Nachal novea; makor chochma -
A flowing river; the source of wisdom (Mish. 18:4)

Parashas Va'yak'hael

(Shmos 35:1-37:29)

"Six days may work be done, but on the seventh day, there shall be holiness to you [the Jews], a Sabbath of strict rest to Hashem (Exodus 12:41)

Our parasha begins by mentioning the prohibition to do creative work on the holy Shabbos (Sabbath). Hashem (G-d) refrained from further formative work on Shabbos, at the time of the creation of the universe. It was this rest that instilled the day of Shabbos with its sanctity and holiness. Work is connected with harshness, limitation, imperfection, and unhappiness. The hereafter is connected with joy, happiness, perfection, and leisure. Therefore, as a day that, in its essence, is separated from creative work, Shabbos is connected to the upper worlds and to the hereafter. [Our sages teach that not all forms of work are prohibited on Shabbos. Only those tasks that create something new, something which did not exist before the start of Shabbos, i.e. cooking, kindling a fire, writing etc., are prohibited. These tasks are called malacha in Hebrew, as opposed to the general word for work -- avodah.]

After a brief introduction of the commandment to observe Shabbos, the parsha continues and discusses its main subject, the creation of the Mishkan (Tabernacle). One of the thirteen principles of interpretation taught by Moshe (Moses) at Sinai, is the derivation of laws by analyzing divergent topics that are juxtaposed in the written Torah and applying their concepts one to the other. Their juxtaposition indicates that the two divergent topics are associated, although at first glance, there appears to be absolutely no connection between them. Employing this rule, the sages of the Talmud derived the list of the thirty-nine main forms of labor, the thirty-nine types of malacha, that are prohibited on Shabbos. The written Torah prohibits malacha on Shabbos, but does not detail the type of work one should avoid. By applying the aforementioned rule, the prohibition to work on Shabbos is associated with the subject that follows - the constriction of the Mishkan. There were thirty-nine types of labor involved in the Mishkan's construction and so, by the application or the above rule, those thirty-nine categories are also the types of prohibited work on Shabbos. (Talmud: Shabbos 49B) From this, we see that the spiritual energies of the Mishkan and Shabbos are connected to each other.

There is another connection between the two. Rabbi Nachman taught that the word Mishkan comes from word mohshaych - to draw - indicating that the Mishkan had the spiritual power to draw Hashem into the bounds of its structure, wherever the Mishkan happened to be. (1 Likutai Moharan 70) The holy Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichov taught that the root of the word Shabbos is the Hebrew word shuv - return. This indicates that the observance of Shabbos has the ability to bring a man back to his source, which is Hashem. (Kedushath Levi: Beraishith p.5) Therefore, the Mishkan and Shabbos both have the ability to connect man to Hashem.

There is yet another connection. Just as great effort was put into the construction of the Mishkan, in order that it would become a place where man could become connected to Hashem, so too man must work six davs each week in preparation for each Shabbos, which is the day that connects him to Hashem. Both the preparation that went into the Mishkan's construction and the work performed weekly in preparation for Shabbos involves the thirty-nine forms of malacha. The Mishkan work was an atonement for the sin of the golden calf. The weekly workload that was imposed upon Adam and all his descendants was and is an atonement for the sin of eating from the forbidden fruit of the garden of Eden. The relevance of these points will be discussed in the following paragraphs, based on the teachings of Rabbi Nachman and his main disciple, Rav Noson.

The toil that we do during the six days of the week limits our minds' ability, to think about Hashem. Whenever the mind is distracted from Hashem by material pursuits, it becomes connected to the spiritual energies associated with animal mentality which is partly manifested as limited intelligence. Since earing a livelihood is mainly necessary. for the maintenance of one's body, the work week is connected to those spiritual energies which nourish physicality. Shabbos energy mainly nourishes the soul, enhancing a person's intelligence, and therefore, his ability to perceive Hashem Who is hidden within the creation, as the verse says, "Surely you [the Jews] shall keep my [Hashem's] Shabbos, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know [through the extra energies of wisdom that are released on Shabbos] that I am Hashem [hidden within the creation] Who sanctifies you." (Exodus 31:13) Since the spiritual energies that provide extra nourishment to the soul are released into the world on Shabbos, it is imperative that we take advantage of this situation by spending the day focused on the needs of the soul. This enhances the soul's dominion over the body, which is Hashem's goal for the human race. The Talmud teaches that on Shabbos, some of the spiritual energies from the hereafter are unleashed. When the time is ripe for tchias ha'maysim (the revival of the dead), the body will be resurrected totally pure and subservient to the soul. Since Shabbos is a reflection of this future event, it is imperative that we refrain from work - the realm of animalistic materialism - to focus on life's true goal, the nourishment of the lofty soul. Observing Shabbos by following its strictures partially revitalizes the soul on a weekly basis, as compared to the full revitalization the soul will have at tchias hamaysim. The sanctification of the soul and body such that they become completely merged into one unit to serve Hashem is the entire goal and purpose of creation.

