work hard to create that sacred space in time: a day not of “heigh ho, heigh ho, it’s off to work we go” but rather “Can you feel the love tonight?” or “Hakuna Matata.” We can, indeed, create a day of Shalom.

Rebecca, Caleb, and Ayal join me in wishing you A Whole New World that is Shabbat shalom.

-Rabbi Aaron Starr


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