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Hashem placed Adam in the garden of Eden in order for his physical body to have the opportunity to become merged with and subservient to his soul which would have brought him eternal life and the reward of the hereafter. To accomplish this merging of body and soul, it was necessary that Adam sanctify the act of eating. Eating is an animal function which serves to sustain one's physicality. In addition, Rabbi Nachman taught that the holy sparks (units of Hashem's light that provide life and power to those who possess them) in the food that is eaten nourishes the soul. Therefore, Adam was first commanded not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, for it contained negative energies that would pollute his body, making the transformation impossible. Adam was driven out of the Garden of Eden - paradise - after he sinned by eating of the fruit of that tree. The earthly garden of Eden is the place where the soul and those bodies which are purified and submissive to the soul reside. Adam's sin caused his body to become somewhat disconnected from his soul, to the point where his body actually resisted the soul's wishes. Therefore, Adam, with such a rebellious body, could no longer live in paradise. For a body that rebels against the soul could never realize Hashem's goal. The damage caused by Adam's sin could not be repaired without first breaking the rebellious body, through the hard work of earning a living, and through experiencing suffering. The final process that the body goes through is death and decay. This two phase process totally purifies and humbles the body so that when the tchias hamaysim takes place, the body will return to its original condition and be totally submissive to the needs of the soul.

Adam's rectification for his sin, to restore the body to its original state of being solely the vehicle of the soul, was stated by Hashem as follows, "In the sweat of your [Adam's] face you shall eat bread [you must break the body's urges through hardship]." (Genesis 3:19) The hard work that Hashem was referring to was the thirty-nine major forms of work, which are thirty-nine curses, as the verse says, "Cursed be the ground for your [Adam's] sake [your survival is dependent on working the earth. The thirty-nine malachas associated with the earth are now cursed]." (Genesis 3:17) It was not enough to break the body into submitting to the soul, but in Hashem's great mercy, He also gave us Shabbos to elevate the soul over the body's control. The soul is elevated because on Shabbos we desist from creative work, the thirty-nine categories of malacha, and connect ourselves to the spiritual energies of the hereafter, the time of tchias hamaysim. The Talmud tells us that the revival of the dead will be effected through a special type of dew - tal in Hebrew. The word tal has the numerical value of thirty-nine, corresponding to the thirty-nine malachas. This connection implies that keeping Shabbos, which resonates with the essence of tchias ha'maysim, draws forth the energies of the special dew, tal - thirty-nine - which will transform the thirty-nine curses of work, that are needed to break the body into the thirty-nine ways that the body will be purified and renewed, enabling it to become merged with the soul.

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The thirty-nine malachas were employed in building the Mishkan, a sanctified structure which would draw Hashem closer to man. This indicates that all our work in this world, included in these thirty-nine categories, should be used for the purpose of sanctifying the body - the house of the soul - allowing this merger to take place, and thus connecting us to Hashem. As the verse says, "And let them [the Jews] make Me [Hashem] a sanctuary [i.e. purify the body to make it a sanctuary for the soul] that I [Hashem] may dwell in them, [in their purified bodies]." (Exodus 25:8)

The Talmud compares this world to the six work days, and the hereafter to Shabbos. The Talmud says that only those who prepare for Shabbos during the week will eat on Shabbos when preparation and work are forbidden. Allegorically this means that those who purified their bodies in this world will enjoy the eternal joy of the hereafter. Therefore, the main struggle of life is to subdue the urges of the body so that it can become merged with the soul. The true goal and purpose of life then, is to incorporate the work week into Shabbos which is the same as sublimating the body to the soul. Avraham (Abraham) was the individual who was most able to achieve this, as the verse says, "And Avraham was old, coming [to the hereafter] with [all] of his days [having completely sanctified his body every moment he lived in this world, thus incorporating the work days into the Shabbos of the hereafter]" (Genesis 42:1) Since Avraham's entire being was directed wholly to serving Hashem, the thirty-nine labors that he employed in this world purified and sanctified his body, and thus he fulfilled the commandment to become the embodiment of the Mishkan. Therefore, the thirty-nine malachas brought his body to the same state of purity as that of Adam before his sin. Those thirty-nine labors performed in order to serve Hashem were converted and transformed into the tal ohros (thirty-nine lights) of the revival of the dead, eventually enabling his soul and his body to fully unify and merit entrance into the Garden of Eden, paradise, the hereafter. In fact, the sages say that the Mishkan was designed to emulate the Garden of Eden. Therefore, by using the body to serve Hashem, by fulfilling His commandments through actions that are included in the thirty-nine categories of labor which is likened to building the Mishkan, we transform our bodies into an actual part of our souls.

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As mentioned above, the purpose of eating in holiness is that it enables the body to become merged with the soul and this was why Hashem commanded Adam concerning this matter. Therefore, it is a great mitzvah [fulfillment of Hashem's will on a high level] to feast, to eat abundantly on Shabbos. Shabbos is the time that the soul prevails over the body, and thus the commandment to feast makes all our eating on Shabbos acts of holiness. Since eating on Shabbos is connected to the realm of holiness, all the food that is consumed on this holy day has a similar effect on the soul as Adam's own eating in the Garden before his sin. Eating on Shabbos in the spirit of holiness causes the body and soul to merge. Rabbi Nachman thus taught that Shabbos feasting sanctifies the body more than fasting. (1 Likutai MoHaran 57) Fasting only breaks the body, allowing the soul to rule by default, but eating in holiness satisfies and nourishes both the soul (through the holy sparks the food contains) and the body (through the nutrients which are actually only a physical "clothing" of the holy sparks). Eating in holiness makes the body into a vehicle for the soul. When this occurs the soul is satiated, as the verse says, "The righteous [those who desire to come close to Hashem] eat [in holiness, e.g. kosher food, mannerly, after saying the proper benediction, etc.] to satisfy his soul [where the body becomes one with the soul]." (Proverbs 13:25) (Lekutai Halachoth: Yore Day ah: Hilchoth Cha'dash 3:6,8)

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The thirty-nine malachas associated with the building of the Mishkan were the prototype for all endeavors that would promote the cause of the soul in spiritual matters. As mentioned above, the employment of the thirty-nine forms of labor helps the soul subdue the body, as the Talmud says," Rabban Gamliel, the son of Rabbi Yehudah HaNassi says, 'Torah study [the nourishment of the soul] is good together with an occupation [toil that subdues the body's urges], for the exertion of them both makes sin forgotten [enabling the soul to rule over the body]." (Talmud: Avoth 2:2) All holy work, such as the construction of the Mishkan, is a way to overcome the body's urges which can lead a person to fall into the realm of evil. Once a person has fallen into evil, he can become bound and ensnared there, as the verse says. "And with ropes they [the evil forces] have spread a net by the wayside, traps they have set for me [referring to the body] selah." (Psalms 140:6) Therefore, every sin a person commits binds him to the realm of evil. The Hebrew word for violation or sin is ee'sur, which also means to be bound or tied. Thus when a person violates a commandment, he has committed an ee'sur and has become bound to evil. To remedy this situation we are commanded to wear four cornered fringed garments called tzitzes. The four corners of the tzitzes produce holy energies which are connected to the four comers of the world. The tzitzes has the ability to rescue the fragments of a person's soul that have become trapped and lost through sin, anywhere in the four comers of the world. Each one of the four fringes attached to the four comers of the tzitzes garment contains four doubled woolen strings that are tied into five doubled knots, with a total of thirty-nine coils wrapped between these five knots. These thirty-nine coils activate the spiritual energies associated with the thirty-nine malachas used to construct the Mishkan, and activates the power of the hereafter, the dew (tal - thirty-nine lights) which is connected to the observance of Shabbos as mentioned above. The coils and knots of the Tzitzes neutralize the binds of the forces of evil caused through one's sins, for evil cannot be broken except by descending to its root. Therefore, knots of holiness are needed to neutralize the knots of evil. In addition the coils and knots of the Tzitzes create spiritual energies that securely bind a person to Hashem and the side of holiness. [Note: Although women are not required to don tzitzes, their souls are bound to and are one with the souls of their fathers until marriage and then their husbands thereafter. Therefore, a woman derives this important spiritual nourishment when her father or husband wears tzitzes. [An explanation of why women receive spiritual nourishment through the actions of their fathers or husbands and why they are not required to wear tzitzes is beyond the scope of this discussion]. May we merit to properly observe Shabbos, eating in holiness and thus draw forth the energies of tal to revitalize and purify our souls, and in so-doing hasten the coming of moshiach (the messiah) speedily and in our days. Amen!! (Likutai Halachoth: Orach Chaim: Hilchoth Tzitzes 3:21)


We mentioned above that the observance of the Shabbos can draw the spiritual energies from the dew of the hereafter which elevates the soul, and that serving Hashem through hard work and devotion sanctifies the body. The following story illustrates these points:

The holy Rabbi Yosef Chaim known as the "Ben Ish Chai" was the Chief Rabbi of Iraq, the leader of oriental Jewry during the last century. He sanctified himself and become a Torah giant, authoring many great and holy books. He was accepted by all of Sefaradic Jewry as their ultimate Torah authority. In the year 5629 (1869), Rabbi Yosef Chaim and his brother Yechezkel set out from Baghdad to the Holy Land, accompanied by four other travelers. Fearing that he might come to desecrate the Shabbos if he were to travel with a large caravan, Rabbi Yosef Chaim hired an Arab to guide them through the desert on the condition that the Arab stay and rest with them on Shabbos. On the first Friday, the Arab protested that resting for a full day on the Shabbos would put them in jeopardy of being attacked by one of the ferocious bands of robbers who were regularly seen in the area, and refused to set up camp for the holy day.

The two brothers ignored his protests and set up camp for Shabbos. The Arab saw that Rabbi Yosef Chaim was bent on staying. He removed himself from their campsite and hid between some nearby boulders out of fear of being attacked by robbers.

Rabbi Yosef Chaim and his companions ate a hardy Shabbos feast, sang traditional Shabbos songs and Rabbi Yosef Chaim gave a Torah discourse. The light from the candles that they lit in honor of the Shabbos could be seen in the distance and aroused the curiosity of a band of thieves, who were encamped not far away. When the robbers realized that the light was from a group of travelers, they decided to attack.

Their leader went first, his weapon ready and his eyes glinting with bloodthirsty sparks. As soon as he slipped into the tent and beheld Rabbi Yosefs Chaim's glowing countenance, he slinked back out and began to run away at top speed. The rest of his band saw him and also ran in a fit of panic.

The Arab guide who saw what had happened from his hiding place, was stunned. He bowed at Rabbi Yosef Chaim's feet and pleaded for forgiveness. "Now I know that you are truly a G-dly man. From now on I will be certain to fulfill my part of the bargain you made with me." Rabbi Yosef Chaim reached Damascus, the beginning of the last leg of the journey to Israel, in less than a month, although the usual traveling time was three months. All the Jewish leaders considered this a great miracle. (Stories of the Ben Ish Chai)

HITHBODEDUTH (secluding oneself)

Rabbi Nachman strongly urged his followers to talk daily to Hashem in the manner that one would confide in his best friend, in seclusion, in a language and style with which he feels most comfotable. In these sessions one can openly discuss anything and everything with Hashem. One can praise Him, unload and, unburden his feelings, aspirations, problem and wants on Hashem Who has unlimited patience to listen and Who actually craves these encounters, as mentioned by Rashi in the book of Genesis. These encounters not only strengthen one's faith in Hashem, relieve stress and worry, help to accomplish goals, sharpen the mind and build an intimate and personal relationship with Hashem, but it cultivates the notion the Hashem really exists and can he counted on for all one's needs. The following is an example of a Hisbodiduth session:

Who will rise up for me against the wicked, who will stand up for me against evildoers? Had Hashem not been my help, in an instant my soul would have dwelt in the silent grave. If [whenever] I said, "my foot has slipped," Your kindliness, [Hashem] upheld me. When [worrisome] thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations soothe my soul. Hashem has been my stronghold, my G-d, the Rock of my refuge. (Selected verses from Psalm 94)


Rabbi Nachman stressed that everyone must study at least one law from the Codes, the "Shulchan Aruch", daily, without fail. This study is a great spiritual remedy. A legal conclusion determines what is permitted or forbidden after sifting through the various opinions. Study of the codes helps separate and rectify the evil of one's sins (Sichos HaRan 29): The prohibition to vex Someone with words does not apply in those instances where someone starts up with you by insulting you first. The Torah does not obligate a person to be like a stone and remain silent when someone curses and insults him. Rather, this prohibition is transgressed only by the one who initiates the verbal abuse. Nevertheless, there are elevated people who are able to remain silent even though others insult them, and the sages have praised these people highly. (Note: Although it is meritorious to refrain from responding to insult, this is for people who have reached a high level, who realize that the insult was sent by Hashem through the agency of the insulter, as a means of atonement and purification. However, if one is not on this level and feels the need to respond, one's response should be applied with great wisdom, in a thoughtful, constructive, refined, sincere, caring, and diplomatic way, which will avoid fanning the flames that might lead to a bitter argument.]. (Sefer HaChinuch 338)

Volume 3, Issue 21